We’ve created this planning spreadsheet to help you understand how to achieve your user adoption and revenue goals. This tool converts the user and revenue goals you want to achieve before your next fundraising round into activity and OKRs (objectives and key results) for you and your team.
After completing this model, you’ll be able to answer these key questions and more:
How many website visitors do I need in a given month?
How many customer meetings should I have every week?
How easy is my product to use?
How do I balance product-led growth (PLG) with a traditional enterprise GTM?
How fast does my user community need to grow?
How much should I spend on hiring and programs?
How it works
This is a model built on assumptions. We provide starting assumptions, but the whole point of this exercise is to create your own benchmark, test, and refine based on your own business requirements and learnings throughout your journey.
4 steps to complete this planner
1. Enter top-level ARR and user goals before your next capital raise and how much ARR you want coming from product-led growth vs. traditional outbound prospecting.
2. Determine your PLG funnel metrics for product-led growth: user, trial, and adoption conversion metrics that you’ll use to figure out how quickly you’ll need to grow your community and web traffic.
3. Determine your outreach metrics for outbound prospecting — the response and meeting conversion metrics you’ll use to figure out how quickly you’ll need to ramp sales development efforts.
4. Determine your sales and marketing head count and program expenses based on this ARR and user plan.
Step 1: Establish top-level goals
To begin, you’ll need to determine four key goals: top-level ARR goal, top-level user goal, timeframe to achieve these goals and percentage of ARR you want coming from PLG vs. traditional outbound prospecting.
ARR goal: we assume a $1M goal for most Series A founders. Note that this model will support Series B and beyond goals as well.
User goal: for open-source (OSS) companies, this is the size of your community you want to have before your next raise. For non-OSS companies, this is the number of free plan and free trial users.
Number of months until next raise: the default is 18 months but the model supports up to 24.
Percentage of ARR coming from PLG: this is a percentage of the total ARR coming from PLG. We suggest at least 30% before your next raise. Higher is definitely better!
Step 2: Product-led growth
This step walks you through the user and PLG funnel conversion metrics that the model will use to create a monthly plan.
Note: these five inputs are optional and hidden in rows 9–13:
ARR goal: this is computed for you based on the percentage PLG you added in the first step.
ARR today (optional): this is the amount of starting ARR you already have from PLG efforts. This amount will be removed from the plan so you can model just the net new activity needed.
New ARR remaining: this is the goal less the amount of ARR already booked. The model uses this number as the target PLG metric for the monthly PLG plan below.
Sales cycle in months: this tells the model how long it takes on average to go from trial user to paying customer. The default is 1 for PLG – all revenue is booked in the month the user starts trying the product.
PLG starts in month: this tells the model when you’ll launch a website with PLG, whether OSS, free, and/or trial. Most companies will want to launch their product-led growth efforts within three–six months of starting their company.
PLG funnel assumptions A PLG funnel connects website visitors –> trial –> engaged trial (adopters or product-qualified leads [PQLs]) –> sales opportunities (SQLs) -> new customers. We provide a starting, conservative target as a baseline along with a high and low range for each metric. To reiterate, you should actively seek to measure and improve these metrics based on your own business requirements and learning!
Starting monthly website visits (optional): similar to fields above, to be used if you’ve already launched a website before starting this model.
Average selling price (ASP): This will be very different for every company but in general will be less for PLG vs. traditional enterprise GTM. However, as you’ll quickly find, the sales cycle and expenses will be much shorter/less for PLG!
Monthly web growth: this is the second “solve-for” field. This is the website growth needed to generate the PLG inbound revenue you’re aiming for. Edit this until the PLG ARR goal check is green on the right. This is a key metric for marketing and top-of-funnel education/content efforts.
Free trial signups: 1–2% is generally good. This is a key metric for marketing to ensure website –> trial is performing well (eg: messaging, simplicity).
Engaged trial signups: this varies significantly based on user onboarding. If you have docs and tutorials and an easy-to-use product, you should shoot for above 50% here. If you’re just getting started, we recommend a human-in-the-middle approach to ensure that every user is reaching the aha! and repeat usage Modern GTM step. This is a metric for product, community, and education.
Sales opportunities (PQL – SQL): this measures what percentage of active users convert to a revenue-generating opportunity. Timeframe, budget, and championship to buyer are all factors in here. The important part is for marketing to provide as much detail as possible on the user persona and their activity before handing to sales: industry, size of company, user contact info, website usage, product usage, etc.
New customers: you may want a step or two in between here, but this is essentially a metric that measures the sales team’s effectiveness at closing PLG deals.
User base assumptions For OSS companies, you may have a user-focused website that is separate from your corporate site. This section enables you to model how quickly that user base will grow and how many of these users will convert to paying users. For non-OSS companies, this is the number of free plan users you’ll have.
Starting free / OSS users (optional): like the starting PLG ARR field above, this is where you can add in your existing community. If starting out, this is zero.
New free / OSS user signups / month:this is the starting number of Free / OSS users you’ll have in month one. If OSS, for example, this can be the number of users/downloads you have from your community website.
Free / OSS growth rate: how quickly your user community is growing monthly. This is one of three growth rates you’ll solve for. Enter a percentage growth here that turns the users goal check green on the right.
Monthly free to trial conversion: this tells the model the percent of users who convert to trial users (ie: connecting the user to ARR models). If left at zero, you are keeping community and ARR activity separate. Note that this is a very sensitive metric — you’ll likely not want to increase this beyond 1% for most communities.
Step 3: Outbound prospecting
Many of these metrics are written up in our Math of Sales field guide module, but are summarized here. In this version, for the Modern GTM, sales is involved in BOTH the PLG and outbound prospecting efforts. Sales is also involved early on to find design users and partners to inform the product development process (see Sales in the Modern GTM in our Field Guide).
In the “outbound prospecting” part of the model, we are referring to the SDR-generated pipeline (and revenue) that complements PLG revenue-generating efforts. The goal is to demonstrate both motions working before your Series A fundraise. Typically, it’s faster in the short-term to get SDRs rolling on outbound prospecting and they can be useful in finding design partners early on. However, it’s far less costly and faster over the long-term to move to a Modern GTM model where user adoption precedes sales involvement for the majority of revenue.
Note: the following five inputs are optional and hidden in rows 9–13:
ARR goal: this is computed based on the percentage PLG that you added in the first step.
ARR today (optional): this is the amount of starting ARR you already have from outbound prospecting efforts. This amount will be removed from the plan so you can model just the net new activity needed.
New ARR remaining: this is the goal less the amount of ARR already booked. The model uses this number as the target outbound prospecting metric for the monthly plan below.
Sales cycle in months: this tells the model how long it takes on average to go from outbound to paying customer. The default is 3 — all revenue is booked in the third month after initially reaching out to a prospect. This is important particularly as you get close to fundraising when your volume is typically higher but fundraising timing to close business is becoming a key factor. This metric ensures you are planning for this delay in revenue booking to give you enough time before your raise.
Outreach starts in month: this tells the model when you’ll launch your outbound prospecting efforts. Most companies will be doing outbound prospecting for revenue generation within 6–9 months of starting their company.
Funnel metrics for outbound prospecting This section covers the number of emails and LinkedIn contacting, meetings, and sales you’ll need to hit your sales-led ARR goal.
Starting outreach: the number of emails / LinkedIn outreaches / calls you’ll make in the first month
ASP: the average selling price for your traditional outbound sales-led motion
Monthly outreach growth: the final “solve-for” rate. Change this until the outbound prospecting goal turns green on the right. This is the average growth rate in outbound activity per month.
Reply rate: this is heavily dependent upon who you are trying to reach, how targeted your outreach is, and how simple/compelling your value proposition is. Shoot for above 5%, 8% is doing well here.
Discovery meeting: the percent of respondents willing to take a meeting. There’s lots of opportunity to improve this rate without a hard sell. Again, see our Sales GTM module for tips on how to improve your meeting uptake rate.
Product testing (POC): the percent of meetings/demos that convert to product being tested, typically through a proof of concept (POC). Note that in a PLG-led motion, you’ve already achieved the aha moment, so this step can take a long time for a traditional sales-led motion! See our Sales GTM guide for tips to reduce the time needed for POCs and product testing.
Proposals: conversion to formal sales proposal. Here, pricing, procurement, security, and competition factor in significantly.
New customers: Your win rate. Same as above: value, security, and competition are key factors.
Below the PLG inbound and outbound prospecting inputs is the output plan. Best practice is to assign these metrics to your team as monthly/quarterly OKRs.
Inbound PLG Results
New / free OSS users and total users: shows the monthly growth in your community to hit your user goal. Note that “total users” includes your initial user base plus your free / OSS users plus your trial users.
Website visitors: shows the growth in web traffic needed to hit your PLG ARR goals.
Trial signups: the conversion of web to trial, usually through signups on your trial page.
Engaged trial users: the number of new users who have hit the aha! moment and are actively using the product.
Sales opps: the number of engaged trial users who convert to a sales opportunity.
Won customers: the number of paying PLG-led customers.
PLG ARR/Total ARR: the monthly and cumulative ARR generated from PLG-led efforts.
Outreaches: the number of emails / LinkedIn outreaches needed to hit your Outbound Prospecting goal.
Positive reply: the number of responses you get from above outreach activity.
Discovery meeting: the number of meetings booked. Usually helpful to convert to a weekly meeting goal.
POCs: the number of meetings that result in a proof-of-concept.
Proposals: the number of sales proposals sent to customers.
Won customers: the number of paying outbound prospecting-led customers.
Prospecting ARR / total ARR: the monthly and cumulative ARR generated from PLG-led efforts.
Step 4: Calculate expenses
The final section of our model details the monthly head count and marketing expenditures needed to support a Modern GTM. This is where the rubber meets the road as adequately staffing — particularly for the PLG-led portion — is essential early on.
Expenses to achieve PLG motion: this section provides the total expenses and average salaries for the key hires involved in the PLG-led motion. Note that all functions — marketing, sales (PLG), education, and community — are needed to properly resource.
PLG marketing programs: for Seed to Series A, most of the cost will be in head count. However, we recommend budgeting for tools and agencies to support your content marketing and lead-generation efforts. Higher spend on ad campaigns and larger scale events typically come after Series A as the majority of focus is on ensuring early customer success and product-market fit (PMF).
Expenses to achieve traditional: this is the total expense and average salaries for the key traditional selling part of your plan.
Hiring plan: this is the monthly plan for every hire needed for PLG and traditional GTM. In the base model, we factor in early hiring for community and education to complement the product development and long-lead community-building efforts. We layer in a marketing director and first AE after four to five months. Then we start adding sales development reps and a VP of sales toward the back half of year one. When to hire your first VP sales is a big consideration and there are many variables to consider by business and the type of person you’re looking for.
Non–head count expenses: this projects the program expenses defined above by month. Note that early on, this is relatively fixed.
Total expenses: a summary of monthly PLG and traditional GTM expenditure.
Marketing efficiency: while not a significant issue for seed, this provides a rough measurement of how much it takes to attract and acquire a customer.
The purpose of this planning tool is to provide clarity for founders who are looking to build a Modern GTM and want to take the first step by building a plan for success. As you can see from the output of this model, there are a series of tradeoffs between the newer PLG and traditional GTM motions that need to be made early on. By planning for both motions in parallel, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the activity ramp needed so you can resource your Modern GTM for success.