The Complete Guide to Product Qualified Leads

Convert more of your free trial users into happy, paying customers. 

Learn from leaders at fast-growing companies like Price Intelligently, Slack, AdEspresso, Typeform, and more!

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Chapter 1: Why write a guide to PQLs?

As a marketer at a product-first company, you probably know that conversions from trial > paying customer increase when:

-   Leads feel your communication with them is personal and relevant

-   Communication is written in words and phrases your leads use themselves

-   Your messages speak to the problems they really care about

You’re a marketer. A smart one. You know this already.

But knowing something, and actually doing something about it, are very different. 

Because for you, for us, and for every fellow marketer we’ve talked to, the challenge isn’t that we don’t know the importance of personal, relevant communication -- especially when nurturing a trial user into a paying customer. 

The real challenges are…

-    The data we need to make good communication happen is scattered across umpteen different platforms (CRM. Marketing automation. Support desk. Third party data. Ugh).

-    Attribution is still tricky to get right. Who’s consumed what content? In what order? Which messages influenced their actions, and which were just noise?

-    We’re so busy, we don’t have hours free to get on the phone with customers, to get a raw view of how they really speak, and to get a clear view of what they worry about day-to-day. 

And because we struggle to make sense of our data, our tools, our content, and our customers’ voices...

We continue blasting out the same generic onboarding emails to thousands or millions of very different trial users -- people with different job titles, priorities, and goals.

We accidentally send nurture sequences to the wrong leads, encouraging them to chat with the sales team...even though they already got a demo from sales last week.

We slap some quick copy on a landing page, inside our app, or across an email campaign -- with no proof our words actually sound like something our users would say or care about.


And we don’t take the time to get buy-in from other departments, like the product or engineering teams -- especially problematic if our product caters to a highly technical buyer.

Creating segmented, relevant marketing content is hard

Even marketers who’ve been in the game for years struggle to create targeted onboarding emails, in-app messages, and nurture campaigns -- and to deliver the right messages at the right time.

For some teams, the biggest obstacle is bandwidth. Moz’s Product Marketing Manager, Brittani Dinsmore, knows this challenge well.

“Our ultimate goal,” Brittani says, “is to put trial users into different nurture drips based on things like job title and level of SEO proficiency. But we’ve got lots of different projects fighting for attention from our marketing and engineering teams, and that’s a big blocker.”

Others, like AdEspresso’s Director of Marketing Tim Chard, know how they want to communicate with different segments of users -- but worry about the technical errors that can trigger the wrong messages by mistake.

“With AdEspresso, we know a key indicator of success is whether a new user connects their Facebook account to the platform,” says Tim, “so if they don’t connect right away, we want to send communication encouraging them to do that as soon as possible.

“But it’s hard to trust the system,” he says, “because sometimes, our CRM gives me behavioral data that just isn’t correct. And it’s a huge kick in the gut when you’re basing communication on this data, then you find out three weeks later that you’ve been sending messages to the wrong people.”

How to get past the challenges?

Having watched countless marketers face these struggles -- and having faced them ourselves -- we reached out to leaders in the SaaS community to ask how they’ve created relevant campaigns that convert trial users to paying customers (and what lessons they’ve learned along the way).

This Ultimate Guide to PQLs collects those leaders’ lessons into a series of action items, which you’ll find at the ends of chapters 4-10. 

Chapter 11 is one complete list of those action items, for you to add to your project/task management platform of choice (or print out, if good ol’ paper is more your style).

Authored By

Claire Suellentrop

Founder, LoveYourCustomers

Claire Suellentrop helps high-growth SaaS companies get inside their customers’ heads. Previously the Director of Marketing and #2 employee at Calendly, she’s seen firsthand that truly effective marketing stems from a deep understanding of existing users’ needs.   

Now, she works with companies like Wistia, FullStory, and MeetEdgar to uncover their best customers’ needs and desires, then uses those juicy details to create more relevant, high-converting marketing and onboarding campaigns. 

Ed Fry

Head of Growth,

Ed Fry is passionate about helping marketers grow their organizations and directly contribute to revenue. He was the first employee at and worked with thought-leaders like Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder of Moz, and Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder of HubSpot. During his tenure, membership grew from 5,000 to 165,000+ members between 2012 and 2016.

Ed currently oversees Growth at Hull - a customer data management platform that eliminates data problems for marketing and sales teams alike. 

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