The B2C2B Growth Model: Landing & Expanding Your SaaS

Victoria Rudi
May 10, 2022
⌚ 12 min read

Your growth practice

Get key employees inside companies to use your product and do the selling for you by inviting their co-workers to try your platform. When more employees use your product, company executives will pay attention to it and evaluate the possibility of adopting your software organization-wide.


📓Internal Influencers: Employees with social clout and influence inside the company. The prerequisite to making B2C2B happen is identifying the end-users who are the company influencers or the employees who have a saying. As Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint, highlights 

“The power of the B2C2B model hinges on the influence of the C in a sales process. If a startup can convince either a large number of employees in a company to use a product or if they can convince a few of the right people that this is the right product for them, that startup benefits in two ways.”

📓Land and expand: Land refers to getting more employees to use your product. Expand involves encouraging those employees to promote your product company-wide and attract their co-workers to use your software.

Your growth opportunities

By putting a B2C2B Growth Model in place, you’ll be able to access different growth opportunities, such as:

  • Reduction of cost of acquisition. The B2C2B Model relies on B2C go-to-market strategies. You don’t have to invest in outbound teams and long sales cycles.
  • You rely on viral distribution and not on decision-makers. The adoption of your product inside of a company speaks for itself. You don’t have to deal or negotiate with executives who’re analyzing other software proposals and searching for better pricing deals.
  • Achieve faster and higher adoption rates. Before closing a deal with the company, your product is already used by most of the employees.
  • Access to data to iterate and improve. When you rely on outbound, it’s difficult to understand what went wrong. In most cases, executives and decision-makers aren’t sharing why they’ve ignored your emails or selected another software as their tech supplier. As a result, you end up doing a lot of guesswork. On the other hand, with a B2C2B model, you can access and evaluate the funnel and the product-related data to iterate, test, improve, and get better results.

How does it work?

Even the most successful product-led growth (PLG) companies reach a point when additional growth requires developing an enterprise sales playbook. For example, Atlassian, the poster child for the self-serve strategy, had to blend its PLG model with an enterprise sales framework.

To move upmarket, companies have two sales options: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down sales motion is based on outbound and account-based marketing. In other words, you need an outbound sales team focused specifically on identifying, segmenting, and reaching out to enterprise accounts. Usually, the outbound team focuses on connecting and engaging with executives and decision-makers. Once the executives approve your product by signing the contract, the company employees can start using it.

The bottom-up sales motion or the B2C2B model aims to attract company employees to use the product. This process is also called “land.” The next step is to transform these employees into product advocates and get them to promote the product inside the company they’re working for. This process is called “expand.”

The ultimate goal of bottom-up sales is to access a company through its employees and, through their advocacy efforts, to become the company’s main provider.

How B2C2B Model

Top-down vs. Bottom-up

The power dynamics inside companies are changing.

Nowadays, employees have the freedom to research, try, and use the best tools for their professional needs. That’s only natural as end-users (aka the employees) are the ones adopting (or not) a specific tool.

If a manager buys a year-long software license, but the employees cannot use the software or get the results they need, there might be no renewal after one year.

Employees or end-users are gaining more control over the tools they’re using.

The B2C2B model is not new. Venture Capitalist Tomasz Tunguz wrote about it in 2015. To this day, there’s very little on the B2C2B model. However, more and more SaaS companies use this model to move upmarket.

► Quick note: It’s essential to get your platform certified. When more people and teams start using your product, the company’s Chief Security Officer or the Chief Information Officer will pop up and ask questions such as:

  • Is this software safe?
  • How is the data managed?
  • Can we trust the platform with the company information?

If you don’t pass this barrier, the B2C2B model will never work for your product. To start growing inside a company, you have to get certified. You need certifications such as:

Free trial or Freemium for end-users

Employees are usually searching for new tools they can try. Everyone wants to get their job done efficiently. However, the employees aren’t always willing to pay for these tools. At least not from their wallet. According to Stack Overflow, 77,1% of developers prefer to start a free trial when researching new tools.

To make B2C2B work, make sure to offer a freemium plan or a free trial to acquire end users, aka company employees.

► Quick note: A freemium plan is desirable. Free trials end after one or two weeks, allowing people to use the platform for a limited time. And this time is often insufficient to derive value from the product and get other teammates onboard. However, a freemium plan will allow company employees to understand its value and share it with the team.

The Network Effect Value and Per User pricing

Some experts say that per-user pricing is outdated and harmful to SaaS companies. Obviously, in some cases, per-user pricing is unjustified. However, companies such as Notion, Slack, Asana, and Miro keep growing despite offering per-user pricing.

This growth happens because of the network effect. What’s that?

As Andrew Chen explains in his book:

“In its classic usage, a network effect describes what happens when products get more valuable as more people use them.”

Tools such as Notion, Slack, Asana, and Miro enable employees and teams to generate value. The more people use and engage via these platforms, the more value is created for the buying company.

That’s why per-user pricing is not only justified but also a core attribute of the B2C2B model.

Case examples

>> Notion, project management software

  • Notion offers free and per-user pricing plans.
  • The company diversified its messaging, focusing on individuals, small teams, and enterprises.
  • Notion makes it easy to share pages, collaborate within a workspace, add new members and guests, and more.
  • The Notion for Startups Program allows companies to apply for a discount. Verified teams can get up to $1,000 in credit. A team of 10 people can use Notion for ten months without paying for it. These programs may incentivize individual users to suggest using Notion as part of the team or company tech stack.
Notion Screenshot

>> Asana, a work management platform

Asana Screenshot

>> Slack, a business communication platform

  • Slack offers free and per-user pricing plans.
  • When using Slack, companies derive value from its network effect.
  • When users create a free Slack account, they can invite an unlimited number of members.
  • Slack provides a complete list of certifications and attestations.
  • Also, the company created a Trust Slack page that includes an ungated datasheet and whitepaper.
Slack Screenshot

>> Coda, an all-in-one doc platform

  • Apart from Pro, Team, and Enterprise plans, Coda also offers a free plan for personal or team use.
  • Coda offers bulk seat discounts if someone wants to purchase the tool for the entire team or company.
  • CSOs or CIOs can review the company’s certifications and attestations by going to Trust at Coda page.
Coda Screenshot

>> Shift, email & app management software

  • The company offers a freemium tool based on per-user pricing for teams.
  • The individuals can use the product without having to involve their teammates. However, Shift also offers collaboration tools, providing more value when used collectively by a team.
  • It’s worth noting that people who use the free plan can’t remove the Shift label from the emails they’re sending. That’s one of the strategies the company deploys to get more eyes on its brand.
  • The Shift team crafted the company messaging around teamwork, encouraging power users to onboard other team members.
Shift Screenshot

>> Figma, a vector graphics editor

  • Figma offers free and per-editor pricing plans.
  • Apart from Figma Professional and Figma Organization, the company offers Figma Enterprise. Figma Enterprise provides hands-on training, advanced security options, and custom workspaces that enable scaling design processes company-wide.
  • Customers can find security details on the Trust Figma page.
Figma Screenshot

>> Airtable, low-code platform for building collaborative apps

  • Airtable offers a free plan for both individuals and teams. If a team wants to scale up its processes, it can choose between a Plus or Pro plan. Both Plus and Pro plans are based on per-user pricing. Finally, the Enterprise plan offers advanced scale, security, and control options.
  • It’s worth noting that the Enterprise Plan also includes an Ongoing Success Program (onboarding, training, and support) and Professional Services (consultation, migrations, and more).
Airtable Screenshot

>> Loom, a video messaging tool

  • Loom provides a free plan. Each team or company can start a plan that includes 50 creators. Each creator can make up to 25 videos of 5 minutes maximum.
  • Next, the company offers a Business and Enterprise plan. The Business Plan is based on per-user pricing.
  • The company keeps improving its security commitment. For example, Loom expects to add the Role-based access control (RBAC).
Loom Screenshot

>> Webflow, a no-code website builder

  • In 2022, Webflow launched Workspaces for Teams. For some time now, the company has been building features for collaboration. This strategy fits perfectly with the B2C2B approach.
  • Moreover, Webflow is also changing its pricing scheme, adding a new pricing model focused on teams and the number of seats.
  • The pricing structure is quite interesting, as it will allow Webflow to acquire new users and expand inside companies. People can use the Starter Workspace Plan for free. If they want to invite collaborators, they need to upgrade to Core Workspace, opening three seats. As the team grows and scales, the Webflow users can upgrade to Growth Workspace, which offers up to 9 seats. For more seats, the customers can choose the enterprise plan.
Webflow Screenshot

What to consider?

Although it can work for many PLG companies, the B2C2B model is highly effective for SaaS companies developing team and collaboration-based software. Why? To answer this question, let’s review the mechanics of the B2C2B Model:

  • Step 1. An employee signs up for a free trial or freemium SaaS product.
  • Step 2. The employee finds value in the product and asks a few co-workers to sign up and try the software.
  • Step 3. The employee’s team starts using the software, getting the job done.
  • Step 4. The team starts talking about the tool and getting other company teams to try it.
  • Step 5. The company adopts the SaaS product as more teams use it, getting good results.

Now, let’s go back to step number 2. When does someone ask a co-worker to try a new platform?

  • Option #1. When the end-user knows that the co-worker will derive individual value from the product.
  • Option #2. When there’s a chance to collaborate on a project initiated inside the platform and derive collective value from it.

You can’t ignore option #1, but in most cases, end-users start to popularize the tools they’re trying when there’s a chance to collaborate via the platform.

Let’s put ourselves in the employees’ shoes:

  • Think about a marketing meeting you may have with someone from the design department.
  • To make meeting brainstorming easier, your designer may invite everyone on a Miro board, where you can collaborate and build something together.
  • As a result, your marketing team may start using Miro more often, get the job done, and end up adopting the platform as part of the marketing tech stack.

→ Your action framework

Let’s look at Miro to identify some good practices you could include in your B2C2B playbook.

Miro is a team platform by excellence. The company offers tools for meetings and brainstorming, diagramming, agile workflows, planning, and project management.

Miro started as a B2C company. Everyone could (and still can) use the platform. However, after realizing that 90% of the accounts were used for teamwork, the company leadership developed a B2C2B framework.

Per-user pricing, yet a free plan for unlimited team members

Miro’s free plan offers limited options, such as 3 editable boards only. However, you can create a free plan, build a board, and invite an unlimited number of co-workers to collaborate on the platform.

That’s “expand” by excellence. Although Miro doesn’t allow free users to do much via the board, it encourages users to invite as many co-workers as possible to collaborate on the platform.

Miro’s free plan includes limited features yet unlimited users. That’s a brilliant strategy. Just think about it: An employee makes a free account on Miro and creates a board. The user can’t do much, as there’s a limited number of boards. However, they can invite as many teammates as they want to collaborate on the board. As a result, Miro gets more eyes and hands on the platform, leading to higher adoption rates within a team or company.

Miro Screenshot

Unlimited guests as part of the Business Plan

I’m seeing Miro improving the sales motion by transforming the B2C2B model into a B2C2B2C model. Miro offers its enterprise customers the possibility of inviting an unlimited number of guests. These guests can be the company’s customers or other stakeholders who’ll be exposed to Miro and, maybe, give it a try.

Miro’s Trust Center

A company’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO) doesn’t have to waste time learning whether Miro is safe or not. They can simply check the Miro’s Trust Center, which includes concepts such as:

  • Security
  • Privacy & Governance
  • Compliance
  • Legal
  • Other questions

Moreover, the CSO or CIO can access the entire list of Miro’s certifications and attestations.

Miro Screenshot

Unique Inbound Marketing strategy

Miro’s team understood that CEOs, CSOs, or CIOs would be interested in Miro’s compliancy status and policies only if they consider making a serious move. In other words, only those executives ready to close a deal with Miro will want to check the compliance documentation.

And by gating the SOC 2 Type II report and the Corporate Compliance Obligations whitepaper, Miro’s team can identify the bottom-of-the-funnel leads worth contacting and engaging with.

Miro Screenshot

Customer education programs and user community

Miro makes product adoption easy and fun. People can attend live or on-demand webinars, workshops, task-oriented courses, and more. Also, people can engage with other Miro users, find inspiration, get help, or ask questions. All that for free.

Miro Screenshot

Additional tips playbook

📒 Re-purpose the strategies you use today

You can use your outbound strategy to strengthen your B2C2B model. For example, you can target key company employees with a personalized approach.

Here’s one tip on identifying key employees: Check people’s LinkedIn account for clues.

In some cases, influential employees are active on social media, promoting their brand, engaging with other people, and creating valuable content. That’s not a rule, but you can start by approaching the employees who’re active on social media.

📒 Create an infallible customer acquisition channel

Consider creating a free plan to deploy the B2C2B sales model successfully. And if you choose to offer a freemium product, you’ll add a powerful acquisition channel, differentiating yourself from the rest of your competition. How?

According to ProfitWell:

“Freemium isn’t a way of monetizing your customers, it’s a way of acquiring them.”

As the article indicates, freemium will encourage word-of-mouth marketing, lower customer acquisition cost, and build customer habits, which increases the friction of moving to another brand.

Moreover, companies use freemium to strengthen their expansion revenue position. If customers are familiar with your product and what it can do, they’re already primed to make a purchase.

💥 To remember: We may see new personalized marketing strategies to connect and incentivize employees to use a platform and promote it team or company-wide. Some PLG companies may create attractive referral programs for users, aka influential employees. If the employees get their entire teams to use a platform, they’ll receive a reward. We may also observe an increased number of Startup or Team Programs. PLG companies will offer significant discounts and credits, incentivizing teams to kick-start their work on the platform.