62: Ramli John: Writing the book on product-led onboarding

Hey folks, today we’re joined by Ramli John, one of my favorite marketers and someone I’ve admired and followed on Twitter for many years.

Ramli got his start in marketing at PepsiCo as a Marketing Systems Analyst where he stayed for 4 years. After a co-founding stint Ramli moved to Toronto where started his freelancing career as a SaaS growth consultant. Along the way he also worked at a few different companies including SkyVerge which exited to GoDaddy.

He also spent a few years teaching as a Marketing Instructor at big name spots like RED Academy, Centennial College and CXL Institute.

He started what’s widely known as one of the top marketing podcasts on the planet: Growth Marketing Today and he’s one of the inspirations of our podcast here.

He went on to join Product-Led – The leading community for PLG Pros founded by Wes Bush the famous author of Product-Led Growth. During his time there Ramli wrote his own book with Wes. It hit shelves last year: Product-Led Onboarding. I’ve read it twice and it’s been a huge career growth lever for me.

Now he’s landed in what seems to be the perfect role, Director of Content at one of the top no-code onboarding tools in Appcues.

Damn what a resume, what a journey, Ramli it’s an honor to have you.

Questions and topics

Ramli there’s a bunch of jumping off points here, I want to get into the podcast, the book and also the new gig but I’d love to start with an early career question.

Early career at Pepsi and startup

You did a 180 when you went from a massive 100k + enterprise at Pepsi to then co-founding a startup. How wild was the transition and what advice would you have for listeners in big companies thinking of starting something one day?

Podcast growth

You did Growth Marketing today for 4 years, your last episode was at the end of last year with Marc Thomas, is the show on hiatus, have you interviewed all the great marketers there is to interviewww

I remember you posting once about how long it took you before you finally started to gain big traction. What advice do you have for people creating content with a small audience, sometimes feeling like they are speaking into the void.

Teacher question

Ramli, you spent a few years teaching, first at RED academy, a tech and design school, then at CXL Institute in their Demand Gen mini degree and also at Centennial College teaching a 14-week course on web analytics. What gave you the itch to spend 3 years teaching and maybe talk about the process of designing a course from scratch and all the work involved there.

On writing your first book

Talk to us about writing your first book and the difference between the process of writing a course vs a book. Obviously Wes was probably a big inspiration but was this something you’ve always wanted to do and will there be more books in the future?


Listeners have probably heard of PQLs by now, Product Qualified Leads or criterias that tell you someone has experienced your product or gotten some mileage in it. In your book, Product-Led Onboarding, you talk a lot about PAI, Product Adoption Indicators. Can you unpack the difference between both of those for listeners? 

Key onboarding milestones

Many people will dumb down onboarding to just getting users to the ‘aha moment’ like it’s something that magically unlocks onboarding challenges. You actually break down the nuance here and coin 3 different moments of value: Perception, Experience and Adoption. Can you walk us through a practical example of this?


Conversational bumpers

In your book, one of my favorite analogies is your bowling analogy and how you compare onboarding emails and SMS messages as conversational bumpers to help users get their first strike. Unpack this for our listeners.


Appcues, 6 months in

You’re about half a year into Appcues leading the content team, teaching SaaS teams about onboarding and product adoption. When I saw you announce that I was like damn, that’s the ultimate fit, Ramli gets to go back to SaaS and he gets to keep pumping out content about onboarding. I’d love to hear how the journey has been so far but maybe start by telling us how this opportunity came about.

Happiness question

Ramli, you’ve got a ton of stuff going on, you’re a podcaster, an author, a frequent speaker, a soon to be dad and you’re leading a content team at one of the coolest SaaS in the world. One question we ask all our guests is how do you remain happy and successful in your career? How do you find balance between all the things you’re working on while staying happy?

Ramli’s links


Intro music by Wowa via Unminus
Cover art created by SLB

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