In a business world awash in buzzwords and phrases, let us lay one more on you: product-centric customer acquisition. As buzzy as it sounds, it’s a profound concept. Give valuable yet free stuff to lots and lots of SMBs knowing full well that the overwhelming majority of them will never be paying customers. But those that do will be the right customers, profitable and with a low propensity to churn.

Our latest episode of the Above the Cloud podcast features an interview with Adam Blake, CMO of ThriveHive, a SaaS-based marketing platform for small businesses. A key focus of the conversation was unpacking the beautifully counter-intuitive logic behind ThriveHive’s product-centric marketing philosophy.

Blake explains the product-first philosophy on the podcast.

“The old way of doing things is sales first, involving cold calling and so on. We want to go with product first, then sales,” Blake explains.

The reason is to have enough relationships to be able to use the platform (enabled by AI) to learn which free customers would really benefit from an upgrade.

“We don’t expect to sell to everyone who uses our free products. Quite the opposite. We expect the vast majority to use our free products,” Blake said. From this larger number the platform looks for signals to “find the folks who are the right fit for us…It is not good for us to sign up a business, have them pay for our software, become dissatisfied and churn. We lose money (in this scenario) and they will be upset. Let’s avoid that.”

Blake also discusses its latest example of a high value free service, ThirveHive Grader, which helps SMBs optimize their Google My Business listings. ThriveHive launched Grader today.

GMB optimization will be the next wave of presence management, and ThriveHive believes it has a jump on the competition with Grader.

The new tool grades SMBs on how well they’ve optimized their GMB listing, and offers to help them improving their scores. Google has greatly expanded the features offered on GMB, but SMBs have failed to keep up, with few adding more than name, address and phone number to their claimed listings. Yet adding more content to GMB has a dramatic impact on a small business’s visibility, Blake says.

“The GMB directory has become so important to local business,” Blake said, “We believe [Grader] is the most comprehensive freely available tool for business owners and marketers to grade their Google My Business listings and get a truly comprehensive view of what they need to do to improve it.”

Blake will be a headline speaker at the LSA’s Tech Adoption Summit, Nov. 6-7 at The Laundry San Francisco.

You can listen to the podcast here

Thanks once again to our podcast sponsors for their support for Above the Cloud and the Tech Adoption Index.