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Analyze This: 3 Techniques Every SaaS Product Marketer Should Know

When thinking about optimizing conversions for a SaaS or subscription service, do you focus only on sign ups? What about after the sign ups? Do people make it through any setup you have? Do your users come back? What about revenue? What about churn?

Let’s slow down.

Working with marketing data means there’s a rabbit hole – one you can keep going down, digging for data endlessly, or at least until you don’t even remember what you were originally analyzing because of all the possible angles.

A lot of people call this “Analysis Paralysis.”

I’ve found that the most valuable skill you can learn is to determine what level of analysis is needed to solve any problem. What happens in analysis paralysis is that you find interesting things, but not things that deliver business value.

When I need to report to my team on what’s happening after a product launch and do some data storytelling, I often break down a situation by using three different analyses. Here’s how to keep yourself moving forward:

1. The Spot Check

The spot check is short and easy. It’s also great as a “sanity” check.

Example 1: We want to know the adoption rates for a new feature that just launched.

Example 2: We want to know the engagement rate for an existing feature because we’re designing a new layout for it and want to baseline the current levels.

customer metrics

These metrics show all the time so they are right up front without any other querying needed.

Not very much analysis is needed. This is more “pulling” data, and the metrics are pretty straightforward and need very little explanation. I can shoot these numbers over in chat or take a screenshot to link in an email. I spend anywhere from thirty seconds to no more than five minutes.

Since we use KISSmetrics throughout the company, this spot checking is actually democratized so that anyone can do a spot check for any metric they are interested in. It’s one less point of failure for us to worry about, and there are no bottlenecks for getting things we need to check on just a daily or weekly basis.

2. The Look Up

The look up is probably the most common analysis I do. It’s pretty run of the mill – something that may look very routine to marketers.

Example 1: Look at our new pricing conversion rates by traffic source. Do customers on new pricing and certain traffic sources have higher retention?

Example 2: What is the average number of times a feature was used per person? Are certain plan levels, business models, or industries more engaged than others?

Example 3: Are our support articles and documentation helping to reduce the number of tickets we see per week? Which articles are trending? Are people searching for articles that we currently don’t have?

It can be very easy to ask even more questions. You may have noticed that my questions started trailing into longer questions, and this is where the danger of analysis paralysis starts. The data here needs to be not only retrieved, but also provided with some notes or comments to help explain what is going on. It may or may not come with recommendations.

funnel report

This funnel report shows me how well my new pricing page is doing by traffic source. But are the people that are signing up coming back to login and actually use it?

I leave these more open ended so that my team members can decide what strategies to execute, but I can at least present the facts broken down into interesting parts. This sort of analysis usually gets sent in an email or written into our internal Wiki for reference. It takes me anywhere from five minutes to fifteen minutes to do this.

people who are logged in

Looks like four people are not retaining. I can get a list of the people who DIDN’T make it into the Login step and send them an email to follow up.

You might be surprised that this takes me such a short amount of time, but again, with KISSmetrics, this is very easy for me to do. In my previous job, I would have to query the data from multiple sources, push them all into Excel, sort out duplicates and incomplete data, and then format them in a way that my teammates could understand.

In KISSmetrics, I simply create a single report on demand for what I need, and then just link to it in an email with a short blurb. If someone prefers Excel, I have the option handy to give them the data in that format, too.

3. The Deep Dive

Deep dives are needed for major initiatives like new onboarding experiences, feature overhauls, flow re-designs, or growth experiments.

I start deep dives by plotting important SaaS metrics in a Power Report to see how performance is for everyone. This is aggregate data with no segments or slicing at all.

The first order of business is to establish a baseline, which could be one metric that we want to move the needle on, or two or three metrics that are part of a larger flow (Trial Signup Conversion Rate, Upgrade Conversion Rate, Average Revenue Per Person).

We do this to account for a couple of possible outcomes:

  • Experiments can improve signups, but ruin upgrades
  • Experiments can ruin signups, but have a higher average revenue per person
  • Experiments can improve upgrades, but have lower average revenue per person

Power Report

This Power Report lets me compare multiple metric performance levels for each experiment I’m running.

  • Flow A has higher signup conversion rates, higher upgrade rates, but lower average revenue per person.
  • Flow B has slightly lower conversion and upgrade rates, but higher average revenue per person.
  • Flow C performed poorly as it did not get any upgrades at all.

Our baseline has a very low conversion and upgrade rate, but the highest average revenue per person.

Being locked into signups can tunnel your vision. It wouldn’t be smart for the business if your bottom line is performing worse. If I had to choose one, revenue is usually a big driver for subscription services and e-commerce. For mobile apps, content, and social sites, it’s more engagement. Adapt as needed for what really matters for your business.

conversion rates and average revenue per person

Plotting week-over-week data, I’m able to see that I’m optimizing my Signup Conversion Rates by incremental percentage points at the cost of decreasing my Upgrade Conversion Rates and Average Revenue Per Person. This is an early warning sign that my tests are not having a positive impact on the business.

The majority of the work involved for this is figuring out the right metrics to focus on, interpreting how that metric could be moved, and then walking away with some actionable recommendations (possible changes) to address the use case (onboarding, feature overhaul, etc.).

experiment D

Digging further into the week-over-week data shows me how each experiment is performing. My newest experiment D looks promising.

Pulling reports for this data takes me about fifteen minutes to half an hour max. These reports are based on the same configuration, and I just add a time variable and expand a row by clicking. Any new tests (like Sign Up Flow D above) are automatically added to the data set and calculated.

The longer part of this analysis is actually involving my teammates and other stakeholders on possible product changes, design interactions, and front-end engineering. KISSmetrics already gives me the analysis tools to get my job done fast, I just need to talk about it with my teammates. This way, I can spend less time finding and calculating numbers and more time experimenting with my team.

So maybe calling it a deep dive is an oxymoron. It’s actually quite shallow in terms of time spent, just deep in terms of data granularity and power over data sets.

Saving Yourself

If you want to understand a problem from every direction, with every tool, and write up a long report with graphs, charts, and more, you’re probably spending too much time thinking about the problem instead of trying to solve it. Remember to move!

Next time you have a problem in front of you, ask yourself what you need to figure out and how deeply you need to go to get actionable data. You’ll get the data that you need faster. You’ll make more decisions with your results. Your team will thank you. And, you’ll thank yourself for saving yourself.

Analyze This is a series that provides practical tips for data analysis techniques, data-driven processes, and workflows.

About the Author: Chuck Liu is the Product Marketer at KISSmetrics. Follow him at @chuckjliu

  1. I always looking these kinds of tips for analyzing my business,I would like to thank you for a great tips.

  2. hey chuck liu !
    great insights indeed. yeah truly “This is a series that provides practical tips for data analysis techniques” and the look up concept is also admirable.


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