From Trial to Champion

Selecting a Tech Stack for Metrics-Driven Customer Success

Startup Customer Success: A playbook to early Customer Success for B2B SaaS - Part 2

Jamie DavidsonFeb 21 2019

In Part 1, we detailed several steps you can take in the early days to set a B2B SaaS product up for success. Now, those steps simply establish a foundation for your product to succeed - measuring the success of your efforts, especially with a B2B product, is a different ballgame. And that ballgame can be a difficult one to play.

Why? Because the available players (tools) you can pick for your team (company) weren’t really built for the game you play. You need businesses (i.e. the second ‘B’ in B2B) to succeed, but most analytics tools just focus on a single user’s interactions with your product. You’ve got choices, but few that are great.

Your CS team, a few months after you make them use an analytics tool more suited for B2C

“But Jamie, why is it important to have an analytics tool that can distinguish between B2B and B2C use cases?”. Well friend, take social networks like Twitter and Facebook. They need to ensure there’s a healthy balance between 1) content consumers and 2) content sharers. If there’s too few consumers, then sharers are disincentivized to post new content since no one’s listening. And if there’s too few sharers, then consumers have nothing new to entertain them.

But imagine if Twitter had a B2B enterprise product where companies could deploy their own private Twitter for employees to use. Twitter would now need to measure that consumer/sharer balance at each customer and ensure it stays above some level - otherwise, contracts are likely to be canceled. So in their B2C product, Twitter needs to avoid 1 unbalanced room. In their B2B product, it’s 1 room for each customer. And it only takes a handful of customers before that gets very, very difficult to track.

To avoid that issue, you need tools that understand that your users belong to a larger entity - an account.

It all starts with proper product tracking

Customer Success starts with product success. In other words, if a customer isn’t successfully using your product, then there’s no chance at long-term success with that customer.

Naturally, to ensure product success, you need to track what users are doing in your product. There’s several tools that can help you here, but in the B2B space, if you want to set yourself up with a long-term solution that will work seamlessly with every tool you use (or will use), there’s only one option: Segment.

Segment gives you a single analytics API that you integrate into your product to track 1) the user 2) what the user does in your product and 3) the user’s account. You can then use your Segment data in practically any other tools you like. Intercom? Yep. Salesforce or Hubspot? Check and check. Vitally? Why of course 😉

There’s another killer reason to use Segment if you are a B2B company - their group API. The group API is used to track the account a user belongs to, and any B2B tool worth a damn will have integration support for Segment’s group API, making your life much easier as your B2B tech stack evolves.

Google Analytics won’t help you here

To understand if a business is successful with a B2B SaaS product, you have to measure 2 different stages in product adoption: 1) Product implementation (i.e. onboarding) and 2) Recurring product usage. We’ll dig into these stages and what to measure in each in later posts, but for now, it’s important to know that you’ll need to track usage of your product’s unique features. An analytics API like Segment helps you do just that.

“But Jamie, aren’t there standard metrics like ‘pageviews’ and ‘sessions’ that help me measure product health at a business? Can’t I just throw in some Google Analytics script and be done with it”. In short: no. In full: I’ll let Michael Scott answer.

Pageviews? Sessions? Get that crap out of here!

Page views and sessions are superficial metrics. Sure, they give you some initial sense on whether there’s some general interest in your product at a customer, but they lack essential information and can often be dangerously misleading.

For example, let’s say a business has purchased 10 licenses to your product - a CRM in this example. The overzealous purchaser used up all licenses on day 1, inviting 10 other coworkers. But, the purchaser invited them to a wasteland - they haven’t setup any integrations and there’s no data to work with. Wondering if the CRM is ready for use, the coworkers check back in on your product every other day, which logs sessions and pageviews. On the surface, engagement looks good. But behind the scenes, you have a ticking time bomb before those users completely give up on your product.

Nothing to see here - just waiting on this damn product to prove its value

Visualizing your product data

With Segment tracking your users, accounts, and product events, you need a tool to visualize that data organized by the user and account. That last bit is important.

You see, most product analytics tools are great for product teams but not so much for Customer Success. Why? Because they don’t natively support the ‘account’ level. In fact, most don’t even have APIs for them - you are instead forced to track the account name as a trait on the user. Then, when you want to dig into a customer, you have to filter the data by that trait. That might work for like a dozen or so customers. Any more than that? Yeah right 🙄

I’ve got like 1000 customers. Like I’m going to run 1000 reports…

That’s where Customer Success platforms come into play. And before I continue, yes, we are one of those 😏

Customer Success platforms (at least the good ones) have robust product analytics tools built to measure a single product implementation across many users under one account. They should be able to help your team quickly understand product use at an account by:

  • Measuring product implementation (i.e. how ‘onboarded’ the account is)
  • Tracking recurring product usage
  • Measuring custom metrics across an account’s users

So while your typical product analytics tool will surface data across all (or subsets) of users like this:

CleanShot 2019-02-21 at 10.56.18@2x

Customer Success platforms will focus their analytics around all (or subsets) of accounts, like this:

CleanShot 2019-02-21 at 10.58.10@2x

They'll also provide streamlined views around product usage at a single account:

CleanShot 2019-02-21 at 11.38.07@2x

Naturally, they'll still let you dig into an individual user's product usage, but that's really a secondary need given the nature of B2B products (i.e. since the product is 'shared' amongst all users at the account).

With your tech stack now in place, it’s time to put it to use. In upcoming posts, we’ll go over some strategies and examples when measuring the 2 stages of product adoption. Stay tuned, and subscribe below if you’d like us to let you know when those are up!


Customer SuccessKPIsProduct InsightsStrategyTools