Data Is Everywhere
Your business is surrounded by data.
For example, it surrounds your product in the form of account, user, billing, and usage data. It’s in your marketing tools in software categories like Analytics, Paid Ads, CRM, and Marketing Automation, and it’s in teams like Customer Success, Sales and Finance.
It’s also external to your business, with data being available on customers, markets, competitors, and even you.
In fact, there’s so much data it’s often hard to see the wood for the trees.
So let’s break it down. Looking specifically at different types of data, metrics and finally insights.
Watch: Metrics, The Essentials Of What You Need To Know
Qualitative vs Quantitative Data
When you start a SaaS company you validate and refine the idea and proposition with a few people. You collect conversations, debates, anecdotes, and feelings from your small sample to create hypotheses around the customer, the market, the product requirement, pricing and more. This is Qualitative Data.
If you take your Qualitative learnings and try and make them statically significant by increasing the sample size of the data, you move from Qualitative to Quantitative Data. The bigger the sample, the more statistically reliable and trustworthy the data.
Metrics are a numerical and quantifiable way of assessing the performance of a company, team, marketing channel, process, or individual.
The metrics you choose to use vary according to the audience, the moment in time, and activity being carried out. They range from Board Reporting Metrics like SaaS Metrics, OKR Metrics that define your goals and success, Sales Pipeline Metrics, and Growth Initiative Metrics.
If you want to grow faster than your competition, one way you can gain an advantage is to define and measure your metrics better than they do. Why? Because doing this drives the behaviours and actions that increase performance. Using your finite resources in the most aligned, and impactful way possible.
If you want to Grow Fast, you’ve got you measure what matters.
Metrics are not there to make you feel good or look better than you are. The metrics that measure and define success should be a source of truth and honesty, and more importantly correlate with business performance change.
So to help you think about metrics in a more rounded and precise way, here’s some background knowledge to help you become better at thinking about when and how to use metrics, and more challenging when you see bad metrics being used.
Reporting vs Experimental Metrics
In a SaaS company you find yourself reporting to your investors, your teams and your managers. Your reports tend to have continuity which means the same metrics are tracked Quarter on Quarter. These are often SaaS Metrics and OKRs.
Experimental Metrics are metrics that come from having a hypothesis and testing it. You know which metric you thought would change after you did an activity, you have a starting number, you can track progress through-time, and at the end of the experiment, you have an end number – the result. You can then choose to re-fine and re-do the experiment, or stop.
You don’t tend to report on individual experimental metrics, but what we do in ZOKRI is align OKRs (which contain reporting metrics) with Growth Initiatives (which often contain experimental metrics) so you can see the impact of the experiment and how it might have impacted OKRs. ZOKRI also makes it easy to gather all of your learnings from your Growth Initiative Experiments and re-use the most effective.
Leading vs Lagging Metrics
Leading Metrics are predictive metrics. For example, SQLs in the sales funnel should be a good predictor of future sales. Leading Metrics are often trended through-time and reported on for that reason.
If one metric doesn’t impact the other in a consistent and predictable way, it’s not Leading.
So when changes in metrics like Session do not consistently predict a rise in Leads, you would conclude that Session is not a Leading Metric.
A Lagging Metric is a metric that characterises your historical performance, and is therefore a metric you can’t do anything about, accept look back and try and find the inputs that influenced it with a view to managing and improving them going forward.
Churn is a lagging metric that could be influenced through the improvement of onboarding, UX, features, pricing and more. Which is why having OKRs and Growth Initiatives that you know can correlate to metrics like Churn is useful. Together they allow you to identify the issues and take action.
Bookings are another example where only when you close the quarter do you know how you’ve done. However, Leads, MQLs, SQLs, Ramped Reps, and Sales Cycles are Leading Metrics that help you predict future bookings ahead of time.
A reduction is SEO traffic, might correlate with a drop in leads, but if you updated the website, editing page copy and category architecture, and at the same time Google updated its ranking algorithm, you have a number of events that correlate, but knowing which one caused the drop in leads is hard to say.
Or if a reduction in SQLs was noted at the same time you changed the qualification process, a new SDR was hired, and marketing changed the way they score MQLs, you’ve got correlation, but the causation is not clear.
Knowing what you’re doing that can impact metrics then tracking and measuring that activity is an important part of creating your growth machine, and is why ZOKRI aligns OKRs and Growth Initiatives. We want correlation and if possible causation to be clear so you can act.
Philip Sheldrake defines influence as “a change in opinion or behaviour”. And some metrics can do just that. These tend to be connected to business performance and great leading and lagging indicators.
There’s another group of metrics that are often called Vanity Metrics that are poor and predicting future business performance, and correlate unreliably with other more influential metrics.
Examples of Vanity Metrics include:
If you want to include metrics like these you should include a balancing metric that shows that they correlate with better Influential Metrics like MQLs, SQLs, Demos, Trial, Bookings, Churn etc.
Metrics vs Insights
If a metric is a known and well understood number that allows you to track performance. Insights are different as they go deeper and show you something that you didn’t know that you’re likely to act upon, and often impact your metrics.
Donald Rumsfeld said in a Pentagon news briefing:
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
To find the Unknown Unknowns you need to be looking for patterns. Some patterns you’ll find have the potential to be acted upon.
Unknown Knowns are typically qualitative data that needs quantifying in someway and made statistically significant.
Known Unknowns happen when you have the question but not the answer.
And Known Knowns are literally that, and are often the metrics we report on quarter after quarter.
Needless to say, looking and finding insights can significantly increase the performance of your company.
Gathering Data, Managing Metrics and Finding Insights
Gathering data, tracking metrics in dashboards and OKRs, and finding insights is obviously valuable and necessary. So with ZOKRI we wanted to make it easy to do this and more.
ZOKRI has been designed to help you to integrate data sources, and define and manage metrics in dashboards, OKRs and Growth Initiatives.
With ZOKRI you measure the right things, manage leading and lagging metrics, find correlations, report with ease, define and manage growth experiments, and discover real insights.
So if you believe like we do that metrics are key to creating and managing your SaaS growth machine, you should try ZOKRI.
Track metrics, create goals, align and optimize your initiatives, engage, motivate, and inspire your people