“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
― Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Power of Account-Based Product Engagement Insights

By and large, SaaS businesses are account-based businesses. Most SaaS companies don’t build or sell products that are intended to be used by a single user—they build and sell products that are intended to be used by a collection of users, teams…people across an entire organization.

In short, SaaS products are built for accounts.

In SaaS:

  • Accounts “sign-up”
  • Account adopt
  • Accounts pay
  • Accounts expand
  • Accounts churn

This is why it’s essential to able to assess our SaaS businesses through this lens—the lens of “accounts”. Marketers have acknowledged this fact and have made account-based marketing (or ABM) the hottest trend in marketing over the past few years.

The same goes for product engagement. The ability to understand, assess, and act upon product engagement metrics at an account level is essential for any SaaS business.

By not viewing product engagement through an account lens, you could be creating a significant blind spot across your SaaS organization, limiting the effectiveness of your entire operation.

That may seem hyperbolic, but it’s really not. Tracking and assessing account-based engagement (or ABE) for your product can help your SaaS business work smarter and become more effective.

By tracking and assessing product engagement at the account level, you will be able to:

Better understand and track account activation

Whether you have a low-touch, self-serve offering or high-touch, white-glove onboarding team, the ability to assess the activation progress for your accounts is essential.

To do this effectively, you must assess engagement at the account level. For most products, becoming activated isn’t something a single user can (or will) do. No single user will move through an entire onboarding process on his or her own. Most times, it will take multiple users to do all the things necessary to be considered “activated”. For example, for Sherlock, we generally see that it takes two or three users on a new account to do all the things that deem that account “activated”.

account-based engagement metrics SaaS
Account overview in Sherlock

On a tactical level, the ability to understand the activation process will make your CS team much more efficient. By having clear insight into the onboarding progress of their new accounts, they will be able to easily prioritize their work on a daily basis. Some accounts will need high levels of attention, while others can be left to progress on their own.

On a strategic level, the ability to track activation metrics is essential for optimizing this initial part of your customer journey. In order to assess the effectiveness of your efforts at this stage, you’ll want to track things like:

  • Account activation rate (% of new accounts that become activated)
  • Time-to-activation (how long it takes accounts to reach activation)
  • Activation by account type

These are key metrics for any SaaS business, but they’re virtually impossible to find if you aren’t tracking account-based engagement.

Accurately assess the health of your mature accounts

For most SaaS businesses, the most significant account work actually comes after the onboarding period—team training sessions, feature adoption, ongoing value creation, account expansion, and so on. This phase is where the real value of a SaaS customer comes, and it’s all based on how your accounts are (or aren’t) engaging with your product.

SaaS account-based engagement metrics tool
Account details page in Sherlock

As with the activation phase, the health of any given account will be less about how each individual user is engaging, and more about how the group of users that make up each account are engaging. Tactically, this is essential information to drive your post-sales operation. With this level of insight into account-based engagement, your team will be empowered to:

  • Determine which accounts are prime for expansion. Accounts with high engagement—especially those whose engagement is trending up quickly—represent great opportunities for expansion.
  • Identify at-risk accounts. Accounts with low or falling engagement represent a definite risk.
  • Improve feature adoption at the account level. Not all features need to (or even should be) used by every user on an account. However, as a whole, every account should use almost every feature. Having this knowledge will help drive your feature adoption efforts.
  • Ensure that important account segments are receiving the right attention. Looking at the engagement of accounts based on their tenure or MRR, for example, are great ways to prioritize CS work on a regular basis.

Any kind of health assessment in a SaaS business simply must be done at the account level. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but if you aren’t assessing account-based engagement for your product, you are essentially working in the dark.

Refine your acquisition efforts

The assessment of account based engagement isn’t just helpful for retention efforts—it can even help refine and optimize your top-of-funnel acquisition efforts.

“What? Huh? That’s ridiculous. Engagement is only about churn prevention.”
― Random SaaS CEO from 2012

Au contraire, my historic friend.

Let me ask you this: what if I gave your head of marketing a list of your most engaged and longest-tenured accounts. What would she do with that list?

If she’s a mediocre SaaS marketer, she would have a quick look, mutter something along the lines of “That’s nice to know,” and continue on with her day.

On the other hand, if she’s a smart SaaS marketer, she will drop everything, jump on a conference table and shout, “We’ve found it! The key to our future!”

A smart, modern marketer will understand that having a definitive list of your best existing customers can help her acquisition efforts by:

  • Improving her account-based marketing efforts. A smart marketer would use this list to identify the types of accounts that are most likely to be successful with her product. She would look at things like company size, industry, sector, use case, revenue, etc., and base her TAM analysis on that. She would then direct her budget to these opportunities.
  • Identifying great case study candidates. If these are the most successful accounts, then they will have the best stories to tell. These accounts will serve as the most positive and targeted source of social proof she could find. She would use these accounts as the basis of case studies, quotes, ads, advocate programs, and so on.
  • Driving look-alike programs. In today’s world, the technologies that enable a marketer to target “customers that look like these customers” is ever-expanding. For these programs, a list of the top, most successful accounts (and their users, in this case) is worth its weight in gold.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg for how a smart SaaS marketer could use this type of account-based engagement data.

But again, if you aren’t assessing account-based engagement, this is all just a pipe dream.

Optimize your sales process and finally start that PQL initiative

Do you have a freemium offering or a free trial for your SaaS product?

If yes, then I’m betting that you’ve also been dying to help your sales team (or if you operate like we do, your CS team) prioritize where to direct their energies on a daily basis.

In fact, you probably made a New Years Resolution to put together some kind of PQL (Product Qualified Lead) process for your team some time ago.

The fact is, any PQL program is completely based on product engagement at the account level.

This process will make your sales team much more efficient, empowering them to focus and spend their time on the right accounts.

It’s a no-brainer.

But, it’s not possible without assessing account-based product engagement.

The SaaS world is an account-based world

These are just a few opportunities that will present themselves when you start assessing account-based engagement. While user-level engagement is important, SaaS businesses operate at an account level. You can’t do that if you aren’t tracking and assessing ABE for your product.

As a savvy SaaS operator, this focus on account-based engagement may all seem incredibly obvious to you. However, the reality is that most SaaS businesses are not looking at product engagement this way.

And why?

The reality is that it’s not that easy. And up until now, there weren’t any products that took ABE on as a primary goal. Call it evolution. The SaaS model has matured, product engagement assessment has matured — it seems only natural that assessing product engagement in a way that more closely matches the operating model of a SaaS business would come along.

When we built Sherlock, this was one of our main goals. We wanted to close this gap and give SaaS businesses an easy and effective way to operate around account-based product engagement.