“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
― Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
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.
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:
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”.
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:
These are key metrics for any SaaS business, but they’re virtually impossible to find if you aren’t tracking account-based engagement.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.