Inflection 7: Keep your growth metrics simple

Inflection 7: Keep your growth metrics simple

Dylan Touhey

This is the seventh post in my "Inflections" blog series where I lay down the hard truths and remedies for SaaS marketing.

One of the biggest issues we've seen with SaaS companies is pushing publish. There are always a lot of new tools to implement, new UI changes, new website, and lots of ideas. But it’s also easy to never get much done. 

Here’s a basic framework we use. We've kept it generic as your business will have your own metrics and goals. 

ONE, pick a big goal  

Let’s say our fictional SaaS company wants to grow from 3,000 to 5,000 paying subscribers in six months. 

It’s easy to get distracted. 

For example, you start the year with the intention of really building up the blog and using paid search and then the CEO reads an article about content discovery advertising or a new lead capture solution and that becomes the focus. 

It’s fine to adapt and roll with changes. But you should make sure that you focus on these four essential categories of activities. 

We've stolen the framework below from Dave McClure, a startup philosopher and growth expert. Dave’s framework, however, is more suited to large consumer startups, so we've tweaked it to fit our clients. Read the original post here

If you want to hit your big goal, you need to be executing tactics for these four buckets:  

Acquisition: help prospects find us and consider our product as a solution.  

Activation: turn those visitors or leads generated from our acquisition tactics into free trials, loyal blog readers, email subscribers, and interested leads in the pipeline. 

Retention: for those blog readers not ready to buy yet, we need to keep them as potential customers down the road, we need the free trial users to actually login and use the product, we need those strangers that we worked so hard to know us in acquisition and activation to start developing loyalty to us. 

Revenue: leads need to give us their credit card, free trials need to convert, blog readers need to become customers. The key, though, is dividing your resources. If you are a young company, perhaps it is wise to focus more heavily on the acquisition. That’s your call. But you should at least spend some time analyzing the weakest parts of your funnel and investing in fixing those areas. 

Next, pick tactics for each phase  

We need to decide what we will do for each phase. 

Here is how we would do this for our fictional SaaS company.  

Sample acquisition tactics:

  • Speak at three industry conferences that our customers attend
  • Write blog posts around topics that matter to our business
  • Run paid search and display campaigns to spread the word
  • Experiment with remarketing campaigns

 Sample activation tactics:

  • Improve our email opt-in form, test different approaches and designs
  • Launch a new autoresponder / onboarding series to help free trials see the value in our product
  • Run half educational, half product knowledge webinars to show the awesome power of our product

 Sample retention tactics:

  • Email new sign-ups to our email list more frequently. Like free users, this potential customers need to see that our team has valuable things to say and can help them solve their business challenges
  • Improve navigation and UX in the product, helping new users quickly find the most relevant features
  • Pair each new larger account with their own dedicated support specialist

 Sample revenue tactics:

  • Reduce our churn rate by figuring out why customers seem to cancel after two years. Assign a loyalty team to reach out and make sure long-term customers are happy
  • Offer a special 20% off one-day promo to our email subscribers. Figure out the best day to send this (10 days? 50 days?)
  • Find out our best converting free trial segments. Create specific emails for those segments, helping them see the unique value of our product so that they are more likely to upgrade

It’s important, I feel, to not mystify how marketing actually works. People need to hear about you (acquisition), they need to then be sold on the value of taking the desired action (activation), they need to be retained, and your customers need to be analyzed to locate new revenue and upsell opportunities. 

If you are having trouble, it’s likely that you are ignoring one of those stages. 

Marketing agencies, for example, typically go through feast and famine periods. They get a lot of work and then the leads dry up. 

This is predictable, of course, as few marketing agencies actually work very hard at acquiring new customers. They rarely advertise themselves or seek out new leads until they are dry of work. 

In contrast, consumer SaaS companies I find are often very good at acquisition. They advertise. They hunt down customers. But they're usually very poor at retaining those customers and upselling. They just acquire, acquire, acquire. 

What part of the funnel does your company excel at? Which part could be improved? I'd love to hear your voice by the way. You can email me and tell me about your company at or hit us up on Twitter @onenetinc