6 key metrics that can help SaaS startups outlast this downturn • ZebethMedia

Sudheesh Nair

Sudheesh Nair is CEO of ThoughtSpot, a business intelligence company that has built an intuitive Google-like interface for data analytics. Before ThoughtSpot, Sudheesh was president at Nutanix.

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With the economy slowing and businesses tightening their belts, the coming months will be make or break for many startups. Business is shifting from a “growth at all costs” mindset to one that is more measured. This means leaders need to know where to conserve cash, where to target spend effectively and which customers are at risk of churn so they can take proactive steps accordingly.
SaaS companies are in a better position than most because they have access to the data that can guide these decisions. They inherently know not only that a customer bought a product, but who is using it, how they’re using it and how often. Management teams should pay close attention to this data for signs of changing customer behavior and watch their sales pipeline for clues about where to target spend and where to cut costs.
At a high level, leaders need to understand — before it becomes obvious — if the slowdown this year is affecting demand at their company and where that’s happening. The goal is to pick up on warning signs early and course-correct as you go, and those signs are often hidden in the breadcrumbs.
Do you know what your customers are thinking?

Not all industries are affected equally, so don’t assume your customers will cut spending this year just because the headlines are bleak.

When thinking about metrics for SaaS companies, it’s helpful to look at how current customers are using your product so you can identify areas of concern and take action. You should also read the tea leaves in your pipeline to understand where to cut back and where to invest.
Every CFO is looking closely at contracts to evaluate areas for cost-cutting. Only those technologies offering real value will survive, so SaaS vendors need to get ahead of this. Traditional customer satisfaction metrics like NPS are a lagging indicator and will not help you respond quickly enough. Instead, look at the following areas to be more proactive:
How much are customers using your product?
You can measure usage trends with points of access, number of registered users, volume of queries or some other metric depending on your product. The point is, as a SaaS company, you should not have to guess who is using your product, when, why, how much and if that’s changing.
Say you have a customer that logs in and uses your product 10 times a day, and that number hasn’t increased over the last year. It’s a sign they are not adding new use cases and creating new value.

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