Most software companies ignore user behavior

by Michael Bernstein on August 26, 2019

One of the most important skills to build as a marketer is follow through. In marketing that means taking every opportunity to gather data in order to understand your users and improve your process.

Understanding your users doesn’t end when they purchase your product.

One deficiency we’ve consistently seen inside companies small and large alike is that they don’t have ready access to information about what users are doing with their product. Marketers are incentivized to instrument the hell of out lead generation and a section of the funnel, sales religiously updates CRMs to track prospects and potential revenue expansion opportunities, but noone is tying it all together by looking to information that you own about what users are doing with your product.

The reason why this is so important to get right early is that it will deeply inform decisions that you’ll need to make later on … if you’re around that long. Decisions about pricing and packaging, feature development, marketing spending, hiring, strategic investment of all sorts, etc., are more intelligently made when they’re backed by data that is enriched by how users are actually using your product.

There are myriad technical approaches to gathering the data necessary for this method, but an ideal setup should contain the following, regardless of how it is implemented:

  • A “User table” which rolls up all useful usage information into one easy to query data source. You likely have some version of this powering either a homegrown “admin dashboard” or feeding into one or more external systems.
  • A time-bounded data source which is amenable to more complex queries, including historical queries, and can be used to generate reports. Amazon Redshift is a popular solution for this component.

Here’s an example row:

ID name score feature1 feature2 plan monthly seats last_seen user_since
1 Reify 87 1 0 small 99 3 019-08-29 019-01-02

Maintaining and curating this date over time will allow you to answer crucial questions about your trial users, customes, ex-customers, and so on. Recording and maintaining this data is so simple that it’s becoming table stakes for good marketers – don’t get left behind.

Bonus Implementation Tips

  • Track feature usage in your user table with columns denoting whether or not a user has or has not used this feature
  • Associate plan and payment information with your user table rows so that you can easily segment your user data by important revenue based facets
  • Create an “engagement metric” number which takes core features of your product into account and rolls them up into a 0-100 score that can be tracked over time.
  • Use the data in your users table to power all kinds of interesting customer communication. Want to communicate with users who have or haven’t used a specific feature and ask them why? Now you can. Want to segment trial users into those who haven’t used that one killer feature and those who have? Go for it.