I want to continue my post from Tuesday about the importance and value of instrumentation. Today, I want to share SaaS metrics that can be answered with proper instrumentation (operational and business).
  1. Cost of acquisition. This is cost to capture an unaffiliated buyer. Need to know the costs associated with closing this opportunity including marketing costs, engineering support, etc. For this metric, it’s important to track the flow and behaviors of a customer through websites, sales touches, etc.
  2. D1, D7, D14, D30 retention metrics. Here, D stands for “day” and the number refers to the number of days since a user first enters the system. This metric tracks the percentage of returning users to the service in D days –gauge “stickiness”.
  3. Open and Click-Through Rates of Emails. Many products these days have email engagement and nurture campaigns. Here, companies measure if users are opening these emails and, if applicable, are they clicking into a destination the company is looking for.
  4. Drop-off During Sign-up Process. Many products have multi-stage sign-ups which can deter and annoy users from completing sign-up. By measuring here, the company can quickly ascertain if the sign-up process needs to be simplified or be very valuable to motivate complete sign-up. If they never enter, they’ll never see the great product! (This, by the way, is why so many apps use Facebook, Twitter, Google login… plus, companies get personal data shared from those platforms.)
  5. In-App Engagement.This is a big bucket including what pages, tabs, profiles, features are viewed and used. You want to understand how users interact with the product – are they finding pages useful? Are features cumbersome?
  6. Customer Lifetime Value. Same concept of the revenue of a customer (or net profit) but extrapolated against the number of times a customer buys (subscription, multiple products, etc.).
  7. Churn.That is, what percentage of customers stop buying annually? Good annual churn for SaaS businesses according to Sixteen Ventures is 5-7%. High churn may point to poor value, mismanaged expectations, or an inherent problem in the product.
  8. Average Revenue per Customer. To be explicit, it’s total revenue divided by customer. In this case, revenue would naturally be weighted by where most of revenue comes from.

I get excited when a company properly instruments their products and services. It demonstrates tremendous maturity and understanding to recognize engagement data will drive confirmation (or rejection) of hypotheses, and thus, enables smarter business decisions.

What are some other metrics you find useful? How would you measure success in your company?
One of the chapters of my book is all about measuring engagement and implementing analytics – chapter aptly dubbed, “What gets measured gets improved.
The lesson is to “instrument” an application to gather data points of how users interact with the product. Quickly, you can assess if users are traversing all the steps of a Getting Started Wizard, getting stuck while building out a team, or exiting a page with above-average frequency.
We implemented Google Analytics at Body Boss which delivered anonymized data at an aggregate level – useful, but doesn’t give finer perspective into engagement. More powerful instrumentation would including capturing “events” to every actionable UI element (i.e. button), page, etc. For example, in Twitter, events would include when a user navigates to a user’s profile, scrolls down, Likes a tweet, and then searches for another user.
There are many fascinating tools for instrumentation on web pages, in-app uses, and beyond. Here are a few I’ve recently got to play with:
  • Fullstory– records behind the scenes how users interact with a site or app that can be replayed later. You can see where a user hovers his mouse, scrolls, stays on some block of text, etc.
  • Unbounce – taking A/B testing to multi-variate testing for landing pages. Quickly set up a landing page with multiple variants, and Unbounce automatically directs visitors and tracks conversions.
  • Pardot – Easily send automated mass messages personalized to recipients based on where users are in the sales funnel. Tracks users from first site visit and beyond for nurture campaigns
  • MixPanel/ Intercom – Very different in how each operate, but the feature I liked most was being able to trigger specific messages (more granular than Pardot) based on user interactions. High-degree of control by building out event-driven rules and trigger notifications.
  • Kevy – Marketing automation for ecommerce stores. Slick tool to understand consumer behavior and enables stores to better market to consumers by offering coupons, messages, and the like based on rules and triggers.

In gist, there are lots of tools available for instrumentation with overlapping features. It’s fun learning about these tools now, and dreaming of how great these would have been at Body Boss. Though, several tools didn’t exist three years ago… inherent problems don’t change, but solutions do.

What are your thoughts on instrumentation? What tools do you use?
Time to reflect after two weeks of publishing Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Success.
  • It’s been a great journey, but it’s really just the beginning. Now comes the hardest part – promoting the book. Just like any startup, it’s about execution now.
  • If you publish on Amazon’s Kindle platform, be careful when you say, “available on Kindle”. Most people don’t know Kindle is just the platform, and there’s a Kindle app available for any device – many think it’s just Kindle e-reader.
  • Editors made my book way better. The first version of the book took < 10 days. It was full of content, but lacked cohesion and vision. The first round of edits immediately made the book 10X better. The more critical, the better. Three formal rounds of edits later (+ several personal ones)… book was in shape for publishing!
  • It’s very easy to self-publish a book, and doesn’t cost much money. Friends as Editors = $0. Cover photo = $12. Cover self-editing = $0. Copyright registration = $55. International Standards Book Number (ISBN) 10-Pack = $295. Website template = $48. Website self-edit = $0. GoDaddy domain registration= $11.34. For everything else = priceless (err, “free”).
  • Microsoft Word is great to write the book, track changes, and initially convert the book ready for mobile format. Beyond, know some HTML to make finer adjustments like formatting lists, pictures, etc.
  • Everyone is impressed that I’ve written a book more so than I thought. I think it’s a goal or at least an achievement most people don’t ever think about. The moment I mention it, everyone is inspired and curious. It’s going to be great for branding.
  • Writing the book wasn’t that hard. It was just sitting down and tackling it. I didn’t think about length or format at first. Instead, I made a rough outline of the topics, and made a goal to write two chapters a day. From there, it was easy to produce content. Then, editing made the book from stream of consciousness to coherent vision.

There are many more thoughts, but these just came to me. I’ve been busy the last couple weeks, though, so I’m interested to see what happens in the next month when I reach a homeostasis and start promoting the book.

    What questions do you have about publishing a book? If you could write about anything, what would that be?

    Last Thursday, January 14th, I had the pleasure of speaking at the second Atlanta FuckUp Nights event. FuckUp Nightsis an organization in over 150 cities with events highlighting stories of failure. The format includes four speakers each with 10 slides that auto-progress 40 seconds each.
    The organizers expected 65 in the crowd, but we kicked off with over 100. Needless to say, the organizers, Tim Adkins and Jay Cranman, did a great job getting the word out.
    The talk went fantastic. I got a lot of great responses including many who related to my story and learned a lot. Take-aways from the experience…
    1. I had seven consecutive black slides that looked like one slide with the auto-transition. This allowed my story to flow without sticking to a rigid format. (Hey, I’m an entrepreneur – I disrupt things.)
    2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. My friends in the acting world pushed me to rehearse… a lot. Happy they did as I didn’t struggle at all in the talk. Everything flowed real well and natural.
    3. Write a script, rehearse the script, but don’t follow the script. I wrote down word-for-word what I wanted to say. However, I didn’t once recite the script verbatim. I just let my mind speak with whatever it wanted to as long as the message was clear and the point was clear.
    4. Prepare for post-talk questions. There was 5 minutes following the talk for Q&A. I forgot to prepare for potential questions, and though, I knew my answers, I could’ve answered more succinctly.
    5. People really pulled in when I shared a vulnerable moment. Given I was talking about a very passionate, sore subject, I did get choked up at one point. My book’s collaborator, Don Pottinger, suggested this, and I’m glad I listened to him. The result was my story resonating really well with the audience.
    6. ALWAYS consider the audience. As speakers, our talks were our products. Our market was the audience made up of those in technology, startups, and those completely foreign to technology. This meant our messages needed to be adjusted to be easily understood by everyone (read: don’t get too technical).

    It was such a fun experience speaking, and I hope to do many more in the future. Stay tuned!

    What are some of your tips on public speaking? How have you prepared?
    So last year was an interesting year with lots of different opportunities – both good and bad. I remember back in July of 2015, though, I was struggling badly with a project. I mean, I was incredibly anxious. Saying I was stressed would be a big understatement.
    When I realized I was going down this spiral, I needed to change what I was doing and focus on pulling myself up. One key practice I did was journaling at the end of every day.
    I wanted to write, for 30 days, in a journal focusing only on what went well that day or what made me happy. I usually reflect on my day already including what I could have done better and what didn’t go well. However, I wanted to focus on positive thoughts to right the ship.
    It was a powerful exercise, and I caught myself writing in my journal even when I got home at 4AM and was dead tired. I continued writing beyond 30 days and quickly made a goal to write for 90 days straight! Well, I blew past that, too, and decided to just continue through the rest of the year.
    Those 169 posts revealed a lot of interesting things, and effectively ended my spiral and put me on an upwards trajectory. Here are a few quick realizations I made from the exercise:
    1. Creating a habit and sticking to it is hard, but if you focus on why you’re doing it in the first place, it’s much easier.
    2. I only set positive thoughts as the bounds. Otherwise, I was free flowing whatever came to mind. This was great in that it just let me go without pressures of content or length. Just write.
    3. I wrote a lot about people I encountered. I didn’t even need a long conversation with a friend, but just little messages from friends saying hello or quick chats made me happy. It was great to know people were thinking about me. This highlighted how relationships make me happy.
    4. Anything can be turned into a positive. Even when things didn’t go well like a date or a business opportunity, I quickly started looking at why it didn’t work out and how it was good to even have the chance. Further, something else better fit would come along.
    5. What you write is a lot more than what you think. That is, if you think about what went well, you can probably think of 2-3 things. However, when you’re free-flowing and putting it all down on paper, you’ll be surprised how many positive things you’ll end up with. Tip: write starting from the beginning of the day.
    6. Everyone wants to do it, but no one actually does it. I told a lot of people what I was doing, and everyone said they’d do it, too. However, no one actually did. It’s hard to get the ball rolling.
    7. It’s a tool to be used for good. Once you think it’s no good or a burden, it’s okay to stop. I stopped at the start of this year because the practice did what I wanted.
    8. Setting a small goal to write at the end of the day is easily approached rather than thinking about writing EVERYDAY FOR 30 DAYS. Look at the process for what it is… today. Tomorrow is tomorrow.
    9. I went to bed happy, and I woke up happy. I thought to myself to remember something that happened that day. It immediately turned real-time events into positive events thereby influencing the rest of my day’s outlook.

    There were number of benefits from the exercise, and I’m real glad I did it. Now, I know I can always use this tool in the future should I catch myself falling again. I highly encourage everyone to try this out for a couple weeks as a therapeutic, self-awareness exercise. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you’ll be and how much more you’re thankful for any given day.

    “I see her standing there… I think I’ve seen her around, but now, I’m seeing her right there in front of me. She stands out with almost a glow to her. I can’t explain it, but I’m immediately drawn towards her. My heart’s racing because I know that if I don’t say anything to her at all, she may disappear and I’ll never see her again. I have to make a move, right? She’s not wearing a ring… that’s a good thing. Crap! She’s seen me. Ahhh, the jig is up! Okay, I need to get up and introduce myself. How do I greet her? Should I just walk right up and tell her I think she’s beautiful? Maybe. Wait… maybe I can just say I’ve seen her around, and I just want to introduce myself. Is that too casual? What’s my next move after that? Should I ask her out? Will I have this opportunity again? I really wish my heart would stop beating so damn fast… I think it’s about to jump out of my chest. Damn, I’m getting hot under these clothes now… Crap! She’s getting up to leave… what do I do?! Eff it! I’m going in!”
    I’ve learned over the years that as much as I say I’m comfortable being uncomfortable, I am still almost always uncomfortable. That is, even after writing over 160 posts, working with executives from startups to multi-million/ billion dollar companies, or even talking to women, I can still feel uncomfortable about the next “opportunity”.
    Case in point: I’ve written a lot over the years, and I have strong readership. I get great feedback and enthusiastic compliments about my writing as well as some challenges. However, when I finished writing the first version of my book back in November, I was incredibly uncomfortable and nervous about asking editors to read and provide feedback. I felt my writing still wasn’t good enough (probably isn’t now and probably will never be perfect). Given the book is about failure and I go into detail about our (my) missteps at Body Boss, I felt that much more vulnerable… exposed.
    However, I know, too, that to be a better writer and to produce a book worth reading, I need the input from peers. I need them to be critical. I don’t need the pats on the back so much as I need to know what to improve on. That’s uncomfortable, but it’s necessaryto grow.
    Maya Angelou once said, “Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”
    I’ve written a few blog posts and a single book, so if Ms. Angelou feels that way, at least I’m not alone.
    Coming up on Thursday, I’m going to be a speaker at the second edition of FuckUp Nights at the Atlanta Tech Village. I’ve pitched countless number of times. I’ve spoken to entrepreneurs, friends, execs at the big corporates about failure. Heck, I just wrote a book! And yes, I’m a bit (read: very) nervous about it.
    I’ve realized that I probably won’t be comfortable all the time about many things I do. However, I’ve also caught myself to realize why am I uncomfortable? Am I pushing myself to be better? Am I pushing myself to learn more? Am I pushing myself because I believe in what I’m doing? If I say yes to any of those questions, then being uncomfortable is a great thing to be. Over time, I’ve just learned to continue embracing opportunities… even if my heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest.
    What are you doing now that makes you uncomfortable? How do you pursue more “uncomfortable” things? 
    I recently went to Disney World with my family like most every year. I am constantly in awe by what Disney attempts and achieves. A couple years ago, I was fascinated by Disney’s MagicBands. This year, I was fascinated by… their new parking deck at Disney Springs (formerly “Downtown Disney”)!
    From the outside, the parking garage looks normal, if not massive with 3,000 spaces spread across 5 levels. When you enter, you see a sign with the number of spaces per level. This is pretty normal. I’ve seen this before and often questioned their accuracy.
    What does get interesting is when you pull into the deck and see counts of available spaces per row.
    Telling me how many spaces per row?! Now that just goes beyond what most parking areas do. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s parking deck is big and complicated with one-ways and angled entries and exits. When I’m frantically searching for a parking spot because I’m running late for my flight, more detail with counts per lane would be amazing. 
    To tell counts, Disney uses sensors above each parking space. (See the sensors hanging from the ceiling above each space in the picture below?)
    Further, the sensors are equipped with lights – red and green from what I saw, but unsure if there are other hues. These are fantastic as you look down each row to see wherethe available spots are.

    Wow, these are pretty cool. The parking deck is also FREE for everyone, which comes as a surprise (and very welcome relief) considering the high costs for every other attraction. Implementation of these sensors must come at a hefty price. Disney is, once again, banking on a consumer’s entire visit experience today and in the future to reap returns.
    The sensors also give Disney another stream of data. I’m unsure what is in each sensor, but the fact that they have them may allow Disney to do some traffic and parking pattern analysis. Perhaps they even have little cameras that they can also analyze types of cars, license plates, etc. to better understand where consumers are coming from.
    Further, Disney is consolidating parking options at Disney Springs into this deck and another one. Disney’s theme parks and resorts have pretty good ideas on volume of guests via tickets or room accommodations. However, Disney Springs is a large outdoor shopping and eating experience with no real “gate” or ticketing. Thus, I don’t think Disney has good visibility on visitors to the Springs. With the parking deck’s sensors, Disney can now have a data stream that can be used as a proxy for guest count. Moreover, it allows the company to direct consumer experience via its flow of people through specific entry and exit points.
    Disney is a massive corporation touching on everything from sports with ESPN to some of the finest resorts all over the globe (check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) and incredibly expansive theme parks. Each resort, each theme park is a large business unit in itself with acute attention to detail. I can be surprised by how Disney is able to push such great technology (and adoption) amongst its vast corporation. However, I can also see the beauty and need to be aware by leveraging technology to constantly amaze visitor experience because of its size.
    So take a second and think about Disney and all that it touches… pretty magical, right?

    Last week, I was excited to announce I was writing an ebook on startup and entrepreneurship. Today, I’m THRILLED to announce the book is PUBLISHED!

    Postmortem of a Failed Startup: Lessons for Successis now on Amazon’s Kindle platform! I’ll probably have a couple more posts about the book in the upcoming weeks, but till then, I’ll just share with you the essentials…
    You can download the book from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A2NGDZ0
    I wanted to give the book away for free believing in the power of “free” for greater reach, but Amazon wants some money for their distribution. So, it’s actually $0.99.
    I wanted to capture all of the elements of my startup’s journey from inception to its eventual closure. Thus, I’ve written the book cradle-to-grave covering the following chapters:
    • Acknowledgements
    • Foreword **Provided by the great Don Pottinger
    • First, let me tell you about our Dream and my hopes for this book.
    • Solve a real problem with a 10X better solution.
    • Pick an industry where you have LOADS of experience.
    • Have customer-PARTNERS at the beginning.
    • Start Small and Targeted and KILL IT.
    • Aside from quality, UI and UX are more than just table stakes.
    • Be ready to pitch anytime and every time you walk outside.
    • Sales is HARD!
    • New customers are great, but existing customers are better.
    • Market like a king with a blacksmith’s earnings.
    • What gets measured gets improved.
    • Dedication to the startup is a key for agility which is a key for success.
    • Funding… ugh.
    • It’s all about the TEAM.
    • Know thyself or get real comfortable finding out.

    I’m wicked excited about the book and perhaps with an equal part nervousness. It’s a highly vulnerable piece not just for its content but also because I’m not a writer by trade. I’m not paid for writing, so I can’t say my writing is good let alone great. However, there’s definitely good personality in the book, and good content informative for everyone and anyone.

    Okay, that’s it for now. Check out the book! Please let me know your thoughts on Twitter @TheDLuor via email at the.daryl.lu@gmail.com.

    Thanks, everyone! Hope you enjoy the book!