Article | February 17, 2020
In recent years, artificial intelligence research and applications have accelerated at a rapid speed. Simply saying your organization will incorporate AI isn’t as specific as it once was. There are diverse implementation options for AI, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, and within each of them, a series of different algorithms you can leverage to improve operations and establish a competitive edge. Algorithms are utilized across almost every industry. For example, to power the recommendation engines in all media platforms, the chatbots that support customer service efforts at scale, and the self-driving vehicles being tested by the world’s largest automotive and technology companies. Because of how diverse AI has become and the many ways in which it works with data, companies must carefully evaluate what will work best for them.
Article | February 17, 2020
The software-as-a-service industry is rapidly growing with an estimate to reach $219.5 billion by 2027. SaaS marketing strategies is highly different from other industries; thus, tracking the right metrics for marketing is necessary. SaaS kpis or metrics measure an enterprise’s performance, growth, and momentum. These saas marketing metrics are have been designed to evaluate the health of a business by tracking sales, marketing, and customer success. Direct access to data will help you develop your business and show whether there is any room for development.
SaaS KPIs: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?
Marketing metrics for SaaS indicate growth in different ways. SaaS KPIs, just like regular KPIs, helps business to evaluate their business models and strategies. These key metrics for SaaS companies give a deep insight into which sectors perform well and require reassessment. To optimize any company’s exposure, SaaS metrics for marketing are highly essential. They measure the performance of sales, marketing, and customer retention. SaaS companies believe in the entire life cycle of the customer, while traditional web-based companies focus on immediate sales. The overall goal of SaaS companies is to build long-lasting customer relationships since most revenue is generated through their recurring payments.
SaaS marketing technology are SaaS marketers’ greatest asset if they take the time and effort to understand and implement them. There are essential and unimportant metrics. Knowing which metrics to pay attention to is a challenge. Once you get these metrics right, they will help you to detect your company’s strengths and weaknesses and help you understand whether they are working or not.
There are more than fifteen metrics one can track but make you lose sight of what matters. In this article, we have identified the critical metrics every SaaS should track:
This metric measures the number of visitors your website or page sees in a specific time period. If someone visits your website four to five times in that given time period, it will be counted as one unique visitor. Recording this metric is crucial as it shows you what type of visitors your site receives and from what channels they arrive. When the number of unique visitors is high, it indicates to the SaaS marketers that their content resonates with the target customers. It is vital to note, however, which channels these unique visitors reach your website. These channels can be:
SaaS marketers should, at this point, identify which channels are working and double down on those. Once you know these channels, you can allocate budgets and optimize these channels for better performance.
Google Analytics is the best free tool to track unique visitors. The tool enables you to refine by dates and compare time periods and generate a report.
Leads is a broad term that can be broken down into two sub-categories: Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) and Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL). Defining SQL and MQL is important as they can be different for every business. So, let us break down the definitions for the two:
MQLs are those leads that have moved past the visitor phase in the customer lifecycle. They have taken steps to move ahead and become qualified to become potential customers. They have engaged with your website multiple times. For example, they have visited your website to check out prices, case studies or have downloaded your whitepapers more than two times.
SQLs actively engage with your site and are more qualified than MQLs. This lead is what you have deemed as the ideal sales candidate. They are way past the initial search stage, evaluating vendors, and are ready for a direct sales pitch. The most crucial distinction between the two is that your sales team has deemed them sales-worthy.
After distinguishing between the two leads, you need to take the next appropriate steps. The best way to measure these leads is through closed-loop automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot. These automation tools will help you set up the criteria that automatically set up an individual as lead based on your website's SQL and MQL actions. Next, track the website traffic to ensure these unique visitors turn into potential leads.
The churn rate, in short, refers to the number of customers lost in a given time frame. It is the number of revenue SaaS customers who cancel their recurring revenue services. Since SaaS is a subscription-based service, losing customers directly correlates to losing money. The churn rate also indicates that your customers aren’t getting what they want from your service.
Like most of your saas KPIs, you will be reporting on the churn rate every month. To calculate the churn rate, take the total number of customers you lost in the month you’re reporting on. Next, divide that by the number of customers you had at the beginning of the reporting month. Then, multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage.
A churn is natural for any business. However, a high churn rate is an indicator that your business is in trouble. Therefore, it is an essential metric to track for your SaaS company.
Customer Lifetime Value
Customer lifetime value (CLV) measures how valuable a customer is to your business. It is the average amount of money your customers pay during their involvement with your SaaS company. You measure not only their value based on purchases but also the overall relationship. Keeping an existing client is more important than acquiring a new one which makes this metric important.
Measuring CLV is a bit complicated than measuring other metrics. First, calculate the average customer lifetime by taking the number one divided by the customer churn rate. As an example, let’s say your monthly churn rate is 1%. Your average customer lifetime would be 1/0.01 = 100 months.
Then take the average customer lifetime and multiply it by the average revenue per account (ARPA) over a given time period. If your company, for example, brought in $100,000 in revenue last month off of 100 customers, that would be $1,000 in revenue per account.
Finally, this brings us to CLV. You’ll now need to multiply customer lifetime (100 months) by your ARPA ($1,000). That brings us to 100 x $1,000, or $100,000 CLV.
CLV is crucial as it indicates whether or not there is a proper strategy in place for business growth. It also shows investors the value of your company.
Customer Acquisition Cost
Customer acquisition cost (CAC) tells you how much you should spend on acquiring a new customer. The two main factors that determine the CAC are:
Lead generation costs
Cost of converting that lead into a client
The CAC predicts the resources needed to acquire new customers. It is vital to understand this metric if you want to grow your customer base and make a profit. To calculate your CAC for any given period, divide your marketing and sales spend over that time period by the number of customers gained during the same time. It might cost more to acquire a new customer, but what if that customer ends up spending more than most? That’s where the CLV to CAC ratio comes into play.
CLV: CAC Ratio
CLV: CAC ratio go hand in hand. Comparing the two will help you understand the impact of your business. The CLV: CAC ratio shows the lifetime value of your customers and the amount you spend to gain new ones in a single metric. The ultimate goal of your company should be to have a high CLV: CAC ratio. According to SaaS analytics, a healthy business should have a CLV three times greater than its CAC. Just divide your calculated CLV by CAC to get the ratio. Some top-performing companies even have a ratio of 5:1.
SaaS companies use this number to measure the health of marketing programs to invest in campaigns that work well or divert the resources to those campaigns that work well.
Always remember to set healthy marketing KPIs. Reporting on these numbers is never enough. Ensure that everything you do in marketing ties up to all the goals you have set for your company. Goal-driven SaaS marketing strategies always pay off and empower you and your company to be successful.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 5 most important metrics for SaaS companies?
The five most important metrics for SaaS companies are Unique Visitors, Churn, Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Acquisition Cost, and Lead to Customer Conversion Rate.
Why should we measure SaaS marketing metrics?
Measuring marketing metrics are critically important because they help brands determine whether campaigns are successful, and provide insights to adjust future campaigns accordingly. They help marketers understand how their campaigns are driving towards their business goals, and inform decisions for optimizing their campaigns and marketing channels.
How to measure the success of your SaaS marketing?
The success of SaaS marketing can be measured by identifying the metrics that help them succeed. Some examples of those metrics are: Unique Visitors, Churn, Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Acquisition Cost, and Lead to Customer Conversion Rate.
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Article | February 17, 2020
Does the success of companies like Google depend on that of the algorithms or that of data? Today’s fascination with artificial intelligence (AI) reflects both our appetite for data and our excitement about the new opportunities in machine learning. Amalio Telenti, Chief Data Scientist and Head of Computational Biology at Vir Biotechnology Inc. argue that newcomers to the field of data science are blinded by the shiny object of magical algorithms and that they forget the critical infrastructures that are needed to create and to manage data in the first place.Data management and infrastructures are the little ugly duckling of data science but they are necessary for a successful program and therefore need to be built with purpose. This requires careful consideration of strategies for data capture, storage of raw and processed data and instruments for retrieval. Beyond the virtues of analysis, there are also the benefits of facilitated retrieval. While there are many solutions for visualization of corporate or industrial data, there is still a need for flexible retrieval tools in the form of search engines that query the diverse sources and forms of data and information that are generated at a given company or institution.
Article | February 17, 2020
For many, 2021 has brought hope that they can cautiously start to prepare for a world after Covid. That includes living with the possibility of future pandemics, and starting to reflect on what has been learned from such a brutal shared experience. One of the areas that has come into its own during Covid has been artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that helped bring the pandemic under control, and allow life to continue through lockdowns and other disruptions.
Plenty has been written about how AI has supported many aspects of life at work and home during Covid, from videoconferencing to online food ordering. But the role of AI in preventing Covid causing even more havoc is not necessarily as widely known. Perhaps even more importantly, little has been said about the role AI is likely to play in preparing for, responding to and even preventing future pandemics.
From what we saw in 2020, AI will help prevent global outbreaks of new diseases in three ways: prediction, diagnosis and treatment.
Predicting pandemics is all about tracking data that could be possible early signs that a new disease is spreading in a disturbing way. The kind of data we’re talking about includes public health information about symptoms presenting to hospitals and doctors around the world. There is already plenty of this captured in healthcare systems globally, and is consolidated into datasets such as the Johns Hopkins reports that many of us are familiar with from news briefings.
Firms like Bluedot and Metabiota are part of a growing number of organisations which use AI to track both publicly available and private data and make relevant predictions about public health threats. Both of these received attention in 2020 by reporting the appearance of Covid before it had been officially acknowledged. Boston Children’s Hospital is an example of a healthcare institution doing something similar with their Healthmap resource.
In addition to conventional healthcare data, AI is uniquely able to make use of informal data sources such as social media, news aggregators and discussion forums. This is because of AI techniques such as natural language processing and sentiment analysis. Firms such as Stratifyd use AI to do this in other business settings such as marketing, but also talk publicly about the use of their platform to predict and prevent pandemics. This is an example of so-called augmented intelligence, where AI is used to guide people to noteworthy data patterns, but stops short of deciding what it means, leaving that to human judgement.
Another important part of preventing a pandemic is keeping track of the transmission of disease through populations and geographies. A significant issue in 2020 was difficulty tracing people who had come into contact with infection. There was some success using mobile phones for this, and AI was critical in generating useful knowledge from mobile phone data.
The emphasis of Covid tracing apps in 2020 was keeping track of how the disease had already spread, but future developments are likely to be about predicting future spread patterns from such data. Prediction is a strength of AI, and the principles used to great effect in weather forecasting are similar to those used to model likely pandemic spread.
To prevent future pandemics, it won’t be enough to predict when a disease is spreading rapidly. To make the most of this knowledge, it’s necessary to diagnose and treat cases. One of the greatest early challenges with Covid was the lack of speedy, reliable tests.
For future pandemics, AI is likely to be used to create such tests more quickly than was the case in 2020. Creating a useful test involves modelling a disease’s response to different testing reagents, finding right balance between speed, convenience and accuracy. AI modelling simulates in a computer how individual cells respond to different stimuli, and could be used to perform virtual testing of many different types of test to accelerate how quickly the most promising ones reach laboratory and field trials.
In 2020 there were also several novel uses of AI to diagnose Covid, but there were few national and global mechanisms to deploy these at scale. One example was the use of AI imaging, diagnosing Covid by analysing chest x-rays for features specific to Covid. This would have been especially valuable in places that didn’t have access to lab testing equipment. Another example was using AI to analyse the sound of coughs to identify unique characteristics of a Covid cough.
AI research to systematically investigate innovative diagnosis techniques such as these should result in better planning for alternatives to laboratory testing. Faster and wider rollout of this kind of diagnosis would help control spread of a future disease during the critical period waiting for other tests to be developed or shared. This would be another contribution of AI to preventing a localised outbreak becoming a pandemic.
Historically, vaccination has proven to be an effective tool for dealing with pandemics, and was the long term solution to Covid for most countries. AI was used to accelerate development of Covid vaccines, helping cut the development time from years or decades to months. In principle, the use of AI was similar to that described above for developing diagnostic tests.
Different drug development teams used AI in different ways, but they all relied on mathematical modelling of how the Covid virus would respond to many forms of treatment at a microscopic level.
Much of the vaccine research and modelling focused on the “spike” proteins that allow Covid to attack human cells and enter the body. These are also found in other viruses, and were already the subject of research before the 2020 pandemic. That research allowed scientists to quickly develop AI models to represent the spikes, and simulate the effects of different possible treatments. This was crucial in trialling thousands of possible treatments in computer models, pinpointing the most likely successes for further investigation.
This kind of mathematical simulation using AI continued during drug development, and moved substantial amounts of work from the laboratory to the computer.
This modelling also allowed the impact of Covid mutations on vaccines to be assessed quickly. It is why scientists were reasonably confident of developing variants of vaccines for new Covid mutations in days and weeks rather than months.
As a result of the global effort to develop Covid vaccines, the body of data and knowledge about virus behaviour has grown substantially. This means it should be possible to understand new pathogens even more rapidly than Covid, potentially in hours or days rather than weeks.
AI has also helped create new ways of approaching vaccine development, for example the use of pre-prepared generic vaccines designed to treat viruses from the same family as Covid. Modifying one of these to the specific features of a new virus is much faster than starting from scratch, and AI may even have already simulated exactly such a variation.
AI has been involved in many parts of the fight against Covid, and we now have a much better idea than in 2020 of how to predict, diagnose and treat pandemics, especially similar viruses to Covid. So we can be cautiously optimistic that vaccine development for any future Covid-like viruses will be possible before it becomes a pandemic. Perhaps a trickier question is how well we will be able to respond if the next pandemic is from a virus that is nothing like Covid.
Was Rahman is an expert in the ethics of artificial intelligence, the CEO of AI Prescience and the author of AI and Machine Learning. See more at www.wasrahman.com