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Imagine one of those food subscription services that sends you the ingredients to easily make meals at home — we’ll call it FoodBox. You sign up for a FoodBox subscription that sends you five dinners for the week, and the box arrives the following Monday.

As it turns out, some of the recipes are too tricky for you to cook — you have a small kitchen and a toddler to keep track of, and you can’t “stir constantly” for 20 minutes while you watch him. To make it worse, your young one doesn’t like the leafy greens included in the meals, and you go to the gym on Mondays, so you can’t cook that night.

As a result, you’re throwing away half the meals you’re sent, and you start to worry that you’re wasting money. Frustrated, you cancel your subscription.

All the people at FoodBox can tell is that you signed up, took delivery of a package, and then canceled — but they don’t know why. If they’d had a Customer Success team, they could have reached out to you to see how things were going.

Maybe they could have changed your delivery date so that you were cooking on the weekends when you had more time. Maybe they could have adjusted the recipes to make them easier to cook while you’re busy. If they knew your subscription wasn’t working for you, they could have predicted that you were about to cancel and worked to keep you. But in this scenario, there was no point of contact for you to voice your concerns to, so the opportunity for intervention to help with your adoption was missed.

We all know that product adoption is important, but the actual metrics you should be keeping an eye on are often neglected. Onboarding is a planned, structured process, so it’s tempting to hand off the product to the customer and assume they can take the wheel from there, but customers often need more help to get up and running.

Here are a few key questions to keep in mind about your adoption maturity:

  1. What does adoption mean to your customer?
  2. What does adoption mean to your company?
  3. How will you measure adoption?
  4. How will you use your adoption metrics to take action?

Adoption is crucial to your Customer Success strategy, and vice versa. Customer Success is about making sure that your customers are getting what they want out of your product. If the product is meeting their needs, they’ll adopt it — weaving it into their everyday workflows. If the customer never really feels enthused by your product, they won’t renew.

Why Do You Need To Measure Adoption?

It’s worth mentioning that adoption looks different depending on the product, the customer, and the company, so it doesn’t always fit in a neat box. It’s also fluid — turnover, strategy, and your product itself can change over time, so the definition of adoption will change with them.

For any product though, there should be a point when you can tell that your customer is fully up to speed and cruising along nicely. Whether it’s through usage data or whether they simply told you, it’s important that you define what adoption is so you can look out for it when it happens.

The goal is to identify the signs of renewal and churn before they happen. Maybe onboarding didn’t go very well, the end user inherited the platform without fully understanding its value, or they just never got the hang of the product. You should be able to notice certain patterns — for instance, maybe customers who use a certain feature more than once a week usually renew — that you can track in order to ensure adoption and mitigate churn.

Adoption monitoring is also hugely beneficial to product feedback. You’re not just looking at adoption of your product or service as a whole, you want to know which specific features are being adopted. That information will help your product and sales teams understand what customers like and don’t like about your product.

Finally, measuring adoption is crucial to making sure your customers are getting the ROI they need. Every customer who invests in your product has a need in mind when they sign up, and whether they adopt will depend on whether they feel that need is being met. A combination of data insights — how many users are logging in, how often, and what features they’re using — and tracking what the customers wanted to begin with will help everyone get on the right path.

Which Adoption Metrics To Measure

Adoption Rate

Adoption rate is the most basic metric of adoption, but it’s a useful baseline number to have in your back pocket. The adoption formula is:

Number of Adopted Users


Total Number Of Users

If you have 1000 users and 250 of them have adopted your product, your adoption rate is 25%.

In order to use this formula, you’ll have to establish what your definition of an “adopted user” is. Some of the formulas later in this post can help with that, but in most cases it will be specific to your company. For example, you could say that a customer who has completed your onboarding and has 75% of their users logging in on a daily basis has adopted.

This metric can be used to measure the adoption rate of your product as a whole or the adoption rate of a specific feature, and is usually tied to a specific time period. If your company measures adoption on a month-to-month basis, you could adjust the formula above to calculate monthly:

Number of adopted users between March 1 and March 31


Number of total users between March 1 and March 31

Time To First Key Action/Depth Of Adoption

Another good metric to judge adoption is how long it takes users to start using a given feature. Most software products have different levels of complexity that customers will start using at different times — new Gmail users will likely send an email with their account almost immediately, but might never get around to setting up a vacation responder or custom signature.

What constitutes a “key” action depends on which features provide the most value, or which features lead to usage of other features. Maybe you want to measure this number for a very basic feature to see if customers are even starting to use your product at all. Maybe there’s a specific feature that’s a good predictor of adoption. Or maybe your product team wants to know if one of your more obscure features is worth the upkeep. The formula for depth of adoption is:

Number of users who adopted X feature


Total number of active users

You can measure this metric broadly or over a specific amount of time, depending on the need. You can also compare the adoption of a specific feature to your definition of an adopted user to see if that feature should inform your definitions going forward.

Time To Value (TTV)

TTV is often used as an onboarding metric, but it’s also useful in terms of adoption. If there’s a particular feature that customers tend to get the most value from, you should make a point of encouraging the quickest path to that point. Let’s say there’s a specific report that customers want to see once all their data has been imported. How quickly can you generate that report?

Satisfaction, Proficiency, and Usage

These three metrics don’t exist in a vacuum — examining how they relate to each other can give you a lot of great insights and help you focus on the right areas.

Satisfaction measures how useful users find their current system. You’ll need to survey your customers or get them on the phone to obtain this info, but you can easily quantify user satisfaction across a number of variables to figure out which attributes lead to the highest satisfaction.

Proficiency describes the level of expertise your customer has with your product. It can be captured by examining usage data or by having a one-on-one conversation with your customers, and can tell you if your customer is using more complicated features or just sticking with the simple ones. If your customer is struggling, this might be a good time to revisit training.

Usage numbers are tracked internally, and will include metrics like number of users, usage times, login frequency, which features they use and how often, and so on. Usage is a great metric to keep an eye on, but be careful of the false positive element. Sometimes, customers will use the product heavily right up to the time they leave, so keeping an eye on your customer is critical, even if usage levels are good.

By themselves, these metrics are useful, but in combination, they can give you a more complete picture — if customers are satisfied, proficient, and using the product, they’ve adopted.

Always Be Improving

All this adoption data isn’t much good if you’re not using it. You might be capturing a lot of data, but how are you analyzing it? And how are you taking action based on the outcome?

If your users report high proficiency and satisfaction but usage of a certain feature is low, then maybe that feature isn’t necessary. If satisfaction and proficiency are both low, the onboarding and education of your customers might need to be revisited.

If you’re not measuring the data surrounding customer adoption, you may not have a clear picture of what your customers want — and that can lead to churn. And as a very important bonus, using all that data intelligently will keep your team and your customers from spending valuable time focusing on the wrong areas.

Measuring adoption and the metrics that surround it helps you meet customers at their own proficiency level, prevent them from being discouraged, and keep them happy with your product and your business — and like we always say, a happy customer is a repeat customer.

A Director at a successful SaaS company recently approached me about the role of marketing in customer success. This leader understood that the marketing team was a valuable resource when developing customer-facing communications but wanted more.

As we discussed possible options for the “future state” of a marketing + customer success partnership, it became apparent that there was no one-size-fits-all solution. So, in an effort to educate myself (and help my friend build a business case to reallocate marketing resources), I posted a question to the members of the Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn.

The question wasn’t complicated. I merely asked if anyone was willing to share what worked/didn’t work when building an alliance between customer success and marketing. I was expecting maybe one or two responses. What I got was a string of thoughtful and creative ways CS leaders are using marketing to their advantage.

There were A LOT of really good ideas, but three stood out. Here’s what caught my eye and why it’s worth considering for your organization. Note: I’ve tagged the concepts with the names of their creator, in case you’re interested in following these folks on LinkedIn.

1) Marketing as a sales enablement function for CS teams

LinkedIn: @azimnagree

Why I love this: All too often, marketing’s responsibility to internal customers, (e.g. sales, customer success, etc.) is overshadowed by the pursuit for new business. If we know that personalized attention from CSMs drives deeper and more valuable customer relationships, then why wouldn’t marketing supply assets to CSMs for better 1-to-1 customer conversations? The answer is likely due to resource strains in the marketing and customer success teams. However, the concept is still important to recognize. CSMs need the right collateral to have informed, value-centric conversations. Marketing can help.

2) Customer marketing should live in the customer success organization

LinkedIn: @billgoocher

Why I love this: This may or may not make sense depending on the depth of your organizational chart. But, aligning post-sale marketing resources to an organization devoted to customer engagement post-sale just makes sense. As Bill mentioned, “the CSMs have a much better handle on where each of their customers are within the lifecycle…” Understanding your audience leads to better content development and more meaningful campaigns that produce positive results.

3) The content delivered matters more than the role

LinkedIn: @robertdunn

Why I love this: It’s true! Don’t get so caught up in org charts that you lose sight of what’s valuable. Customers expect proactive engagement from the point of sale forward. This means certain plays need to be run, regardless of who’s running them. As Robert shared, “…The proven low hanging fruit of Customer Marketing tactics: Newsletters, Case Studies, Blog Posts, Videos (educational – how to use), Meet-ups. It matters less who does these things than it does they get done…”

It’s probably worth mentioning that all these ideas seem to hint at hiring additional headcount. Keep in mind that hiring isn’t the only option. Consider partnering with a service provider who has expertise in customer marketing (AKA account-based marketing) strategy and execution. These service partners often have access to a deeper pool of qualified talent and can offer you more for your money when compared to hiring a full-time employee.

Learn more – Learn how to build a business case for more Customer Success resources with this handy guide.