Your customer has bought your software, and they’re excited to dig in and start using it! But, how do you avoid the pitfall of managing their onboarding via a standardized checklist driving toward a timely go-live, and then moving on quickly to the next customer?
Jennifer, our resident onboarding expert, coined the “Tupperware Cupboard” analogy. We all have the dreaded Tupperware cupboard — a jumble of containers in various sizes along with a pile of lids haphazardly shoved into an ill-fitting space, just waiting to dump out onto the floor. Sure, you can shove that one last lid in there, slam the door, and assume it’s someone else’s problem now.
When it’s time for your roommate to put the leftover lasagna in the fridge, that cupboard might have everything they need in it. But, you know good and well that the moment they open that door, everything will come tumbling out. The pieces are there, sure. But they’re not usable yet (plus your roommate has a mess to clean up).
This is not unlike checking off all those onboarding checklist items and then quickly handing off the customer to Support before moving on to the next project. Making sure your clients can open the cupboard and find what they need quickly is critical. Understanding your client’s Time to Value is key to avoiding the mess, and ensuring they are delighted as early as possible.
So, let’s talk about Time to Value (TTV), how to track it, and why it’s so critical.
What is TTV?
Time to value, usually shortened as TTV, is the amount of time between when a customer takes an action (makes the purchase) and when they see the value of that action (uses the product in a meaningful way).
Your customer’s TTV varies, depending on your product or the service. Some SaaS products are designed to improve the day-to-day operations of a business, so their TTV will be near zero. Others, like accounting or inventory software, might not show their true value until the end of the quarter or until tax season rolls around.
To keep up your business’ momentum and show your customers the ROI that you offer, you need to keep track of your TTV as a key metric.
Why Measuring TTV Matters
It’s your job to show the customer the value that they’ll get out of your product — not their job to find it. That’s the role of onboarding. If your customers can’t figure out how to use your product, they won’t. With the exception of services that customers hope not to see the value of — data backups, home security systems, and so on — most services are intended to be used. If customers can’t see that their money is well spent, they’ll churn, switching to a competitor.
Your marketing is all about showing prospective customers what you can do, but after they buy, they still need to learn how to do it. Whether that’s through in-person demos, tutorials, or a simple welcome email, your job is to hand off the product in a way that lets them hit the ground running as smoothly as possible.
Different Types of Time to Value
As mentioned above, TTV can vary greatly depending on your clientele, the services you offer, or even your customers’ customers. Remember, we’re not talking about the moment the customer becomes valuable to you. TTV is about when you become useful to them, and that means different things to different people.
Your software has a lot of different features, and customers don’t prioritize them all the same. You’ll need to keep track, all the way through the sales process, of what each customer’s particular priorities are. Since TTV is so variable, it makes sense to keep track of several different types.
Time To Basic Value
Time to basic value will be the shortest TTV metric that you measure — it’s simply the time it takes for your customer to realize they made the right choice. The customer is starting to see the most basic amount of value from your product, but they’ve yet to fully utilize your software or realize just how much you can do for them.
For some customers, time to basic value will come before they’ve even spent any money — a customer who signs up for a free software trial and sees that it’s exactly what they were looking for is already experiencing basic value, even if they haven’t subscribed to a paid account yet.
Time to Exceed Value
Time to exceeded value is the time it takes for your product or service to exceed your customer’s expectations and convince them to keep doing business with you. This might come when their free trial no longer meets their needs and they decide to sign up for more features, or after you complete a major project that shows a clear return on investment.
Exceeded value is so important because it shows your customers how much you can contribute — they’ll start to realize that they can’t (or don’t want to) do business without your service, increasing their lifetime value to you as they start to see you as a necessity rather than a luxury.
Long Time to Value
Some SaaS products and services don’t make their value apparent as immediately — it might take weeks or months to fully implement database, accounting, or inventory software to the point that it can be used day-to-day.
If your service has a long time to value, it’s important to show your customers what you’ll offer them in the meantime. Congratulate them for signing up, and start to offer instructional downloads or videos so they can hit the ground running once onboarding is complete.
Let’s say the implementation has a lot of work and phases, TTV can often begin before deployment. Once the data is populated in the tool, maybe they can start seeing reports! Leveraging a demo instance? Clients love to start to see things coming together! Two keys:
Ask your customer what they’re excited about and focus on it.
Highlight progress early and often.
Short Time to Value
Short time to value is much easier for customers to wrap their heads around. They have a need, they hire a company to meet those needs, and their needs are immediately met. If the carpets in your office are dirty, you can get a carpet cleaning company to come in in a few days and clean them.
The problem with businesses and markets that have a short time to value is that customers have less patience — if someone else can do the same job faster, they’re much more likely to switch. If your carpets are dirty and Company A says they can come in next week, but Company B can be there today, your loyalty for Company A will go out the window.
Immediate Time to Value
Some services are able to provide value with no onboarding or transition period at all. If you go to Hubspot’s website grader, for instance, you can paste in a URL and get SEO feedback within seconds. Because the TTV for this service is instantaneous, users are more likely to keep coming back to it.
How to Measure and Reduce TTV
Reducing your TTV is a good goal to have — a short TTV allows you to develop new features and adapt your sales cycle. But in order to reduce your customer’s TTV, you’ll need to be able to track that moment when customers realize the value of your service.
Tutorials and Onboarding Guides
The most brilliant product in the world is useless if your customers don’t know how to use it. Whether you offer a product with immediate time to value or long time to value, you need to get your customers interested enough to keep using your product.
That’s where tutorials and onboarding guides come in. Customers picked your product or service for a reason — they had a need that they wanted to address — so creating helpful tutorials and guides to show them how to address that need will give them the confidence and independence they need to keep using your product.
The onboarding process is your opportunity to re-emphasize the value you’re bringing to the table and show the customer how you’re delivering on the features that attracted them to you in the first place.
This step is especially important if you have a product or service with a long time to value. If your service provides data backups in case of physical server failure, your customer hopes never to have to use it. But showing them the progress of their backup, telling them how backups are protected and kept redundant, and explaining to them how they can use your backup software in case of emergency will give them a sense of value, even if they’re not technically using your service yet.
Case studies are a great way to show your new customers your value, even if they haven’t realized it themselves yet. Reading about a similar company in a similar situation who achieved the results they wanted will reassure your customers that the longer time to value is worth the wait.
You can tell them your value propositions or talk about your “extensive experience” ad nauseum, but there’s nothing like real-world examples to really prove your point.
Tracing TTV as Part of Your Project Timeline Project
If an implementation is long, generally a timeline is being leveraged to keep all project stakeholders on track. If on a totally separate timeline you’re tracking your customer’s TTV, this can be a great way to show them that you’re really focused on their needs and that you’re listening. Instilling that level of diligence and focus on their business will go a long way early in the process.
The Bottom Line
Time to value isn’t often considered one of a business’ most important KPIs, but it should be — TTV can provide useful insights that you just can’t get anywhere else. After all, your interaction with a customer doesn’t end when their check clears — you need to keep them informed, engaged, and satisfied if you want to convert a one-time purchaser into a repeat buyer, a long-term subscriber, or an advocate for your brand.
Time to value gives you a way to do that. By measuring the time between a completed purchase and the realization of value from that purchase, you can decide exactly when to engage, when to offer help, and when to nudge customers to renew their subscription. It’s only by understanding how your customers interact with your product that you’ll be able to convert single purchases into loyal patrons.