If you’re new to SaaS analytics, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed.
And, if you’re moderately versed in the skill, there are always more tools, tricks and strategies to discover.
In many ways, analyzing a SaaS product is a unique process. There’s terminology, metrics and methods you simply won’t find in other business models.
Websites, tools, and information resources are all vying for your attention. But which ones are the best? And where should begin?
Fear not, dear reader. We’ve removed the legwork from all that searching and put together what pretty much amounts to one of the best resources on analytics for SaaS businesses you’ll ever find.
The best way to use the guide is to bookmark it. There’s way too much to get through in one sitting, pick one item to work with at a time.
For example, you’ll find awesome analytics tools below. But plugging all of them into your website simultaneously will result in a hefty case of information overload.
Instead, commit to trying out one tool, reading one essential article or reading one book at a time. Whether it’s each week or each month is up to you. Whatever works. But small bursts of learning done consistently over the long term will help you learn more effectively and yield better results.
If you commit to just a little time spent each week, by the end of a couple of months or more, you’ll be halfway to becoming a SaaS analyst Jedi.
If you’re already an analyst Jedi, it’s worth reading to pick up whatever resources you don’t know
Great blogs worth following
The modern SaaS owner is spoilt for choice with many highly detailed blogs on offer. You have to start somewhere, and these are three of the most comprehensive, authoritative blogs on SaaS metrics analysis and optimization.
As a bonus tip, smartphone apps such as Pocket (available here for Android and here for iOS) are excellent for storing blog articles offline. That way when you’re on a train or anywhere else, you can make use of your time and catch up on important reading.
Sixteen Ventures – Lincoln Murphy
Lincoln Murphy is a SaaS consultant and growth hacker renowned for his deep-rooted analytics pieces and a proven track record of top-tier SaaS client success stories. Murphy is very much a thought leader in this sector and has few peers. Although one of them is David Skok.
For Entrepreneurs – David Skok
David Skok is a serial entrepreneur who switched careers to venture capital and started the excellent forentrepreneurs.com blog. Here, he gives arguably the most detailed breakdowns of SaaS analytics possible, with many of his articles go into thesis-levels of detail. If you’re serious about getting to the bottom of analyzing the SaaS business model, this is another essential bookmark to make.
ConversionXL – Peep Laja
ConversionXL focuses on conversion optimization in general, though it does publish some content that focuses specifically on the SaaS the business model. Because of the more general focus, you can learn a lot that can directly benefit a SaaS businesses. Laja became notorious for his ruthlessly results-orientated writing and A/B testing methodology.
Essential articles you should read
Okay, so there’s a lot of content on these blogs. Here’s a good starting point for each.
As a heads up, when you read the forentrepreneurs article, you’ll want to put a whole afternoon side, grab a coffee and whatever notetaking tools your prefer. It’s pretty hardcore.
But just remember when you’re working through the gritty details in this article or any other, that every new concept you understand pays serious dividends later on.
SaaS Metrics – A Guide to Measuring and Improving What Matters SaaS Metrics – David Skok
Skok has done a lot of content on SaaS metrics and he covers all of it in this uhm… dissertation. Everything is tackled and goes far beyond just what the metrics are and how they work. You can find acceptable averages to use as baseline measurements and much more besides.
SaaS Churn Rate Improvement: Monitor and Drive Engagement – Lincoln Murphy
For most SaaS companies just starting out (and many more mature examples, too) reducing your churn rate is pretty much a top priority. This is one of the best articles on the subject we’ve found, not surprisingly written by Lincoln Murphy.
A Quick Guide To Successful User Onboarding for SaaS Products – Tommy Walker – ConversionXL
If churn is arguably the most important metric, then user onboarding analysis is arguably the most overlooked. It’s the process of converting a website visitor into a user who’s successfully received the value you offer, making them more likely to stick around and get hooked on your product.
Tools you should use
When you start reading up on analytics for SaaS businesses, things get pretty heady.
When you start playing with the tools, well…. Like we said, one at a time. And considering most of them offer a free trial, there’s no reason not check them out.
The following five are not just our recommendations; they’re broadly considered to be some of the best SaaS analytics tools currently available. Let’s have a quick synopsis of what each one does and why it’s awesome. We’ll include a link to an article with more detail afterward.
MixPanel is an excellent place to start. It lets you create customized funnels for all the flows on your website, measuring the user actions taken by visitors. You can create funnels on everything from your sign-up forms to onboarding flows. It also allows automated and event-driven customized emails to be sent, and provides analytics to see which ones work best.
As the brand name suggests, Intercom.io is all about customer communication. It gives you a great deal of actionable data on users so you can speak with customers in a way that’s relevant to them, making it infinitely more likely you’ll win their business. Data is visible on the user interface so you can write custom messages to users in real time, whether it’s an email, in-app message or another method.
No analytics tools lineup is complete without a mention of KISSmetrics. It’s arguably the most sophisticated analytics tool going and is well-optimized for SaaS products. It does have a somewhat steep learning curve, but figuring it out is well worth the time investment.
Okay, we may be just a little biased on this one. With the use of no code whatsoever, myTips lets you create guided tip tutorials that overlay your UI, offering an easy-to-use analytics tool in the back end, providing you with a great way to learn onboarding flow analytics without the kind of overwhelming datazerg you might expect from KISSmetrics, Google Analytics or other very dense tools.
To discover more on these tools and learn about a couple more, see this article.
Books you should read
Whether you prefer smartphone apps, an eBook reader or old-school paper, there are a few analytics bibles that are simply must-reads for SaaS entrepreneurs, customer success managers and other industry professionals.
Here’s our top-3 list.
- Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
Over the course of this book, the authors look at 13 case studies of major SaaS businesses including Airbnb, and Moz (formerly SEOmoz) to see how various strategies helped them produce results and reach the success they enjoy today. Naturally, it’s an essential read.
- Buyer Legends by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg and Anthony Garcia
These guys have been helping businesses effectively maximize marketing spend for over two decades and previous clients include Hewlett-Packard and Google. Enough said.
- Elements of User Onboarding by Samuel Hulick
We’ve mentioned Samuel Hulick a number of times on the blog, and for good reason. He’s a veteran of user experience design with a heavy focus user onboarding. He also has an excellent blog you should check out where he publishes regular teardowns from onboarding flows of popular SaaS products. So in addition to his book, make sure you check out his blog here. Knowing this stuff will help you analyze more effectively.
Conferences you should watch for
Depending on where you’re based, some of these conferences will be easier to attend than others. But if you’re close enough, they’re all worth checking out. Speaking to experts and other industry pros can really help deepen your mastery of this topic.
We’re writing this article in 2015 so, if you see it in the future and it’s not updated, a quick Google search should set you straight.
- Interaction15 – Feb 9 – 11, San Francisco, CA (Recordings available)
- Adobe Summit – March 9 – 13, Utah (Recordings available)
- ConversionXL – March 11-13, Near Austin, TX
- Smashing Conf, LA – Apr 27-30, Los Angeles, CA
- Weapon of Mass Distribution – 1st of May, San Francisco, CA
- Click – May 6 – 8, Raleigh, NC
- Conversion Conference – May 12 – 14, Las Vegas, NV
- An Event Apart – May 11 – 13, Boston, MA
- Enterprise UX – May 13 – 15, San Antonio, TX
- Re:Design – May 18 – 19, San Francisco, CA
- Monetate Summit – May 19 – 21, Loews, Philadelphia
- Smashing Conf, NY – June 16–17, New York, NY
- Opticon – June 17 – 18, San Francisco, CA
- UXPA – June 22 -25, San Diego, CA
- UX Week – August 25 – 28, San Francisco, CA
- Call To Action – September 13 – 15, Vancouver, Canada
We hope you found this resource useful.
As the months and years roll by, we’ll endeavor to add the latest and greatest tools, information and resources relevant to SaaS analytics.
Just remember not to take on too much on at the same time. Aim to strike a balance between developing your understanding of the topic at an efficient pace while avoiding information overload.
If you read the article and you have some tools, books or articles you think are worth adding, let us know in the comments section and we’ll update the article accordingly.