Alexa Meyer, Product Metrics, and Marketing Metrics

This is the part of a series of interviews with B2B marketers. In this post we're talking with Alexa Meyer from Keen IO on how product metrics inform marketing decisions.

Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Alexa Meyer, I'm the director of marketing at Keen IO. I've worked here for about a year now. I moved out to San Francisco from Toronto and it's been a pretty crazy adventure so far.


What's the 30-second pitch on Keen IO?
Keen IO helps data driven companies discover the right insights with custom analytics. Our product is a flexible analytics platform that lets people track and measure the metrics that matter to them, and visualize those results anywhere they need them. Many of our SaaS customers use Keen to display analytics and reporting features right inside their products for their end users, which is pretty cool. 

How did you get into marketing?
Kind-of a weird story — I originally wanted to be a psychiatrist. I started my education in neuroscience and psychology, but I took a business class and loved the immediate learning and real-time applications of it. I liked being able to solve real business problems. I ended up doing a double-major in psychology and business, and that's been a really good fit for a marketing role where you’re blending business needs with an understanding of how people make decisions.

That's awesome. We're finding everybody has a different way of getting into marketing.
Totally. I never expected to end up in marketing, let alone business until I realized there are a lot of applications for psych and human behavior in the business world.

How do product metrics help marketers?
Measuring how people are using a product helps a marketer assess the effectiveness of their marketing efforts across the entire funnel, not just the top. It's one thing to measure growth in signups, pageviews, and referrals, etc. – that makes you a good marketer. To be a great marketer you need to measure how people engage with your product over time. You’ll want to know which marketing efforts are driving people to activate and actually use your product. 

For example, depending on what your activation metrics are - maybe it’s when someone sends data for the first time or creates their first campaign using your product. Whatever it is, it’s important to look at the behaviors of the users you’ve acquired through your marketing efforts. Asking questions like did they activate in the first day, the second day, are they paying you over time, or which features did they use? These answers will help you evaluate how effective your marketing efforts are at acquiring the right users. 

"Marketing these days is about driving growth through the entire funnel."

How do you identify what those compelling events would be – like in a trial, once we get people to do this we know they'll be a buyer or convert?
Marketing these days is about driving growth through the entire funnel. You really want to make sure you're looking at which behaviors indicate whether or not someone is going to be an active and long-time user. One way to figure this out is to look backwards: look at all your users who are paying you or who are very active today, and then look backwards at the funnel to see what did they do on their first day? what about their first 7 days? You'll likely start to see some commonalities there. You might discover something like, "70% of the people who are now paying us took this action in their first day." This gives you a sense of where you can try to optimize your onboarding funnel to get more people to do the action that has a high rate of stickiness or conversion. 

A lot of companies aren't really connecting product metrics to sales velocity. Do you see that changing over time?
Yeah! Especially for companies who offer a freemium model. If you’re a SaaS company with a freemium or monthly self-service tier and you're trying to convert someone to an annual contract, you should be tracking how those users are using your product in the freemium and self-service tiers. There might be usage patterns that indicate someone is ready for the next tier, or ready to become an Enterprise user. This will help you better tailor your marketing and nurturing campaigns. 

At Keen, we have a freemium tier and a self-service tier. These tiers let users test things out, use our analytics APIs and evaluate whether we’re a good fit.  We measure how people use our product in the freemium and self-service tier. The data helps our marketing team and our sales team look at these users to see how engaged they are with the product and which features they’ve used. We use the data to build better nurturing campaigns and improve our sales efficiency. 

"If you’re able to analyze which campaigns performed best by looking at which leads actually used your product, you'll be a much better marketer."

Are you modifying any of your drip campaigns or how people onboard into your self-service trial based on that data?
Our first activation metric within our product is when someone sends data to Keen, which means they're tracking something. We’ve revised our onboarding and drip campaigns to try and nudge new users to perform that action.

For marketing teams getting into this, they probably need to get resources from their product team to start getting these metrics. What advice do you have for them to convince their CEO or CTO that this is a good use of developers?

If it's the CEO you probably want to go in explaining how product metrics will enable you to improve the effectiveness of your marketing spend. If you’re able to analyze which campaigns performed best by looking at whether or not those users actually used your product, you'll be a much better marketer and be able to spend your money more efficiently. Show your CEO what you've measured so far and demonstrate that you have a plan for how you'll use metrics going forward. 

For a CTO or CPO, I would discuss how having analytics on the product funnel and knowing which features people are using sheds light on how people are using the product and informs which features to build next. 

You mentioned with the CEO connecting data from product to campaigns. How do you use the metrics to drive that discussion?
Assuming you're using tools that can tell you where your leads and signups are coming from, you can see how people you acquire from each channel perform over time. By looking at how people use the product you can start to answer questions like, Did the signups we acquired from Twitter activate in the first 7 days? Did they try the product? Which features did they use? Was the activation rate what we expected it to be?

So you're seeing how sources effect usage segmentation?
Exactly. Once you have this data, you can start to evaluate the performance of different channels and campaigns. For example, you might get 100 signups from a Facebook campaign, and only 50 signups from a Twitter campaign. The data might tell you that many of the signups from Twitter started using the product while signups from a Facebook campaign didn’t activate at all.  In this case, we might want to cut down on Facebook spend and focus on improving the reach of our Twitter campaigns. Of course you will want to continue to look at your entire acquisition funnel to ensure your activation rate is healthy as you double down on any channel or campaign. 

"Think about what you would say if you were explaining your product to someone for the first time."

When people are getting started, and maybe they don't have any tracking in their app today, how do they figure out what's important to start tracking?

Think about what you would say if you were explaining your product to someone for the first time. Pay special attention to the verbs you use. For example, if you’re Uber, you’d probably say “We’re an app that lets people request a taxi from anywhere.” One of the things you probably want to track is app downloads, numbers of times people have opened the app, and # of people that requested a taxi. Another thing you’d probably want to track is how many rides does a user request per week. 

For a B2B example, let’s use MailChimp. MailChimp probably wants to know if a new user has a set up an email campaign, how many campaigns has someone set up, and how many emails a user has sent. 

And at a basic level, make sure you have a view into three key areas:

  1. Interest - what demonstrates that someone is interested in your product? This could be a signup or a download. 
  2. Activation - What behavior does someone need to perform to start using and seeing value from our product?
  3. Conversion - Did the user become a paying customer?

What advice do you have for people without a technical background to start learning about this and bring it into their organization?
Learn to set objectives and ask great questions. If you know which questions you want to ask and you have an understanding of how you’ll use the data to inform your decision making, that’s a really great start.  

You don't have to be the one implementing the tracking, but you should certainly know what questions you want to ask. This will help you communicate your needs to the person implementing the tracking and analysis for you, whether it's an analyst or developer. If the person understands how you’ll be using the data, it will be a lot easier for them to help you get the right data and ensure you’re getting the answers you need. 

What resources would you recommend?
I really like Brian Balfour's blog. He's the VP of growth at Hubspot. He has an amazing blog about growth marketing and has given quite a few talks at growth conferences. He takes a very data-driven approach to marketing across the whole funnel. I've found his frameworks very useful.

Lean analytics is a very good book for startups. 

Our CEO gave a talk about how product is the number one growth hack, and he talks about the key metrics to measure at each stage of your funnel. 

Finally, Keen’s Data Team runs a great Intro to Analytics class both in-person and online. You can sign up to join our next class. 

Last question, it's always the hardest - what's your favourite 90s dance song?
That is very hard. I like everything from Dance Mix '95. If I had to pick one, not from that CD, I'd pick Push It from Salt N Peppa.