How should product marketing split feature adoption KPIs with the product team (for B2B self-serve SaaS)
In an ideal world product and product marketing should be embedded in one another’s efforts from start to finish (see my other response on “customer needs” and getting PMM further upstream). In this world product marketing has played an active role in helping set the vision for the feature, doing research to support its validation/market opportunity, and coordinating the launch priority (e.g. is this a “nice to have” vs. a tentpole launch). In such a scenario it can often be appropriate for product and product marketing to sign up for shared KPI targets on things like free trials, signups, active engagement in first 30 days, 3-month retention, etc.
However, many teams are still working toward that ideal world. If the product team only involves the product marketing team at the very end of the product development process as “the team I go to when my feature is ready to launch” then it might make more sense for the product team to own much more of the adoption KPIs. Why? Because in this scenario PMMs have very little latitude with the tools at their disposal like messaging and launch tactics since many of the core decisions around the value prop and target audience — which ultimately play a huge role in product/market fit and therefore adoption — have already been made.
So I am actually not sure this should be split, the best companies I have ever worked at Product Management and Product Marketing shared these numbers and it was our goal as a team to impact these. Now not every company looks at it this way, some just want to know the impact YOU as a single person or team are impacting. So I usually talk about owning registration numbers, second week retention numbers and have the product teams focused on the MAU and DAU numbers from there out and work with them to make sure they are retaining.
Why split? Make feature adoption a shared metric between PMM and PM teams. This is an important metric for both teams. I would use this metric pre-launch to really understand the target market segment, to set the baseline, and to define post-launch target. Post-launch, evaluate how the needle moves on this metric. If you are doing this in your company for the first time, this could start interesting conversations. Depending on the root cause analysis, PM and PMM will own different metrics to move the adoption up.
- Customers don't use this feature as anticipated because it adds several extra steps to their workflow: This is a great PM, UX conversation
- We see low adoption because our target users don't find value in the feature: As a PMM, you should think about whether you crafted a good target market segment for the launch. Pivot your GTM strategy and communicate to the new segment if your initial assumption was wrong.
- We see low adoption because customers were did not get any communication and the discoverability of the feature was hard: PMM, PM, Design, Demand Gen, Customer Marketing - they all need to discuss this.
- ... so on.. you get my point.
To the contrary, I always like to share and align on KPIs with the product team. Bonus points is you can also align that with key partners in other functions as well, like growth marketing. The more you can stay aligned from the top, the more naturally everything else will fall when it comes to prioritization and resourcing of projects.
Now, some KPIs will vary widely based on the lifecycle of the product and the context of your company. Here are some examples to get your wheels turning:
- For new products: Adoption (X% of users are using a product) and monthly/daily active users of the product
- For products later in their lifecycle: Activation % (how many new users become activated users), Virality (if your product can be shared, is it being shared and how often)
The ideal scenario is that product and product marketing have shared adoption KPIs because this creates greater investment and accountability from both groups. If that’s not the case, product will tend to focus on post-login KPIs such as MAUs and DAUs. Marketing will focus on pre-login KPIs such as site visits, email engagement rates etc. Overall, it’s best if both teams focus on the NPS as that’s a clear indicator of how satisfied customers are with the product and if they will recommend it to others.
First off, is feature adoption the right KPI? In my opinion, focusing on feature adoption could be too narrow of a metric and doesn't shed light on what the end-user is experiencing. End users don't find value in features; they find value in getting their job to be done, done, and more effectively or efficiently than they did it before.
At a basic level, product is responsible for building a feature that solves a job to be done effectively and efficiently. Product marketing is responsible for ensuring the value of the job to be done is described clearly and compellingly to the right audience or segment of customers or users. There are ways to measure these two things separately if you need to.
After a feature launch, look at the feature adoption funnel just as you would a product adoption funnel. Where do you have drop-off? If the reach of your feature launch was significant, but very few tried the feature, you likely have a messaging or segmentation problem. Did you target the right audience? Was your message clear and compelling? If your engagement in the feature spiked at launch but the continued use was low, your audience is likely not finding value in the feature.
PMMs should be responsible for KPIs that bring users and customers to the product and through onboarding and activation. Are the materials provided to educate a user leading to activation? Is the onboarding experience good? Are experiments leading to intended results? Once the user has activated, PMs should be responsible for owning long-term adoption of specific feature areas. At some point, sending more emails to remind users that certain features exist just won't cut it. If the feature isn't solving a real business problem, that's a problem with the product.
In any SaaS business, “adoption” is a company-wide priority. If customers aren’t happy and using the product, you’re just putting your sales/marketing investments into a leaky bucket. So it makes sense that Marketing -- and PMM specifically -- would monitor adoption closely, and even set KPIs in this area. While I see Product as primarily responsible for tracking the usability of the features they build in a detailed way (i.e. did moving the button make a difference/did a given change resolve broken user flows) PMM should be looking at the big picture of feature usage, and advancing adoption of the functionality that leads to success and expansion.
Ultimately, the division of labor between Product and PMM is nuanced, and a lot depends on the Product/PMM relationship (for example, I’ve worked in companies where PMM has very little say in roadmap prioritization, and companies where PMM insights drive everything.) At a minimum, PMM should set KPIs to measure the adoption of “value ad” features that guide upsell/ justify packaging and pricing decisions, and ensure that product usage data is being leveraged for better outcomes company-wide.
For example, in my last role, we identified that customers who adopted three core pieces of functionality were more successful using the product in the first 30 days, and were significantly less likely to churn within the year. So PMM focused on making sure that the right onboarding emails and support practices were in place across marketing and CS to guide customers to those pieces of functionality. We also leveraged in-product tutorial tools (like Pendo) to help customers get started in-app, and passed data from our tests to Product, so things that worked could be hardcoded into the product experience. Looking at success wasn’t just about the feature usage stats themselves, it was about measuring holistically the impact of our efforts across all of these teams, and helping the company understand/improve what drove adoption for all of our users.
I think the other area PMM can focus on is promoted features (features launched based on win/loss data, differentiating features, upsell features.) PMM should always be monitoring whether these releases are being highlighted appropriately, and if campaigns result in significant uptick in usage and acquisition numbers.
I've generally seen that the most successful product <> PMM partnerships are based on shared goals, not split goals. Here's what that usually looks like.
Both teams should agree on a feature adoption target based on similar features and the scale of the launch. Feature adoption (usually measured 30 days post-launch) is influenced by both launch effectiveness (PMM) and how compelling & easy-to-use the feature is (Product).
From the PMM side, adoption success is a reflection of how compelling and resonant the positioning and messaging was, and how effectively the news was shared. On the product side, if it's a feature no one cares about / that doesn't solve a real need, or if it has a high barrier to trying (e.g. it's a paid add-on, it takes a while to set up, or the onboarding flow isn't great), then that will negatively influence adoption.
Oooo this really depends on so many factors!
Is your organization focused more on product-led or sales-led growth? Do you have a Growth Product division? etc..
IMO, yes. Product, Growth, and Product Marketing teams should all co-own adoption KPIs, especially for large tier 1 features.
Here's why: if you have no say over how a feature is implemented, why are you then solely responsible for adoption? I see that as a recipe for disaster where Product teams create whatever they want and aren't responsible for the outcome (i.e. it's the blame game of marketing).
Adoption should focus on two parts to be successful:
- Getting people in the platform (e.g. email, press, social, etc)
- Adopting the specific feature (e.g. good UX, in-app guides, etc)
Product Marketing teams can easily do #1, but if the adoption experience inside the platform isn't optimized it will be wasted efforts!