Named after the 2011 baseball movie, “Moneyballing” has become a flashy pop-culture term for using data to improve performance - from sports, to the criminal justice system, to U.S. foreign policy. When you use it for your business, moneyballing means figuring out which customer behaviors are drivers of successful conversion and retention, and then focusing attention on encouraging those behaviors. At RJMetrics, we like to call this "finding your golden motions.”

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As cool as it sounds, this isn’t a movie. You’re not trying to find a single “magic bullet” that will superpower your revenue and take your SaaS company straight into the Fortune 100. Finding your golden motions or moneyballing your business is about figuring out what customer behaviors make your product sticky at any given point in the customer lifecycle. Once you identify the behavior, you can then steer your customers to it. In this post, we’ll share three steps to help you maximize the “golden motions” in your business.


3 Steps to Moneyballing Your SaaS Business

Step 1: Know the metric you’re trying to improve

In the movie Moneyball, the Oakland A’s baseball team wanted to improve a single metric -- runs. While other teams were drafting players based on a traditional combination of stats and intuition, the A’s discovered a surprisingly unflashy golden motion: a player who frequently got on base was much more valuable to overall team success than a player who hit home runs. Once they started focusing on recruiting players with high on-base percentages, their team began to win more games.

Baseball Player

Your first step in finding your golden motions is to decide which metric you want to improve. As a SaaS company, the metrics you’ll likely be looking at are either conversion rate or churn rate. And you’re likely tracking these metrics at one of three points:

  • Free trial period: What behaviors are driving your conversion rate from free trial to paying customer?
  • Initial paying usage: What behaviors are linked to a lower churn rate among customers just beginning to integrate your product into their workflow?
  • Long-term retention: What behaviors are linked with a lower churn rate among customers that have been l long-term use of your product?

Pick just one metric in one particular time period to start.

Step 2: Find Your Influencing Behaviors

Once you’ve chosen which metric to focus on, you can start thinking about which kinds of customer behaviors may be influencing it. Here are a few examples of SaaS customer behaviors that are commonly assumed to influence conversion or retention:

  • Logging in frequently
  • Creating new users
  • Using a particular piece of functionality
  • Email opens/clicks
  • Reading support documents
  • Attending training webinars

Form a hypothesis about a few that seem promising, and turn to your data to see how your instincts stack up. Keep in mind that the focus here is not on who your customers are but on what they are doing. In other words, you want to identify specific ongoing behaviors (like using product features) as opposed to static attributes like acquisition channel or company size.

The behaviors shared by your most successful customers may surprise you. For example, a common assumption is that people who are very engaged with a product during the trial period will be likely to convert. But when you zero in on what your customers are specifically doing during this time period, you may find that the real story is more complex.

You might find things like:

  • Free trials that convert to paying customers aren’t using your product more frequently, they’re using its more advanced features
  • Customers with high retention in the first 1-3 months read more support documents
  • Long-time users submit frequent support tickets

When you know your golden motions, you can make a big difference by guiding your customers toward the behaviors that matter (in this case, using advanced features and reading support documents).

Step 3: Replicate the Behavior

Once you know what your most successful, stickiest customers are doing, you can adapt to support and encourage those behaviors using product features, marketing tactics, and customer support.

Strategies for focusing your customers’ attention on your golden motions include:

  • Adding a gamification element to your product that encourages relevant behaviors
  • Modifying support within your product to facilitate relevant behaviors
  • Creating a drip email campaign with relevant content and support documents
  • Training your support staff to focus on relevant behaviors

Knowing what your golden motions are means you’re no longer guessing about where to turn to increase your conversion and retention rates. You now have a road map.

How It Worked For Us

At RJMetrics, we looked at a variety of customer behaviors, and found out that our golden motion during the trial period was simply editing a chart. We discovered that if a user edited just one chart, the conversion rate doubled to 60%.

If they edited two, that percentage went up to 77%.

How @RJMetrics "moneyballed" their conversion rate

Why are charts so important? Turns out that when our customers customize charts to answer their own questions, they quickly see that our product goes beyond reporting, allowing them to answer any data-driven question they have. If a customer never makes it to the chart editor, they’ll see our product as simply a reporting tool, and it will be harder for them to justify the cost.

Once we figured out that editing charts was a key golden motion for trial-period conversions, we set out to focus customer attention on that behavior. Among other things, we changed the self-guided tour of our site to feature our chart editor, and made sure our account managers were highlighting the chart editor during their training calls. It made a significant difference, and we have seen a steady climb in our overall free-trial conversion rate.

Make It Work For You

Finding your golden motions is no magic bullet, but it is certainly invaluable when you’re looking to increase your conversion and retention rates. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to look for your golden motions if you don’t have significant amounts of data to look at, around a rich variety of behaviors.

Once you start getting better results for the metric you want, you can apply the golden motions strategy to another part of your business. Your golden motions may change over time as your product and market evolve, so you’ll need to keep analyzing customer behaviors. Always knowing where to focus your attention throughout the customer lifecycle is key to building an approach that optimizes your conversion and retention rates.