What if we told you closing the deal isn’t the most important part of the SaaS sales process?

(Cue gasps of confusion and awe from the reader.)

We know that was a pretty controversial thing to say. 

But we’ll back up for a second and explain what we mean. 

Even if you’re kicking ass and consistently meeting your quota, it is impossible for your business to grow or succeed when offering a SaaS product that is not consistently used or if you lose customers. 

And unfortunately, many SaaS companies may start with a wide net, catch as many users as possible at the beginning, and when all is said and done, end up with fewer staying customers than imagined.

So, how do you drive product adoption and keep your audience hooked on your product?

Join us as we examine everything you need to know about product adoption. 

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What is product adoption?

But first, here’s a quick recap.

Product adoption, AKA user adoption, occurs when customers begin to use the features of your product or service. It’s the part of the user journey that takes place after they’ve tried out the product and have decided to invest in it as a solution. 

You can think of it as being the opposite of SaaS churn, or when users stop using your product.

The idea is that you’ll want to find ways to get more customers to reach the finish line, become power users, and stay with your business for a long time to counteract factors that may stop users from adopting your product or lead to churn. 

Why product adoption is so crucial for SaaS

You know your product is the best thing since sliced bread. First of all, kudos, because that’s a pretty impressive feat. 

But unfortunately, none of that matters if no one is using your product. 

SaaS companies not only need to concentrate on closing deals, but also on keeping customers interested in your product so they stay for as long as possible. 

This means that it’s critical that you pay attention to existing customers and their experience with your product, and try to upsell to them.

When done right, focusing on product adoption can help you:

  • Reduce churn
  • Foster higher customer satisfaction
  • Increase customer retention
  • Reduce cost-per-acquisition

By boosting product adoption, you can encourage users to be loyal to your company and its offerings. 

The product adoption curve in SaaS

OH NO. Do we spy with our little eyes something related to math?

It’s true, the term "curve" refers to a regularly distributed bell curve in statistics. 

But you can hit pause on the math-related freak out for now, because we’re breaking it down for you.  

The X-axis represents time, while the Y-axis represents the number of individuals at any particular moment.

At the top of this “bell," we have the average time it takes for someone to start using a new product.

The rising curve on the left shows those who accept a product faster than the average, while the downward trending curve on the right represents people who adopt a product slower than the average.

Product adoption curve

As shown in the bell curve, the progression goes like this:

Innovators

The first users that are ready to adopt a product are the innovators.

This group of users only makes up 2.5% of the market, according to UserPilot. 

Innovators usually consist of tech enthusiasts who are open to trying new things and are keen to explore the latest technological advancements. That’s why these types of users are an excellent source of feedback and suggestions on the evolution of your idea. They can also help you discover any potential problems or missing features.  

That said, typically, they are more interested in checking out something new rather than committing to a product for the long run. 

Early adopters

Meanwhile, early adopters usually have more of a need for your product and a budget for a solution. 

Essentially, they're trendsetters, thought leaders, and visionaries looking to find the innovative solution to their biggest pain points.

To capture early adopters, you’ll need to focus on working out any bugs with your product. On top of this, these users will expect amazing customer support for any issues that come up. 

Early majority

Next up on deck, we have the early majority. And while this may sound similar to early adopters, there is a key difference between these user groups. 

With the early majority, we’re making our way to the cautious portion of the market. They want to use your product, but they’re really only interested once it has been established and it has earned a strong reputation.

And getting to this group of users isn’t an easy task. Because these users are more risk-wary than the previous two user segments, there’s often a gap between the second and third groups. 

So, how can you overcome this gap? Well, it’s all about creating a sense of assurance by developing a strong relationship with the innovators and early adopters. 

While building this foundation may be time consuming, the early majority wants to find a long-term solution. So, there’s a good chance that once they pull the trigger, they could become loyal product adapters.  

Late majority

This next segment of product users have some overlap with the early majority. 

So, what’s the major differentiator? They are even more risk-averse. They also are very intolerant when it comes to bugs or other technical issues.  

This means that the late majority will only become product adopters once they feel absolutely secure in their decision. 

And some of the best ways to do this is through genuine testimonials and reviews.

Where do you get those? Well, in the first phases, innovators and early adopters will often leave feedback and insights on what they think and have experienced using your service. Document those journeys and experiences for use during this pragmatism-filled stage. 

Laggards

Oh, the laggards. 

This is the most challenging group of users when it comes to product adoption.

They can be skeptics, technology-averse, resistant to change, or simply unaware of your product. And often, they are more comfortable with what they know. 

This means that to get laggards to adopt your product, you’ll need to make it feel like it’s an absolute necessity for them.  

The 6 stages of the product adoption process

You’ve closed a deal. Hip, hip hooray!

But you know as well as we do that the real work is just getting started. 

Unfortunately, customers don’t just become full-fledged users right after a deal is signed. Typically, the journey that SaaS customers take to adopt a product involves 6 different stages. 

So, to boost product adoption, you’ll need to understand each of these stages to help move customers forward in their journey and strengthen their level of adoption. 

By pinpointing what customers are influenced by and what causes them to be anxious or hesitant to try something new at each stage of the product adoption process, you’ll be better able to nudge users forward and help them complete the journey. 

Here is each step of the product adoption process:

1. Awareness

The first step for any business looking for product adopters is to find its audience and make it aware that the product exists. 

To do this, your company needs to promote its brand through all available and relevant channels. 

This is where your top of the funnel marketing will come in handy. These tactics are especially useful in differentiating your product from competitors while also drawing attention to the problem your solution solves. 

When done right, it’ll help you attract prospects that could potentially become paying customers. 

2. Interest

Making customers aware of your product isn’t enough.  

To encourage product adoption, you’ll need to get customers to go from being aware to being interested in if what you offer is what they are looking for. 

During this phase of the product adoption process, prospects will likely be looking for information about product use cases as well as details on price, features, support, and more.

3. Evaluation

When prospects see what you have to offer them, they can move from general interest to taking the time to consider your product while also checking out your competitors.

So, in this stage, you need to focus on differentiating yourself from competitors. 

4. Sampling

By this point, the prospect has made up their mind about wanting to see your solution, which is why creating a product demo, offering a trial, or providing limited access is necessary. 

It is important that the demo or trial period is frictionless and easy to start for prospects. 

So, you’ll need to try your best to avoid common sales demo mistakes that could ultimately lead to a live demo fail

5. Activation

Activation is one of the key turning points in the product adoption process. 

In this stage, the prospect moves from trying out the product to making a long-term commitment. 

Users are convinced to take the plunge when they experience value for the first time and deem it worth paying for. 

6. Adoption

Activated users are already convinced that the product is what they want. 

So, in the last stage, product teams must convince the users that they will continue to get value and know how to take advantage of it, forgoing anything the competition offers. How? 

Here are some pointers:

  • Highlight new or additional features
  • Discover which features are not used enough and draw the users’ attention to them
  • Continuously discover any weaknesses and correct them 
  • Shorten the feedback cycle to know which changes should be prioritized 

Essentially, the adoption stage is about ensuring that the prospects who eventually commit to the product continue to gain value from it. You’ll also need to focus on reducing churn while increasing customer lifetime value. 

SaaS product adoption metrics

Sure, we’ve got a grasp of what product adoption is and how the process works. 

But how do you know if your efforts are making an impact when it comes to boosting product adoption?  

This is why you’ll need to calculate some SaaS metrics

Great, more math.

Again, hit that math freak out pause button. We’ll go through exactly what you need to do to calculate these metrics and why they’re worth tracking. 

Adoption rate

This is the holy grail of metrics when it comes to gauging product adoption. 

You spent money and time acquiring users, but you’ll need to know how many of these subscribers are actively using your product. 

Here’s the formula you should use to calculate adoption rate:

Adoption rate = Active users / Subscribed users x 100

Time To First Value (TTFV)

Adoption rate isn’t the only metric you should be calculating.

Time To First Value (TTFV) focuses on how quickly your prospects move from trying your product to activating it and experiencing its value. 

For all the math-averse here, this one’s for you. That’s because there’s no formula for this metric. 

All you need to do is measure how long it takes someone to activate and try to shorten the time. 

Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)

A Product Qualified Lead (PQL) is a person who has gained value from adopting a product as a result of a trial version, the usage of a restricted functionality, or other types of hands-on experience with the service. 

Because it involves the utilization of the product, it goes one step further than a marketing qualified lead (MQL).

To gain insights about your sales process, it can help to look at how many PQLs end up adopting your product. 

Product Activation Rate (PAR)

The Product Activation Rate measures how soon and efficiently new users perceive the product's value. 

It counts the number of new users who have completed a preset action within a certain time period, where the key activity is expected or known to provide preliminary customer value.

PAR is calculated as:

Product activation rate = Number of users that reached the activation point /  Number of users who signed up X 100

Feature Adoption Rate (FAR)

Where PAR looks at how users view the overall value of your product, FAR is how they perceive specific features.

Essentially, feature adoption refers to your potential customers "adopting" a certain functionality of your service or product just by using it. 

When customers identify a component of your product that is valuable to them, they will begin to employ and embrace it. When users begin to utilize a feature on a regular basis, we call that feature adoption.

The features adoption rate formulas is:

Feature adoption rate = Number of active users for a given feature  / Number of user logins for a given period X 100

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

The more prospects adopt your product, the less churn you have. 

That means the value per customer throughout the time spent with you increases. And this value is what we call customer lifetime value (CLV). 

It is calculated as:

Customer lifetime value = Customer value X Average customer lifespan

These are not, by any means, the only metrics you can measure. But these will be a good starting point to see if you are on the right track when it comes to boosting your product adoption. 

4 strategies to increase product adoption for B2B SaaS

Now that you know how the process works and how to track progress, we can finally talk about ways you and your team can improve product adoption.

Here are a few tried and true strategies that you can use:

1. Invest in high-quality interactive tutorials that offer support

Nobody wants frustrated customers. Period. 

Why? Because frustrated and unhappy customers are much more likely to abandon ship and churn. 

So, B2B SaaS companies are increasingly relying on interactive tutorials to show off their products.

Not only is it a great way to give your prospects a hands-on feel for your product, but it also gives customers everything they need to succeed when it comes to using your software. And this can go a long way in helping you optimize customer onboarding and retention as well as reduce churn.

2. Find out where the ‘aha!’ moments are

Even though your SaaS product could accomplish many incredible things, it has a few unique features that set it apart. The features represent value, and an "aha moment" occurs when individuals recognize the value. 

Your initiatives to increase product adoption should center on assisting consumers in discovering these "aha!" moments. 

However, you need to remember that these moments may happen at different times for different customers especially when we’re talking about complex products.

You can confirm your hypotheses, and design product adoption approaches based on numerous routes your consumers may take by gathering data surrounding your “aha!” moments and the actions prospects follow before getting to that moment.

3. Refine your onboarding process at every relevant stage

We mentioned it earlier, but we want to come back to the customer onboarding process because of the critical role it plays in product adoption. 

Customer or user onboarding refers to the procedure that new users go through in order to begin utilizing your service. It includes the earliest steps of the customer experience, from sign-up through activation and initial use. 

Because it’s the first experience the customer has when it comes to using your product, you need to make it count. 

Your orientation program should try to provide value to your customers as soon as possible since this is essential for encouraging adoption for the long term. 

For this, you can focus on:

  • The signup process
  • The welcome email
  • The initial log-in
  • Integrating and inviting users
  • Interactive product tours/walkthroughs
  • Follow-up communication 

A key goal of onboarding is to ensure that the customer uses your product as productively as possible by removing unnecessary barriers and giving him the right information at the right time.

4. Share relevant content to enhance retention

Product adoption shouldn’t be seen as a one-off. 

It’s an ongoing process, which is why you must continuously show the product's value as time passes. 

Nurturing existing customers can be done by sending material that makes them think of the brand in a new light or even taking advantage of a feature they have not experienced before.

That’s why it can be helpful to share information that can be absorbed easily and retained for a long time, including blogs, emails, videos, pictures, infographics, and more.

Boost your SaaS product adoption with interactive product tutorials

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, we hope it’s that your work isn’t done just because a buyer has signed on the dotted line.

(We really hope you have more takeaways than that, but our previous point is a biggie.) 

This means that while you obviously need to close deals to meet your quota, you’ll also need to create a successful onboarding experience and keep customers interested in your product so they stay for as long as possible. 

That’s where a demo experience platform can really help you out.

Using a demo experience platform (like Walnut), you can provide impressive onboarding experiences for your new customers by allowing your team to create product walkthroughs that focus on specific features or pain points, as well as customize them according to each customer's needs.

And this will help you make serious headway in your efforts to boost product adoption and reduce churn.

Some platforms like this even have built-in analytics that let you track how your users interact with your demos and tutorials in order to continuously optimize the process even more over time. 

Think of it this way: by using interactive product demos and tutorials, you and your team will have everything you need to keep your customers happy for the long run.

Ready to start improving your product adoption? Book a meeting with us now by clicking that big purple “Get Started” button on the top of the screen.

About the author
Maya Sasson
SaaS Content Marketer
Maya is the new content girl at Walnut. When she’s not writing about SaaS sales stuff, you can find her trying to think of all the different puns she can make with the word nut.
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