I don’t know if you’ve ever visited Boston or Cambridge. I’ve been out to the area several times and other than where I live (San Diego), it’s my favorite part of the country.
One of my favorite things to see there happens on the Charles River. Wake up early enough and you’ll notice rowers out on the river, working in tandem to move up or downstream.
Only a couple of years ago did I get curious about how they do what they do. After all, I think it’s the only sport where people cross the finish line looking backwards. Right?
The idea of constantly looking backwards is intriguing, if you think about it.
Few people compete that way. Most of us are constantly looking forward. Most of us are driven by a future vision. Most of us rarely look back.
But when you watch the folks rowing on the Charles River, you see a lot of people looking backwards and very few folks looking forward.
That’s a theme and strategy I find helpful for theme and plugin developers. More often than not, when talking with them, I hear about the growth of their monthly revenue. But I rarely hear about the metrics and data they’ve been collecting.
So what I’d like to suggest are three metrics that WordPress product companies should collect and monitor.
1. Activation Rather Than Pageviews
The first thing I’d tell you is to focus on people rather than pageviews. It doesn’t matter how many people are checking out your site.
Are people buying your product? Great. But are they putting it into use? Selling 100 copies of your plugin is great, but if no one uses it, or if they stop using it after a week or two, that’s far more valuable to know.
It means instrumenting your code so you can tell if it’s been activated or deactivated.
2. Retention by Cohort
Cohorts are groups of people that share something in common. In the case of selling products, the product purchase date is what your cohorts may have in common (by week, or month).
Measuring your revenue and use by cohort instead of by averages will highlight things that are easily missed. Attrition is easily masked by averages.
Looking at the drop offs will tell you more than looking at average revenue. More importantly, it will highlight who you should be following up with.
I know we all love hearing the positive feedback from raving fans, and we love growing revenues. But neither will tell you if a user’s intent was met with your product.
The best way to capture that is to talk with folks who’ve decided to move on. When you see larger drop offs by cohort, you can also correlate it to on boarding, marketing campaigns and more.
3. Net Promoter Score
Your early adopters can be your largest driver of Word of Mouth (WoM) and success. But you need to know if they’re willing to share the good news. Your NPS is the way to do it, so capture it and don’t stop collecting it regularly. Push for it to be high.
Are there other metrics that could help? Sure. But when most people write about metrics they’re writing about them for companies that are years old, have tons of existing data and are ready to mine it.
Most of the WordPress companies I interact with aren’t them. So we can take only so much from those articles. This list, a short set of three metrics, will help you look back.
Even as you race to the finish line.
Chris Lema is the VP of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software, where he manages high performers and oversees product development and innovation. He’s also a blogger, ebook author and runs a WordPress meetup in North County San Diego. His coaching focuses on helping WordPress businesses, or businesses wanting to leverage WordPress.