A Seller's Guide to Product Usage Data

November 29, 2022
A Seller's Guide to Product Usage Data
Justin Dignelli

Sellers at companies with a product-led motion have to walk a fine line between helping users be successful through their usage of the product on the one hand and finding ways to increase revenue for the company on the other.

As more companies increase their investments in their PLG strategies (and some estimates suggest over 90% of B2B SaaS companies are), salespeople and other customer-facing teams will need to use data to help balance customer experience with revenue growth.

One of the most valuable sources of data for understanding your SaaS customers is product usage data. However, many teams lack access or visibility into this information.

In this post, we'll give you a primer on product usage data: you'll learn what it is, how you can use it, and how you can advocate for access in your organization.

What is product usage data?

Product usage data describes how your prospects and customers interact with your SaaS product.

You can use this data to understand things like:

  • who signed up for your product
  • what features they're using and how often they use them
  • whether they have invited any colleagues
  • whether they have added a payment method
  • and much more...

Product and engineering teams spend a lot of time thinking about what information to collect and what conclusions they can draw based on the data. Companies like Amplitude and Mixpanel have built entire businesses around enabling this.

Unfortunately, when it comes to product usage data, most sales and marketing teams still lack visibility into this critical source of information.

Why is product usage data important for sales and marketing teams?

Marketing and sales teams at B2B companies spend thousands of dollars on data that helps them identify the right prospects to target and improve the chances of winning them as customers.

Sales teams depend on prospecting information in tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and ZoomInfo, while marketing teams pay for "intent data" from providers like Bombora, G2, and Clearbit.

More often than not, little investment is made in one of the most important data sources for sales and marketing: your product.

Understanding how prospects and customers are already using your product can unearth:

Not only that, once you're able to identify the right users to prioritize, successful teams then use product usage data to ensure their outreach is personalized and relevant.

For example, equipped with product usage data you might:

  • point users to helpful resources specific to the features they're using
  • give customers a heads-up if they're approaching hard usage limits
  • make recommendations based on how similar customers have used your product

These small techniques go a long way to building credibility with your users, improving the odds they'll engage with you.

How can customer-facing teams get access to product data?

If product data is so valuable, why do so many marketing and sales teams struggle to put it to use?

After speaking with teams at dozens of different SaaS companies, two main reasons emerged:

  1. Customer-facing teams like sales and marketing simply don't have access to product usage data (or the systems where its stored)
  2. Even when teams do have access, the information is not formatted in a way that is relevant, understandable, or actionable.

Many companies use dedicated product analytics tools like Amplitude to answer questions about user behavior. Others use visualization tools like Tableau or Google Data Studio on top of a data warehouse.

In either case, sellers may not have access to these tools because it's expensive to add user licenses or the product team doesn't think they need credentials.

Even if you're lucky enough to have access to these systems, you're likely confronted with dashboards that lack context, are overly granular, or are simply irrelevant to you.

Product analytics tools like Amplitude answer technical questions about user behavior based on fine-grained, user-level data. Source:
Product analytics tools like Amplitude answer technical questions about user behavior based on fine-grained, user-level data. Source:

Getting access to product usage data: 3 recommended approaches

If you're looking for visibility into usage of your product, you might want to consider trying one or more of these approaches.

#1. Focus on questions, not technical details

One trap that customer-facing teams can easily fall into is requesting specific data points from other parts of the organization.

While there's nothing wrong with this approach in theory, the reality usually looks something like this:

  • You request a field or metric from your product team
  • Through multiple meetings, emails, and internal docs, you convince the person holding the keys to the data why you need it
  • Several weeks (or months) later, the data starts flowing and you realize it's not actually what you needed (or you need additional information for the original data to be useful)

An alternative approach is to form a list of questions you want to answer using data from the product. Then, you can rely on the expertise of your engineering or analytics counterparts to work out how to get you the answers.

Try to format your questions in the structure:

"I would like to know ___, so that I can ___."

For example, you and your team may decide the most important questions you need to answer are:

  • I would like to know which users from our target accounts have signed up for our product, so I can prioritize reaching out to them before any other leads.
  • I would like to know whether users have upgraded their accounts and are paying on a credit card and how much are they paying each month, so that I can identify opportunities for upsell or expansion within larger accounts.
  • I would like to know whether users associated with my assigned accounts have taken critical actions like using one of our core features or integrating with a custom data source so I can reach out to them with more relevant messaging.

Likely, the answers to these questions won't be clear-cut.

However, being transparent with your requests allows the teams responsible for product data to provide as much relevant information as possible (hopefully, without all the back-and-forth.)

#2 Enlist the help of operations teams

Sometimes, you might find working directly with your product or engineering teams isn't effective. In that case, working through your sales, marketing, or revenue operations team can be an effective strategy.

Pairing technical requirements with the needs of business users is a key part of an ops team's role.

As an added bonus, they likely oversee the systems where the product usage data can be integrated (like Salesforce or marketing automation tools).

When working with teams who are more closely aligned with you, it can be helpful to share a list of the information you'd like to get access to.

If you're not sure what is available (or what might be valuable), review the following list and make a note of the items that stand out.

List: Commonly-requested product usage data points

Sometimes it can be helpful to share a data wishlist with your operations team. Here are some of the most commonly-requested product usage data points.
Sometimes it can be helpful to share a data wishlist with your operations team. Here are some of the most commonly-requested product usage data points.

‎User-level information:

  • "Events" or specific actions users take like:
    • Logged in
    • Signed up/Created account
    • Invited another user
    • Feature used (this will be specific to your product)
  • Traits about the user like:
    • Role/Permission level
    • Username

Organization (workspace, team, group)-level information

  • Basic information about the organization, including:
    • Name (this is often different from the company name)
    • ID (helpful if you need to look them up in a different system)
    • Tier (ex: Free, Pro, Enterprise)
  • Product usage metrics:
    • Revenue (ex: last month, last 7 days)
    • # of active users
    • Metrics specific to your product (ex: if you worked at Zoom, you might want the number of meetings held in a month, if you worked at Slack, the number of messages sent or channels created)

The important thing to note is that any of the data points should be easily tied back to an Account or Contact in your CRM so you know how they relate to the companies and deals you care about.

#3 Explore a dedicated solution

Ultimately, you may find product data continues to be hard to gain access to or to interpret. That's where a dedicated tool (like Pace) can be helpful.

Not only does Pace work with your product team to identify the most relevant information about your users, we put that product usage data into a format that you can actually use. Better still, it makes it easy to update or add new information as needs change, (so you don't have to Slack your friend in engineering to call in a favor).

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