Developing equivalent metrics is essential for getting people to adopt your software! People and organizations are obsessed with data and metrics to “prove” results.

Countless hours and dollars are wasted, identifying and collecting data. Yet this potentially valuable information is typically ignored, misinterpreted, or worse yet, only used to justify previous (bad) decisions!

What is the point of having data and metrics if you don’t use them to make better decisions and take action?

Metrics Need to Change Behavior

The goal of data and metrics is to gather evidence, develop insights, and then take meaningful action that delivers a better result. Quite simply, there should be a direct link between receiving data and changing our behavior. Yet this rarely happens. And it needs to change.

A Better Approach: Equivalent Metrics Insights From Changes to Food Labeling

We all know that food labels are required to list calories and nutritional information. In the US, restaurant menus are required to list this information. The idea is that by giving consumers additional data, they can make better-informed choices and develop healthier eating behaviors.

Yet, how many of us look at this information? Out of those of us who do look at it, how many of us make better, healthier choices because of it?

The reality is that even when metrics are clear, the implications and linked behaviors are not. This is the problem.

PACE Yourself with Equivalent Metrics!

A study from Loughborough University and reported in The Telegraph has shown initial evidence that changing the metrics and labels can have a positive impact on behavior change. The researchers found that labeling food with Physical Activity Calorie Equivalent (PACE) (equivalent metrics), that is, specifying the equivalent required activity to burn off the calories consumed in each food item, resulted in fewer calories being consumed.

PACE Metrics Table
PACE Metrics Table:  Data Source: The Telegraph

More clearly, by clearly showing people how long they would need to walk, run, or swim to burn off the calories from each food option, people made healthier choices and consumed fewer calories!

According to the telegraph, “They predicted that the system could shave up to around 200 calories per person every day if applied widely, the equivalent of around a can and a half of Coca Cola.”

Is this the Secret to Success?

Can it be this simple? Is the issue that the metrics we have used for years to show success to our users and customers are just meaningless? Do they not drive people to take better actions? Is the secret not coming up with more metrics, but rather sharing more meaningful equivalent metrics?

Perhaps the metrics we have relied on for years – with limited success – were just not understood by our audience. Maybe they need to be explained in more precise, meaningful, actionable terms to get people to make better choices and take the desired action.

Extra Effort to Process Meaningless Metrics

For example, before PACE, if you were thinking about having a can of Coke, you would see the number of calories per serving on the label. If you want to do something with this information, you need to do a lot of mental math. You would need to ask yourself things like:

  1. How many calories per serving?
  2. What is the number of servings in this container?
  3. How many actual calories will I consume if I drink this entire Coke?
  4. Is that a lot of calories?
  5. How many other calories am I consuming today?
  6. If I decide to drink this Coke, how will I work off (via exercise) these extra calories?
  7. How many miles will I need to walk/run/swim to get rid of them? ?And let’s be honest, how many of us know this off the top of our head?
  8. How much time will it take me to walk/run/swim these calories away?
  9. Do I want to put in this extra time getting rid of these calories?
  10. If I decide to drink this coke, will I devote the time to get rid of these calories, or am I OK with getting fat?
  11. How much time will I spend obsessing about my weight and getting mad at myself for consuming too many calories?
  12. Finally, am I going to drink this Coke, or will I find a healthier alternative?

When you consider how many of us suffer from time-poverty and already have too many things taking up our mental energy, you can see where having to do this mental math for everything we eat becomes exhausting.

Streamlined Thinking

Instead, with PACE labeling, our thought process is more like:

  1. I see from the label that this Coke contains 420 calories, and that means I will need to spend an extra 1 hour and 15 minutes walking or 42 minutes running to get rid of these extra calories.
  2. Do I want to spend this much extra time exercising, or do I want to find a healthier alternative?

Just from this shortlist, you can see the beauty and simplicity of PACE labeling.

The Magic of Equivalent Metrics to Drive Action

The beauty and simplicity of PACE is that it converts complex and arguably meaningless (at least to most people) data into a simple, easy to understand “equivalent.”

Equivalents are simply a great way to help people easily understand the implications of their actions, so they can quickly make better choices. Equivalents make life easier.

They eliminate a lot of required thinking. They remove a lot of guesswork. And who doesn’t want an easier life?

The Power of Impact (“Feel Good”) Equivalent Metrics

Not all metrics and equivalents need to make it easier to decide which action to take. There is also tremendous power in highlight impact, or “Feel Good” equivalents, to help increase your commitment and satisfaction with previous decisions. This is especially important in the subscription economy when people will only continue to renew and recommend your product or service if they feel they are getting great value from it.

A Simple Example of Feel Good Equivalent Metrics

For example, a few years ago, we purchased solar panels for our home. They are up there now and have an estimated 20+ year useful life. This investment is a sunk cost for us, and even without any sort of metrics to show the impact they are having, we will not be uninstalling them any time soon. Still, the solar company has a monitoring site. It displays a real-time, searchable dashboard that shows us how many kilowatts it is producing and the total number of kilowatt-hours it has produced.

While it is nice to validate the system is working, these numbers are meaningless to me.

Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics
Example: Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics

However, the system also displays the “Environmental Savings.” These are a series of feel-good metrics that converts the number of kilowatts produced into meaningful equivalents like:

  • Miles not driven
  • Gasoline not used
  • Coal not burned
  • Crude oil not used
  • Mature trees grown
  • Pounds of garbage recycled
Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics
Real-Time Solar Performance Metrics

These equivalent metrics are significant to me. These not only make me feel good about my buying decision, but they also inspire me to advocate for the benefits of solar panels to others. They provide me with evidence I can share that might influence others to buy in the future.

So, what does all this mean for software buyers and sellers?

Apply This Insight (to Increase User Adoption & Customer Success)

If you are buying software, you probably are looking for a variety of metrics. You want:

  • Data that helps you forecast the benefits you can realistically expect to receive from implementing software
  • Metrics that show the actual usage and the specific value that you received from the software
  • Data to justify your purchase decision and make you look good to your boss and others in your organization
  • Metrics to help you take action to increase adoption and get more value in the future

If you are selling software or managing renewals, you want this data to help inform your customers.

You want equivalent metrics to demonstrate your specific impact and value to your internal organization. This is critical for justifying your salary and advancing your career.

Yet So Many SaaS Vendors Still Get it Wrong!

Despite the value in having meaningful equivalent metrics, many software vendors are still just quickly pulling together raw data, without any effort to translate it into meaningful equivalents.

Sure, the vendors may format the data into a pretty chart or graph, but it is not typically not delivered in a way that helps customers quickly make meaning from it.

The vendor is not speaking the language of the customer.

Example: Software Vendor Not Communicating Their Impact on the Customer

Not long ago, I was helping an organization improve its customer success processes. They had a compelling technical integration product that eliminated tons of manual data entry, removed a lot of keystrokes, prevented double or triple entry of transactions into multiple systems, and improved data quality by reducing errors and ensuring consistency across various applications. They had a great tool that delivered a lot of value to the customers.

But my client didn’t tell their customers about the clear impact the product had on the customer’s business.

Instead, my client periodically reported just a single number of transactions processed that period.

The metrics the vendors provided were essentially meaningless. Their customers had no idea the value they were getting!

Your Customers will Tell you What is Meaningful

The fascinating part is my client had collected numerous customer testimonials, including many video testimonials. When I reviewed these testimonials, there were countless examples of the customer talking about the value and impact they received, in a way that was incredibly meaningful to them.

While my client only shared transaction data and metrics, their customers reported useful equivalent metrics and examples of the value they received. The customer reported metrics like:

  • Hours of work eliminated
  • Number of FTE staff members they did not need to hire
  • Increase in volume of transactions they could process in a day
  • Hours not spent fixing data quality errors
  • Increase in sales growth and product shipments, with no increase in staff
  • Improved productivity from reallocating internal development resources from fixing mistakes to instead focusing on new development projects

The lesson here is that as a vendor, you need to communicate easily understood and quickly actioned information, in a way that is meaningful and helpful to your customers!

6 Steps to Develop Great Equivalent Metrics

So, how do you move forward with building out significant equivalents? Here are a few simple steps.

1. Listen to Your customers about what is Meaningful to Them

Your equivalents need to be stated in terms that are meaningful to your customer. With our solar panels, they used environmental factors. With the software company, the metrics were related to time, staff allocation, and revenue growth.

A good tip here is to listen to the language your customers use, and then come up with something meaningful here.

Listen carefully to the questions they ask during the sales and renewal process. Comb through your testimonials and look at the exact words they use. Where are they focusing their comments and reviews? Start there.

2. Identify “Action” Equivalent Metrics and “Feel Good” Equivalent Metrics

You want a mix of both.

For action equivalent metrics, like walking or running in the PACE example, identify the specific actions you would want someone to take as a result of reviewing the metric. Then develop a meaningful equivalent that is clear and concise to get someone to take this action.

Feel-good equivalent metrics are vital for helping people recognize the value they have already received. This is critical for helping to justify renewals, up-sells, and expansions.

Think about what clear equivalents you can provide your customer, that will both help them decide to renew, and also make them and others in their organization feel great about their purchase.

How can you make it a “no brainer” for them to renew?

3. Justify How You Calculate the Equivalent Metrics

It is OK to be Imprecise.

Equivalents don’t need to be precise to be meaningful and impactful. If you can come up with a logical and justifiable conversion, people will embrace it.

For example, our solar panel company explained how they calculated their equivalents based on guidance from the EPA.

Can you develop your algorithm for how you calculate the equivalents? Can you base it on respected, neutral 3rd party data or recommendations? If your calculation is reasonable, and you apply it consistently, you will be fine.

4. Make it Easily Consumed and Actioned

Don’t make people think!

Make it so easy to understand and take action that people are not even conscious about the decision-making process. Get them to focus their energy on taking the desired steps.

Visuals work great. Simple changes, like using the right icons and colors, are compelling for eliciting the desired action.

5. Adjust Your Policies to Support Desired Behavior

Having better metrics and are clear equivalents is a great starting point. To drive desired behavior, you may need to reinforce these by changing your metrics too.

For example, if you are trying to improve operations by getting people to adopt new software fully, you might find a way to share some of the business benefits with the individuals who are using the tools in a way to generate new value.

Using the theory of equivalent metrics, you could translate the value of the way the software is used into more meaningful benefits for your staff. This might include things like:

  • For every 100 hours saved from the proper use of the software, you could give the employee an extra 2 hours of leave
  • For every X percent increase in revenues (attributed to the appropriate use of the software), you could increase a bonus pool or money available for salary increases by Y amount.
  • Every X percent reduction in operating costs, you could increase the amount of money available for staff training by Y amount.

These are just a few examples of how combining equivalent metrics with internal policy changes could help motivate and reward your staff when they change they take desired actions.

6. Share, Share, Share!

Make the equivalent metrics clear and readily available wherever people are spending their time.

Keep them top of mind.

In the case of PACE, the metrics are listed on each piece of food packaging. With the solar panels, they are right no the homepage dashboard immediately after logging in to the system. They also send automated emails with attached PDFs, just in case we missed it.

Now it is Your Turn!

What will you do to make equivalent metrics? How will you develop meaningful equivalent metrics that drive desired user adoption, customer success, and renewals?