SaaS Metrics & Benchmarks
The Alexander Group works with many of the leading companies in the B2B SaaS industry, and I was recently joined by Ted Grossman, their co-lead of the technology industry practice, and Davis Giedt, Director of Research and Analytics.
Based upon Ted and Davis' unique insights and understanding of B2B SaaS due to the discussions and data from over one hundred customers, coupled with their historic Sales Compensation research and benchmarks with has become an industry standard.
My first question was how has the use of SaaS metrics evolved. Ted's perspective is the core metrics have not changed that much over the past few years - rather it is the weight that is placed on specific metrics, especially growth vs profitability. As an example in 2021 and the first half of 2022, the weight was much higher on growth rate versus profitability metrics. One example is the Rule of 40 has increased in importance as measured by R-Squared by 3x over the last 6 months. As such "Margin + Growth" is much more balanced in 2023.
Ted highlighted "expense to revenue" as a top priority at the macro level. This is also a very easy metric to benchmark against the industry. Then you can dive down into more granular revenue growth efficiency metrics such as "Profitability by Sales rep. Other things like the CAC Payback Period which measures the amount of time to pay back the acquisition of a new customer. Net and Gross Retention Rates are also high-priority metrics to understand the efficacy of retaining and expanding revenue with existing customers.
What about the importance of changing the mix of revenue growth from new customers versus existing customers? The story varies in every company and depends on company-specific attributes such as do they have multiple products, or do they have a product that can expand usage to additional users, departments, or business units within an existing customer.
When I asked Davis the "top" metrics he prefers, they included:
Sales and Marketing expense to revenue which tests for every dollar invested in revenue growth, how much is returned on both a new and top-line revenue basis. Davis shared a 35% - 40% S&M expense to revenue as a good benchmark for growth companies
Cost of Growth, sometimes known as the SaaS Magic number measures the top-line revenue growth versus
Sales and Marketing investment, which has a range of .5 (poor), .75 - 1 (good), and > 1 (best)
CLTV:CAC measures the amount of Gross Profit (or Revenue minus Cost of Goods Sold) generated against the revenue a new customer generates over the life of a customer. A CLTV:CAC ratio of 3x is good, though has been increasing over the past 2-3 years. CLTV:CAC ratio is a long-term ROI measurement
Next, we discussed the topic of "consistency of metric calculation" when using industry benchmarks. Davis highlighted that for their clients they use one standard metric calculation formula to ensure when they are benchmarking it is an apples-to-apples comparison. One specific example was if you are trying to measure the efficiency of growing new customer ARR versus existing customer growth ARR, things like a "time study" may need to be conducted to properly allocate expenses to the pursuit of each growth ARR type.
If you are a B2B SaaS company leader, the discussion with Ted and Davis provides some unique insights and perspectives that only come with the unique visibility they have across hundreds of leading B2B companies.