North Star Metrics: How To Use Them

How did Outreach develop in only a few years to 50,000 monthly active users, $10 million in new bookings, and web income retention (NRR) of greater than 140%? 

By focusing intently on a single measurement, often known as a north star metric.

The gross sales platform is very dedicated to nurturing its month-to-month lively customers (MAU). They even make use of a devoted “System Implementation Supervisor” whose sole accountability is to drive adoption and get 70% of shoppers utilizing the product day by day.

The north star metric defines success for the entire firm and aligns groups on a progress trajectory.

On this article, you’ll find out how different rising firms use the north star metric to realize buyer success. Apply these classes to align your groups and drive income progress.

What’s a north star metric and why does it matter? 

Your north star metric (NSM) is the one measurement that’s most indicative of your organization’s long-term success.

Quite than monitoring a number of metrics throughout a number of groups, manufacturers that use the north star metric mannequin determine a single measure that signifies total firm success and encompasses all different potential measurements.

“When the gross sales and advertising and marketing groups are trying on the identical metrics and attempting to hit the identical North Star, a lot of different items of ABM [account based marketing] fall into place.” – Samantha Mayer, Gross sales Supervisor, SMB and Pardot Progress Advertising

The thought is easy: align all groups towards a single objective to make collaboration and communication simpler.

The NSM mannequin drives:

  • Staff alignment and focus. Having a single shared objective reduces cases the place departments overlap or work in opposition to one another.
  • Transparency and ease of reporting and evaluation. Weekly and month-to-month progress experiences are straightforward to digest, and are constant throughout your entire firm.
  • Buyer-centricity. North star metrics are inherently customer-centric, that means all groups turn out to be centered on buyer success quite than closing offers or rising income (though these naturally comply with).
  • Accountability. NSMs will be damaged down into sub-metrics (extra on that later), so every staff and particular person will be held accountable for particular outcomes that affect north star metric progress.

True north star metrics tick three essential containers. NSM should:

  1. Result in income;
  2. Replicate buyer worth;
  3. Measure progress.

Let’s take a deeper have a look at every element with some examples that Finmark compiled of their list of 80+ SaaS companies utilizing a north star metric. 

North star metrics should result in income

Firm success is essentially outlined by income progress, however income itself isn’t sufficient to be your NSM. As a substitute, your north star metric ought to be a variable that feeds into income.

Uber’s NSM, “variety of journeys,” is an effective instance of this; extra journeys imply extra income.

North star metrics should replicate buyer worth

Your NSM should be indicative of the worth clients obtain out of your product. If it improves, your clients get extra worth out of your product.

Metrics akin to day by day lively customers (DAU), buyer lifetime worth (LTV), and Jira’s “lively paid customers” are all good examples of north star metrics that replicate buyer worth.

“Income is the worth your buyer pays. North star metric is the worth your buyer will get in return for that worth.” – Ward van Gasteren, Progress Hacking Coach [via Grow with Ward]

North star metrics should measure progress

That is true of all good metrics. NSMs should be simply measurable, and their progress should replicate normal firm progress.

Take Asana. Their north star metric “weekly lively paid customers” strongly displays progress. A rise on this metric means the corporate’s buyer base is rising, as is income.

The place manufacturers go improper with north star metrics 

North star metrics are unimaginable for alignment and evaluating your worth to clients, however you may’t simply set your sights on a metric, name it your north star, and anticipate outcomes.

1. Defaulting to income

Income (or any comparable metric, akin to ARR, Gross Merchandise Gross sales, or Month-to-month Billings) is just not an acceptable NSM for a number of causes:

  • It’s a lagging indicator. Income tells you what occurred prior to now, not what’s going to occur sooner or later. You need your NSM to be a number one indicator.
  • It’s not consultant of buyer worth. Income is the worth you obtain from clients, not the worth they obtain from you.
  • It’s laborious to operationalize. As a result of income will be inconsistent, operationalizing it as an NSM will be difficult, making it laborious to hyperlink to your worker’s day by day actions.
  • It adjustments your focus. Wanting solely at income means attempting to extract as a lot income from every buyer as attainable quite than constructing a product that gives probably the most worth (and subsequently means that you can cost extra, maintain clients for longer, and so forth.).
  • It’s uninspiring. Your NSM ought to foster staff engagement and curiosity. Income is kind of far faraway from most workers’ day by day jobs, and large numbers (within the hundreds of thousands) are laborious to understand in comparison with a metric like month-to-month lively customers (MAU).

2. Sticking too rigidly to a north star metric

Let’s say your startup is utilizing month-to-month lively customers as your NSM. It’s been good for measuring progress to this point, however you’ve recognized that 80% of your customers are on the free plan, and it’s time to deal with conversion.

MAU is not going to be an acceptable NSM on your firm. This quantity can develop, but when all of your new MAUs are free customers, you’re not attaining your conversion and paid buyer acquisition targets.

NSMs ought to be used long-term, however you can choose to vary your key metric when your outdated one not displays firm aims or if your online business mannequin adjustments.

3. Focusing too narrowly on the NSM

The north star metric mannequin is simply that: a mannequin.

The thought is to align all groups underneath a single metric that displays firm success, however you shouldn’t get rid of different measurements altogether.

Groups nonetheless want to grasp what defines success for them every month, week, and day.

Don’t forgo all different measurements in favor of an NSM. Do be certain that your staff and particular person metrics feed into your north star.

Take Outreach’s NSM, month-to-month lively customers. 

To attain this, gross sales might want to deal with metrics akin to conversion fee and common deal dimension (measured in customers). Advertising might want to deal with lead technology (new MQLs), and buyer success might want to drive retention and have adoption.

The Buyer Success Supervisor is chargeable for “going deep” and rising the typical variety of options utilized by every person. – Manny Medina, Outreach CEO [via Latka]

Every of those staff metrics has a direct affect on NSM progress.

North Star Metric (NSM) vs. One Metric That Issues (OMTM) 

One other generally used mannequin for simplifying the measurement of progress is One Metric That Issues (OMTM). OMTM and NSM are usually not synonyms.

NSM is a long-term instrument used to measure firm progress throughout the board. OMTM is a short-term metric (typically used for 2 to 6 months) and tends to be departmental.

For instance, a digital staff at an ecommerce model would possibly deal with procuring cart abandonment fee as an OMTM, whereas the corporate’s NSM is “variety of month-to-month transactions.”

On this occasion, the OMTM feeds into the corporate’s NSM. By lowering cart abandonment charges, the corporate will affect gross sales and drive progress towards their north star metric.

What are some examples of excellent north star metrics? 

The very best-performing firms use north star metrics to grasp progress in one among 5 areas:

  1. Progress effectivity;
  2. Buyer acquisition;
  3. Customized motion;
  4. Utilization;
  5. Person expertise.

Use these examples to assist select the suitable north star metric on your firm stage and aims.

North star metric for progress effectivity 

Calm, a mediation and mindfulness app, makes use of the north star metric mannequin to measure its model’s progress effectivity.

They deal with two metrics:

  1. Buyer lifetime worth (LTV). The whole income they’ll obtain from a given buyer all through their enterprise relationship.
  2. Buyer acquisition price (CAC). The common advertising and marketing and gross sales price to win a brand new shopper.

LTV is a good NSM for measuring progress effectivity. It’s inextricably linked to income, as larger LTVs = extra income. 

It displays buyer worth in that consumers who get nice worth from a product will keep longer, rising LTV. And it’s the proper measure of progress as a result of a rising LTV signifies that the product providing (and buyer success initiatives) are enhancing.

The connection between LTV and CAC can be an necessary one. 

If Calm continues to extend LTV, then CAC can enhance, permitting the platform to outcompete different apps within the area by investing extra in promoting, model consciousness, and social media engagement. 

North star metric for buyer acquisition 

Airtable understands the necessity for specificity when selecting a north star metric to measure buyer acquisition.

Quite than taking a look at whole WAU (weekly lively customers), Airtable narrows down to trace weekly paid customers, or WPU (eradicating free plan and trial customers from the calculation).

This NSM is far more immediately tied to income; when WPU will increase, income will increase. It’s additionally extremely reflective of buyer worth, as Airtable must show simply how impactful its product is with a view to convert free and trial customers over to paid memberships.

And undoubtedly, WPU is a good proxy for progress, as you may measure development usually and incrementally.

When selecting a north star metric to measure buyer acquisition, take into account whether or not your objective is to draw solely paid customers or just to develop your buyer base total. Then choose the metric that finest represents this objective (WAU or WPU).

North star metric for buyer motion 

Tremendous customer-focused firms can base north star metrics on particular buyer actions, like consumption.

Take video platform Loom. Quite than measuring annual income or month-to-month lively customers, Loom will get tremendous slender, naming the videos with a view as its NSM.

Loom clients use the product to create display share movies and different video content material, typically in an academic or enterprise setting. By specializing in movies with a view, Loom turns into invested in the identical factor their clients are, getting seen.

Clearly, this north star metric displays buyer worth (extra movies considered signifies clients are utilizing Loom), nevertheless it’s additionally causally linked to income. 

Loom customers who report extra movies see worth from the product’s performance and are much less prone to churn. They’ll additionally must improve their subscription sooner or later to get extra movies and make them longer.

North star metric for utilization 

There are numerous methods we will measure utilization. Some examples for north star metrics embody:

  • Weekly Querying Customers;
  • Complete Engaged Time;
  • Social Engagement.

The commonest, nevertheless, are day by day, weekly, and month-to-month lively customers (DAU, WAU, and MAU, respectively).

Lively customers are a greater metric for progress than new customers as a result of they’re a number one indicator. These customers are those getting worth out of your product. They’re much less prone to churn and extra prone to turn out to be model advocates.

New clients, then again, are a threat issue. Closing a deal is just half the battle; retaining that buyer is what issues for income.

Utilizing month-to-month, weekly, or day by day lively customers as your NSM adjustments your focus. 

Advertising turns into involved with creating highly effective onboarding and buyer schooling sequences. Gross sales and assist deal with constructing relationships and making certain easy supply and handoff. Success turns into fixated not simply on quick adoption however on long-term utilization.

North star metric for person expertise 

E mail shopper Superhuman selected one of the widely-used and easily-understood buyer expertise metrics for his or her NSM: web promoter rating.

Web promoter rating (NPS) analyzes buyer sentiment at numerous phases within the buyer journey primarily based on their response to a easy query:

“On a scale from one to 10, how possible would you be to suggest our model to a good friend or member of the family?”

Clients don’t must justify their response (although you could give them a possibility); they merely select a quantity on the size, which bodes properly for survey engagement.

Then, manufacturers kind responses into one among three classes:

  1. Promoters (those that rating 9 or 10);
  2. Passives (those that rating 7 or 8);
  3. Detractors (those that rating 6 or much less).

To calculate NPS, subtract the share of detractors from the share of promoters (e.g., 70% promoters – 10% detractors = NPS rating of 60%).

Web promoter rating is a good candidate for a north star metric as a result of it excels in all necessities:

  1. It results in income (pleased clients are returning clients).
  2. It displays buyer worth (those that fee you extremely have loved their expertise).
  3. It measures progress (rising NPS results in higher buyer retention and income progress).

Ought to an organization solely have one north star? 

Strictly talking, the purpose of the north star metric framework is to distill your organization’s progress measurements right down to a single metric.

In idea, then, the objective is to have only one.

In apply, nevertheless, this may be limiting, significantly for giant organizations. It’s not unusual for enterprise-level firms to watch a number of north star metrics. 

Importantly, you continue to must keep away from siloing departments by having one metric per staff. When you should use a couple of NSM, be certain that they’re all metrics that each division can affect.

Take Spotify, which makes use of three north star metrics:

  1. Variety of paid subscribers;
  2. Consumption hours (for Podcasts);
  3. Month-to-month lively customers.

All staff members can affect MAU, and as we’ve mentioned above, it displays buyer worth. It doesn’t, nevertheless, map immediately over to income (more than half of Spotify’s customers are on a free plan).

It is smart, then, for Spotify to complement MAU with an acquisition metric: the variety of paid subscribers.

Briefly, it’s high quality to have a couple of north star metric if it’s not attainable so that you can distill down to 1 metric that defines firm success.

How do you choose a great north star? 

Observe these steps to step by step slender down from a broad understanding of enterprise must a single measurement that displays total progress.

1. What components are important to our firm’s success?

First, analyze and record the assorted components that contribute to firm success. Assume broadly right here.

Take Medium. As an open publishing platform, Medium actually has two kinds of clients: readers and writers.

“I generally characterize Medium as content material matchmaking: we would like individuals to write down, and others to learn, nice posts. It’s two-sided: one can’t exist with out the opposite.” – Pete Davies, Product Lead, Medium

For Medium, then, important components to success would possibly embody new publications, membership renewals, or model consciousness.

2. Which KPIs measure these?

Now, flip these components into laborious measurements. Ask, how can we measure every of the important components recognized?

For Medium, necessary KPIs would possibly embody:

  • Weekly web page views;
  • Month-to-month new signups;
  • Complete variety of stay posts;
  • Complete studying time;
  • Month-to-month lively customers;
  • Common time on web page per session;
  • Month-to-month recurring income;
  • Social media shares.

3. Of the above, that are probably the most essential?

Now, lower out the “good to have” metrics and maintain solely probably the most essential to your online business’ success.

Medium, as an example, could decide that “Complete variety of stay posts,” “Complete studying time,” and “Month-to-month lively customers” are the three most necessary measurements.

4. What one metric encapsulates all of these?

Lastly, decide the one metric that encapsulates all the most vital measurements. For Medium, it’s whole time studying.

“The combination Complete Time Studying (TTR) is a metric that helps us perceive how the Medium platform is doing as a complete. We will slice that quantity in a lot of methods (logged-in vs. logged-out, new posts vs. outdated, and so forth.).” – Pete Davies

TTR works for Medium as a result of all the different measurements feed into it. Extra MAUs imply extra readers to drive TTR upward, and extra revealed pages imply extra content material for lively customers to learn.

Find out how to use the north star to drive product technique 

The purpose of a north star metric is to align all groups on a single mission, such that gross sales, advertising and marketing, service, success, and product groups all share the identical imaginative and prescient for fulfillment.

So, merely monitoring the metric is inadequate; product groups should put money into experimentation to drive their NSM upward.

Take Webflow, a no-code web site improvement platform.

Webflow is deeply centered on buyer acquisition, utilizing the variety of paid subscribers as their north star metric.

So, how can a product supervisor at Webflow use their NSM to drive developments of their product technique?

Analyze buyer segments and double down on high-converting audiences 

If Webflow’s main objective is to extend paid subscribers, step one is to research its present buyer base to grasp which segments:

  • Convert most simply;
  • Keep the longest;
  • Grow to be product evangelists. 

As an online design platform, Webflow possible has two predominant buyer varieties: manufacturers (people and firms designing an internet site internally) and designers (companies, freelancers, and contractors).

Assuming the latter is the extra profitable phase (they’re extra prone to be paid subscribers), Webflow can dig deeper to grasp tendencies in business and area.

For example, tech-focused web site designers within the Pacific Northwest could current the largest alternative. Webflow’s acquisition staff can double down on geo-targeted adverts with messaging aimed toward tech designers.

Optimize the trial and onboarding course of 

Webflow’s acquisition funnel begins with a free plan. As a result of they don’t begin charging till you really publish an internet site, there’s no free trial, and signing up takes lower than a minute (with a Google account).

Screenshot of Webflow sign up with a Google Account

There are not any limitations to buyer acquisition, that means it’s all on the onboarding course of for changing free customers into paid ones.

Webflow’s welcome electronic mail is sweet, nevertheless it’s busy, sharing 4 sources (with CTAs for every):

  1. Prebuilt layouts;
  2. Templates;
  3. Webflow 101;
  4. Rent an Skilled.
Screenshot of Webflow Welcome Email

A marketer at Webflow may design an experiment to check whether or not a extra personalised onboarding sequence is more practical. 

A easy query (e.g., “How would you prefer to get began?”) with a multi-choice reply (e.g., “Get assist from an professional” and “Begin with a template”) may very well be added to the sign-up sequence. 

You might then ship a corresponding welcome electronic mail that features solely the sources that exact person wants.

Experiment with completely different pricing and package deal buildings 

Webflow’s pricing construction could also be a barrier to rising paid accounts.

Free customers rise up to 50 CMS objects included of their plan, however after they improve to Primary, this drops to zero, forcing customers to leap straight right into a costlier plan.

To drive paid person acquisition, a pricing supervisor at Webflow may experiment with upping the CMS merchandise cap on the Primary plan to 50 (the identical because the free plan).


Profitable manufacturers, huge and small, use the north star metric system to tell their progress technique, deal with buyer success, and align groups on a single mission.

However NSM progress doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It happens when advertising and marketing and gross sales align with the product staff to construct a customized expertise that pulls and retains paying clients.

Grow to be nice at product advertising and marketing and drive NSM progress with CXL’s Product Advertising Minidegree.

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