After your sales and marketing efforts hook in a product user or a customer, time is of the essence.
Your customer is coming in with sky-high expectations, so your product and Customer Success team have to meet those expectations before the excitement dies down.
At the heart of this process is the metric known as time to value (TTV)—a key metric that can make or break your customer's experience.
By focusing on TTV, you're making a strategic decision that benefits both you and your customer.
For your business, providing value in the shortest possible amount of time means increased customer satisfaction, which leads to improved customer lifetime values.
For your customer, it's the reassurance that they made the right decision in choosing your product.
But what exactly is time to value and how can you speed up this process to reach that “Aha!“ moment faster? Let’s find out.
What is time to value (TTV)?
Time to value (TTV) measures the average time it takes for a customer to achieve the tangible benefits of your product or service once they start using your product.
TTV measures the time of the customer journey from sign up, to onboarding, to reaching their “Aha! Moment”, to achieving the desired results of your service.
- For a product-led SaaS product like Notion, TTV is the time between signing up for a free trial and seeing more efficient knowledge sharing within an organization.
- For an enterprise SaaS product like Lattice, TTV is the time between reaching out to sales and achieving lower employee churn.
- For a web design agency, TTV might be the time between signing a contract and making the first sale through the new website.
TTV is used as a key indicator for SaaS products and B2B services to predict customer retention and churn. The lower the TTV, to greater the likelihood of satisfied customers and the lower the likelihood of churn.
So if you’re looking for another lever to drive revenue growth, try optimizing for TTV.
Time to value vs. the Aha moment
The Aha moment is the instant a customer feels they’re receiving value from your product, while TTV is the duration it takes for them to achieve value.
If you think of the value your customer receives as a treasure, the Aha moment can be either when they find the ‘X’ on the treasure map, or when they dig up the treasure. TTV measures how long it takes to find that treasure.
The exact Aha moment is different from customer to customer, but most companies strive to define a particular event that signals a customer is most likely to stick in the product, as it makes it easier to measure TTV.
Types of time to value
Let's quickly go over the various types of TTV metrics that apply to different classes of products or services.
Time to basic value
Time to Basic Value (TTBV) measures how quickly new users can see a morsel of value from your product when they’re first using it. It’s a step short of full TTV or a real “Aha! moment.”
Example: After someone signs up for a free trial of Airtable, they see basic value after modifying their first template. They haven’t yet realized the full value of the product, but they understand the basics.
Time to exceeded value
Time to Exceeded Value (TTEV) measures how quickly a customer receives added value from your product beyond their initial expectations.
It goes beyond the first "Aha! moment" and captures the additional value your product provides, such as unexpected benefits, faster completion of tasks, or something similar.
Example: A user signs up for Trello for the core project management features but later realizes it has a time tracking power-up as well, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. This can be seen as exceeded value.
Long time to value
Complex products used by multiple stakeholders—e.g., products that require substantial software implementation—have long time to value (LTTV). It may take months or even years before your customer starts to see the benefits of your product.
There’s a lot of trust involved with long-TTV products, so client testimonials, customer stories, and product reviews become more crucial to the sales process. They also tend to have more high-touch customer onboarding workflows as shortening TTV will come down to the quality of the customer success plan.
Example: An enterprise HR solution like Lattice, whose goal is to monitor and improve employee performance and engagement, will take months to implement across an organization, so the benefits of the software likely won’t be seen for at least six months to a year.
Short time to value
A short TTV (STTV) is ideal for companies that offer simple, understandable, low-touch services. A customer can use the product or service as a single user and see value within days. This is common for products that have free/freemium trials.
Immediate time to value
Free or freemium SaaS products with low price points should offer immediate time to value (ITTV).
This means the customer receives value immediately after starting their trial or after entering their credit card details.
Example: A free Canva user can see immediate TTV once they create a design from a free template in only a few minutes. Or if custom branding is the user’s priority, they receive immediate TTV after paying to import their own brand fonts.
The value of reducing TTV
When it comes to TTV, the shorter the better. Here are a few benefits of reducing your product or service's TTV:
1. Early perception is everything: The first 90 days of a customer's experience with a product plays a crucial role in determining their long-term satisfaction, according to a Harvard Business Review study. Additionally, customers who don't see early value are 91% more likely to churn. So, if you want to keep your new customers engaged, make sure they see value early on.
2. Become ingrained in the customer's tech stack/workflow: To make your product "stickier" and reduce the possibility of customer churn, it's essential to ingrain your product in the customer's tech stack and workflow.
If you're offering project management software, consider offering integrations with popular tools like Slack and Trello. The faster you achieve this, the more likely users are to integrate your product into their workflow and make it a staple in their tech stack.
3. In a free trial model, users need to see value before the free limits: If you offer a free trial, it's crucial that your customer sees value before the free trial ends. You could, for example, provide a guided user onboarding process or offer a free consultation to help customers get the most out of the trial.
This increases the chances of converting them into paying customers and ensures you don't miss out on any revenue-generating opportunities.
4. Customers need to see ROI before renewals: Customer experience is key to any business, and reducing TTV is a crucial step in ensuring a smooth user journey.
If your customer doesn't see a return on their investment before renewal, they're less likely to renew. But if you help them achieve their desired goals, reducing the TTV, you can drive user retention and loyalty.
Five ways to measure TTV
The first step to shortening TTV is to measure it. How exactly TTV is measured will depend on your offering.
TTV can be measured by any/all of:
- Onboarding metrics
- Usage metrics
- Customer feedback
- Retention metrics
- Customer lifetime value
Here are some tips to help you adopt a similar, data-driven approach to tracking the entire customer journey and measure TTV to drive revenue growth:
1. Track customer onboarding
How long customer onboarding takes at your organization is a solid measure of TTV. By tracking onboarding, the company can identify any bottlenecks in the onboarding process and make improvements to reduce TTV.
In low-touch onboarding scenarios, this may include tracking in-product onboarding workflows. For example, a project management tool can track the average time it takes for customers to create their first project and invite team members, or the percentage of users who do so.
In higher-touch onboarding scenarios, tracking onboarding might include monitoring how long it takes a customer to work through an onboarding checklist in their Dock workspace.
2. Track usage metrics
Monitor usage metrics like the number of active users, number of logins, and the number of features used to learn how quickly customers are adopting your product.
For example, a fitness tracking app can track the number of users who have logged in at least once a week after 30 days of usage. If this number is low, it may indicate that TTV is slow, and the company should investigate ways to boost engagement.
You can also define a specific Aha moment for your product that you’d like customers to achieve and track what percentage of customers reach that moment.
For example, Zoom might track how long it takes customers to host their first 5-person meeting over an hour.
3. Use customer feedback
Ask your customers how long it took for them to see value in your product. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.
For example, a SaaS company can conduct customer interviews after 30 days and 90 days of usage to understand if they are seeing value, and if not, understand what's missing.
4. Measure customer retention
Tracking customer retention is another way to measure TTV. If customers are sticking around, it's likely they're seeing value in your product.
For example, a company that provides a subscription-based meal delivery service can track the number of customers who renew their subscription after the first month.
5. Determine customer lifetime value
Track your average customer lifetime value (CLTV) of your customers to know:
- how much revenue each customer is generating over time; and
- how that's correlated to the time they took to see value in your product.
For example, an online course provider can track the average revenue generated per student and compare it to the time it took for the student to complete the course. If the CLTV is low, it could indicate that TTV is slow, meaning the company should take active measures to improve customer experiences.
How to reduce TTV for high-touch products
Shortening TTV looks different for products with high-touch vs. low-touch onboarding. So we've split our advice into two sections.
Let’s start with high-touch products—i.e., high average revenue per unit (ARPU) products that require more hand-holding during the onboarding or implementation process.
1. Use the sales process to define value
If your customers are seeing slow TTV, you may be able to track the issue back to your sales process.
By kicking off the sales process with a comprehensive discovery phase, sales reps get a deep understanding of the customer's pain points, goals, and current processes. They can then use the insights to craft a solution that addresses prospect needs directly, making them more likely to see value sooner.
Your salespeople can then hand off all the necessary information to your CS reps, who can use it to make client onboarding smoother, faster, and more efficient.
Tip: Use Dock as a digital sales room to document your client’s biggest needs throughout the sales process. As you learn new information or as new questions come up, you can update the Dock workspace.
By handing off this workspace from Sales to Success, your CS team will have a clear overview of the customer relationship and can provide deliverables with proper context, which is much better than email threads or a messy Google Drive folder.
2. Offer personalized onboarding from a CSM
By assigning a dedicated customer success manager (CSM) to each customer, you can tailor their onboarding experience to their unique needs and goals. The CSM can:
- Guide the customer through the onboarding process
- Answer any questions they have
- Provide additional resources to help them get up and running quickly.
This not only helps the customer to see value more quickly, but it also has a significant impact on TTV.
For example, a marketing automation software company can assign a CSM to each customer who will help them set up their account, create campaigns, and track metrics. This personalized onboarding experience ensures the customer sees value quickly, reducing TTV.
Offering personalized onboarding at scale requires dedicated onboarding software.
Tip: Instead of using overwhelming spreadsheets, email threads, or project management tools to onboard customers, use a Dock onboarding workspace instead.
You can start from our customer onboarding template that allows you to share deliverables, project timelines, and meeting notes all in one place.
3. Consider phased value delivery
Suppose you offer supply chain management software made up of ten products that would take a year to implement within an organization.
If you wait to launch your product with a customer until all ten products are installed, they might experience what’s known as the trough of disillusionment:
Instead of overwhelming your customer with all the modules at once and delaying TTV, why not implement one module at a time?
That's what phased value delivery is all about—where you break down your onboarding process into smaller, manageable chunks to help the customer see value in each phase.
In the above case, you can start with inventory management and once they see the benefits, move on to logistics management.
The idea is to implement one product or one product or feature at a time so that the customer sees quick wins and experiences value faster.
4. Create mutual action plans for onboarding
Think of them as a clear, mutually agreed-upon roadmap that outlines the next steps in the onboarding process that you can share with your sales and CS teams and the customer. This ensures both parties understand what needs to be done and when, promoting a smooth implementation process, which ultimately reduces TTV.
Tip: Start from Dock’s mutual action plan or implementation plan templates to create a standardized onboarding template for your product. Then, you can copy it for each new customer to help them walk through important success milestones.
5. Operationalize content delivery
Most companies have a helpful library of customer enablement content—like how-to guides, video tutorials, and FAQs—but they don’t have a system for efficiently delivering that content to their customers during onboarding.
One way to improve content distribution is to create a client-facing content library with a content management platform.
For example, Dock’s Content Management platform allows you to create boards and collections of content to make all your onboarding content highly searchable. Your Success team can then share assets from your library as shareable links and track how customers engage with that content.
Another way to systematize content delivery at scale is to use a templatized onboarding workspace.
By creating a templated onboarding workspace in Dock, your Customer Success team can deliver the same high-quality content to each client without having to rely on emails. You can easily customize each workspace, so every customer will feel like you're giving them VIP treatment.
How to reduce TTV for low-touch products
For low-touch products, such as self-serve SaaS products, reducing TTV will be all about offering a clean onboarding experience.
Here are some tips to offer better onboarding at scale.
1. Offer in-product onboarding and walkthroughs
In-product onboarding and walkthroughs are an effective way to reduce TTV by guiding users through key features and functionality during their initial experience.
For example, you can offer interactive tutorials, tooltips, and other forms of in-app guidance to quickly familiarize them with your app.
And UserOnboard has a great library of in-product onboarding teardowns to inspire your onboarding journey.
2. Leverage empty states
A product screen is in an empty state when it has no data or content for a product or feature, such as a blank dashboard or an empty inbox.
Blank states have a high psychological hurdle that can present a major roadblock to your customer achieving value, but your Product team can use them as an opportunity to drive action.
For example, InVision uses empty states to help users create their first projects and navigate through samples of existing projects.
3. Create use-case-driven templates
Templates give users a non-zero starting point, which saves them a lot of time and effort when trying to understand and use a new product.
The key to using templates effectively is to match them to the user's use case so that they are immediately useful.
For example, Canva provides users with a wide range of templates for different types of projects, such as social media posts, flyers, and resumes. All the user has to do is select a template that matches their design needs, and then customize it to their liking.
4. Personalize onboarding interactions
By providing personalized guidance and recommendations, you can help users find the features and functionality most relevant to their use case, thereby reducing TTV.
Here are a few ways to implement personalization to reduce TTV for low-touch products:
- Segment by user behavior and usage data. This can include tailored tutorials, interactive guides, and recommended features based on the user's specific needs and goals.
- Gather user feedback to gain insight into what information and features they find most useful. Use this information to create personalized customer onboarding experiences and targeted email campaigns.
- Leverage machine learning to provide personalized recommendations for features, templates, or other product elements. This can be based on the user's previous engagement with the product, as well as their demographics and interests.
While personalization can be a powerful tool for reducing TTV, be sure to strike a balance. Personalization should be tailored to the user's needs and behavior, but it should also be user-friendly and not overwhelming.
5. Set up an onboarding email drip
Email drip campaigns are a series of automated emails with targeted information and guidance sent to new customers over a period of time.
This can include tips on how to get the most out of the product, as well as information on new features or updates that are most relevant to them.
Email drip campaigns are a nice way to offer phased value delivery rather than throwing lots of information to a new user or customer at once.
Here are a few ideas to shorten TTV via email drips:
- Guide users through the onboarding process, highlighting key features and functionality most relevant to them.
- Educate users on new or underutilized features, providing tips and tricks for getting the most out of the product.
- Nurturing leads that haven't yet converted, providing them with valuable information and resources to help them understand your product's value.
- Sending emails at the right time, such as a few days after signup, when users are most likely to need help, or when they are approaching the end of their trial period.
6. Track product analytics
Product analytics can help companies understand how users interact with their product, and identify areas where TTV can be improved to improve the user experience.
Use the following tips to reduce TTV for low-touch products through product analytics:
- Tracking the onboarding process: Identifying areas where users are getting stuck and making adjustments to improve the user experience.
- Tracking feature adoption: Identifying which features are most valuable to users and focusing on them.
- Tracking user engagement: Gaining insights into how well your product is meeting the user needs—and identifying areas where user engagement is low and making adjustments to improve the user experience.
Reduce your time to value with Dock
In conclusion: time to value matters.
While providing customers with personalized sales and onboarding experiences should be your top priority, don't neglect the power of MAPs, templatized content, and interactive tutorials to reduce TTV.
And if you're looking to create personalized, high-touch onboarding experiences at scale, try Dock.