Product Marketing: 10 Analytics Tactics for Exponential Startup Growth

Product Marketing: 10 Analytics Tactics for Exponential Startup Growth

Product Marketing: 10 Analytics Tactics for Exponential Startup Growth

In this post, I want to give you 10 analytics tactics that you can use right away to drastically improve your product marketing efforts. These hacks are things that I see companies get wrong all the time but can be easily fixed.

As you read through them, I want you to keep in mind why you need better analytics data (it starts with better questions). For nearly all companies, they want to answer questions like:

Apart from helping you answer questions like this, I will also give you step by step instruction for how to implement these tactics in two popular tools:

  1. Google Analytics: almost every startup uses it in some way or another. GA is great at answering marketing related questions.
  2. Mixpanel: an event based tool that is really good at helping you segment your data, funnel analysis and user retention. Mixpanel popular among mobile apps and web apps for everything that happens after a user signs up.

You could also apply these tactics to similar tools. For example, Kissmetrics/Amplitude/Woopra are similar to Mixpanel while Pwiki/Hotjar are similar to Google Analytics.

Finally, these tactics follow a sequential order meaning that each one builds on what you the previous one. This post is almost 3500 words so I also provided a handy table of contents if you want to skip a few tactics.

List of Analytics Tactics for Product Marketing

  1. Use an Analytics Framework like AARRR
  2. Start by Tracking a Handful of Metrics
  3. Use Events to Track User Actions
  4. Use An Analytics Tracking Plan
  5. Use a Consistent Naming Scheme
  6. Use the Right Tool for the Job
  7. Use a Wrapper/Tag Manager like Segment Or Google Tag Manager
  8. Use the Javascript Libraries to Send Events
  9. Develop Goals & Baselines
  10. Use Reports/Dashboard For Key Metrics

Tactic 1: Use an Analytics Framework like AARRR

Analytics frameworks like AARRR will give you a model to easily understand how different metrics play together. They will also help you prioritize what areas of your product marketing to focus on. After all, there’s no point in trying to improve your user retention if you barely have any users signing up.

AARRR was developed by Dave Mclure from 500 Startups (this is the Slidshare presentation) and it can be summarized in the chart below:

Dave-McClures-Pirate-Metrics

Source

You logically start by acquiring users until you have enough to then focus on activating them and then retaining them. This doesn’t mean that you need to acquire thousands of users but enough to let you fully understand the next steps.

Under each step, you will have different metrics that matter to your company. It’s hard to find a set of universal metrics for all startups so these will vary for each company There are also other frameworks like the Startup Pyramid by Sean Ellis and Lean Analytics Stages. Choose the framework that makes the most sense to you.

AARRR and Google Analytics

As mentioned before, Google Analytics is really good at the first step in this framework, Acquisition. The one thing you need to set up in GA (besides adding the tracking code to your product) is to create a “Goal” to track the signup conversion. This is when users go from Acquisition to the Activation step.

To do that, go to the “Admin” section of GA and then find the correct account and the correct property. In the far right, you will have “Views” and just under that, “Goals”.

ga-1-admin-screen

After clicking it into it, you can create a new Goal which will give you the following options:

ga-2-create-goal

Choose the right category for your goal and then press “Continue”. You are then given a few options for how to measure this goal. If you have a dedicated destination page for your users after they complete the goal e.g. a thank you page, then use that.

You can also use events which I will cover in a tactic below. Events need to be implemented by a developer through Javascript.

ga-3-goal-types

You can finish by saving your goal. You can now use this goal to segment your Google Analytics data like in the image below, where I’m segmenting my traffic sources by a newsletter signup goal.

ga-segment-data-goal

Once you have a goal set up, you could use it to optimize your Facebook Ads for example.

AARRR and Mixpanel

Before Mixpanel can send you any data, you need to send events to it. I’m covering how to send events on a different tactic below but let’s imagine how you would set up the remaining steps of AARR in Mixpanel.

You need an event that gets fired when users get “activated”. This might mean that they complete the onboarding process or that they have taken certain actions. You could then create a funnel showing how many users sign up for your product and then get activated.

You can create funnels by going to “Funnels” on the left hand side and then clicking the plus icon next to the pencil at the top to get the screen below:

mixpanel-create-funnel

You then choose the events that you want for each step and Mixpanel will create the funnel for you. You will then end up with something like this:

mixpanel-example-funnel

This gives you a quick overview of your conversion rates from the Acquisition step to the Activation step.

For retention, we also need specific events that users must complete to be counted as “retained”. For this step, we can use the “Retention” tool that Mixpanel offers which looks like this:

Let’s use the “First Time” report that simply says “show me users who did X and then came and did Y”. X can be your sign up event and Y can be the event that users complete when they are retained. You would then get a cohort analysis report which looks like this:

mixpanel-retention-example

You can see the drop off in usage as the days increase. You want to work to reduce this drop off and retain more of your users.

Finally, Mixpanel offers revenue specific reports that you can take advantage of. They require special setup (with a developer again) but once you set it up, you can get reports like this one:

mixpanel-revenue-reports

The last step in this framework, Referral, is a bit tricky to track with Mixpanel. You could have events that fired when users referred other users but it won’t be perfect. A dedicated tool for referrals will be much better.

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Tactic 2: Start by Tracking a Handful of Metrics

Startups have this burning desire to track everything. Maybe this is variation of the popular FOMO. Anyway, this is the wrong approach to take when you’re just starting out your product marketing strategy.

The reality is that you only need 3-5 metrics to start with which means you only need 5-10 events. There’s a few benefits to taking to this iterative approach:

  1. Easier to implement: If you’re implementing the events yourself, it will be faster to only do a handful to begin with. This means your developers can get back to working on your product much quicker.
  2. Easier to debug: Almost all analytics implementations will have bugs that affect the data. Tracking and fixing issues on a handful of metrics is easier than doing it on 20-30 metrics.
  3. More focus: instead of trying to improve 20 metrics, half of which may not be that important right now, you can focus on improving the metrics that do matter. The goal here is to start improving important parts of our product marketing, not every possible area.

There’s a great interview with VSCO who was tracking too many metrics and barely using any of them. Matt, a Product Manager, said this about their challenges:

“There was this thought that we needed to track anything someone could do. Then, five months later, you realize no one is looking at it.” – Source

Implementing a Handful of Metrics in Google Analytics

Google Analytics collects a lot of data, most of which you might never use. Figure out what key actions you need and add goals for them (you might need events too). You can then add these key metrics to a dashboard in Google Analytics which only shows the metrics that you care about. It looks like this:

ga-example-dashboard

I’ll go into more detail on how to create these GA dashboard and how to use existing templates in a tactic below.

Implementing a Handful of Metrics in Mixpanel

For Mixpanel, you need to figure out which events you actually need to track. You can do this by translating your key metrics into events. For example, let’s say that you want to look at signups. This can be tracked by using one event “Sign Up”.

However, some of your metrics may be more complex like user retention. For this metric, you might need 3 events which cover the different actions that users must take in your product before they are considered “retained”.

The next tactic goes deeper into events and properties, two core concepts that will help you properly setup tools like Mixpanel.

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Tactic 3: Use Events to Track User Actions

Events in analytics are used to track user actions. Typical actions include things like signing up for your product, downloading a PDF or interacting with your product. Most events are sent through Javascript libraries but you can also send them through other languages like Ruby, PHP, etc.

Tools like Mixpanel function exclusively on events while tools like Google Analytics use a combination of events and page views.

Using Events in Google Analytics

GA has a great guide on how to send events through Javascript and I will give you a quick breakdown. This is how the Javascript code looks like to send events:

ga(‘send’, ‘event’, [eventCategory], [eventAction], [eventLabel], [eventValue], [fieldsObject]);

You give your event a name and then you have a few optional values (i.e. properties) like eventCategory, eventAction and eventLabel. An event for tracking signups might look like this:

ga(‘send’, Sign Up]);

You then fire this event when a user successfully submits a form. No need to track any optional values in this event.

Using Events in Mixpanel

Mixpanel is very similar to Google Analytics and their full Javascript documentation is a great place to start.

You can send an event by using this code:

mixpanel.track(‘Registered’, {‘Gender’: ‘Male’, ‘Age’: 21});

We can see that the event is called “Registered” and we are also sending two properties: Gender and Age. Properties are really powerful concept in Mixpanel because that’s where you can store all the details about that event.

Mixpanel even has ways to track clicks on links and form submissions, two common actions that your users will take. To organize all your events and properties, you also need a tracking plan which is our next tactic.

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Tactic 4: Use An Analytics Tracking Plan

Analytics tracking plans are excel documents where you can document all of your events and properties. It’s a simple document that will save you a lot of time and frustration.
example-tracking-plan

Download a Free Copy of This Exact Tracking Plan

The most common issues that I see when companies implement analytics tools are:

  1. Duplicated events
  2. Duplicated properties
  3. Firing events at the wrong times

All of these issues can be fixed with a tracking plan. If you start by implementing your analytics events directly into your code, you will end up with duplicated efforts.

Related:You can download the same tracking plan that I use with my own clients. There’s two formats: Google Sheets (my preference) and Excel.

Planning this out in Excel will make it easier to condense similar events and to reuse the same property names across different events.

Tracking plans also function as an onboarding tool for new team members. They can use the tracking plan to reference what events should exist instead of having to go through your web analytics tool looking at each event one by one.

Tracking Plans and Google Analytics

The events in GA contain the following options:

  • Event Name
  • Event Properties:
    • Event Category
    • Event Label
    • Event Value
    • Event Action

You can event store your GA events alongside your Mixpanel events while keeping this structure.

Tracking Plans and Mixpanel

Tracking plans are a must for tools like Mixpanel. You can track these options:

  • Event Names
  • Event Properties:
  • People Properties
  • Super Properties

The properties for Mixpanel are defined by you so keeping track of what properties you have used in previous events is crucial. You also need to track any special people properties and super properties which are properties that get applied to all events.

Download a Free Copy of This Exact Tracking Plan

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Tactic 5: Use a Consistent Naming Scheme

This tactic is small but will make your life so much easier. Tools like Mixpanel let you choose what to name your event and properties. There’s two things to remember here:

  1. Consistency: use the same naming scheme for all of your events and properties. There’s no right or wrong naming scheme so if you want to use past tense camelCase e.g. “SignedUp”, then that’s fine. Just use the same thing everywhere.
  2. Easy to Read: Your events and properties should be easy to read, especially for non-technical people. I seen events that have some kind of cryptic naming scheme like “xxzzSignUpzz”. I’m sure this naming scheme makes sense to whoever came up with it but it doesn’t to the new marketing team member.

Naming Schemes in Google Analytics:

Apart from the tips above, reuse certain event properties in GA. For example, “Event Category” is a property that is meant to be reused across different events. Remember that these values are case sensitive so “Homepage” and “homepage” are two different things to GA.

Naming Schemes in Mixpanel:

Naming schemes are crucial for Mixpanel. If you aren’t sure if your naming scheme is easy to read, open the “Live View” in Mixpanel and expand on one of your events.

mixpanel-naming-scheme

Anyone should be able understand all of these properties at a glance without having to guess what they mean.

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Tactic 6: Use the Right Tool for the Job

Don’t use the wrong tools. Obvious when you think about it but I see companies do this all the time. For example, they might try to use Mixpanel for analyzing marketing spending (Mixpanel is not meant for that). It works but not very well.

Figuring out what each tool is good for is tricky but you can look at a couple of things:

  • What are they pitching in their website? What industries are they talking about?
  • What are other companies using it for? What are they known for from their customers?

If you still can’t figure it out, email them! The will tell you what they are really good for. If a tool tells you that they can do everything, I would be worried.

What is Google Analytics Good For?

GA is great for analyzing marketing spending. Think:

It comes down to the difference between pageviews and events, which I covered in a previous post.

What is Mixpanel Good For?

Mixpanel is great at analyzing what happens after a user signs up:

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Tactic 7: Use a Wrapper/Tag Manager like Segment Or Google Tag Manager

With so many options for analytics tools, you may be wondering how to easily test them all. The answer is to use a wrapper like Segment, which sits on top of your analytics tools. You would then send your events to Segment (using their libraries) and they will translate them into tool specific events like Mixpanel.

Related: If you’re not familiar with Segment.com, I recorded a 25 minute video that will give you a crash course in this tool. You will learn what Segment is and why your company should use this too alongside your analytics tools. You can

This means that you can easily swap out your Mixpanel implementation for Kissmetrics without having to rewrite your event code. You can also just send your event data to a warehouse like your own Postgres database.

Segment also functions as a tag manager just like Google Tag Manager (GTM). Tag managers make it easier to deploy event code and other marketing pixels without having to commit new code. You simply add the tracking code for the tag manager to your product and then use the GTM interface to add new snippets of code.

segment-integrations

You could even use GTM and Segment together, making it easier for frontend developers and marketers to add new events.

Tag Managers and Google Analytics

Google Tag Manager is designed to work well with Google Analytics especially when it comes to sending events. You can easily create a new tag that uses Google Analytics as the product and then choose to send an “Event”. You are then presented with the typical options for GA events.

gtm-ga-event

This is by far, the easiest way to deploy GA Javascript events into your app.

Tag Managers and Mixpanel

GTM can still be used with Mixpanel. You just simply use the “Custom HTML Tag” and add your Mixpanel specific code as seen below:

gtm-mixpanel-event

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Tactic 8: Use the Javascript Libraries to Send Events

Most tools let you send analytics events through a few different libraries: Javascript, Ruby, PHP, etc. but Javascript libraries are the preferred option because they can capture more information by default.

For example, the Mixpanel Javascript library captures all of these properties by default:

  • City ($city) – The city of the event sender, parsed from IP.
  • Region ($region) – The region (state or province) of the event sender, parsed from IP.
  • Country (mp_country_code) – The country of the event sender, parsed from IP.
  • Browser ($browser) – Browser name (not versioned).
  • Browser Version ($browser_version) – Browser version number.
  • Device ($device) – The name of the event sender’s device, if they’re on mobile web.
  • Current URL ($current_url) – The full URL of the webpage on which the event is triggered.
  • Initial Referrer ($initial_referrer) – Referring URL at first arrival.
  • Initial Referring Domain ($initial_referring_domain) – Referring domain at first arrival.
  • Operating System ($os) – OS of the event sender.
  • Referrer ($referrer) – Referring URL, including your own domain.
  • Referring Domain ($referring_domain) – Referring domain, including your own domain.
  • Screen Height ($screen_height) – The height of the screen of the device.
  • Screen Width ($screen_width) – The width of the screen of the device.
  • Search Engine ($search_engine) – Search engine a customer used when they arrived at your domain.
  • UTM Parameters (utm_source, utm_medium, etc.) – Any utm tags associated with the link a customer clicked to arrive at your domain. Each utm will be collected under its own property.

I seen a few companies decide to use backend libraries to send all of their events and then they are confused when their events don’t contain basic properties like browser type or location. In the beginning, Javascript libraries will help you collect more information.

Some events will have to be sent from backend libraries. Think events like: payments, upgrades, etc. There’s also a new rise in companies using Javascript libraries but adding them through frameworks like Angular or Ember. This tends to be a good approach for a lot of startups.

Javascript Libraries for Google Analytics & Mixpanel

Javascript is the default way to send events to these two tools and you can view the documentation for GA and the documentation for Mixpanel to learn more.

You can learn more about the different libraries for Mixpanel here.

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Tactic 9: Develop Goals & Baselines

Another common mistakes that I see companies do is that they have no goals or baselines that they are working towards. If you’re trying to improve you signup conversion rate, what is your goal? How do you know when this metric is “good enough”?

You may think that you will simply continue to improve this conversion rate forever but you don’t have that much time. You need to prioritize where to spend your energy and you should be spending your energy where your efforts can have some serious impact.

You can keep track of these baselines and goals using Excel just like in the example below:

example-baselines-goal

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Tactic 10: Use Reports/Dashboard For Key Metrics

The final tactic is to use automated reports and dashboards for your key metrics. You should be able to check your progress on your metrics within a few clicks and so should the rest of your team.

You can then just bookmark these reports and check them on a regular basis. While there’s a dedicated dashboard tools like Cyfe and Klipfolio, you can also do this within GA and Mixpanel.

Dashboards in Google Analytics

GA lets you create dashboards by clicking the “Dashboards” menu option on the left hand side and then clicking “New Dashboard”.

ga-dashboard-menu

You can manually create your dashboard or choose to “Import from Gallery” which will let you pick pre-existing templates. The second option is my recommendation since you can find nearly all metrics already put together into dashboards.

ga-import-gallery

Dashboards in Mixpanel

In Mixpanel, you want to take advantage of “Bookmarks”. Once you have your report (query) ready, you can click the plus icon in the top right next to the words “Bookmarks” to create a new saved report.

mixpanel-bookmark

You can then easily load this bookmark to see this exact report. You can also save this report as a browser bookmark and come back to it whenever you need to.

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I would to hear what you think about these tactics. You can message me on Twitter @ugarteruben.

One more thing before you go! Are you getting the data you need to grow your company?

I find most companies are stuck with high-level metrics and they aren't able to properly understand what actually drives user growth for their web and mobile products. To do that, you need the right data and the right tools.

If this sounds like your situation, then you should download our free tracking plan (and tutorial video). This is the document that you should create before you ever implement tools like Mixpanel, Amplitude, Segment, and Intercom. Click the image below to download your own free tracking plan (and tutorial video).

Ruben Ugarte
Ruben Ugarte
I'm the founder of Practico Analytics and I created this company to help companies use analytics data to grow their web and mobile products. I love combining data, psychology, and systems in work and in personal projects.

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