As a successful Product Marketer you know exactly what your financial numbers are, you take a data driven approach to your work, and you are able to predict whether your company will make their numbers for the year.
I love this topic because it completely changed how I view Product Marketing. I am obsessed with the data of our business and the financial numbers throughout the year. When you’ve done this enough times, you will see early warning signs in the year that a product is off track from hitting its year end goal, allowing you and your team to make changes quickly to get ahead of the problem.
THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. I’m not shouting, just emphasizing the importance of this. As the department responsible for everything related to the buyer of your product, it is your responsibility to know these numbers and how you are going to achieve them.
In this Guide & Template article I’ve provided you with a template that you can start using today (in google sheets) and this article will serve as your walkthrough for that template.
When viewing the template, save a copy of it to your own drive, so that you can make any changes. Remember this is simply a starting point for you, feel free to adjust it in a way that fits your business. You may want to track more/less granular metrics throughout the year. The important part is that you’re tracking something.
Obligatory Note: The numbers represented in the template are fictitious numbers, and don’t represent any actual company data.
In this story, I am going to present a step-by-step guide to accessing, saving, and using the guide. I will also finish up with some scenarios that help illustrated why tracking your numbers throughout the year is a crucial crucial CRUCIAL step to your personal success as a Product Marketer. I am also going to use the word “Product” but you can use this template for anything that you book revenue for (services, solutions, etc).
Also good to note, this template represents products that have an annual renewal cycle. Even if your product doesn’t operate like that (say you have a perpetual license only), feel free to still go through this guide, and then adjust the template to fit your product/company’s needs.
Downloading/Copying the Template
Pretty straightforward here start by clicking the link to get access to the template on Google Drive’s Sheets (View and Save the Template Here)
The first thing you will notice is that you are in “View Only” mode. This helps me protect the base template, so you won’t be able to make any changes to this file.
From here you have two options:
- Download a local copy for Excel or other spreadsheet software
- Make a copy to your Google Drive (Note: This requires you to be logged into a Google account in order to see this option)
For the purposes of this guide, we will do everything out of Google Drive, so let’s “Make a copy…” Once you click that, you will receive a prompt to copy the document: Give it a name, select a folder, and click “OK”. Now that it’s in your drive, you are free to make any changes to it.
There are two tabs to this template: Instructions & Product 1
Make sure for the rest of this guide that you have clicked on the Product 1 tab, and you should see a spreadsheet with a bunch of numbers. I’m going to start by walking through each section, to highlight what the numbers all mean, and then give some scenarios on how you would use it.
Template Overview: Section by Section
Some of the sections will be pretty straightforward for many people, so feel free to skim through this section. I will cover what is in each section of the template, why it’s important, and how you use it.
Note: in this template you will only need to edit anything in the BLUE boxes, everything else will calculate and update automatically
Previous Year’s Numbers:
In this section you are going to put in your actual final revenue numbers for the Product you are tracking by quarter. It’s best to use whatever your company’s Fiscal Year is, as that’s usually what your year long objectives are aligned against. You want to put the final total amounts into each blue box, for the quarter.
The template will calculate the total amount of revenue for the year end, as well as what the percentage break down was by quarter. This is really important to planning properly. We will cover that in a moment though.
It’s best to work with your Finance department, and get the real numbers that they booked and recorded. This will really get you set on the right track.
Annual Target & Renewal Rate:
In this section you want to capture the Annual Target of the business plan for the product in this worksheet. This is your current year’s target, not what your target was last year. This should be some multiple increase over what you closed out in the last fiscal year.
Also put in your Renewal Rate for this product. You have two options, you can either: put in your actual renewal rate, or put in your target renewal rate. I recommend putting in the actual renewal rate for this product in the last fiscal year. As this will give you a better indicator of your target moving forward. Again, this is meant for products that have an annual renewal cycle. Adjust the template for your needs. If you do not have Renewal Rates, and 100% of your business is landing/expanding existing customers, then enter a 0% here.
Lastly, for anyone else that reads this, inform the viewer on what the numbers are. I recommend using a short-hand decimal annotation, and then tell the viewer what it means. For example, rather than writing out 5,000,000 in each box for the worksheet, you will just write in 5.00 and ensure this box says “Millions of $”. If you’re on a smaller product, you may change it to Thousands of $.
Current Year’s Numbers to Target:
Because you have done the work to set your annual target goal, your renewal rate, and last year’s numbers. This section will update automatically for you. You do not need to change anything.
The Renewal target assumes you have an annual renewal cycle, which will take last year’s final number for the quarter, and assign your renewal rate to that number. These numbers are added up horizontally to give you your Renewal Target for the year.
Then the Land/Expand Target is calculated by taking your annual target goal that you indicated, and subtracting the total amount you will renew. This is what you have to make up between lost renewals and product growth, and you will either do that through expanding existing customers or landing new logos.
These numbers are added up vertically and then horizontally to give you your Quarterly Totals to track against. Your Annual Total should match the product goal you indicated earlier.
Current Year’s Actual Numbers:
I’m going to break this section down into two parts, for simplicity purposes.
Now we start getting into the fun part! As the year progresses, you will need to update the blue boxes only and indicate how much your business did each quarter in Renewal vs Land/Expand. If you would rather just capture your total amount (without breaking it down) either adjust the template, or enter a $0 in Renewal, and put your final amount in the Land/Expand Actuals
For much of the year, you will be “Under Target” in your total column which is fine, but you want to pay attention to the Quarterly Actual and the Over/Under Target per quarter. This allows you to see how well your product is performing throughout the year.
Remember: If you fall short of a quarterly target, mentally make a note that the deficit carries forward, and you will have to make that number up in a future quarter.
This template also automatically color codes Red to Green, depending how far over/under $0 you are for the quarter and year.
There is a caveat to this that I want to point out, and this pertains primarily to those in Enterprise B2B Sales. It’s not uncommon for companies to move a renewal from one quarter to another, in order to align to a bigger contract or your customer’s fiscal year. In which case, it will seem that you completely missed your renewal target for the quarter. Dig into this, and see if any big contracts had their renewal dates moved, and make a note of that in this sheet.
The second part of this section is the Pipeline and Forecasting. Hopefully you have a sales system in place, like Salesforce, that allows you to pull pipeline reports and forecast reports (work with your Sales Leadership or Sales Operations team to get access to this if you don’t have it). When it comes to pipeline for a product, there are two numbers you want to look at:
- The overall pipeline for the product
- The forecasted pipeline for the product
The way this typically works, each Sales Rep will maintain three sections of an opportunity that matter to you: The Close Date, The Forecast %, and the Product Total Amount/Line Item. In the even that contracts/purchases contain more than one product, make sure your reports capture the amount for the product line item, not the total contract amount.
A sales rep will usually assign a % number to an opportunity, sometimes these are automatically assigned based on a set number of rules, but for example:
- Total contract value is for $450,000 & consists of multiple products
- The product you are tracking, has a total line item amount of $150,000
- The Sales Rep has marked the opportunity to close this quarter
- The opportunity is marked as a 50% probability to close
- Your forecasted pipeline for this opportunity is $75,000 (which is 50% of $150,000)
You add up these forecasted pipeline amounts, for the quarter they are assigned to close in, and that’s what goes into the Forecasted Pipeline cells.
The template will then automatically update the forecasted Final# and the Over/Under Target based on how much you have already closed, and how much is forecasted to close. This is REALLY important to monitor every single quarter, throughout the quarter. This will tell you if you are on track to miss your quarterly targets, and by how much. We will cover what you can do with this information in the scenarios section later on.
Add in Your Numbers:
Now that you understand how everything is setup, it’s time to add in your numbers and/or tweak the template to fit your business. Remember, you only need to add numbers into the Blue Boxes, and the template will take care of the rest for you.
Using this Data to Inform Your Strategy
I’m going to walk through a few scenarios using this sample data to help illustrate how you can use this data and tracking to inform your strategy throughout the year.
Planning your Go To Market Strategy:
This one may seem obvious to some, but I’ve seen it often overlooked. A big part of your Go To Market strategy is around how are you actually going to achieve the number for your product. In the example above, this is what your sheet may look like before the new fiscal year starts.
- You have your current year’s actual numbers(you’ll have to do a bit of prediction on how the final quarter will finish up, since you’re likely in it when doing this exercise).
- Your Renewal rate for the product
- Next year’s annual target to hit
The worksheet takes care of the rest, and you can analyze how much you have to hit every quarter. So in this example, we see the Fiscal Quarter 3 (Q3) is our biggest quarter. There is a lot to close there, with $12M in Land/Expand. If our company operates on an average 6-month Sales Cycle, that means I’ll need the marketing engine to start pushing hard in Q2 in order to hit that number in Q3.
Additionally, when you do this for all of your products, you can analyze what % of budget/resources each product should get, and when, in order to maximize the potential of hitting these numbers.
Marketing Will Love You:
I can’t emphasize enough how happy your marketing department will be, especially campaign and demand generation, if you are able to provide them actual goals broken out through the year. I will cover this in a different article, but they will use this number (with your help) to work backwards into how much leads they need to deliver. By analyzing the closed won requirements, the win rate of sales, the average deal sizes, the sales cycle length, and the conversion rates of leads from marketing to sales you can come up with a plan that shows how many Marketing and/or Sales generated leads are required, quarter over quarter, in order to hit the company numbers.
There isn’t any guess work to do this! By having these numbers in plain site, and with everyone operating against them, you’ll be able to make adjustments throughout the year. Is one product overperforming? Great! Marketing and Sales can redirect some resources to the underperforming product (or may even decide to double down on the one that is overperforming).
Understanding the importance of Renewal Rate on GTM Strategy
You can also play with the numbers a bit: what happens if we raise our renewal rate from 80–90%? Suddenly, that saves us $2.5 Million in NEW revenue in Q3. This highlights just how important customer retention and renewal are on growing your product and business. In this case a small adjustment of 10% increase in renewal rates, lead to saving $6 Million from the net new bucket. If your marketing has a 10x return rate on spend, that’s a $600K budget save. (I’m over simplifying here, but you get the point and ramifications)
Tracking Over/Under by Quarter:
In this example, we are finishing Q1 with $8M in renewals and $5.25M in Land/Expands. We had a strong quarter, but we missed our target of $13.79M. Now if this is your largest quarter target of the year, that’s probably not that bad of a miss as a percentage of the overall target. However, if you have a much bigger quarter ahead of you (as we do in this example for Q3), this could be a red flag. Remember, because we missed our number by $500K, we need to make our future quarterly goals, plus what we missed in this quarter, to stay on track for the year. Missing a lower goal quarter, could be an indication of a bigger problem down the road. Here you see our miss came from our Renewal Actual, we didn’t hit our target of 80%.
This would be a good time to review all renewals in this quarter, and find out why the business is short. Remember, for every renewal that is lost, is harder on the business, because you already have your Land/Expand target, and now you have to make that loss revenue up in a new deal.
Reminder from before: if you’re in Enterprise Sales, that renewal may have moved to a new quarter, so figure that out and make note of that here, the the $400K missed renewal will be captured in a later quarter.
Do you need more pipeline, or just a more efficient Pipeline?
You’re now getting to the end of Q2, and you’re about $1Mil short from your quarterly goal. However, you are also tracking your current pipeline and forecasted pipeline, and see that about $1.5M is forecasted to close this quarter, which means you’ll be ahead of the quarter target by almost $400K. HOWEVER: keep in mind, you were short $500K last quarter, so this isn’t good enough to make up for the previous quarter.
When looking at pipeline, work with your sales leadership and sales operations team to understand what an acceptable amount of “Pipeline to Target” ratio is. As a Product Marketer, you can lead 1 of 2 efforts here:
- Work with Sales and Marketing to add more overall pipeline, assuming that some % of this will close
- Work directly with Sales on how to find efficiencies in the existing pipeline
In the example above, we’re showing $5Mil in total pipeline, with $1.5M forecasted to actually close. Meaning there is another $3.5M in the pipeline projected to be lost. Pull a report on who has the most open pipeline, and reach out to them on how the deals are going and if there is anything you can do to help. You may find that their prospect has a request for information that you can help provide or craft for them. In some cases, there may not be anything you can do for the major opportunities, in which case your sales reps just need more pipeline. This is where you work with Sales/Marketing together, and come up with a plan on how to fill the top of the funnel more.
Remember to evaluate your Over/Under against all products, and put all of your resources/budget into the areas that are showing the biggest consistent misses. Really dig into why you are missing: Talk to Sales Reps that have lost deals, look at win/loss reports, reach out to the contacts at the lost companies and see if they’d be willing to spend 15 minutes on the phone with you so you can understand what the company could have done better for next time.
Know More than What the Numbers Tell You:
I want to emphasize and highlight a very important thing. Use the numbers, track the data, but know what it is actually telling you. You have to understand why the renewals are over/under, why the targets are the way they are, and why your revenue is higher in one quarter over the other. I have a quick story that will highlight the importance of this:
Knowing what’s behind your numbers will also help you get out of tough questions. For example, I was once approached by some executives who were asking why a product line missed the quarterly goals twice in a row. On paper, the planning for the product seemed to make sense. Finance had calculated the average deal sizes, the product growth rate, and the expected targets every year. However, what they didn’t realize was what made those numbers up in the previous year. Every year the company had consistently landed 1 or 2 “Whales”: really big companies that brought in a good portion of the revenue (sometimes up to 80% between them). These large whales drastically inflated the average deal size and the calculated ROI on marketing budget spend. So while on paper the numbers all added up, what Marketing and Sales need to know were the more “Normalized” numbers. Once I took the whales out of the equation, it was clear that we were nowhere close to the expected growth rate or return on potential investment. The company had to make a shift in their strategic GTM plans, either drastically increase the amount of spend to land more companies, or put more focus into something like Account Based Marketing to “ensure” we always land those 1 or 2 big whales.
I hope that this Guide & Template article was helpful for you, and if nothing else gets you thinking in this direction. If you are a Product Marketer that hasn’t been doing this, that’s okay! Because now you will!
Again, doing this work has drastically changed the way I approach Product Marketing, and you may or may not be surprised at how often this is overlooked as part of the GTM strategy.
I really enjoyed writing this up, because it’s one of personal strengths in Product Marketing: I love the data and the analytics around it.
If you want to talk to me directly, join me on the Product Strategy slack. It’s a brand new slack channel for both PMs & PMMs to come together and elevate our crafts.
Good Luck out there!