The top SaaS KPIs you need to track in 2023

KPI Dashboard

As a SaaS business owner, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure your company’s success is crucial. Our niche investment focus in solely B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies allows us to track important SaaS KPIs and access highly relevant benchmarks across our portfolio. Below we will take a closer look at the top SaaS KPIs that every Nordic software company should track and explain how they can help you make informed decisions about your company’s growth and profitability.

Written by: Ingvild Farstad, Community Manager at Viking Venture

Key SaaS metrics and KPIs

There is no doubt that the last years have been extraordinary, with several events that have significantly impacted the world of business. Tracking key SaaS metrics and KPIs to make data-driven decisions is important to tackle major events. By giving each company its own KPI Dashboard, they can see what is working well and what needs improvement in their business. They also see which companies are top performers in the portfolio and can reach out to understand what they are doing that works so well.

This article will provide you with benchmark data on how our portfolio did in 2021. You will gain valuable insight into how your company performed compared to the largest community of B2B SaaS companies in the Nordics, with a keen focus on growth, profitability, customer acquisition cost, and sales efficiency. 

Viking Venture portfolio KPI Dashboard

First, we want to give a quick reminder on the Viking Venture portfolio Dashboard for those who have not read the previous articles. The dashboard is divided into three sections to ensure we don’t discuss sub-optimal solutions.

  1. Growth and Profitability
  2. Customer Acquisition Cost and Sales Efficiency
  3. Coverage Model & Sales Process
Viking Venture SaaS KPI Dashboard

Let us take a deep dive into the Viking Venture KPI Dashboard.

1.   SaaS KPIs for Growth and Profitability

We find it very important to distinguish between organic and inorganic growth to understand the underlying drivers. The average of our portfolio’s total ARR growth in 2021 was 42%, which includes acquisitions. The average for organic growth was 25%, while our top performer grew by 54% organically.

In the following section we will go through our Growth and Profitability KPIs:

ARR Growth – the most significant value driver of B2B SaaS companies.

  • Total ARR Growth, including acquisitions
  • Organic ARR Growth, excluding the effect of acquisitions
  • New sales ARR Growth, which only includes new sales
Total ARR Growth
Organic ARR Growth

We are very fond of the ARR Waterfall model to illustrate the ARR movements in terms of new sales, up-sells, acquisitions, price increases, contraction, and churn.

ARR Bridge

Churn

You can measure churn in terms of ARR and # of customers; both are important to measure and track. Knowing your churn is essential for forecasting but understanding why customers cancel their subscriptions is the real value. We have run several projects with our portfolio companies to understand the root causes of churn and improve the value proposition.

SaaS KPIs - churn

Want to learn more about how to fight churn? Take a look at our presentation on Six Initiatives To Keep Your Customers. Also, know your churn, but make sure you understand your Renewal Rate as well!

Renewal Rate: why is this metric so important? 

Churn might be artificially low if you include the total customer base rather than just the ones with contracts up for renewal. This especially applies to fast-growing companies or companies with customers on longer contracts. Many of your customers may not be able to churn even though they may wish to. It is an excellent measure of customer satisfaction. It indicates healthy and profitable growth by telling us what percentage of our customer base actively chooses to renew their subscriptions when given a chance.

  • Renewal rate can be measured in ARR and # of customers
  • Only looks at those customers who are, in fact, able to churn
  • The difference between retention and renewals:
    • Retention = Measures the share of customers who continue their subscription, automatically or by choice
    • Renewals = Customers who, by choice, renew their contracts when they can resign
  • Segmentation is important to uncover the root cause of low renewal rate
Why Renewal rate is an important  SaaS KPI

Rule of 40

The current market conditions have resulted in a shift where investors are no longer looking for companies with a growth-at-all-costs mentality, and profitability has become increasingly important for B2B SaaS companies. It has also become apparent that if you cannot achieve this, choosing a clear profile, high growth, or high profitability is essential. Therefore, every business needs to understand the balance between growth and profitability. This KPI tells you whether you have found an optimal balance between growth and profitability. It is widely accepted that if the sum of your organic growth rate and EBITDAC margin is 40%, you have reached an optimal balance between growth and profitability. Let’s look at some examples:

  • ARR organic growth is 40%, and EBITDAC margin is 0%
  • ARR organic growth is 20%, and EBITDAC margin is 20%
  • ARR organic growth is 10%, and EBITDAC margin is 30%

We look at the rule of 40 to ensure our companies have a risk-adjusted growth profile, which helps us decide when to hit the accelerator and grab onto the brakes.

Check out the article “Is the Rule of 40 an outdated SaaS KPI?” for a deeper walk-through of the Rule of 40

Rule of 40 as a KPI

SaaS Gross Margin

SaaS Gross Margin = Revenue – SaaS COGS / Revenue

Why do we measure SaaS Gross Margin? 

Traditional Gross Margin for software companies does not show an accurate picture of what the company retains of sales income after incurring all direct costs. Therefore we need to adjust this to show SaaS Gross Margin. This KPI helps a company understand its business’s scalability and can show which products/services contribute the most to the bottom line when broken down.

SaaS COGS = Cost of Goods Sold = All ‘variable costs’ attributed to delivery. These costs include hosting, third-party expenses, support, and other direct costs. You should also include costs attributed to the retention of current customers in the Customer Success department.

If you want to learn more about the KPIs for growth and profitability, you can have a look at our previous article about 4 SaaS KPIs to improve growth and profitability.

2. SaaS KPIs for Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Sales Efficiency

In the following section we will go through our CAC and Sales Effiency KPIs:

Net Retention

Net retention is known to be the most comprehensive churn metric as it tells the complete revenue story of the installed base of customers. This metric shows you what your company’s top-line revenue would be if you didn’t gain a new customer again. In other words, it captures the negative impact of lost customers and the positive impact of price changes, up-sells, and cross-sells.

Net Retention
Net retention rate KPI and performance

SaaS Quick Ratio

The SaaS Quick ratio tells us if our revenue is growing faster than our churn and if we are growing efficiently or inefficiently. High churn will eat away our growth potential when growing inefficiently, which is also why this KPI is called the ‘leaky bucket issue.’ This KPI compares your revenue growth over a specific period to your revenue shrinkage at that same time.

SaaS Quick Ratio

CAC Payback

We measure this because it is the primary KPI connected to sales scalability, and growth will require capital if the CAC payback is more than 12 months. When we segment this KPI based on customer type, we can focus our efforts on where we are the most effective. 

  • CAC encompasses all the sales and marketing costs that a business needs to spend to acquire a new customer and sell to existing customers
    • Marketing, meeting bookers, sales costs (new sales & customer success)
  • CAC payback tells us how many months it takes to recoup our customer acquisition costs
  • For a more granular view, it is important to segment based on the type of customer and fully ramped/blended sales force
CAC Payback

LTV/CAC

In addition to the customer acquisition cost, we like to look at the Lifetime Value (LTV). The reason for this is simple, the lifetime value of a customer must be higher than the cost of acquiring that customer.

3. SaaS KPIs for Coverage Model

Customer and industry concentration

Customer concentration measures how total revenue is distributed among your customer base. High concentrations carry substantial risks for businesses. Losing a customer can devastate revenue, and customers have more influence on pricing and can divert a disproportionate share of resources.

When measuring this in the Viking Venture portfolio, we look at the ARR from the top 1 customer and top 10 customers of total ARR.

  • Top 1 Customer = x %
  • Top 10 Customers = y %

Keep in mind that some industries tend to have higher customer concentrations than others; for example, retail sales typically generate low concentrations, while industries with a high number of enterprise players generate high concentrations.

Customer Concentration KPI
Industry Concentration

Sales & Marketing costs and Research & developing costs of total ARR

We measure this to understand how much our companies spend on product development and sales processes to continue growth. This KPI is especially interesting as a benchmarking exercise between the portfolio companies and up against the other KPIs we are measuring.

  • Companies with high S&M costs % of ARR reinvest a significant portion of their profits back into sales and marketing as an investment in their continued growth.
  • Companies with high R&D costs % of ARR reinvest a significant portion of their profits back into research and development as an investment in their continued growth.

According to Insight Partners’ Periodic Table, the benchmark for these two KPIs are approximately 30% based on performance data across their private and public SaaS companies. Insight Partners is one of the leading software investors in the world and share a lot of great knowledge on their website.

SaaS KPIs - Sales and Marketing costs in % of ARR
SaaS KPIs - Research and development costs in % of ARR

Applicable benchmark for SaaS companies

In this article, we have provided you with deeper insight into our Viking Venture KPI dashboard and how we use it to set the direction for our companies—in addition getting great benchmarks for our B2B software companies. Hopefully, you have gained some valuable insight into how your company performed compared to the largest community of B2B SaaS companies in the Nordics. The numbers for 2022 will be updated in Q2 2023.

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