It’s All in How You Use It: Why Product Adoption is the Price of Entry for Outcome Achievement

October 09, 2020 Written by Jake Sorofman

You can’t win if you don’t play. That was the clever advertising slogan designed to lure consumers to purchase a lottery ticket back in the day. Of course, statistically speaking, the conceit was a bit hollow when you considered the economics of this particular game … but I digress. 

It’s relevant because it speaks to the table stakes that are necessary to achieve any outcome: You have to play to win. This is equally true with software and digital services. I’ll state the obvious: you can’t achieve the promised benefits unless you use the product in the first place.

And not just use it, but use it in the right ways. This is the point of Level 3 in the MetaCX maturity model. It’s all in how you use it.

A quick refresher on the first two levels of the maturity model:

The goal of Level 1 is to create alignment between the seller and the buyer around a shared understanding of the target outcomes you expect to achieve together. Agreement upon goals and outcomes is the first precondition of any successful partnership.

Next, Level 2 focuses on the handoff after the contract is signed, and more specifically ensuring that the product is implemented and users are onboarded to set them up for success.

Level 3 leans into the adoption and usage of the product itself, ensuring that users develop healthy habits that make the product sticky, valuable and serves to unlock the outcomes that both parties desire.

Aha Moment

Aha moments

In the world of digital products, there are typically a few critical events that ensure good things happen with customers. These are often called the “aha moments.” For Facebook, it’s adding seven friends in the first 10 days. For Slack, it’s when 2000 messages are sent between teams. Once these critical events are achieved, these companies know that something clicks in the user’s brain–the hook is set and, chances are, the user will be back for more.

Behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini calls these “fixed-action patterns,” which are the natural human tendency to respond almost reflexively to recognizable patterns and desirable stimuli, triggering what he calls the “click, whirr” effect, which is the subconscious taking over.

In his book, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” Nir Eyal suggests that habit-forming products create an itch that demands to be scratched. The “Hook” model that he proposes begins with a trigger, which drives an action, which yields a reward, which compels the user to make an investment back into the product—which, in combination, compels them to use the product over and over again. 

It’s a virtuous—or potentially virulent—cycle. There are certain ethics involved in this way of thinking, since you are in effect cultivating habits that could mutate into addiction. 

But understanding these behavioral patterns within your product are crucial to driving the adoption and usage that ultimately unlocks business value. And once these critical actions are identified, they can be measured and optimized to ensure users are achieving them at scale.

Product Adoption is Just the Start

Product adoption is just the start

Too often, SaaS companies stop there, failing to connect the critical last mile of the ROI story, which is where the promised outcomes are realized. Nobody purchases a B2B SaaS product to simply use it–that would be folly. Let me reconstruct the flawed logic of this thinking:

Why did you purchase this tool? 

To achieve an outcome for my business.

What did you do to achieve that outcome?

We used the product.

And what measurable outcome did you achieve? 

Product usage? 

It’s a nonsensical tautology. 

Knowing that users are adopting the product is important, to be sure, but is it sufficient? Probably not–particularly now, as buyers are even more vigilant about buying and renewing on measurable value. 

Adoption is the price of entry, but winning the game is about business outcomes. 

We’ll cover that in the next post in this series.

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