Importance of the Time-to-Value Metric

time to valueWhat do buying a new smartphone and being given a gift card have in common?  In both cases you want to extract value as soon as possible.  With the gift card you immediately want to go shopping and with the new smartphone you immediately want to port over your contacts and download your favorite apps so you can start using it.

The same thing happens when subscription-based companies sell their offering to a new customer.  This article describes the all-important time-to-value (TTV) metric and the various ways it can be measured.

“Value” is the Key Word

It’s not just that “value” is the most important word in the name of the metric but it’s especially important that customer-centric value is the focus.  In other words, you and your company might get a lot of value from the revenue you can recognize when an order is booked and a new customer license is activated.  But that’s not what we are focused on here and the reason should become crystal clear by the end of the article.

Measuring the TTV metric is not complicated.  The TTV clock starts ticking when the customer completes their order transaction:

  • Providing credit card information and clicking the “submit” button for self-service subscription offerings
  • Sending you a signed purchase order (or equivalent) to buy your product

In a perfect world for the customer, they would immediately start receiving value.  But even mobile apps must be downloaded, installed and configured.  And if we go to the other end of the spectrum, enterprise software involves much more effort before value begins.

Incorporating Multiple TTV Measurements

It is possible that you should track two or more TTV metrics.  Below are a couple of examples:

  • Time to Initial Value:  When does your customer experience at least some value from your product?  By this time they’ve completed an initial setup and are starting to use it.
  • Time to Critical Value:  When does your customer experience enough value to exceed their on-going subscription cost?  This also likely equates to the value you describe in your marketing material or sales pitch.

Reaching critical value is important because you should expect to have a very low churn rate for customers that reach this point, unless some new competitor has a better value proposition (see related article titled “Visualizing the Interactions Between CAC, Churn and LTV“).  Consequently, you should also conclude that reaching initial value is only a step along the path to get a customer where you need them to be.

The actions and priorities for your company are very different for each of the above TTV metrics:

  • Initial Value:  At the moment the order is completed, you want to have systems and processes that allow the product to get quickly installed and configured for first use.  If training or additional services are required, these should also receive big focus.
  • Critical Value:  The word “critical” means different things for different offerings.  It could denote amount of use (ie – daily/monthly active users), repeat use, use of highest value functionality, integration with other critical business systems or many other things.

You’ll want to adopt a continuous improvement attitude with regards to the above TTV optimization.  In the early days it will be easier to make big improvements but in later phases of your company’s evolution you’ll have to work hard to improve in much smaller increments.


In an article I published titled “You Never Know Which Operational Metrics You’ll Need – So Instrument Everything” I recommended instrumenting your mobile or SaaS app to track just about every customer action possible.  Such actions can be tracked and analyzed in an events-oriented online system.  And once you have that information, you can combine it with timestamp information related to order completion, training, professional services milestones, etc.  Then it’s simply a matter of mathematics to derive your various TTV metrics and graphing to see performance and trending over time.

Why Bother?

The downside implications of ignoring time-to-value are multi-fold.  In the best case, your customers that come up for renewal will ask for credits equal to the first 2 months they paid for your software but weren’t able to use it because of _____ (fill in the various inhibitors that prevented them from reaching time-to-initial-value).  In the worst case, your customers will churn before you’re able to extract enough lifetime value (LTV) to exceed your customer acquisition cost (CAC).  And that’s how you quickly go out of business.


Spend some time thinking about the importance of TTV to your company and how many versions of it you should track.  Put systems and tracking mechanisms in place to evaluate and trend over time.  Then decide who on your team is responsible for optimizing TTV for the benefit of the company.

Wait, there’s much more!!!

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love what I cover in my video library called Founders Academy, which includes all of the key concepts and insights to help you dramatically increase your odds of success using topic-specific streaming video modules.  Click Here to Learn More

“Founders Academy is a must!  Gordon unlocked new value in concepts I thought I was already familiar with.” (startup founder)

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Author: Gordon Daugherty

Gordon Daugherty is a best-selling author, seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, startup advisor and investor. He has made more than 200 investments in early-stage companies and has been involved with raising more than $80 million in growth and venture capital. From his 28-year career in high tech, Gordon has both an IPO and a $200-million acquisition exit under his belt. Now, as co-founder and president of Austin’s Capital Factory and as author of the book “Startup Success”, Gordon spends 100 percent of his time educating, advising, and investing in startups.

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