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Is it a good idea to reduce the Time to First Value at any cost?

February 23 · Issue #12 · View online
DataDiary by InnerTrends
Is it a good idea to reduce the Time to First Value at any cost?
Most companies I know assume that a faster on-boarding process leads to a higher on-boarding rate and customer retention. They relate the time users get on-boarded with the time they figure out what your product does and experience the value it brings them.
This is how experts in the field correlate time to first value to the on-boarding process:

But is this really so? Does this philosophy of ‘the sooner the better’ always work?
In our experience, this is not always the case. Here’s why.
We are dealing here with ‘Time to First Value’. For those of you who are new to the concept, here is a short definition.
Time to first value (a.k.a. TTFV) is the amount of time it takes a customer to get real, tangible value from using your product. In other words, TTFV is when a person finishes the on-boarding process and experiences first-hand the benefits of your product, the very thing you promised them.
Now, it goes without saying that customers will get the wrong impression of your product if your on-boarding process is not straightforward enough, and they will churn. Naturally, the faster you convince them, the better for your company.
So it might seem counterintuitive to challenge this view. But hear me out:
It all started with one of our customers who wanted to decrease the time to first value. Before they started, they asked me how big the correlation between the time it took to get to the first value and the retention of users was. We crunched the numbers and came to a conclusion that was surprising to everyone: in their case, the longer it took people to get to first value, the higher the retention.
This is how the retention curve looked like for the users who on-boarded faster vs. those who took longer to get on-boarded.
At first, we really thought they were unique from this perspective. Still, we wondered if this could be true for other companies as well. We then had the chance to run the same analysis on 5 more SaaS companies.
And guess what - for all of them, without exception, the users who took longer to get to first value had a considerably higher retention.
How is this possible?
For one… think about it: do you like to be rushed? - I don’t think so.
Every day you are bombarded with emails requiring you to read an article, sign-up somewhere etc. This can be irritating. It’s the same for your customers. So, with some of your users - don’t rush it. Maybe they are aware of the value they receive from your product and know what they have to do, but they don’t have enough time at that very moment, so just let them move at their own pace.
Also, the road to first value is just as important as the first value itself. Push your potential customers too hard and they might not understand the value of your product. Shortcuts will decrease the time to first value but can also decrease the importance of that first value. 
Does this mean that you should not meddle with the TTFV or even increase it?
No, definitely not.
But I would certainly treat any project designed to decrease time to first value with great care. My point is to find the right time to help users get the first value out of your app, and finish the onboarding process. This means - not to jump at their neck right away if you notice they don’t fit your expected on-boarding timeline.
This is what Lincoln Murphy thinks about this issue:
If you would like to know more about this topic, or have questions on other related topics, please reply to this email or write to me at
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