13 minute read · Published January 19, 2024

Why product managers must care about net dollar retention

Latest Update May 31, 2024

Finance is easy if you sell potato peelers. It's easy to measure how many potato peelers you've sold. 100 customers at $5 a peeler means you make $500. Most people only buy one potato peeler, so the mission is simple: Get more people to buy a potato peeler.

SaaS businesses aren't that simple: Customer lifetime value hinges on them sticking around and not canceling their subscription. With seat-based pricing, it also depends on the amount of users a customer pays for. When you have different plans/products, it also depends on what they're paying for.

This makes SaaS finance harder than potato peeler finance: A product's financial health depends on more than customer count, but also on the types of customers you get, how they use your product and, most importantly, how long they stick around.

That's why net dollar retention is a vital factor for SaaS companies to assess their financial well-being. It measures the revenue retained from current customers while taking into account churn, providing valuable insights for sustainable growth.

But it's not just a metric for CEOs and CFOs.

Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is an essential metric for PMs, as it offers a comprehensive view of the product’s financial health and customer satisfaction. Unlike basic revenue metrics, NDR goes beyond surface-level insights, providing a nuanced understanding of how well a product is retaining and growing its customer base. For a product manager, NDR serves as a vital signpost, indicating whether the product is meeting, exceeding, or falling short of customer expectations.

Key takeaways

  • Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is a vital metric for SaaS companies, reflecting revenue retained from the current customer base, including upgrades, downgrades, churn, and cross-selling, which altogether provide a comprehensive picture of customer satisfaction and company health.
  • Product managers can use NDR to tie together their product efforts with actual customer experiences and business outcomes
  • Calculating NDR involves starting with the Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) or Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and considering factors like churn rate and expansion revenue to understand revenue growth or contraction over a specific period.
  • Improving NDR can enhance Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) through strategies such as perfecting the customer onboarding process, leveraging CRM data for targeted customer retention, and developing churn reduction tactics, which in turn can attract investors and increase company valuation.

Understanding Net Dollar Retention (NDR)

Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is a metric that measures the amount of revenue SaaS businesses generate from their existing customers, taking into account churn rates, upgrades and downgrades in services, as well as cross-selling. This provides valuable insights on overall revenue performance for these companies and serves as an important indicator of the success of their customer journey.

NDR reflects a company’s focus on ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction. When clients are happy with their experience with a business, they are more likely to continue using its products or services and even expand their engagement over time. As a result, this leads to sustained growth in revenues for the company.

By tracking net dollar retention numbers closely, SaaS businesses can gain critical information about how effectively they retain current customers’ loyalty. It also highlights any potential areas where improvements could be made to enhance client satisfaction. Which can have long-lasting effects on driving financial success.

Defining Net Dollar Retention

Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is a metric that focuses on the revenue generated from an existing customer base, without factoring in new acquisitions. It takes into account various factors such as customer churn, upgrades, downgrades, and cross-selling to provide a comprehensive understanding of both customer retention and revenue generation within the current client pool. By prioritizing existing revenue streams, NDR offers a more accurate representation of a company’s ability to maintain and increase its earnings among its loyal customers.

The components of NDR

NDR relies on key factors such as the expansion revenue generated through upsells, cross-sells and add-ons from existing customers. A stable stream of recurring revenue is also essential, whether it be monthly or annual subscriptions, to maintain consistent earnings from these clients over time. The churn rate, which reflects the loss of income due to customer non-renewals or downgrades in plan options, must also be closely monitored for successful NDR strategies. Promoting cross-selling opportunities can contribute towards increasing additional revenues within this framework.

Calculating your net dollar retention rate

Photo of annual recurring revenue calculation

Net Dollar Retention Rate can be calculated to determine the change in recurring revenue within a specific time period, represented as a percentage. Whether using Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) or Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), the NDR formula considers both lost and gained revenue from churns, downgrades, and expansions within your customer base. This calculation provides insight into how effectively you are maintaining existing customers and retaining their business.

Starting with ARR

To calculate NDR with ARR, begin by identifying the ‘Entering ARR’. This refers to the revenue from existing customers at the beginning of a 12-month period before the end of reporting.

Next, determine the ‘Ending ARR’ for this same customer base at the end of reporting. Take into account any added income from upsells and cross-sells as well as reductions due to contractions or attrition.

The NDR is obtained by dividing ‘Ending ARR’ by ‘Entering ARR’, giving an indication of how much revenue was retained and grown within this particular group over one year.

Monthly metrics – they do matter

An important aspect in determining NDR is monthly recurring revenue (MRR). This method of using MRR to calculate NDR provides a more immediate understanding of business performance compared to annual recurring revenue. By tracking the monthly NDR with MRR, potential churn can be identified earlier and strategies can be implemented to retain these accounts before significant loss occurs.

Consequently, calculating an NDR on a monthly basis with MMR presents a timely and actionable overview of revenue performance, allowing for swift responses to any changes.

What does a high or low NDR mean for a product manager?

When NDR is high, it signals that customers are not only sticking around, but also increasing their investment in the product, often a result of successful upselling or cross-selling strategies. This is a testament to the product's value proposition, indicating that it's resonating with the target audience. Conversely, a lower NDR can highlight areas where the product might be lacking, whether it's in user experience, features, or overall customer satisfaction. This feedback loop is crucial for product managers to identify areas for improvement and innovation.

Moreover, focusing on NDR encourages product managers to prioritize long-term customer relationships over short-term gains. It shifts the emphasis from simply acquiring new customers to nurturing existing ones, fostering a growth strategy that's sustainable and resilient. In a competitive market, where customer loyalty is hard-won, a strong NDR is a competitive advantage, signaling a product that not only attracts customers but keeps them engaged and satisfied.

Enhancing CLTV through NDR

NDR not only aids in measuring and predicting revenue, but it also has the potential to significantly enhance Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). By incorporating customer feedback into regular updates and introducing new product features, NDR can contribute towards increasing CLV. It can improve retention rates among customers, which may lead to opportunities for upgrades or cross-selling products. This ultimately leads to a higher monthly NDR metric.

The role customer success teams

Customer success plays a crucial role in improving NDR by:

  • Enhancing the value that customers receive, which ultimately impacts their decisions to continue using or upgrade services
  • Establishing a robust customer success program aimed at ensuring maximum product satisfaction for clients
  • Strengthening customer loyalty and consequently leading to improved NDR

The onboarding process overseen by Customer Success Managers (CSMs) has a significant influence on NDR as it shapes the initial experience of customers and can affect long-term commitment. Effective strategies such as providing education through webinars, training resources and well-designed onboarding programs can increase adoption rates of products/services resulting in positive outcomes for both parties involved.

From acquisition to loyalty – improving NDR

Moving customers from acquisition to loyalty is a strategic maneuver for businesses seeking to improve their NDR. Understanding customer needs and pain points is crucial for this transition.

Here are some steps to help you achieve this:

  1. Personalization of communication and offers based on insights from customer relationship management (CRM)
  2. Creating more relevant experiences
  3. Increasing customer satisfaction and retention

Building a product community that encourages users to interact and support one another can nurture a sense of belonging and loyalty towards the product and brand, thus bolstering NDR.

How NDR and other SaaS metrics relate

Illustration of SaaS metrics interplay

While NDR is a valuable metric, it should not be viewed in isolation. In fact, its significance lies in how it integrates with other SaaS metrics to provide a comprehensive understanding of business performance. A high NDR reflects the efficiency of a SaaS company in generating revenue from their existing customer base, reducing the need for costly customer acquisition efforts.

A key factor that can contribute to an improved NPS (Net Promoter Score) is investing in enhancing customer service. This has been shown to have a direct impact on increasing customer loyalty and retention rates, both important drivers behind positive changes in NDR figures for any SaaS company.

Complementary metrics

In order to gain a complete understanding of a company’s revenue retention and expansion, it is important to take into account other metrics to NDR. One such metric is Gross Revenue Retention (GRR), which can reveal insights about the amount of lost revenue from downsells and churn. Another useful metric for analysis is the gross dollar retention, providing an alternative perspective on the financial stability of the business.

Tracking both GRR and NDR alongside customer churn metrics can provide a comprehensive overview of a company’s overall health and sustainability. By considering these various factors together, we can develop a more well-rounded picture that takes into account not just revenue retained, but also potential losses through downgrades or cancellations by customers.

Why expanding revenue is key

The importance of expansion revenue cannot be underestimated in the context of NDR. This type of income, obtained by offering upselling or cross-selling opportunities to current customers, increases the revenue generated from existing clients and improves overall net dollar retention. Through efficient tactics such as upsells and cross-sells, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) can see a significant boost while also enhancing customer base growth through expansion options for existing clientele. The end result is an increase in net dollar retention with improved ongoing profitability thanks to successful expansions within our loyal client base.

How you can boost NDR as a product manager

Photo of CRM data analysis

Strategic planning and effective execution are crucial for increasing NDR in a SaaS business. This requires perfecting the customer onboarding process, implementing successful customer retention strategies, offering loyalty incentives, and building a strong revenue team.

To improve NDR in SaaS businesses specifically, it is important to focus on driving account expansion through upsell and cross-sell tactics. These methods of expanding accounts can greatly impact the success of a SaaS business by retaining customers long-term and promoting growth within existing accounts.

But product managers also play an important role in driving NDR improvements.

Boosting Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is a multifaceted challenge that requires product managers to adopt a strategic approach focused on enhancing customer value and satisfaction. Here are several strategies a product manager can implement to help boost NDR:

  1. Enhance product value: Continuously improve the product to ensure it meets and exceeds customer needs. This might involve adding new features, improving existing functionalities, or refining the user interface for better usability. Keeping the product aligned with market demands and customer feedback is key.
  2. Focus on customer success: Develop a robust customer success program. This includes effective onboarding, comprehensive support, and ensuring customers can achieve their goals using your product. Tools like CommandBar's Product Tours can guide users through new features, enhancing their understanding and engagement.
  3. Implement targeted upselling and cross-selling: Identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling by understanding customer needs and usage patterns. Offer relevant add-ons, upgrades, or complementary products that genuinely add value to the customer's experience.
  4. Gather and act on feedback: Regularly collect customer feedback through surveys or feedback tools. Analyze this data to understand customer pain points and areas for improvement. Acting on this feedback demonstrates commitment to customer satisfaction and can lead to improvements that increase retention and expansion.
  5. Monitor and reduce churn: Identify at-risk customers early through metrics and engagement data. Implement strategies to re-engage them, such as personalized outreach, special offers, or addressing specific issues they might be facing.
  6. Leverage data analytics: Use analytics tools to track usage patterns, customer behavior, and product performance. Insights gained from data analytics can inform strategies for product development, marketing, and customer support.
  7. Build a community: Foster a sense of community among users through forums, social media, or events. A strong community can increase customer loyalty, provide valuable feedback, and help in organic growth through word-of-mouth.
  8. Personalize customer experience: Tailor the user experience to individual customers’ needs and preferences. Personalization can make customers feel valued and increase their engagement and satisfaction with the product.
  9. Continuous learning and adaptation: Stay abreast of market trends and evolving customer expectations. Adapting the product strategy in response to these changes can help maintain its relevance and appeal to customers.

By focusing on these strategies, product managers can foster a positive cycle of increased customer satisfaction and engagement, leading to higher NDR. It's about creating a product experience that not only attracts customers but also keeps them satisfied and eager to explore additional offerings, thus driving both retention and revenue growth.

Reducing churn!

It's important to call out specifically how powerful reducing your turn rate can be towards boosting your NDR.

The implementation of specific strategies to reduce churn can greatly boost net dollar retention by ensuring a steady and content customer base.

Enhancing product knowledge and communication skills among customer service representatives is key in increasing satisfaction levels, ultimately resulting in lower rates of customers leaving. This approach maximizes returns for businesses aiming to maintain a strong and loyal customer base.

Tracking revenue retained over time

When measuring customer retention and recurring revenue, one important step is tracking the net dollar retention rate over time. This allows businesses to assess how much revenue they are retaining from existing customers. A stable or increasing NDR indicates that a business has maintained or increased their current customer base, which reflects overall revenue stability. An NDR of over 100% shows growth in recurring revenue from existing customers, while anything below 100% may indicate a decrease in retained dollars and signal the need for adjustments to improve customer retention strategies.

NDR in real life

NDR rates on the rise suggest a strong foothold in the market and opportunities for capturing a larger share, thanks to its loyal customer base. The company’s success in upselling and cross-selling, reflected by impressive NDR numbers, indicates potential avenues for Expanding its operations.

The balance between expansion revenue and churn rate measured through NDR serves as an important measure of growth potential and possible increase in revenues from current customers. This metric is crucial for assessing a company’s ability to tap into its existing customer base for sustained growth.

Twilio's crazy NDR stats

Successful NDR strategies have been examined through case studies, revealing that companies who maintained net retention rates of 100% to 110% experienced a median growth rate of 40%. On the other hand, those with even higher rates exceeding 110% reported an impressive median growth rate of 60%. These findings highlight the strong correlation between high NDR rates and company expansion.

Wanna hear something wild?

Twilio consistently achieved remarkable NDR rates ranging from 130% to 150% for years. This serves as evidence for the significant role played by NDR in driving its continuous growth and increasing market value.

NDR and its influence on funding rounds

Higher net revenue retention rates can heavily influence funding rounds. Research shows that for every 1% increase in this metric, SaaS companies experience a 12% boost in their valuation after five years. This demonstrates the significant impact of NDR on both investor confidence and overall business worth.

Investors place great value on high NDR as it serves as an indicator of strong product-market fit and improved potential for profitability within startups. This measure is seen as reflective of the health and growth prospects of a company, making it crucial to monitor closely in order to attract venture capital investments.


In summary, having a solid grasp on Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is crucial for SaaS enterprises. NDR offers a comprehensive view of revenue retention and expansion, giving valuable insights into customer loyalty levels, revenue stability, and potential growth opportunities. By effectively utilizing NDR data, companies can optimize their revenue streams while also boosting overall customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to sustainable business growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calculate net retention?

The net revenue retention rate can be calculated by subtracting the lost revenue from the total revenue and then dividing it by the starting amount. This will give you the net increase in revenue specifically from existing customers, which is known as net retention. It measures how much of a company’s total revenues are being retained through its current customer base.

What does 100% net retention mean?

In SaaS and subscription-based companies, a net retention rate above 100% signals growth from current customers through various means such as upselling, cross-selling, and offering add-ons. This exceeds any revenue lost due to customer downgrades or churn.

What does net of retention mean?

Net revenue retention is a measure that determines the net amount of revenue remaining after accounting for both churned and expanded revenues within a given time frame. It provides valuable insight into an organization’s overall financial performance by taking into account factors such as contract renewals, growth in contracts, and lost customers’ impact on total earnings. Essentially, it calculates the combined value of retained.

How can I improve my net dollar retention?

One effective way to enhance net dollar retention is by carefully studying customer feedback and usage data. It’s important to identify the reasons behind churn and take steps towards addressing them. Improving onboarding processes, providing incentives for loyalty, and implementing targeted marketing campaigns tailored for customers at risk of churning can also contribute significantly in reducing churn rate and increasing overall retention levels.

What is Net Dollar Retention (NDR)?

Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is a crucial metric used to assess the health of existing customers’ revenue contributions. It calculates the amount of revenue that has been retained, taking into account factors such as churn rates, upgrades and downgrades in services or products, and cross-selling efforts. This provides businesses with an all-encompassing view of their revenue performance.

By considering various aspects related to customer behavior and spending patterns, NDR offers valuable insights about the effectiveness of strategies implemented along each stage of the customer journey.

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