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MRR – Monthly Recurring Revenue

Your SaaS business lives and dies by consistent subscription revenue. To measure that growth or decline, you’re ultimately focused on the almighty MRR or “Monthly Recurring Revenue” metric.

Yet, in speaking with 50 SaaS companies to put this post together, we found that calculating this somewhat simple metric accurately was an absolute disaster. 1 in 5 SaaS companies was removing some sort of expense from the equation; 2 in 5 were including trialing or free users in some manner; and a majority were incorrectly breaking down their annual or quarterly payments.

Although MRR isn’t part of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards), or reported to a government entity, not having these numbers calculated correctly means you’re lying to investors or worse – you’re setting yourself up for a potential rude awakening when you’ve realized you’ve misjudged and misplanned your momentum.

Let’s avoid these mistakes by quickly going through what recurring revenue is and why it’s important to your business. Then we’ll discuss how to calculate MRR, the mistakes to avoid, and one key way you can easily and clearly keep yourself on track.

Incorrectly calculating MRR means you’re lying to investors or worse – misjudging your growth and momentum. Lesson 2 from @HubSpot’s pricing: Your buyer personas are central to pricing success

What is recurring revenue?

Recurring revenue refers to a stable and predictable portion of a company’s revenue where customer payments renew contractually based on an agreed-upon timeframe. Recurring revenue streams ensure higher client retention, streamlined cash flow, and a more solid bottom line. The recurring revenue business model is common for streaming services, software as a service (SaaS), and subscription businesses that collect monthly fees from their customers.

What is MRR (monthly recurring revenue)?

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is the amount of predictable revenue that a company can expect to receive on a monthly basis. MRR is critical to understanding overall business profitability and cash flow for subscription companies.

Why tracking MRR is important

Successful SaaS companies track their MRR for two primary reasons:

Financial Forecasting and Planning

In the SaaS business model, you’re able to make accurate financial projections because of the subscriptions, and a large part of that is because monthly recurring revenue is relatively consistent and predictable. As you gain subsequent months of consistent revenue, you can begin to model estimates of where you’ll be and then can plan your business accordingly.

Measuring growth and momentum

If you’re on the investor-backed or take over the world track, the growth in your MRR on a month-over-month time period is absolutely critical. MRR is a key indicator of the growth of a SaaS business, and the month-over-month growth percentages will clearly indicate whether you’re on a rocket ship gathering new customers and revenue or you’re still on the launchpad fueling. (We give some great advice on improving your MRR growth here)

Calculate MRR with this simple MRR formula

The simple way to calculate MRR is to take your Average Revenue per User (ARPU) on a monthly basis and then multiply it by the total number of users in a given month. The formula for calculating MRR is:

Monthly ARPU x Total # of Monthly Users = Monthly Recurring Revenue

We break it down in more detail in the 4 steps below:

1. Align your data

Take all of the existing customers from a given month and put them in a spreadsheet with a column for their account ID (or some other unique identifier). In the next column, put their subscription value, taking any multi-month subscriptions and dividing the contract value by the number of months.

2. Sum up MRR

Next, just sum the subscription column. This figure will be that month’s total monthly recurring revenue.

3. Breakdown by cohort

The top-level information is great, but you’ll also want to break things down by type of pricing plans, cohorts, etc. Just follow the same process as above, but only include data from the segments that you’re interested in.

4. Calculate MRR growth

Once you know your MRR, you’ll want to know your MRR growth as well. You can do this by breaking down the above sections into cohorts like “New MRR”, “MRR from Add-ons”, or “Churn MRR”. To get your total growth MRR, you’ll do this calculation: (New MRR + Add-on MRR) – Churn MRR = growth MRR.

The steps above are probably a little abstract to you at the moment, so let me give you a more concrete example. If you have 10 customers in your Basic plan at $10 per month, and 10 customers in your Pro plan at $15 per month, your total MRR would be (10 x $10) + (10 x $15) = $250.

Admittedly, this can and should get much more complicated as you start to dig into your key metrics more. You’ll want to measure your expansion MRR (upgrades), customer churn, downgrades, new, etc. all in one graph like the one below:

Yet, the larger point here is that monthly recurring revenue, especially on the top level, is purely your actual subscription value and your number of customers. Keep in mind that all of this commentary is referring to months that have already happened. When you’re cooking with gas, you’ll want an update day by day tracking your MRR, which becomes more of an issue when you’re caring about the MRR breakdown (churn, upgrades, downgrades, new, existing). We’ll save that commentary for another post.

Why calculate and optimize MRR?

If your business follows a recurring revenue model of profitability, then calculating MRR (along with similar SaaS metrics like annual recurring revenue, or ARR) will help you understand the health of your company, set goals for the future, and determine how you’ll reach those goals. Understanding MRR is important because it gives you insights into:

Post-Product-Market Fit Compass Metric

After finding the initial product-market fit through user testing and activity, you can measure monthly recurring revenue as the main compass metric to track growth within a SaaS organization. This is because MRR is the purest measure of your revenue in a SaaS business, indicating with a high degree of certainty how your future revenue will change over time.

Product team

Building a better product will improve customer retention rate, which will prevent MRR loss. Every month your team should be incentivised by MRR to develop features and experiences to prevent MRR Churn.

Sales team

Your sales team can improve MRR by making deals with more qualified leads and emphasizing the quality of leads over quantity. Your sales and marketing teams typically will primarily be focused on net new MRR.Critical financial metric

MRR is a crucial financial metric—it gives you the most accurate status check-up of your SaaS company. It explicitly accounts for the “recurring” components in your subscription model and for those same components on a yearly scale using ARR.

Common mistakes when calculating MMR

MRR is an important metric for subscription businesses, so business owners need to be wary of some common mistakes when calculating it.

Mistake 1: Including quarterly, semi-annual, or annual contracts at full value in a single month

Even if someone pays you all the money upfront, their subscription value in MRR calculations should be divided by the intended subscription length. The reason for this goes back to one of the main uses of monthly recurring revenue – momentum measurement. You’re not trying to measure cash flow. You’re trying to measure how quickly and efficiently you’re growing. Including everything at once throws off many of your other metrics, including customer churn rate, customer count, customer lifetime value, etc.

The one place you would count all of the cash is in your bookings calculations.

Mistake 2: Subtracting transaction fees and delinquent charges

It can be tempting for founders to subtract transaction fees and delinquent charges from their MRR totals in an effort to be more conservative and accurate when calculating their metrics. While the intentions here are good, the end results are unfortunately incorrect and misleading.

Delinquent charges are in a gray area between churn and active, especially if you typically recover any failed credit card charges quickly. The problem here, though, is in an end-of-month (EOM) calculation schema, a delinquent charge is technically gone because you didn’t collect the monthly subscription from the customer. What you should instead do with your delinquent charges is to separate them out into their own category. This type of grouping allows you to accurately measure and decrease the amount of lost revenue each month due to failed or expired credit cards.

Additionally, including transaction fees doesn’t give you enough credit and hides a potential room for optimization. Sure, you’ll never get that transaction fee to 0%, but you can easily switch billing systems, spin up your own solution, etc., to optimize costs. A great concept to keep in mind is that any expense that can be optimized should be labeled as an expense and not immediately taken out of your MRR. With that logic, you should theoretically take out all of your customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Mistake 3: Including one-time payments

Essentially, one-time sales and payments aren’t “recurring”, so they don’t belong in Monthly “Recurring” Revenue. You don’t expect to receive them on a regular basis, which means that including them in your MRR calculations will inflate your revenue expectations and skew your financial model.

Mistake 4: Including Trailers in Their Calculations

Perhaps the most egregious SaaS sin is including trailers and their expected subscription value before they actually convert to being a customer. Doing this essentially gives you a consistently high list of “net new” customers and “churned” customers because we all know 100% of trailers don’t convert.

Mistake 5: Not Including Discounts

Another egregious and misleading error is not including discounts in calculations. If you give someone a discount on a $100/month plan so they’re paying $50/month, your MRR isn’t $100/month; it’s $50/month. Eventually, if you took the discount away, your top-level MRR would jump by $50/month.

Top ways to increase your monthly recurring revenue

Improving your MRR isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Here are two things you can do right now to improve your monthly recurring revenue.

Make sure you’re calculating (or your software) is calculating things correctly

As mentioned in the first few paragraphs – many companies are calculating things incorrectly. These aren’t just new kids on the block– we’re talking about some companies that have closed C rounds or are of that size.

Additionally, a study of the billing platforms that include these analytics (Recurrly, Zuora, etc.) and of some tools that integrate with billing platforms, revealed numerous of the mistakes above.

Goal Setting for your MRR – The Waterfall Chart

Remember, one of the biggest takeaways is that MRR is a momentum metric. The best way to track that momentum is through a waterfall chart, which shows the relationship between your cumulative MRR and the days of the month. The chart should plot: the growth rate in your MRR from last month, the growth in your MRR for the current month, and your month-over-month goal for MRR growth for the current month. See the image below for an example:

Once you have this in play, you should check in on your waterfall chart each day to ensure that you’re on track to reach your goals. You probably won’t care as much in the beginning of the month, but as the end of the month approaches, you’ll start kicking yourself or your sales team into gear (hopefully sooner by visualizing your progress). Checking your monthly recurring revenue consistently and acting upon it can lead to a larger customer base, a better chance to reduce churn, and an increase in sales revenue.

To sum it up:

There’s so much more to explore and discuss concerning MRR and subscription business metrics. We’ll be sure to bring you more and more as the weeks and months move on, but remember that in this game, we call SaaS momentum and subscription is the supreme focus.

In the meantime, check out our free SaaS tool for Stripe that builds out your waterfall above. Go get your SaaS in gear.

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) FAQs

What is the difference between ARR and MRR?

The difference between ARR and MRR is that annual recurring revenue is calculated annually and represents a company’s recurring revenue on a macro scale. On the other hand, MRR stands for monthly recurring revenue and is calculated monthly. As such, MRR is seen as a company’s recurring revenue on a micro-scale.

How do you calculate monthly recurring revenue in SAAS?

To calculate MRR for your SaaS business, you can use the MRR formula. Simply multiply the total number of monthly users with an average monthly revenue per user:

Monthly ARPU x Total # of Monthly Users

Is MRR recognized revenue?

No, MRR is not reported in the company’s financial statement in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).