Product Activation

You only have those first 5 minutes to make or break a relationship

Activation is a feeling that the user experiences — it’s a moment of relief and excitement when a user discovers the solution to their problem. 

It happens when a user sees your product’s value, has that critical aha moment, and experiences buy-in. Activated users want to learn more and are willing to invest time and energy into a product because they’ve seen it can be an asset in their life.  

Naturally for every company activation would look differently. Yet, the principles behind creating a moment of relief and excitement are universal.

You can excite or relieve someone only by knowing what might cause them pain or excitement in the first place. Right? If you trust someone is looking after your best interests, you will most probably do something that person asks of you, right? 

If the latter doesn’t make sense, how successful do you think you will be if you go to a bar and directly ask the first person to marry you?

Activation’s role is exactly this – to create connection and emotional impact, so you can move your relationship to the next stage. 

How do you measure it?

Time to value

The amount of time it takes new users to reach their first aha moment or activation event. For SaaS businesses that might involve inviting colleagues, importing customer data, integrating other tools, or otherwise completing your user onboarding sequence before value is achieved.

Product-qualified leads (PQLs)

Activated users—folks who have completed a key action within your product, had their aha moment, and have seen the value. PQLs will differ from other companies. To define a PQL you’ll want to use a combination of user interviews, session recordings, and A/B tests to identify the user behaviors that correlate with conversion and retention.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

The amount of money, on average, that you can expect to make from an individual user. It’s a straightforward metric, calculated as total MRR divided by the total number of users.

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

Personalization is a prerequisite.

Not only are 80% of people more likely to do business with a company that offers personalization, but Salesforce’s 2017 State of Marketing report found that 52% of B2C customers would switch brands if they weren’t getting a personalized experience.

Now that you’re on board… Creating personalization starts with user research – getting insights on user behavior, needs, aspirations, pains, anxieties, habits and so on. The so-called psychographics. 

A 2017 report into the user research industry found that 81% of executives surveyed agreed that user research makes their company more efficient. 86% believe that user research improves the quality of their products and services.

How to segment for personalization?

Pre-market fit

Are you creating a vitamin or a painkiller?

With dozens of paying customers and low churn, chances are you’ve validated a painkiller. Here are the prerequisites for reaching product-market-fit:

  • Who are your ideal customer profiles?
  • Validate segment specific use cases and create user-centric experiences. JTBD
  • The language they use to describe the pains your product is solving, so you can build your value proposition for different segments 

Typeform sets the perfect example of how to gather such data

Post-market fit

Breaking down activation


Evaluators are just browsing. Thank you.

They want to know that you understand their problem and that you can offer them a clear and short path to solving it. 

The metric that matters here is Time to value – the amount of time it takes new users to reach their first aha moment or activation event.

Evaluators are typically:

  • In a trial or demo phase—they’ve just started playing around with your product
  • Not installed or using real data
  • Not using your product in their current workflows
  • Still searching for a solution to a problem they are trying to solve

In short, guide evaluators to their “aha moment”

Good product people know the value of their product insight and out so they can tell you about it.

Exceptional product leaders are thinking about that value from the user’s perspective. They understand what’s the shortest path to value for users and know the best ways to WOW them.


Beginners understand how your product can meet their needs and deliver value—and they’re excited about it

They are product-qualified leads, they’re probably the warmest leads that your sales team is ever going to get.

These are the folks who are likely to be most interested in your best practices. Beginners want to learn how to use your product effectively and correctly so they may require extra support during this stage of their journey. They are very sensitive to friction so it’s important to eliminate blockers.

Beginners are typically:

  • Incorporating your product into their workflows
  • Starting to use real data and receiving tangible value
  • Not using advanced functionality or implementing sophisticated use cases
  • Feeling confident that your product is the best solution to solve their problem

How-to: create “aha” moments

Use cases

Video ask sets the perfect example. They reinvent what’s possible with video. For me, the aha was – the possibility to uplift website conversion by replacing the chat widget on my website with a video one.

  • Step-by-step guide on creating interactive content for the middle of your funnel.
  • Interactive content examples.
  • GitHub repo to use as a template.

The ability of a product to save you time or make you money makes or breaks a deal. Right? So how do we build such a straightforward content piece without paying me or an agency $30 000? 

One way could be to use Outgrow, which offers plenty of premade layouts you can play with. In my opinion, though, it is not ideal as it doesn’t offer the customization I need.

This is where we’d get a bit technical but bear with me for a second. I am not a developer either.

Enter Svelte – it helps you build WebApps fast and compiles into JavaScript.

What is the investment necessary?

2-3 hours of your time to do a break down of the calculations. If you truly know your customers, you know how they use your product, so that should be easy. If you don’t, I’d suggest starting from How to Segment for personalization. 

With basic HTML and JavaScript, you could go a long way and build a calculator in 10-15 hours.

Multiply this by your hourly rate and see if it’s worth the investment of your time.


You can always get a junior developer or a freelancer to build one for you in 10 hours. Multiply that by their hourly rate.

TOTAL INVESTMENT = 13-20 hours X hourly rate


Build your own

Following you can get a repository of this calculator. It will give you and the developer a common understanding.

Give before you take

Humans tend to return good deeds: use this social psychology law in user interface design to gain users’ trust and motivate engagement with your site or app.

Piktochart was generating the majority of its business organically, think SEO, capitalizing on the demand for infographics. During my time with the company, my job was to discover untapped potential in other verticals of the market.

We had to structure around 400 queries with different difficulty levels and a total volume of 3.5 million searches every month.

We found out that every month there are 900 000 people looking to build a business proposal or asking how a converting business proposal looks like. 

Get the SEO strategy template here 

We had the technology, know-how, and clients to validate the scope of our experiment. It turns out only 30% of business proposals get a positive response. Still, people spend hours researching best practices and creating business proposals. 

We adapted our product to satisfy that need and enable people to create a business proposal in 10 minutes. 

Website personalization

If website visitors don’t immediately see what they are looking for, they leave. Website conversion rates are less than 1.6% on average. To improve your results you could make your website respond like a human using artificial intelligence.

To improve face-to-face conversation, you naturally adapt your words when talking to someone else. It’s the same in business. Salespeople outperform websites by far because they adapt their pitch to their prospects. What if your website could do the same?

With predictive website personalization, you have the power to create website experiences that match the background, content, and behavior of each visitor.  

Let’s say you sell IT solutions to companies from different countries, including fashion. A problem would be a generic message that does not capture enough leads. 

By classifying anonymous website visitors based on several metrics including firmographic traits you could segment your website visitors and create individualized experiences that match the background, context, and behavior of each visitor. 

Clearbit’s Reveal web page. Impact on website conversion. Give example with a website of 40k visitors each month.

  • If you have a website with 
  • Get the guide and learn how to personalize based on industry, victor’s mood and much more.
  • Personalize dynamically based on industry, company headcount, etc.
  • Shorten lead forms to capture more leads. Enrich data later
  • GATE Website personalisation – Learn how to personalize large volume websites 
  • GATE Marketing realities slides Unless + Albacross for europe. Clearbit  Reveal + Unless for the U.S. 

Sales conversational intelligence

With tools such as Gong, you can gain critical insights into what works for your sales team, your deals. Then you can replicate the performance of your best closers and recreate the sales experiences that work for different users. The same applies to customer success. 

Start with user preferences

Understanding someone’s use case at the start of their trial would help you create guided experiences for beginners with different ICPs and automate adoption of your product. Gathering such data helps you set the foundations for retention.

Typeform tailors their lifecycle marketing and email drips to your specific use case and preferences.

Product onboarding


AdRoll helps you turn visitors into customers with advertising and email campaigns. Starting with such services is usually cumbersome and difficult, especially for people that are not tech savvy. Have you tried to set up facebook pixels properly? They eliminate that friction and guide people to product adoption by walking them through a step-by-step setup. 


A walkthrough is a little more in-depth—you’re taking users step-by-step through a set of actions that they need to take to achieve a specific outcome. 

Swivle is a brand asset management system. Not a very sexy service, but a necessity in companies managing thousands of files with branded content. Smaller companies might get away with using Google Drive or Dropbox for their file-sharing. Marketing departments using DAM systems save between 15-25% of their time.

The walkthrough shows new users the basic steps for adopting the product and offers them a consultation. Around 20% or people most interested (PQLs) book slots for in-depth consultations and set up of their account.  

How-to: help beginners adopt your product

Users are already excited about your product, they are in the group of people that went through your business-specific aha event. How do you enable them to experience the full value of your service, so they adopt it as a habit?

How-to guides and help articles 

  1. Segments how-to guides 
  2. Zapier’s pre-ready zaps
  3. Albacross’ video guides

Create guided walkthrough sequences for feature adoption

Duolingo removes the friction of learning a new language by incorporating elements of personalization into its onboarding UX sequence. The app directs new users through personalized onboarding funnels that are tailored to different levels of experience. The same can apply for adoption of different features of more complex products.

Contextual Onboarding via in-app guides

Systematize customer success and support

If you have a complex product you face a long time to value and cumbersome adoption. For example, Appcues and Office RnD are both SaaS companies with relatively complex offerings (long time to value). Both of the companies, at the time of writing the article, have a headcount of 70 employees and an average of 15% of their workforce onboarding customers. Otherwise, their newly signed up users will struggle to make the most out of their services and churn. 

Triggered Emails based on in-app activity

Drip Email campaigns to educate and nurture leads

Now that we agree that activation is building rapport and trust into your product.