Why growth activation matters

You’ve probably downloaded an app or visited a website and just closed it before getting much use out of it. You could have done this for a variety of reasons: Maybe the product seemed too daunting, or maybe there was a gated subscription. I’m sure this list can go on for pages.

In my opinion, a growth marketing funnel consists of three main pillars: acquisition, activation and retention. Activation is the second step in the funnel and involves pushing users to complete a desired behavior or action.

But the reality is, approximately 95.87% of iOS users drop off after day 30, according to Statista’s 2021 Q3 report. As a startup founder, how do you prevent leakage after spending significant resources to acquire people at the top of the funnel?

Finding the right metric

When building product features, the focus should be on how to push users to your activation metric.

The most important part of activation is identifying the right metric and rallying the entire team around it. This isn’t as simple as getting users from action A to action B (i.e., from install to sign up). What good does that do if the post-signup drop-off is 95%?

Instead, think of activation as getting users to a point where you know for sure that they will stay for a longer period of time. Facebook famously found that the “seven friends in 10 days” mantra was the metric that made users stay, so they pushed heavily on activating users to that point.

Which metrics separate customers who find value in your product from those who don’t?

Start by picking and prioritizing actions specific to your product. This can be platform-usage minutes, the number of messages a user sends, how many people a user follows, the number of times a user personalizes their avatar or anything that provides a signal on how users are finding value in your product.

Finding this metric may not come easily and will probably require slicing your data, but the output activation metric is crucial for targeting the right goals.

Simulation of what retention would look like if a SaaS platform activated users to certain usage minutes within the first week. Image Credits: Jonathan Martinez

In the above example (with sample data), a SaaS platform finds that it must get users to 25+ minutes of usage within the first week to avoid a major drop-off at the next point.