22+ Activation Growth Hacks & Marketing Checklist.

I share some of the best activation marketing strategies in a detailed checklist format to help improve activation rates for your SaaS product.
by Dan Siepen
If you work in SaaS, there's a good chance you understand what Activation means and why it's important to understand and calculate when running a product.

For those that don't know in simple terms, activation means how users first interact with your product and then measuring the success of these first interactions. As an example, activation for a SaaS product may include (depending on your product) measuring the onboarding process through the tutorial/product tour pop-ups, key pages with the product they've viewed, creating their first template, etc.

Nailing the first experience of a product for a user is a goal many startups aim to improve. Measuring your activation rare is the next primary metric to measure after users have signed up through an acquisition source. Products do all this great work to bring a user to a website and highlight the USP's/value of signing up, but if you have a poor activation rate (those who have been acquired who then go onto being customers), then you've got leaks within your funnel.

You want to ensure you're improving your activation rate through optimisation + testing new strategies. Below I have a few strategies that may be able to help you with curated resources that I've enjoyed reading + got a lot of good value from.

Enjoy 🙂

Personalised Onboarding & Product Tours

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1. Personalise your Onboarding flows + makes sure it's easy to understand

Personalisation is key when onboarding new users. You want them to feel that you and your product understand their problems. Additionally, this helps for them to understand the features of your product and how it can solve their problem. They need to realise this fast.

Different personalisation strategies to focus on when personalising your onboarding process can include;

- User behaviour - e.g. possible from a different landing page
- Users by roles - e.g. different copy for those who are CMO's compared to CFO's
- User State - e.g. new signups vs trial users can be different

You can almost personalise anything.

2. Use a tool like Appcues or checkpoints to highlight key features

There's a few tools on the market that can help with onboarding but Appcues is definitely one of the leaders.

They really do make it easy and speed up the implementation process compared to devs doing a custom job. Has lots of amazing features that make onboarding really targeted.

Extra Reading or Resources:

Check out Appcues
3. Use Loom or a video tool to build a bank of "educational" videos for new users

Loom is amazing if you haven't used it. A quick strategy to show off to new users in particular, is do various loom recordings for your features. You can then collect these and put into emails for onboarding and also create an education library within the product that users can engage with anytime.

4. Are you using in-app notifications to highlight new features of the product? Can you segment users based on user behaviour with how you message these updates?

In-app notifications are really powerful to notify users of updates. For example I always enjoy the new features updates that Webflow shares. It doesn't feel intrusive and it's valuable.

There are numerous tools on the market that you can integrate where you can do pop-ups, side banners, etc.

5. Find a way to engage new users to understand more about the roadmap and what's coming up

I'm a big fan of companies that share their roadmap. I really do think it can help retain users and excite new users to know what's coming up.

This an amazing example of a public roadmap by a company in Australia called Up. I know for a fact a lot of people within the tech ecosystem are big fans + mates who are currently users of Up.

6. Proactive and Reactive Onboarding flows - what's the difference?

I included a great article below for you to check out. In it's simplest definitions;

- proactive onboarding is when you know the exact path to turn them from "aha" to an activated users

- reactive onboarding is when a user has past the activated phase and has made an action.

Knowing the difference in these flows will ensure you optimise your flows based on the users' stage.

7. Templates for onboarding to make it easier for users to engage

I don't see many SaaS startups/products doing this but I think they really should. Having pre-defined templates really do make it easier to value the power of a product.

A great example of a product doing this is Notion. Included a link below to see how they do it.

8. Be clever with your app real-estate - think of smart ways to provide info to users

Don't overcrowd your real-estate, however don't have too much leftover space. Make the most of it with clever links, including pages to educational videos or "how-to" guides to make it easy for users to know helpful information is accessible fast.

Email Automation

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9. Send Tailored Welcome Education Email Series for Nurturing - don't overcomplicate them

I know for myself and I'm sure many of you are the same, but I don't always pay attention when it comes to the onboarding process, or going through the "checkpoints".I usually skip them fast so I can get stuck straight into doing what I signed up to the product for.

In order to make sure users don't skip vital information which can hurt activation, definitely include gifs + videos into emails. Included a resource below which has some great examples.

10. Setup a "Get Started" email series, using gifs and videos within the emails

This speaks for itself and everyone does welcome emails, but how effective are yours? Examples for your inspiration below.

11. Segment personalised messages or texts to those who haven't engaged with emails or checkpoints - offer them something

SMS/Text messages are a good option for personalised onboarding. It only makes sense if you collect mobile numbers in your signup forms (and actually need their number for the product). Text messages can have incredible open rates, so it's a great option to consider if it makes sense for you.

Retargeting Ads - Facebook Ads, Google Ads (and other networks)

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12. Testimonials, Social Proof (such as case studies) + How-to Ads Ads across Facebook, Google Ads + more.

I really do think a lot of early stage startups in particular who are in the P/M fit stage or trying to achieve traction, don't do the basics of retargeting or understand the customer journey well.

When a user signs up or even visits your site to consider signing up, you need to remind them everywhere why your product is the solution they need. Share case studies, testimonials, blog content + whatever content. Share anything that is high-value.

13. Promote High-valued content focusing on solutions using the platform.

Share ultimates guides, blog content on top strategies, case studies, user persona use case blog content, videos, tutorials, templates + more. Share content that helps users get the most out of your app.

14. Get users early to get involved in the "community" of your product or platform through Webinars or Facebook Groups

Not only is engagement with the application crucial for activation & retention, but getting users involved in the community around your product really helps ensure they convert to paid and "stick" customers.

Whether doing weekly webinars or invite them to a Facebook, Slack or Circle community group, this will help to engage users and help encourage them to participate and increase changes of word of month.

15. Use FOMO in ads to help create scarcity

A great way to encourage users to sign up and make a desired action is using FOMO strategies. A quick example running an ad highlighting to your target market that you're doing a Beta mode with limited users and if anyone missed out they have to wait for 3 months.

It could be anything, but this scarcity approach can get potential users excited. It's a great way to find your "champion" users who form the base for validation.

16. Focus on video ads with content promotion + use customer support/FAQ videos via ads

Similar to the retargeting example above, runs some small budget ads based on user behaviour segmenting, promoting valuable content for keeping users engaged. Showing off that you're supportive as much as possible can definitely help with retention.

17. Use display remarketing/video remarketing via Google Ads Display or YouTube Ads

Whilst Facebook + Instagram ads is one channel, make sure you can be seen everything. All of this can be low-budget cost. You want to be seen everywhere :)

Community (Build from Day 1)

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18. Build a community from Day 1

With a plethora of new products coming to the market each day, there's a good chance your niche or industry has a lot of various options that your target marketing and ideal customers will be looking for. Standing out has never been more challenging.

So, how can you stand out and win customers over other products? Focus on building a community from day one. Building a community is the new moat. It's now the new competitive advantage that startups are now focusing on to engage users. It's sustainable and provides a defensibility from other products.

19. Build a Facebook, Slack or Circle App community for your customers

In support of the above, there are a great array of options of platforms to help build community. You all know Slack and Facebook Groups are great options.

Another very good option to consider is Circle. It's been talked a lot by top community builders, makers and marketers on Twitter.

20. Provide live chat and an easy way for customers to choose a time that suits them

Make sure that it's easy for users to know where to contact you and have the ability to ask questions anytime about your product. It's important for customers to know they will get answers fast + they are being spoken to a real human.

21. Run a Podcast and share content within the community + send to new users

Whilst it seems everyone is running a podcast at present, it can play more of a role than simply for marketing & acquuring new users. It's a great medium even for activation & retention.

Having a podcast about your niche or around your product solution illuminates authority and positions you as someone who has influence in the field. Again, it's another defensibility strategy to help retain users. A podcast does take up some time, but you can run a podcast anywhere and there's so many cheap solutions for editing.

22. Announce New Features to the community

I mentioned in-app notifications earlier but that's not the only place you should announce nee or upcoming features. Make sure to share updates your community, email list, followers on social media + more. It's about cerating that "hype" around your product + sharing across these channels makes it easier to share with their networks.

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