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The Ultimate Guide to User Activation
(With Real-World Examples)

Topics of this guide


User activation is the lifeblood of any SaaS product. 

As founders and product owners, you know that acquiring a new user is just the beginning. The real challenge lies in transforming that passive sign-up into an engaged, active user who sees genuine value in what you offer. Every touchpoint, every feature, and every communication can either nudge a user towards activation or push them away. 

This blog dives deep into the strategies and tactics that can turn the tide in your favor, ensuring that your users don’t just sign up, but actively engage, giving your product the momentum it deserves. It will help you prevent churn and boost MRR (a dream come true!). 

Dive in, and learn the art of effective SaaS user activation.

What is User Activation?

User activation is the path a fresh user embarks upon, right from signing up, to the pivotal point where they experience the true value and promise of the product. It's not a mere state; it's an enriching journey.

Every SaaS product has its unique features that encapsulate its essence. As users engage with these pivotal features, they approach their 'aha moment.' This is the instant they truly grasp the value of the product, which often motivates them to continue using and possibly even upgrading their service.

To grasp the concept of user activation, it's often helpful to walk through a practical example. Let’s consider a project management tool, a staple in many businesses aiming for organized workflows and effective team collaborations.


Here, user activation might be as straightforward as a user creating their first project, 

It signals a user's transition from mere browsing or exploration to active engagement. By creating a project, the user is essentially laying the groundwork for future tasks, collaborations, and milestones.

When is a User Considered Activated?

A user is deemed 'activated' when they experience the central promise or benefit of the product in alignment with their specific needs or goals. This isn't just about trialing a feature—it's about recognizing and benefiting from its inherent value.

Every product has a set of "activation actions." 

These actions, when completed, signify that a user has transitioned from mere exploration to true engagement. The nature of these actions is deeply tied to the product's core offering.



Let's take the example of various SaaS applications — 

  • Task Management Tools: Activation may be observed when a user structures their initial project. This shows they're not just browsing, but are actively seeking to organize, delegate, and manage workflows.
  • Email Marketing Platforms: It might be when they craft and send out their inaugural email blast. This indicates a user's transition from understanding the tool to actively reaching out to an audience.
  • Collaboration Tools: Activation might be evident when a team has its first collaborative session or when a document receives its first set of collaborative edits. This shows that users are leveraging the platform for teamwork.

While the specific "activation action" will differ based on the product, the underlying tenet remains unchanged: It marks the user's transition from passive interest to active engagement. It's the tangible bridge between simply using a tool and reaping undeniable value from it.

Identifying these crucial activation actions isn't the end game. For businesses, the challenge is two-fold: firstly, to determine these actions, and secondly, to streamline and optimize the user experience to encourage these actions. This could involve enhancing onboarding processes, offering guided tutorials, or providing timely nudges that steer users towards these vital interactions.

As we continue, we'll explore various strategies and real-world examples to better comprehend activation actions across diverse SaaS platforms and how they can be fine-tuned for maximum user engagement.

What is The Importance of User Activation?

User activation has a significant impact on the MRR of a company. It also directs how the product shapes up based on user data and not just 'gut feeling' or what the engineers 'think' is the right feature. 

Here are 7 reasons why user activation is important for survival and growth of your B2B SaaS business —

1. Keeping Users Around:

User activation is the bedrock of lasting relationships between your product and its users. When individuals recognize the tangible value of a product, they're more inclined to maintain their subscription or even upgrade. This consistent engagement not only translates to a more predictable revenue stream but also reduces the unpredictability and costliness associated with churn. 

A stable user base and predictable revenues are the lifeblood of a growing SaaS business. This allows for better financial planning, strategic decision-making, and confidence in future investments, be it in product development, scaling efforts, or talent acquisition.

2. Getting Users Involved:

Deep user engagement creates a symbiotic relationship. When users find themselves regularly depending on a product, they're not just passive users but active participants. They share feedback, request features, and raise issues more proactively. Engaged users can become your external product managers. Their insights and demands can help in refining the roadmap, guiding the product's evolution in sync with genuine market needs, thus reducing the risk of misguided investments.

3. More Value from the Investment:

Beyond basic functionalities, software usually offers a range of advanced features. As users delve deeper, exploring these sophisticated tools, they’re more likely to view the product as indispensable. 

Fully engaged users who extract maximum value from your software signal two crucial business strategies. Firstly, there’s potential for upselling or cross-selling advanced features. Secondly, a high ARPU means more financial flexibility for business expansion or increased R&D.

4. Users Become Advocates:

In the B2B world, word-of-mouth can be priceless. Satisfied users don’t just stick to your product; they often become its biggest promoters within their professional circles, at conferences, or on industry forums. 

Each satisfied, activated user can potentially reduce your marketing and sales efforts. Organic referrals, coming from trusted peers in the industry, often have higher conversion rates, ensuring a quality user base and significantly reducing the CAC.

5. Directing Product Evolution:

User activation isn’t a one-and-done event. Activated users frequently interact with the software, uncovering its strengths and potential areas for improvement. 

This feedback loop is invaluable. 

Instead of shooting in the dark, founders can make data-informed decisions, ensuring that the product continues to meet users' evolving needs, enhancing user satisfaction, and ensuring long-term product relevance in the market.

6. Sharpening Marketing Strategies:

The insights gained from understanding user activation can be a lighthouse for your marketing endeavors. Knowing what hooks users can lead to more targeted, efficient, and impactful marketing campaigns. 

Every dollar spent on marketing should ideally have a tangible ROI. 

By aligning marketing strategies with real user engagement patterns, founders can optimize ad spending, create resonating messaging, and thus improve the overall effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

7. Enhanced User Satisfaction:

Every SaaS founder knows the cost of acquiring a new customer versus retaining an existing one. Ensuring user satisfaction through smooth activation processes means fewer complaints, reduced support overheads, and an overall stronger brand reputation. 

A strong brand reputation is a force multiplier in the B2B space. It paves the way for easier negotiations, fruitful collaborations, partnerships, or even lucrative buyout offers. Moreover, satisfied users reduce the churn rate, ensuring consistent revenue and positive brand equity.

What Are the Most Common Obstacles in User Activation?

Navigating the journey to boost user activations has its challenges. Knowing these challenges and how to overcome them can make the process smoother.

1. The Struggle with Onboarding:

The first impression lasts, and for many SaaS tools, that initial experience comes through onboarding. A clunky onboarding can push users away, leaving them confused or even frustrated. It's like handing someone a new gadget without an instruction manual. If users can't get past the basics, they're unlikely to dive deeper.



How to Tackle It:

  • Guided Tours: Take users on a journey. With clear, interactive steps, you can show them the ropes and ease their way into the product.
  • Short Videos: Sometimes, seeing is understanding. A quick video breaking down the main features can do wonders.
  • Task Lists: Give users a roadmap. With a checklist of tasks, they can navigate the initial stages and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Feedback Channels: Listen to your users. Ask them about their onboarding experience and continuously tweak it based on their insights.

2. Lack of User Engagement:

You've onboarded users, but they're not engaging. It's like inviting someone to a party, and they're just standing in a corner. Whether they don't grasp the product's full scope or find it uninteresting, this is a hurdle you need to address.




Ways to Boost Engagement:

  • Make It Personal: Users love it when things are tailored for them. Adjust their experience based on their preferences or the company’s requirements.
  • Stay in Touch: Regularly update your users about new features or tips. Think of newsletters or pop-up messages in the app.
  • Metrics Matter: Keep an eye on user activity. By understanding their behavior, you can adjust your strategy.
  • Build a Community: Forums or groups can help users share experiences, ask questions, and even build connections.

3. Resource and Budget Constraints

For smaller B2B firms or startups, the budget can be tight. If funds are spread too thin, it might compromise the product’s quality or its marketing reach.




Stretching Every Dollar:

  • Focus is Key: Concentrate on vital features that pack the most punch. Deliver what users truly need first.
  • Taste Before Purchase: Introducing a freemium version can lure more users in. They can try the basics, and if they see value, they might spring for the full version.
  • Team Up: Partnerships can be powerful. By joining forces with other companies, you can pool resources and expand your reach.
  • User-driven Changes: Let your users guide the evolution. Their feedback can help you prioritize and get the most bang for your buck.

4. Retention Troubles:

Drawing users in is one thing, but keeping them is another. If users drift away after their first few interactions, it's a sign they’re not seeing long-term value.




Keeping Users Hooked:

  • Keep Asking: Use surveys to continuously gauge user satisfaction. If there's an issue, it's better to know sooner than later.
  • Rewards Work: Loyalty programs can keep users coming back. Everyone loves a perk now and then.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Regular webinars or training sessions can reinforce the product's value and show users new ways to benefit from it.
  • Stay Fresh: Regularly sprinkle in new features or tweaks, keeping in step with what's trending in the industry. Users will appreciate that you're on the ball.

What Are The Most Popular User Activation Strategies?

1. Guided Product Tours for First-Time Users

When someone moves into a new house, they often take a tour to familiarize themselves with the space. Similarly, a Guided Product Tour introduces a new user to your software, showing them the basics and where everything is located. It takes away the fear many feel when faced with a new platform.


👉 Think of how Slack introduces new users. Instead of making users find their way around, Slack holds their hand, taking them through important steps like creating workspaces or adding team members. This approach reduces fear and uncertainty and speeds up the process of getting to know the tool.

How to Implement:

  • Use tooltips to highlight primary functions.
  • Offer pop-up explanations for complex sections.
  • Make the tour skippable for more experienced users.
  • Allow users to restart the tour whenever they wish.

Think of guided tours as giving your users a map of a new city. With it, they can explore confidently, discovering your software's main attractions. Without it, they might miss out on key features or get lost and frustrated.

2. Gradual Introduction with Progressive Onboarding

Imagine being handed a book that’s been opened to the middle – it’s confusing, right? That’s how some users feel when every feature of a software is thrown at them at once. Progressive onboarding, however, introduces users to features gradually, depending on their needs and pace.



👉 Asana doesn't throw everything at the user from the get-go. Instead, users start by learning the basics, and as they get comfortable, they're introduced to advanced functionalities. It’s like reading a book from the start, understanding every chapter before moving to the next.

How to Implement:

  • Segment your features from basic to advanced.
  • Monitor user behavior to determine when they're ready for more advanced functionalities.
  • Provide supportive content like videos or articles for complex features.

3. Tailored Experiences with User Personalization



Everyone likes to feel special. 

Personalizing a user's experience with your product makes them feel like the software was built just for them. Customizable dashboards or content that aligns with user preferences can drive higher engagement.

👉 HubSpot allows users to change their dashboard views according to what's essential for them. Platforms like Asana adjust onboarding based on user objectives, ensuring each user's unique needs are catered to from the start.

How to Implement:

  • Allow users to set preferences upon first login.
  • Adapt your software's UI based on user behavior and feedback.
  • Use machine learning or AI to suggest features or tools a user might find useful based on their activity.

4. Keep the Conversation Going with In-App Messaging and Support

It's always great to have someone to talk to when you're lost or have a question. In-app messaging and support are like friendly guides that are always there to help, advise, or introduce new features, ensuring users never feel left in the dark.




👉 Intercom, a B2B messaging platform, keeps an open line with its users. Whether it's giving them a nudge to try a new feature or assisting them with a query in real-time, they ensure users are always informed and supported.

How to Implement:

  • Integrate chatbots to offer instant solutions to common queries.
  • Use in-app notifications for updates or feature announcements.
  • Offer channels for feedback, so users can share their experiences and needs.

How is user activation tracked and measured?

Instead of relying on a single metric, it's crucial to understand and monitor a range of indicators. Together, they paint a comprehensive picture of how users are engaging with, finding value in, and committing to your software.

Time to First Value (TTFV)

This metric identifies how quickly a user perceives the worth of your software after signing up.

Users want instant gratification. The faster they recognize your software’s value, the more trust and confidence they place in it, making them more likely to stay and even upgrade. Delayed TTFV may result in losing the user to easier-to-use competitor platforms.

For example, for CRM software, TTFV measures the time from signing up to when a user adds their initial contact (if that's the activation step).


TTFV = First significant action timestamp - Sign-up timestamp.

Activation Rate

This metric measures the percentage of new users who carry out key actions indicating active product usage.

It reflects how many users understand and tap into the core value of your product soon after signing up. A low activation rate can hint at issues in onboarding, feature clarity, or software stability.

For example, if only 300 out of 1,000 new users in a document editor create a document, the activation rate is 30%.


Activation Rate (%) = (Users completing key action / Total new users) x 100.

Conversion from Trial to Paid

This metric shows the percentage of users switching from a trial to a paid version.

A higher conversion rate reflects that your product’s primary features resonate with users, motivating them to invest. Conversely, low conversion might suggest issues with perceived value, pricing, or the trial experience.

In a software offering a two-week trial, if 120 of 500 users become paying customers, the conversion rate is 24%.


Conversion Rate (%) = (Users converting to paid / Total trial users) x 100.

Feedback and Support Tickets

The count of queries or feedback from new users during initial use. 

A surge in such tickets may point to product issues or user confusion, signaling a need for improved clarity or feature adjustment.

For instance, if a specific feature generates 100 tickets in a week, it suggests that the feature needs revisiting.


Count the number of tickets or feedback from new users in a chosen time frame.

Feature Adoption

It evaluates how often secondary features are used by the user base.

Identifying underused features can help in refining the product, optimizing training resources, or reevaluating product-market fit.

For example, in project management software, if task assignment is widely used but Gantt charts aren't, it indicates a potential area for improvement or education.


Feature Adoption Rate (%) = (Users using a specific feature / Total active users) x 100.

Onboarding Completion Rate

A measure of the percentage of new users completing the entire introduction to your software.

A high rate implies that users find the process beneficial and user-friendly. Low rates might suggest an overly complex or unengaging onboarding process.

Let's say a software tool has a series of onboarding steps and 450 out of 1,000 users finish all. The onboarding completion rate is 45%.


Onboarding Completion Rate (%) = (Users completing onboarding / Total new users) x 100.

What's Next?

After diving deep into the complexities of user activation through this guide, it's time to reflect on the actionable steps you can implement to supercharge your user engagement. 

As you move forward, ponder on this: The journey between sign-up and loyal, engaged users is filled with opportunities and challenges. How can you refine that path to ensure not just an increase in numbers but in the quality of user experience?

If you're tired of users signing up and ghosting, or if they’re scratching their heads wondering how things work, we're here to help.

Our track record speaks volumes. We've transformed SaaS onboarding for numerous businesses, leading to greater user retention and engagement.


We handle the complexities of onboarding, freeing up invaluable hours for you. Focus on your product and let us fine-tune the user journey.

Don't just close this tab and decide to still struggle with user onboarding all by yourself. Click here to learn more about Inturact and reach out to us.


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