Your product’s value only goes as far as your customers' trust.

It’s that simple (well, at least in theory).

For example, without those who can vouch for your business or product, you risk losing momentum and your place among competitors. In short, your customers’ trust is at the heart of your product launch success

So, understanding the value of your customer lifecycle and journey is crucial to getting your go-to-market strategy right. 

As with most things inherent to GTM, your customers’ journeys will vary through each stage and look different case by case. But one essential part of your customer onboarding and retention efforts will be customer activation

Read on to learn about customer activation, some best practices to adopt, and the mistakes you should avoid.

What is customer activation?

Customer activation marks the moment your customer takes the next step in the customer journey. Put differently, this is when users choose to buy your product or sign up to trial your service. This term also covers every effort your teams make to motivate your customers to take action before they drop off. 

You can imagine how tricky this might be because your customers will move along their unique journeys in ways that might be hard to pin down. 

One way to really make the most of your user activation strategy is to create unique buyer personas so you know exactly who to target. This will also help you adapt quickly when personalizing marketing efforts to attract the right users. 

Customer activation strategies are also set into ‘milestones’ - moments when your efforts are paying off and you notice your customers are engaging with your product. Some of these milestones might look like this:

  1. Users have signed up to try your product and have now moved on to a paid subscription or option. This indicates your product must’ve solved some pain points enough to get new customers on your side. 
  2. Those re-engagement, ‘friendly reminder’ emails you keep sending to existing customers? When your buyers click, react, and choose your product over your competitors again, you’re doing it right. Go you.
  3. Another milestone that might be overlooked is the day-to-day onboarding and customer relationship building. Nurturing those relationships helps you build trust—a win-win and your way of making sure your customers stay happy. 

Ultimately, your activation strategies should always consider your customers first and your product second. 

Beyond just closing deals, you really need to look to more long-term, sustainable relationships. Without people to buy your products, without that trust in place, there’s no place in the market for your product, no matter how unique it is. Instead, speak to your product value by giving your customers a voice. That’s what activation strategies should be about.

So, let’s look at best practices to craft an effective activation strategy.

How to create a user activation strategy

If you really want to engage or reconnect with your customer base, here are a few ways to foster a mutually beneficial relationship.

1. First of all, know your audience!

Whenever you release a new product or feature, you need to be clear on the “who.” After all, your product is positioned to bring solutions to your customers, so familiarizing yourself with the people you’d like to reach is the best starting point. 

This means you’ll want clear customer segments and ideal customer profiles (ICPs) so you can directly adapt your marketing efforts to address these personas’ unique needs. Also, to really tailor your strategies, look at customer behavior. Pinpoint when in their journey they’re dropping off, becoming dormant, or engaging. The right customer data on hand will help you build a personalized yet adaptable plan. Without it, it’s a bit like feeling your way in the dark. 

Another good way to establish how you should interact with your users is to ask yourself whether you should just leave them be or if any inactivity requires a gentle push (if yes, email marketing would be great for this). 

2. Map out the ideal customer journey.

If product roadmaps are crucial for launches, consider your customer journey map as central to your activation strategy. 

The thought behind it is quite similar in that you’ll want to map out key touchpoints. To really make the most of your journey map, create unique touchpoints based on the customer personas you’ve developed throughout. Not only does this help you keep track of what’s next for and in your strategy, but it also helps you stay ahead of any necessary planning. 

Here’s another chance to leverage your existing customer data. By tracking a user’s behavior, you can determine at what stage in the journey they’re likely to take action—good or bad—and plan accordingly. 

In a nutshell, your customer journey map grants you access to your customers so you can more closely navigate the next steps to make the journey easier for them. 

3. Make sure the user experience is easy and intuitive.

Maybe this goes without saying, but… if your users are confused through the lifecycle, the less likely they will stick by your product or business. 

Once you’ve set a clear customer map in place, this part might come a bit easier. That is, if you have an idea of how each user should move along their journey, you can easily react to any potential roadblock so users can move on to the next stage without any added difficulty.

What does this look like in action? Think simplified signups or user dashboards that are easy to use and navigate. Ultimately, make sure your customers know how to take every step in the right direction.

4. Communicate your product value before and throughout your customer onboarding process. 

From the get-go, it’s crucial to nail your product story

You can onboard your customers better when you know how to effectively and directly explain your product’s value. Whether through interactive sessions, live demos, or useful content explaining upcoming product features, emphasizing how your users can solve a specific problem with your product can make a huge difference. 

Showing users the best ways to incorporate and utilize your product can increase customer loyalty and satisfaction and strengthen your company or brand narrative. Engage your users from the start and show them what’s achievable with your product. 

5. Set feedback loops to encourage open communication with your customers.

Arguably, open communication is the best way to show you care.

We’re likelier to open up about frustrations or voice our excitement when we feel listened to. This applies to your customer relationships. 

Since these individuals directly interact with your product or service, it’s worth focusing on what they have to say. Setting up feedback loops is the best way to ensure customers can directly communicate with you - or at least where they can turn to when encountering any issues. 

Tie this back to how you’d enhance the customer experience. Is it easy for your customers to reach your support team? What in-app communication platforms do you have in place? If it’s hard for your customers to contact you, you risk losing invaluable insights that could really power and inform your product strategy.  

6. Monitor performance and, from there, incentivize action or decide whether to change strategies. 

Finally and equally important, your performance.

This last tip involves everything we’ve covered up to now. You won't know how to motivate users without a clear understanding of your customer base and product journey. 

However, you probably already know what your customers and teams think about your product. While that’s great, your metrics best support your launch and product strategies. 

Some metrics to consider are conversion rates, retention rates, and product usage patterns. This data will help you identify what works and what doesn’t so you can decide whether to change or stay on course. There’s no harm in changing plans if you notice your customers are dropping off at a certain part of the journey. It’s always better to improve than keep what doesn’t work.

Regardless of where your users are in the customer journey, the following will help you guide them in the right direction and encourage them to trust your product. 

Customer activation mistakes to avoid

Now you know some of the essentials of customer activation, spotting mistakes you can easily avoid while pushing users to take action is useful.

There's such a thing as "too soon."

Though showing off everything great about your product might be tempting, you must step into your customers' shoes. Would they feel overwhelmed if you listed all the features that make your product unique? Think about the onboarding process before sharing everything with new or existing users.

In other words, don't jump right into all the problems your product solves. Instead, stick to the solution. In doing so, you can highlight your product value without speaking to all the other features that might be there to address different problems.

Gradually introduce these features and consider the customer journey. Do this and you can walk your users thoughtfully throughout, without sharing too much, too soon.

Complex and time-consuming tasks

No matter how clear your guides are or how helpful your content is, if a user is expected to spend too much time on a task, they'll probably grow frustrated or leave it altogether.

Though there's incredible value in educational, how-to content, this is better suited to helping customers navigate your product and their journey.

If, for example, you have too many one-time tasks in place, consider where these should go in the customer journey. So, instead of making new users give all their information at once, divide and simplify the onboarding process so they can gradually familiarize themselves with your product or service.

Remember, this is about user experience and building trust with users. Make tasks easier so they can tackle them on their own time and with little to no stress.

Ignoring your customer feedback

If customers are taking the time to review or give feedback on your product, don't leave them hanging.

That is, don't just let their feedback go to waste. If you spot thoughtful and constructive feedback, try acting on it. The last thing you want is to lose customers because they've become frustrated with a lack of responsiveness or are too confused with your product.

Most of these issues can be resolved; it just takes understanding your customers' pain points and communicating clearly with the teams involved so you can get a solution out faster and better.

First, this shows customers you care. Second, if you encounter a recurring issue that's been flagged, it's absolutely worth looking into it. This will help you improve your product and service to give customers the support they need. More importantly, reacting to this valuable feedback means customers will think you're responsive and reliable.

Key takeaways

We've covered quite a lot, so let's look at some of the most important tips to remember:

🤝 Trust is everything when developing a truly valuable product for customers.

📣 Communicate clearly, and don't forget to react and respond to your customer's feedback!

🍃 An essential part of seamless customer activation? An even better customer experience. Keep things easy to follow - intuitive interfaces and clear next steps are your way forward.

📈 With the right metrics, you can keep an eye on your strategies and improve them throughout. Look at what's working and find sustainable ways to make your product the best for your customers.