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How to use emails to improve activation

The first two weeks in your relationship with a new customer are critical. During those first weeks people are deciding if they’re going to pick you, pick a competitor, or pick no one at all.

In web and mobile apps, after sign up, there are almost always more things someone needs to do to be successful. This is commonly called an “Activation Funnel”.

Most activation funnels make people confused

The most common thing you’ll see is a funnel that is not really a funnel at all. Instead of a clear path, people are offered a jumbled mess of things to do.

Jumbled Mess - Show images

When faced with a barrage of choices, most people will turn off their brain and make no choice. Without a clear path forward, people will abandon you completely.

  • “It’s too complicated”
  • “I didn’t know where to start”
  • “I didn’t feel comfortable sharing that information”

Your buffet of options was well intentioned. Of course it was. It serves experts well, giving them the array of choices. Most people are not experts and benefit greatly from some guidance. Especially when they’re in unfamiliar territory.

You should be opinionated about what people do first… like video games

Video games do a great job of helping people start. Most video games have a “tutorial” mode where they introducing you to the mechanics of the game.

Video game tutorial

  • Here’s how you jump… GREAT!
  • Here’s how you slide under an object…. GREAT
  • Here’s how you slide, then jump…. GREAT

They teach you the basics. Then they teach you how to string those basics together so you can do more advanced things in the game.

What about in your product or with your business?

What is the path someone takes to “Activate”?

Do you have a linear path from 1 to 2 to 3? Or do people have to make up their own minds about where to start?

Take a look at the funnel below:

Actual Funnel - Show images

Some of you may have noticed that it looks like we’re getting a bad conversion from step 2 to step 3 in our funnel above. People “Create a Project” but many people drop off before they “Invite a Collaborator”.

That’s a great place to use an email.

Send emails when people get stuck in your funnel

Since you’ve got your funnel in a nice linear flow, it makes it easier to measure how you’re doing.

How many people make it to each step in the funnel? What happens when we add perfectly timed emails to help people get to the next step?

Take a look at how we might add some emails to improve our funnel for our project management app:

Emails in your funnel

Delay your emails to give people time to complete the step.

Each of those emails goes out on a time delay to give someone time to complete the step. But if they don’t…. there’s an email when someone fails to get from step 1 to 2. And more emails if someone doesn’t make it from step 2 to 3.

Increase relevance by matching the message to the step.

The way you write the email can be perfectly tailored to the things someone has done in your app. This helps you avoid sounding generic. As you’re writing you can now visualize the person you’re writing to and how they’ve engaged with you so far.

What does your activation funnel look like?

In it’s something like: activation funnel

If you sign up but don’t send data there are 3 emails that get sent. If you send data, but don’t pick a paid plan, there are emails for that too.

Your activation funnel is a great opportunity to start building that relationship with someone new.

This week we focused on thinking about activation funnels. What does your activation funnel look like? Can you draw it out on a piece of paper? Do you have different funnels for different types of users? enables you to create targeted, triggered email campaigns to send to your users when they get stuck in your funnel. Get rescuing with our free trial!