You have a SaaS product. This is what to do before calling the growth hackers.

Theodoros Moulos
10 min readAug 23, 2017

There are many cases where founders ask me to grow their web or mobile apps when those are not ready-to-grow yet.
- What does ready-to-grow mean?
- It means that they have implemented in their products all the procedures or metrics that will allow a growth hacker to define the proper tactics and tackle any growth issues.

Let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

In the lifecycle of every web app there are different stages (very often they are visualised as a funnel):
1 — User Acquisition (or top of the funnel) is when users engage with your brand, meaning that they subscribe to your app or that they express their interest via an exit intent or by adding an item to their shopping cart. For the sake of this post, we will consider the first: Thus, subscribing
2 — User Activation (or middle of funnel or conversion) is when users upgrade from the trial or the free version to the paid one. It is usually known as the moment that the users “glues” with a product or service. Upgrade is that moment… The process of user activation is a complex process that requires a lot of insights that will help you analyze customer behavior.
3 — User Retention or churn is when an activated customer stops the subscription with the app after a short period of time, typically after one or two months.

So, before calling the growth hackers to fix your user acquisition problem, you should take care of the user activation and user retention ones yourself. This is how.

Before getting into conclusions or decisions you need to ask yourself: “Do I have enough information to jump to conclusions? Do I have statistically significant data to move on?”

If all you have is 100 sign-ups in your product’s lifecycle, don’t spend the time or money to fix anything else than the top-of-funnel issue you are facing.

Remember: “If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late” as Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn stated a couple of years ago.

So, nothing should stop you from doing one of the below which are the typical things to do to get initial and relevant traction:

  • Ask your friends and family to test your app
  • Launch on betalist or producthunt that will give you the initial audience to test with. Yes, be ready to “sacrifice” those early adopters.
  • Run some performance marketing tests (PPC) to bring in relevant traffic and see how these users perform.
  • Give a special offer that one cannot refuse to use your product.

Getting initial traction is not the topic of this article and we have posted in the past other articles about this exact topic:

* How we got 1000 upvotes on producthunt
* How to get early traction for your product

The leakage of leads on a typical funnel. Fix that and then start spending on PPC

The questions that will be answered in this article are:

  • How do I activate my customers?
  • How do I stop losing revenue every month? Decreasing the churn rate is a quick win.

The short answer to both questions is: “By knowing your customer and what’s the definition of your customer’s success

“Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing [until you have enough data]. Euripides”
[..] is my addition

But let’s move to the long answer:

1 — Knowing your customer.

For good or bad, not every customer counts. You need to identify every single customer and answer the difficult question: “Is she/he the customer I want?” Every moment you spend with the “wrong” customer is a bad investment, and an opportunity cost you lose from addressing the “correct” one.

In order to know that, you can use APIs or applications that will analyze the email or domain the customer used, to collect all the information you need and get a well informed decision. Tools that you could use are of type “contact enrichment” and here is a list of my favorite services. For the full list please check here:

  • which provides powerful products and data APIs to help your business grow. Contact enrichment, lead generation, financial compliance, and more…
  • to find qualified leads and their email addresses in a matter of seconds.
  • that provides you with contact details about social network profiles. also
  • which is a subscription Analytics and Insights: One click and you get hundreds of valuable metrics and business insights! includes all information from your social customer’s profile

2 —Identifying where your customer came from.

Which channel? Was it via Facebook’s campaigns? via PR? via Linkedin campaign or maybe via the traditional account management? Sometimes, because we don’t analyse the channel properly (called attribution channel in marketing lingo), we jump into conclusions too early. Try to utilise channels that are “objective” such as:

  • Not friends and family, they will always buy your products
  • Not your home market, they know you already and your awareness will boost your sales anyhow
  • A small audience in your target country. Somewhere, they will have no clue about you and they will just see your product.

3 — Knowing your product.

Knowing your product will help you identify a)the metrics to qualify your customers and also b)to measure the value they get through you product.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:
How or where is your product adding value? What are the optimal user flows it covers in the best possible way? What kind of usage will make the customer happy, wanting to use it again and again (and also to upgrade to more users)? What are the personas of customers you should target? Is your product the kind-of-product with high churn rates by design i.e. a recruiting SaaS app is a highly churn service. You find your candidate and then you pause your campaign till next time that you have an opening. (this is called happy churn)

4 —Knowing your customer’s behaviour (related to activation).

Activation: Select carefully where your resources will be delivered

Assuming you have 100 sign-ups Ask yourself if you know any of the below:

  • when they have an issue, do you know what they see in your app that will allow you to support them properly?
  • How many times those 100 users are using your system? What’s the cohort of the repetitive use of the same user?
A typical cohort analysis on logins. Logins demonstrate engagement
  • How often do they login to your system?
  • How often are they receiving something from you? A slack or email notification for example? If so, what do they do with that? Do they engage? This is important as you need to establish a communication channel with your customers. Assuming that you offer a lot of communication options (slack, chat, email, SMS) you need to identify the channel that works for the customer. Then you need to use that one.
  • After logging-in what do they do in your system?
  • Do they use your web app properly? i.e. Do they create beautiful campaigns or widgets or whatever your product is about?
  • If there is a snippet to install, do you know if they installed it?
  • How many of the registered customers ask for support via the chat channel or email ?
  • If everything is in place, did they go live with your product?If so, what does that looks like? Would you be happy if that was your campaign?
  • Out of those 100 that have signed-up, how many:
    ** did they installed your snippet
    ** did they actually went live with your product/system?
    ** did they upgraded to the paid version?

Remember: The idea of the above questions is not to give the answer right here & right now but to answer with a simple YES or NO. YES, I KNOW or NO, I DON’T.

In order to activate users you need to implement:

Impersonation (also known as session highjacking). When impersonating another user, the administrator has access to exactly what that user would have access to in your system, including the same menus, modules, and dashboards. Remember, your system should record anything the administrator does while impersonating another user as being done by that user.
You should use this feature to test what different users can do in the system and to perform actions for them on their behalf as you will avoid questions like: “what do you see in the right corner of your screen etc”
Impersonation should always come with user’s permission as you need to a) Inform him that you see the exact same things he/she sees and b) Get his permission of doing so. Normally, this is happening via a security token that needs to be exchanged.

Concierge onboarding (also known as assisted onboarding) means getting on a phone (or Skype, Hangout, etc.) call with customers who sign up for your product and helping them 1-on–1. It is most effective when your product is complex, expensive, or requires behavior change. Now, just imagine the kind of investment for doing that for the “wrong” customer. For the customer that is highly possible to churn next month. What a waste of resources that could be, right?

Warning! Concierge onboarding should be used after giving a fair chance to the self-service onboarding. It is very common, out-of-fear, for start-ups to replace signup button with the ask-a-demo buttons. This is a huge mistake especially for web apps that are meant for self-service as it’s like accepting that your system is not good enough. Also, it creates two more problems:

  • It damages the perception of the customer about your app
  • It doesn’t scale. Soon enough, you will not be able to grow unless you address the onboarding process properly and automatically.

In-app metrics, that could be mixpanel or another custom system to handle all kinds of events.

Crafting a dashboard as collecting the information without a correct visualization tool is meaningless. The customer success department should have all the information necessary to judge and act upon.
An interactive dashboard is vital because it will allow you to:
* Separate the important metrics out of the hundreds of metrics you capture.
* By interactive, I mean the possibility to intervene by adding some flags as a result of an insightful opinion, as a result of a smart “rating algorithm” or after contacting the customer. Proper flagging will allow you to separate the wheat from the chaff and keep investing in the “correct customers”

5 — Knowing your customer’s behaviour (related to churn).

Churn: You can reduce churn if you focus to the correct segment

Now, it’s the time to identify those customers that are possible to churn.

And here are the questions about your customer’s behaviour related the churn probability

  • If they have multiple options, did they select a system that will give you the longer LTV (life-time-value)? If not, don’t bother. Let them churn.
  • Is their campaign meant for success? Is the customer in a stage where utilizing your system will bring them value or did they select your system by mistake, while in reality, they were in need of another system
  • How is their campaign performing?
  • Do they have reasons to be happy with your product?
  • Do they get the value they are meant to get?
  • Do you see any quick pieces of advice you could give them as a domain expert that could assist their campaign to perform better?
  • Could you do something to increase their virality rate?

Here the only thing you can do is to create a dashboard collecting the answers to those questions and present those to the customer success department along with the information from the payment and invoicing systems.

Remember, a dashboard is just a tool. The idea is to find the “who” behind the total number. The “who’s” (names, emails, company names, social profiles) will allow you to contact them and support them properly. If not for the “who’s”, it’s just another statistic.

6 — Collecting feedback via Net Promoter Score

We all hate getting feedback, but there is no other way. Feedback when it comes from many customers should be considered as an asset and affect the roadmap of the product.

Your app’s net promoter score is the likelihood of a user to refer your app to someone else such as a friend, family member, or acquaintance. It uses a ranking on a 1–10 scale. HelpScout defines the scale benchmarks with 9–10 as promoters, that is users who are most likely to recommend your app, 7–8 as passives, and everyone else as detractors.

Only promoters and detractors decide your net promoter score. Passives are not included in the equation. Graphic courtesy of HelpScout.

You can calculate your net promoter score by subtracting the percent of detractors from the percent of promoters. Aim for a score of 50 or more, and keep in mind that your score can creep as low as -100.

To boost your net promoter score, you need to:
a) focus on making real-time customer support a priority and emphasize the sense of urgency in your response team but also b) focus on addressing the weak points of your web app. People will leave despite how good your marketing efforts are or how fast you support them. they need to see the value your product brings to them. Concentrate there.


Whose job is to prepare the web or mobile app for growth and turning it into a growth-ready app?

Well, it depends from the structure of the founding team. In a fully structured team, I would say, it’s the CTO that should overtake this task. Sometimes, the CTO could be part timer or outsourced and the CEO might have no technical expertise, in which case it’s best is to outsource this topic to a growth hacker or someone technical with growing app experience.

The good news are that a great product with those elements is “destined” to rock! In the opposite case, even a great product with a great potential may fail.

Your choice!



Theodoros Moulos

Theodore has 25+ years of experience in running successful and profitable software products. Currently, he is the Group CEO of Viral-loops and GrowthRocks