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Finding (and leveraging) activation milestones

Alberto Incisa

Mar 18, 2024


When you’re running a B2B SaaS, figuring out how to get customers really using and getting value from your product is key. 

This isn’t just about them signing up or poking around a bit; it’s about helping them hit those moments where they see what your product can really do for them.

Activation is the first step for retention.

This guide is all about activation—what it is, how to track it, and how to make it work for your customers and your product.

What is activation? 

Think of activation as the point where your customers start getting real value out of your product.

It’s when they go from just having an account to actually using your product in a way that benefits them. 

It’s about getting to that first "aha!" moment as quickly and smoothly as possible.

If you want to learn more about activation in general (this one you’re reading is a practical guide) check out this article

Activation vs. Onboarding

There’s a difference between onboarding and activation. Onboarding is like showing someone around their new apartment, pointing out where everything is. 

Activation, though, is about helping them feel at home—getting them to light up the stove and cook their first meal.

Onboarding shows them the ropes; activation gets them to climb.

After hundreds of calls with customers I always get these questions: how do I track these two metrics in June? Which reports should I use?

  • Onboarding: in most cases, the onboarding process to a SaaS consists of a few fixed steps that users need to go through in a certain order, A -> B -> C -> D. In most cases these steps need to be performed in a short period of time. If that’s the case the best way to track it is by using a funnel report because it will tell you who is dropping off and at which stage
Tracking onboarding with a Funnel report
  • Activation: for many SaaS companies the activation journey is non-linear. Something like: A-D-C-B. And it’s not something that happens quickly. From what I’ve seen, activation takes up to 7-10 days for most products. For these reasons tracking activation with a funnel is not optimal and that’s what we’ve built the Activation Report (or milestones) a year ago.
Tracking Activation with an Activation report

Each activation step that you see above can be defined by adding multiple events per step or by imposing some frequency or property filters.

How to come up with the right set of milestones

Figuring out the right milestones is not an easy task and many times I see people using the “finger in the air” method…

These sets of actions are the ones that make your customers get real value out of your product and can be very different if you have multiple types of users in your product (engineers vs marketing people for example).

But how do you find them??

By looking at how customers use your product: what makes them stick around and what gets them excited. It’s a mix of qualitative + quantitative.

Find 10/20 users that just converted to a paid plan or that at least are using your product very very well and study them one to one. Open their profiles in June and check out their activity overview + feed to see exactly what they used and how many times.

Digging into user profiles to find activation milestones

After that try to shortlist a set of events / pageviews that are recurring among these users. If you have different personas in your product, categorize them.You should be able to get to something like this:

  • Sales rep (7-days from signup)
    • Case A
      • 25 user profiles opened
      • 18 company profiles opened
      • 2 reports opened 
      • 5 tasks created
    • Case B
      • 2 audiences created 
      • 5 company profiles opened
      • 10 user profiles 
      • 20 tasks created
  • Customer success rep (7-days from signup)
    • Case C
      • 15 emails sent 
      • 10 user profiles opened 
      • 10 reports opened
      • 2 csv exports 
    • Case D
      • 2 reports opened
      • 10 csv exports 
      • 12 tasks created 
      • 5 user profiles opened

Alongside looking at single users one to one a good way to come up with these sets of milestones is using a feature audit report with all of your main features.

Using feature audit report to find milestones

Mind that it’s important to enforce audience filters that will just take into account those happy users that just went through the ideal path of activation. Mind that if you have multiple personas (sales vs cs) you need to distinguish between them as well.

Narrowing down the audience for a single ICP

Validating milestones

Once you have a plausible set of milestones you need to validate which ones are working the best for your users.

To do so you need to set up one activation report for each set of milestones and check which ones are best fitting your latest conversions. By looking at users one-to-one you’ll be able to see something like this below!

Different sets of milestones displayed on a user profile

The greener the checklist the better, it means that that set of actions best describes the happy path of activation!

User vs Company activation

If you are a B2B SaaS then it’s a good practice to have both user and company level milestones to make sure that both single users and whole organizations are using your product well.

To find the company activation milestones you can do a similar exercise as the one described above.

Just keep in mind that in the company activation report a step is marked as complete if at least one member of the company performed it.

Company level activation report

In this case above for example we don’t want every single member of a company to setup Slack, connect Segment, connect HubSpot and create a Dashboard. It’s crucial that all the steps are done by at least one user so that the others can benefit from it.

How to Leverage Them in the CRM

This part is about using those milestones to keep track of where your customers are on their journey.

You can set up alerts for when they hit key milestones, or flag when someone might need a bit more help. It’s about personalizing the experience, so each customer feels like you’re really paying attention to their needs.

To send over milestones to the CRM you’ll need to set up some computed traits for your users and companies that match the milestones you have in the activation report.

Once you’ve done that you’ll be able to sync those computed traits over to the CRM with just a couple of clicks.

Attio CRM sync mapping

Once you have the right data points in the CRM you can create lists or run workflows to be more effective in activating and converting people. Find out more about HubSpot workflows here


Activation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-do for any B2B SaaS. 

It’s about making sure your customers aren’t just signing up but are getting to those moments where they see the real value of what you’re offering. 

The goal is to make your product not just something people buy, but something they use, value, and depend on. Get this right, and you’re not just growing your product; you’re growing your customer’s success.

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