What to do when user growth slows down

Growing your active user base is one of the most important things for startups. What should you do if the number of users is not growing like it once was?

Don’t panic — user growth can fluctuate from many factors. Let’s look at the levers you can pull to put it back on track up and to the right.

Start with user acquisition

When user growth slows the problem lies in user acquisition, in everything that happens before the user gets into your product and tries it. It means that your audience can’t reach the product.

To solve the problem, you can revise your processes. How are you attracting your users? Is it:

  • Paid traffic
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media posting
  • Cold outreach
  • Or something different like digital PR?

Make a list of your current acquisition marketing and sales activities, and add the possible ones. Don’t ignore the channels, changes that happened over time, and the results you’ve got while using various tools. See what your competitors do and find benchmarks.

Sometimes the core of the problem is just us being lazy and using fewer channels to acquire users, or simply using the wrong channels. For example, for Web3 products, it’s easier to find your audience with the help of communities rather than via paid traffic. Each service and product requires a different approach. Think about which one suits your product and customer profile.

Find the right buyer persona

The first thought that must pop into your mind if the audience is not growing is what you MUST do to attract users. Are you doing the right things now? To answer this question you need to understand clearly:

  • Who’s your buyer/customer/user
  • Are you reaching your audience via the right channel
  • Is your offer the right one or not

The easiest way to find out is to ask your clients about their needs and whether your offer solves their problems or not.

Learn from your past experiences

GrowingFlags example

When I was working on acquiring users to GrowthFlags, a simple tool that brings feature flags, a/b testing & experimentation culture to any product, we bet big on cold outreach via Linkedin, because it worked perfectly on previous projects.

We used founders, CEO, CTO, and CPO of product IT companies as buying personas and the problem of low delivery speed as our key offer. We talked about our product with early-stage startups and companies already on the market for a while — saying GrowthFlags can double the delivery speed.

We contacted around 500 people on Linkedin but got only 2 leads and a Conversion Rate (CR) of 0,4%. So what the hell went wrong?

As I looked back on the work done, I can see several issues:

  • We didn’t contact the right person within the companies. If the company is big enough, C-levels are hard to reach or they won’t be changing their processes without a clear problem. Early-stage companies usually understood our offer but said they were not big enough to use it.
  • Low delivery speed is not a crucial pain point for the companies and they can survive without using feature flags.

So we stopped our cold outreach to work more on our offer and the people we want to reach. Don’t let such mistakes stop you. Just find another approach to find your audience.

Equiline Systems example

Some time ago I was working on a product that helped manage company processes and resources. It was a complex of boards and analytics to see the whole scope of the projects and the people working on them. We also decided to do a cold outreach via Linkedin and focused on C-level executives as our buying personas (just CEO and HRs this time) and focused on outsourcing companies.

Our offer was based on solving the problem of unclear costs of companies’ resources. We provided a solution to manage the resources effectively with the help of analytical reports.

We contacted only 50 people, but already got 2 leads and 4% CR. The results were way better than in the previous example, right? And that’s simply because we defined the buying persona and the problem better.

What else to do to attract users

To grow the audience of your product you can also:

  • Double-check your analytics: Sometimes the problem is not in the product or your offer, but in the analytical system itself showing the wrong numbers. So check it once more.
  • Always track your user-acquisition activities: All the actions, results, experiments, and changes. You need to understand what action leads to the problem. It will allow you to go back and fix the problem faster.
  • Do experiments! Without experiments, you won’t be able to tell which audience or the offer are the right ones. For GrowthFlags we used classic HEDI cycles when we selected our audiences one after another without mixing them up. While experimenting also remembers that your messages must match your actual offer.
  • Follow the trends: Be on the edge of technology, current pains and needs to find the right audience.

Be positive and stay strong. Even if you made a mistake with your user acquisition strategy, buyer personas or analytics, learn from it and move on to another experiment.

Written by Evgeniy Sergeiev. Thanks to Elena Lysiakova for the help.