About Charlie: Charlie is a left-brained digital marketer who loves to try new things. As Marketing Operations Manager at Formstack, Charlie has helped the SaaS scale-up grow more than 12x in ARR by developing customer-centric approaches to product-led growth through data analysis, lead grading and scoring, and marketing automation.

What does Formstack do?

Formstack is a workplace productivity platform built to transform the way people collect information and put it to work. Our flexible, secure data collection and process automation products empower users to reduce data chaos and solve important business problems.


What does user activation mean to you?

At Formstack, we view activation as the series of actions users take when initially testing and validating any of our self-service products. While these actions differ from product to product, long-term success for our customers is determined by the quality of their product interactions within their 14-day free trial period. We know that customers who engage with our products more are less likely to churn. We want to track and monitor customers as they reach this threshold.


How important is the user activation metric to your business?

At Formstack, we measure activation using a metric known as Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs)

With PQLs, we can score how frequently and how often users are engaging with our products and the quality of their interaction. We use this information to benchmark the success or failure of everything from product updates to sales cadence adjustments. Without a success metric beyond “did the user pay us,” we’d have a challenging time understanding which users to engage with first. 

How have you defined activation for your users/customers? Is it on an account level, user level, segmented?

We largely track activation by product at the account level. This data is used to calculate an engagement score that we use to identify superusers or “MVP” users on each account.   Points are given for activities that are ubiquitous across all products, such as sessions, page views, and clicks. Points are also given for activities that are specific to a certain product, such as forms built for Formstack Forms or documents merged for Formstack Documents. 


What team(s) own the user activation metric at Formstack and why?

Our marketing and product teams are closely aligned and share the responsibility of creating a frictionless customer journey. Marketing shapes the guiding message of our platform while the product team engineers delightful experiences for new and learning customers. Of course, we lean heavily on our Sales and Customer Success teams to help us iterate on that experience flow. Our feedback loop is crucial.

“Our feedback loop is crucial.”


What impact did the introduction of the activation metric have on your business?

After evangelizing our PQL system and process, many teams started to quickly rally around the idea of an activated customer. The product team began dreaming up in-app onboarding and training to promote superior user interactions; the marketing team updated and automated early messages to promote those engagement activities; our sales team started prioritizing their call lists and cadences around our top users—even putting emphasis on those who were ‘on-the-fence’; and our customer support team began to view new customers as healthy/unhealthy following their free trial period, engaging with those who were likely to churn based on inactivity. Within six months, we had reduced the churn of customers in their first 90-days by 30%.

“Within six months, we had reduced the churn of customers in their first 90-days by 30%.”

How does the activation metric inform how you work with customers (what actions do you take on this data)?

Much of our marketing and sales engagement strategy centers around the moment a user reaches a PQL threshold. It’s not unlike how marketing would nurture a lead to MQL (Marketing-Qualified Lead) status before passing to sales for outreach. We’ve found that our users enjoy the self-service aspect of our software and are more open to a conversation around pain points or expansion after they’ve experienced how easy the products are to use.