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When I’m not fighting crime, I help tech products grow by focusing on retention 👉 joshpitzalis.com
Credit to Goran Ivos for the inspiration for this sketch.

I started my freelancing career as a personal trainer. The easiest way to get started as a personal trainer is to work for an agency. They take a cut of your profits, but they set you up in a gym and show you the ropes. Showing me the ropes meant a two-day workshop on how to find and work with clients. I did the workshop over a decade ago, and the one thing that stuck with me was something called the 6 by 6 promise. They promised that if I did one of six specific things for six hours a…


Segmenting your data by user intent helps tame what can sometimes be an ocean of behavioural information to highlight regions of insight that can lead to productive conversations about relevant product changes.
Segmenting your data by user intent helps tame what can sometimes be an ocean of behavioural information to highlight regions of insight that can lead to productive conversations about relevant product changes.

Let’s say you have a food delivery app. One use case is ordering lunch at work, another common use case is young couples ordering dinner at home, a third one is ordering food for a dinner party.

The time of day and the order size give you enough to bucket most people fall into one or more use case.

The problem is that I threw a dinner party recently and I ordered two of my favourite dishes and we cooked the rest ourselves. There’s no way your app could have known I was throwing a party.

After thinking about this…


Each layer of segmentation tells a different story.
Each layer of segmentation tells a different story.

If you’ve plotted a retention curve and you know how many people continue to use your product six months after they sign up then the next step is segmentation.

Segmentation means looking at subsets of different types of users. Let’s say, on average 40% of people who signup continue to use your product six months later. If you break it down you might discover that 60% of people who sign up with a business email address continue to use the product. On the other hand, only 20% of people who use a free email account (like Gmail) stick around.

You…


Before you can begin measuring the number of people who use your app you have to define what “using your app” means. Meaningful usage implies that people are using your product to solve the problem they signed up to deal with.

Meaningful usage for Airbnb would be booking a night. For WhatsApp, it’s sending a message. If your app does rideshare then it’s probably booking a cab. If you deliver food then it’s likely ordering dinner.

Once you have your core action then you need to figure out your usage interval. …


The whole point of core activity is that when people do it they’re more likely to continue using your product in the long run.
The whole point of core activity is that when people do it they’re more likely to continue using your product in the long run.

Your core action is the thing people do in your product to deal with the problem they signed up to solve.

You want to start by shortlisting all the things people can do in your app to address their core motivation for signing up.

To narrow it down, think about how often people experience the problem they’re dealing with. If the problem is filing your taxes, there’s not a lot you can track on a monthly basis that will tell you if people are successfully using your product to file their taxes this year. …


The natural frequency of the problem your product solves is the bar you use to gauge what’s too little and what’s too much.
The natural frequency of the problem your product solves is the bar you use to gauge what’s too little and what’s too much.

A product is meant to help someone solve a problem.

Understanding when your problem occurs lays the foundation for how often people are expected to use your product.

If people deal with your problem once a month, sending them emails every day is going to feel like spam. On the other hand, a monthly reminder is will probably be appreciated.

The natural frequency of the problem your product solves is the bar you use to gauge what’s too little and what’s too much.

Establishing this frequency isn’t an exact science, you’re going to have to ballpark it.

You could always…


Improving retention boils down to delivering on the promise your product makes.
Improving retention boils down to delivering on the promise your product makes.

You want to be clear about the problem your product was designed to help people solve.

A narrow, specific promise is easier to deliver on. It sets clear expectations and leaves very little wiggle room for misunderstandings.

A broad, vague promise just leaves the door wide open to a mediocre product experience. The wrong people show up with the wrong expectations and everyone is disappointed.

You might have one of those products that solves lots of problems for different people. That’s fine, just pick your primary use case and let’s focus on that for now. …


On most sites, web form design is tied to conversions. Form optimization is a high impact activity to pay attention to.

Set clear expectations

  • Be transparent about how long it will take.
  • If your form doesn’t have to be long then make it short.
  • Tell me why I should bother. What do I get out of it?

Fewer fields are not ALWAYS better

Sometimes asking for less decrease conversions.

Not asking relevant questions can cost you credibility.

Track form completion so you can tell the difference between removing unnecessary stuff and clarifying how to complete important stuff.

Long forms let…


Retention Venn diagram
Retention Venn diagram

Retention matters because it’s deeply connected to every aspect of a business.

Working on retention affects how much money you make, how many people sign up, how happy they are, how long they stick around, what they say about you and how many people they tell. No other aspect of product work connects as many important dots.

If users stick around for long enough to pay for another month, that’s just money in the bank. The longer they stick around the more chances you get to upsell them onto higher plans or other services. …


Your core action is the thing people do in your product to deal with the problem they signed up to solve.

A clear understanding of your problem comes from listening to your users and understanding how they think about it. Find the right level of abstraction. You’ve found the sweet spot when you can explain the problem using the words your customers use.

Then you have to deliver on your promise. Does your thing actually do what it claims to do?

The problem is the trigger. Your core action is the response. Delivering on your promise is the reward. …

Josh Pitzalis

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