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How to find the critical Aha moments in your product?

You’ve heard of the mythical creature called the Aha! Moment. You know that you need to build your product onboarding around it. Yet you have no clue what your aha moment is and where you should search for that beast.

Keep on reading as I unpack the question and help you find your aha moments.

One question that I get asked a lot on calls, webinars, and in emails is “how to identify the value moments in my product?” This question regularly comes especially from people with complex tools.

Most founders understand the concept of building an onboarding experience around their critical value moments, or aha moments, but find it tremendously hard to pinpoint what these moments are in their products.

Before we dive into the methods of finding your value moments, I want to make sure we all understand the real meaning of the concept.

What is an Aha moment?

A common misconception in product onboarding is that the Aha moment is about teaching your users a new solution by helping them figure out how your product works.

An aha moment (or value moment) is NOT about teaching your users new things. It’s about helping them remember something they already knew, by demonstrating it in a way that resonates with them.

That’s usually helping your users realize that your product is a viable catalyst to solve their existing problems.

People come to your product to solve specific problems. They might have a solution in mind or come with a blank slate. Whatever the case is, they desperately (but unconsciously) search for value moments in your app. The challenge is that these moments usually only come at the end of the onboarding experience.

As Lincoln Murphy puts it:

“As your new customer with an emotional connection to their goals who sees your product as the catalyst to reach those goals, the Aha! moment comes at the end of a discovery journey…. only it’s NOT AHA!

It’s WTF?!?!

“Why did you let me poke around for so long not knowing what to do only to discover this on my own and waste a bunch of time in the process?””

This poses a serious problem for your conversion rates as the majority of your users will leave your product throughout that discovery process before they experience their first value moment.

To tackle this challenge, you, as a marketer or product person, have the responsibility to help people reach the value moments ASAP.

When you try to identify the critical value moments in your app, make sure you keep these points in mind:

  • The value moment is not about educating your users about a new solution; it’s about helping them remember what they already knew by demonstrating it in a way that’s easy for them to understand and resonate with.
  • Start with the user’s desired goal in mind. Once you know what they already know and try to achieve, it’s easier to guide them to their value moments.
  • Create a minimal path to success for your users. Do not let your users wander aimlessly in your tool. Because value moments are experienced at the end of a journey, you want to keep these journeys as short as possible with minimal distractions.

In brief:

You want to help your users remember things they already knew, and realize your product as the right solution to their current problem.

You also want to help people find value moments quickly and early on in your onboarding by eliminating any distractions.

With that out of the way, we can move to the central question of this post.

How to find the Aha moments?

If you have a turnkey solution that requires little setup, figuring your value moments won’t be that much of a challenge for you.

For instance, at my previous startup HeadReach, a lead generation platform, it was clear that we wanted to get people to do a couple of things:

  1. Sign up for the tool (duh).
  2. Click on “Find email and social profiles”.
finding your aha moment for a simple app
HeadReach interface

In the HeadReach case, the value was in the data that we provided, so the first value moment in the product was when a user finds valid lead information.

This guided our in-app and email onboarding. We did our best efforts to get people to use their search credits.

We also knew that an activated user is someone who has used at least 7 of their 10 free credits. We used that knowledge to build automated upgrade emails triggered at that moment.

Screenshot 2020 04 22 at 12.53.24 PM
Screenshot 2020 04 22 at 12.54.07 PM

That worked pretty well as we increased our trial to paid CR from 1% to 3%. Not amazing, but not bad either considering we were getting 30 new trials a day, and they weren’t all qualified.

Conversely, the bigger and more complex your product is, the harder it’s going to be to identify the minimum set of critical value moments for your product.

Imagine that you run a product like HotJar — a suite of tools for UX people that has live session recordings, heatmaps, in-app surveys, and off-site surveys. The challenge, in that case, is that different users will have completely different onboarding experiences and, therefore, entirely different value moments.

So how the heck do you figure out our value moments in that case?

Below I’m going to share 4 approaches that you can use to find out the critical value moments in your app empirically.

Segment users on signup

This method is especially useful if you have a broad product with multiple different use cases.

The premise is simple: ask people how they intend to use your product and deliver the most appropriate user experience.

For instance, the all-in-one workspace platform Notion profiles new signups based on their role.

notion aha moment in onboarding

On the next step of the in-app onboarding, they suggest the most relevant template to start with, hoping that users will realize the value of the product sooner (remember the minimal path to value that we discussed in the last section).

Screenshot 2020 04 22 at 3.19.47 PM

You don’t need to limit the personalization to the in-app experience only. With Encharge, you can use the data from the role attribute to deliver different email onboarding campaigns to each segment.

Screenshot 2020 04 22 at 3.28.03 PM

This approach will not answer all of the questions you have about your users, but at least now, you have a general idea of how each user plans to use the software. With that, you can make some educated guesses about their desired goals. Which, as we discussed, makes guiding users to their personal value moments easier.

Do live user testing to see how people respond to things in your app

If you’re just starting out with your product and have no data, this is probably one of the easiest ways to uncover how your users respond to your onboarding and what action or feature makes them tick.

Jump on a call with one of your customers (or potential customers), ask them to share their screen and do something within your app. It’s best if they have their microphone and camera turned on so you can observe their reactions.

This will be an invaluable experience for you, and the best part is you don’t need a lot of these sessions before you start making conclusions.

Dive deep into your database to spot customer patterns

The following method works well if you already have at least some customer data.

The goal here is to see what are the most commonly used features among your best customers. This will help you find patterns within your customer base, as well as identify what your ideal customer profile is.

If you don’t have direct access to this data, just ask your developer to make a CSV export of your customer database that includes feature usage.

This is what I did a while ago, to understand our customers better

Image 2020 04 22 at 3.54.00 PM

Let’s say you run a tool like HotJar. You’d go ask your engineers to make an export that shows how many customers have created a heatmap, survey, activated a live session recording, invited a team member, and so on. If possible, you can also ask them to get even more granular by providing data for pages visited, number of logins, session length, etc.

With that data, you can start to draw conclusions about feature usage and how your best customers are using your product.

Use Mixpanel to understand the way customers flow through your app to convert

You can always get more sophisticated and use something like Mixpanel to “Discover high and low performing user segments and compare their paths to conversion or drop off.” 

The way it works in Mixpanel is you pick a goal such as “Trial conversion”, and the tool reveals what paths users take to get there. You can also compare segments of free users vs. customers to identify the value moments.

finding your aha moment through mixpanel funnels

What about Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a great tool, and with a little bit more work, you can get it to track goals such as trial conversion (e.g., when a user visits a success page) or feature activation (e.g., when a user clicks on a specific button/link). However, it lacks one critical thing that SaaS tools need — PII or personally identifiable information.

As stated by Google, Google interprets PII as information that could be used on its own to directly identify, contact, or precisely locate an individual. This includes email addresses, full names, usernames, and others.

In other words, there’s no way to map specific goals and activities to user profiles. That makes the whole exercise useless or at least extremely difficult for our purposes, as we want to identify segments of users and high-value customers.

Finding your Aha moments conclusion

There’s no single magic way to find the aha moments of your product. Smaller, easier to use app will have an easier time pinpointing their value moments. Complex apps would need to do some homework like digging into their database for behavior patterns or setting up sophisticated analytical platforms. Whatever it takes, do not leave this job on the backburner, as your trial conversion rate depends on figuring out what your value moments are.

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