5 min read

How to increase customer activations when the product has a long time-to-value

How to increase customer activations when the product has a long time-to-value

Product-led growth, the Wrike’s way


Many people think Product-Led Growth only works for simple products where you can quickly deliver value to the customer. In fact, done right, the PLG approach can work wonders for complex products, too.

Consider Wrike. It is a collaborative work management platform. According to Anna Lopatukhina, Lead Product Manager at Wrike (acquired by Citrix), complex software products typically struggle with activation, i.e., having customers climb the steep learning curve and turn from frowning beginners to happy power users.

Anna sees three major challenges here.


1/Complexity of the product. Most B2B products are complex by nature, which translates into complicated customer journeys, lack of obvious calls-to-action, extended learning time. These factors often discourage beginner users down to the point of abandonment.

2/Indirect value extraction. Wrike, same as many other B2B products of this kind, is a platform. It does not offer ready-made solutions but gives everything needed to build one. And most customers don’t want to build anything, they want a solution that makes problems go away. Instantly, if possible.

3/Long time-to-value. It takes companies longer to start benefiting from its use and, moreover, there is significant investment involved before they actually get to the value offered by the product.

Relying on the product itself and guiding customers through their journeys, Wrike team invented solutions to these challenges and improved activation by 59%.

Proper application of the Product-led growth approach allowed Wrike to become one of the leaders in the super competitive market and reach the valuation of $2.25B.

Two levels of user activation


Wrike distinguishes between two levels of activation:

  • basic level of activation;
  • advanced level of activation.

To qualify for the basic level of activation, a customer needs to have at least 30% of its team members logging in to Wrike at least once a week and actually do stuff there, not just browse and view. Wrike team calls the relevant threshold “30% edit WAU.”

To graduate to the advanced level of activation, which naturally follows basic activation, a customer needs its team to go beyond basics and start using the complex features and tools Wrike offers. This is actually where 90% of Wrike PMs work.

Tools of basic activation

For a beginner Wrike user, especially one that expects to see a ready-made solution the learning curve may seem steep. Too steep. So the Wrike team implemented a number of tools designed to facilitate new user onboarding, i.e., enable basic activation.

Use-case templates. Essentially, they are pre-installed solutions the customer actually seeks. Use-case templates show how the platform can be used for a given purpose and improve time-to-value.

Onboarding checklists. Anna and her team developed a Wrike-powered onboarding project offered to all new users that allows them to learn the product by actually using it.

Human touch. As a collaborative work management platform, Wrike facilitates business process management, but at the outset, you need to do process mapping, understand what processes you want to set up in Wrike and how you can actually do it. Realizing the complexity, Wrike offers new users real help by real people, the Customer Success Organization that assists, guides and motivates customers.

Community. Wrike supports its user community with events (conferences, customer advisory boards etc) and the space where they can share experience and best practices, rub minds, educate and encourage each other. User-to-user education is a real thing, and the additional motivation that comes with it makes the value of the community even greater.Standard stuff. Onboarding tours, feature tooltips, interactive onboarding sessions, you name it. Everything you would expect when signing up for a complex software product.

Once a customer is through the basic activation, extracting some value from using Wrike and obviously sticking around for a while, the time is right for advanced activation.

Tools of advanced activation: the Wrike Resource case

“Advanced activation” means inviting and guiding a customer to use more complex features and tools. In case of Wrike, this is something better explained with an example, which will be Wrike Resource, a paid add-on designed to enable and facilitate resource management. Primarily, it is a tool for companies that sell time of their employees (outsourcing companies, consultancies and such).
Wrike Resource was developed to address such issues as overload, burnout and unpredictable workload. From the activation viewpoint, the main challenge is that these problems do not go away once they buy the add-on. It takes time, and the adoption of Wrike Resource is not an easy process.

This complexity translated into churn, and, since Wrike Resource subscription is a one-year deal, the team could register this churn only once a subscription expired and was not renewed. Naturally, they started looking for solutions.

Driving the change: features

First off, adoption of Wrike Resource required change. Wrike Resource is the cure for the aforementioned problems, but to realize the potential of the tool, the company needs to start logging hours spent on tasks.


The add-on has timesheets that show all the tasks the user works on and make logging hours almost a matter of a single click. Managers have access to the Team Utilization report that clearly shows the amount of hours to be allocated to tasks by an employee and how many he or she has actually logged.

There was also another feature implemented that actually did not drive the change but allowed customers to introduce time tracking into their practice in a soft way: high-level estimations. This tool allows allocating the time an employee needs for a project roughly and in advance, without diving deep into individual tasks.

Driving the change: processes

To streamline adoption of Wrike Resource at the advanced level, Anna and the team came up with the idea of a user group and collaboration with the Customer Success Organization.

User group was designed as a space where managers could exchange experience and discuss how they can encourage their employees to track time spent on tasks routinely. The group included experienced Wrike Resource users and those just at the early stages of adoption, so the former distilled their best practices into advice and the latter took it.

Collaboration with the Customer Success Organization showed that, despite expectations, those accounts that received help of Wrike’s customer success managers did not activate to the advanced level more often than those customers that did everything themselves. To remedy this, Anna’s team compiled a list of all add-on users due to renew the subscription within the next 2 months, handed it to the CS managers and urged them to help those customers. This list compilation and handover became a routine practice for Wrike.

All in all, Wrike did not invent a wheel but made full use of its product and resources in a clever way, and saw the activation rate grow by 59%.



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