When you’re trying to figure out the right strategy to increase engagement  with your product, does it ever start to feel like you’re hunting through a giant haystack for the world’s tiniest unicorn? Not knowing exactly where to start or how to proceed with your strategy can be incredibly frustrating. But trust that you’re not alone -- we’ve seen teams go through the stress of trying to figure it all out on their own plenty of times before. And we’ve learned that while many companies have the right goal in mind -- increasing engagement and adoption -- the path to get there isn’t always easy to find without some guidance. It can feel hit-or-miss, and often seems to be more about luck than strategy.

The truth is, in our 10+ years of helping product teams creature winning products, we’ve developed an allergy to uncertainty. And the very idea of relying on luck gives us a serious case of anxiety. That’s why we believe in infusing our processes with a healthy dose of reassuring certainty. And when you think about it, what’s more certain than science -- especially a scientific formula? But don’t panic! We’re not about to give you a math lesson, and there won’t be a quiz after this. The formula we’re talking about is more conceptual than strictly mathematical. It acts as an organizing principle for everything we do. And we think it’s elegantly (and perhaps deceptively) simple:

Engagement = progress - friction. 

So what does that neat little formula mean? Well, to increase engagement, users must perceive that you’re going to help them make progress towards their goals by removing areas of friction and frustration that are currently standing in their way. Hence, the more friction you can remove, the more you’ll accelerate progress -- and the more engaged your users will become. But to get them to switch to your product in the first place (before they can ever go on to become engaged users) they must perceive your unique value. Your unique value is the job people would hire your product to do. And you need to do it better than anyone else out there.

But that level of engagement and value perception can only happen if users are able to make unencumbered progress towards their goals. And progress isn’t static -- rather, it’s a dynamic quality. It’s a measure of movement and momentum. How quickly and easily can users make progress? The more you can accelerate this measurement, the more value users will perceive. But beware of friction, as it is the mortal enemy of progress. Friction acts negatively on the desired forward momentum you’re trying to create. And so, the more friction you can remove, the greater will be the rate of progress, and the more value users will perceive. And in turn, engagement will increase.

By now you’re probably wondering how we put this concept into practice. Here are some highlights of the Knurture approach:

Understand Your Value

First off, we believe in making sure you have a clear understanding of your unique value so that you can then work to maximize it. After all, you can’t help users make progress if you don’t understand where they need to go. And that means being crystal clear about the job people would hire you to do. We’ve found that a customized job desirability map is the best way to unlock this all-important Job. While our DIY guides offer a framework to help you suss this out, with a Pro Plan you’ll have the the option of having an expert there to walk you through your very own Job Desirability Map. By the time we’ve completed it together, you’ll have greater clarity on the value your users want from you than you ever thought possible.

Fight Friction 

Friction points that are likely to cause an undesirable drift towards disengagement fall into four main categories. These categories can be easily remembered using the acronym SLOW, which stands for Struggles, Lapses, Obstacles, and Workarounds. In brief, these are defined as follows:

  • Struggles are caused by consistent roadblocks and frustrations your users experience when trying to accomplish tasks and make progress with the job they’re trying to do.
  • Lapses are the most insidious form of disengagement. They are subtly disguised as mere forgetfulness or confusion about what to do next, and often stem from an incomplete understanding of the benefits of your product, and a resulting inability to extract the intended value.
  • Unlike struggles, which recur often, obstacles are one-time frustrations or barriers to success experienced by your users when they’re trying to make progress with your product. They usually occur during setup or onboarding, so pay special attention when users are walking you through this part of their interaction.
  • In the face of mounting struggles, users construct an elaborate workaround that cuts the app out of their workflow

Ferreting out these engagement killers and taking steps to ease them is crucial. Remember: the goal is always to reduce friction in order to accelerate progress and increase value. And one of the best ways we’ve found to uncover and address these insidious forces is through our approach to simulations. In simulations, we create a lifelike prototype -- without using any code -- that focuses on a very specific aspect of your product to test with users. This method allows us to build -- and iterate -- lightning fast. Because we’re testing a simulation that seems real, we’re able to get real responses and observe real user behavior. Using our unique SLOW interview process, we’re able to dig deep and ascertain where (and why) your users are experiencing friction.

Based on the intel we gather, in successive simulations we can then test ways to ease these friction points, accelerate the user’s progress, and increase their value perception.

Measure the Right Things

In a nutshell, the Knurture system consists of two interdependent components - -simulations, which we’ve already touched upon, and Playbooks. Playbooks are customized roadmaps that show you just what you need to see in order to reach your adoption goals: your unique customized strategy to reduce friction, accelerate progress, and increase value. The intel we gather in simulations informs your Playbook strategy, which in turn adapts to the unique needs of your users.

But in order to understand whether or not you’re successfully removing friction and accelerating progress, you have to set a baseline and measure the initial rate of progress between what we call “progress markers.” These are defined as any moment when users are able to achieve some level of success -- a “yay” moment -- and clearly celebrate their win. Because these moments reflect a user’s own feeling of success, these moments must be user-defined. Once again, SLOW interviews play a key role in sussing out the intel you need. We gather qualitative data from your users in SLOW interviews to identify these “yay” moments. This then allows for us to gather the right kind of quantitative data to help you see whether or not you’re actually accelerating the user’s rate of progress in a key area.

And in this way, your Playbook strategy continually adapts and evolves, based on real intel and data. And that means you don’t have to leave your strategy to chance any longer. You can proceed knowing that by balancing the Engagement Equation, you’re following a more scientific method to reach your goals of increasing value and boosting engagement.