User Death - Viral Marketing

We’ve talked about your viral loop – which is a step-by-step process of all the actions a user must take from awareness to the first invite they send. (Don’t panic at the title. No, your viral loop will not cause user death.)

We’ve also talked about your hook point – which is a step-by-step process of all the actions a user must take from awareness to addiction.

These are incredibly fun to create, but good growth engineering doesn’t stop there.

In the last chapter we learned how to identify your hook point at the moment where retention is almost a certainty. Now we’re going to talk about user death, which is essentially the opposite.

User Death: Ashes to Ashes


Just like your hook point, there is a series of actions a user either does or does not take that create a path where, if followed, basically guarantee they leave and never come back. At some point along this journey there is an exact moment along that path where a user transitions from being able to be reactivated (i.e. sick, but not dead) to beyond saving (i.e. dead).

This is the moment of “user death.” 

Identifying this moment, just like with your hook point, will be a critical task.

The Path to User Death


Knowing what drives user death within your user funnel ensures you can do everything in your power to keep your users alive and on the path to the Advocate phase. These retention efforts can include anything from strategically crafting your required onboarding process to implementing messaging and outreach campaigns to saying “pretty please don’t leave.”

Here’s an example of a pathway to user death:

  1. User experiences a bug.
  2. User submits a support ticket.
  3. Ticket is not marked as “resolved” within 24 hours.
  4. User does not open the app for 7 days.
  5. User unsubscribes to your email list.

This is an oversimplified example, but you likely can see why this user should be considered “dead” and not just dormant. After having a bad experience that doesn’t get resolved, they take an action that likely means they have deleted your app, and they unsubscribe to your mailing list.

Not only do they dislike their experience with you, but you now have no way of communicating with them. They are dead and buried. There is nothing you can do except move on and do better next time.

The Formula for Death



Thanks to the last chapter, we already know that our viral loop and our retention funnel need to be measured separately. We also know that we have to boil Activation down into one core number that we can weigh against our viral data.

So we need to do the same thing for user death. Our variables are:

  • Total Dead Users (Du) – which we’ll set as 300
  • Total Prospects and Friends Acquired (Nu) – which we’ll set as 1500
  • Death Factor (Df) – which is what we’ll solve for

The equation then becomes:

Df = Du / Nu

Df = 300 / 1500

Df = .2

(Note: This example is crazy high, and not indicative of the actual death factor you should see in your business.)

Thanks to our formula we’ve figured out that the death factor is 0.2 (or 20%). Now I bet you’re wondering what we do with this piece of morbid information.

This death factor metric allows you to:

  • Identify where you’re at today
  • Visualize improvement over time as you make the required changes to prevent death from happening
  • Compare your changes in death factor with your changes in virality over time

What’s Next


Well done sir (or madame). You are nearly at the end.

We’ve come a long ways navigating all the ups and downs of virality. We laughed, we cried, we did some math, we murdered some users, we snagged a lot more other users, we saw YouTube punch a competitor in the face, and we watched a bunch of rabbits reproduce. Good times.

You’re now ready to be caped an official Viral Hero.

But first, there’s just one tiny teensy weensy little thing left to do – SHOW YOU THE MONEY!


How Do You Make Money With Your Viral Engine?

Viral marketing is worthless if you don’t make money. In the next chapter we’ll bring together everything you’ve learned so far and connect it to your business. Ensuring that all your hard work pays off.


Travis Steffen
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