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Product-led growth often starts with a customer champion. An end-user who falls in love with your product and spreads it to the rest of the organization.

But how you turn an end-user into a champion? How do you encourage them to share your product with others? When do you involve sales, and when do you step away?

It's a challenge that is central to the growth story of Writer, an AI writing assistant that enables teams to write more effectively. Since writing is a daily habit, it's key that Writer has a daily presence in the end-user's workflow.

We chatted with Writer’s founder May Habib about how her team tracks and activates these end-users, and how Writer reinforces network effects in the product. A journey that has led them to understand how important it is to activate users within the first 24 hours – or even within the first few minutes – of sign up.

Calixa: May, tell us a little bit about Writer as a product.

May: Writer is an AI writing assistant for teams. It’s a very collaborative product that is end user-first. So, folks bring on Writer to help improve their own writing and get their whole team writing in the same way, whether that's using the same writing style, the same editorial style, the same voice, the same terms, or the same snippets as the rest of their team.

What signals or metrics do you use to identify potential customers from your free sign-ups?

For us, it's all about activation. The activation metric we've defined has several inputs, and they're basically along three lines. One is have they used the product consistently over the past 14 days, and we also look at the past 30 days. Writing is something most people do almost every day, so that's the kind of usage we're looking for.

From a ‘multi-player’ perspective, activation is also about the kinds of customizations someone has done in Writer. That could be inviting someone to the team, editing the out-of-the-box editorial style, or adding their terms. Lastly, have they taken moves to integrate Writer into their workflow? So we've got an ecosystem of plugins for where professionals work. Are they using Writer in the other tools they use to author and distribute and write? Those three things together comprise our activation metric.

Do you find that there's an “aha moment”, or maybe even a collection of them, that pushes users from being free users to being activated users?

Absolutely. We see it when someone has written up a guidance card in Writer and then sees it in the wild while they are writing up a knowledge base article or an email. That is an aha moment of, "Oh, wow. I can coach everybody to write like me anywhere where they're writing, and it's my voice coming through on the other end." It's just an incredible way to scale yourself if you are the person who is the keeper of the magic content touch, or kind of the acting managing editor, or the otherwise grammar girl or grammar guy of your team. That is a pretty magical moment.

How do you go about minimizing that time-to-value with your user persona and your users?

For us, it's really about that first 24 hours. We measure time-to-value in minutes, the question being: Has the user accepted a suggestion within minutes of installing the extension? That's what we're looking at.

How do you go about balancing the role of automated touchpoints against human outreach and involvement?

We've got two flows: a trial flow and an education flow. They're already getting many automated touches from Writer. So we keep the human touch very high-level. And within an activated account, the human touch may only go to one or two people.

We make sure only folks are hearing from us who want to hear from us. That touchpoint is informed by where they are in the product and where we think they can get even more value. It's definitely not about selling them into more than what they've signed up for. It's really about helping them use the product well and learn from other folks like them who have gotten a lot of value out of Writer.

How do you go about building network effects at Writer?

If you have gone through the trouble of setting up Writer to sound like your company — whether that's editing editorial style rules, adding modular content, or identifying phrases and terms you want people to use — it is natural to then want others to use it and leverage it. That is the main collaboration loop in the product. A person who has customized Writer a little bit for themselves then wants to share it with others who want to follow the same rules.

What do you wish you’d known years ago about growth?

Even at billions of dollars of enterprise value, word-of-mouth at the top PLG companies is still the largest acquisition channel.

May Habib began her career in finance and investing, helping software companies raise capital, and leading one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds. She is now the co-founder and CEO of Writer. You can find her on LinkedIn.