Pro tip: How to activate zombie users

Zombie users are those who signed up, used your product a few times or maybe for a while and then disappeared completely or started to use your product occasionally.

The problem is that such users basically gave up on your product and on track to churn.

What should we do now? How to re-activate those customers?

Well… that’s a good question. I’m glad you asked.

First of all, I would argue that you shouldn’t even try to activate them.

You can either understand why that happened or try to bring that user back. You cannot do both (usually). Thus, it would be much smarter to understand why she is not satisfied with your product. Why she forgot about you and why she didn’t react when you sent her those emails begging her to come back? Why did she decide to sign up and then disappeared?

First understand what happened, who this user is and what’s her story. Knowing that will give you enough data to prevent such situation in future.

Find those customers, propose them to talk in exchange for an Amazon gift card. The sum depends on the product, industry, interview duration and type (phone/video, face-to-face, etc.). But it’s somewhere between $20 to $100. Usually $20 to $50. Remember you’re paying for person’s time. So, please don’t give discounts on your product. No lotteries, please. Pay, don’t play!

During the interview make them tell a story. Start with questions like “Why did you initially sign up?”, “Did you evaluate other tools?”. Then keep digging in by asking questions like “When was the first time you realised you weren’t using the product?”, “What stopped you from coming back and use our product?”, etc.

Done right, you can get enough insights to optimise your onboarding and activation funnels.

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Second of all, you can try to get them back, but the way you should do this may seem a bit counterintuitive.

Here is the deal, that customer knows your product (well… sort of). She signed up, tried it out and was disappointed or at least not hooked. She already has an opinion. It’s hard to change it. So… don’t. To bring a disappointed user back, we need to show them a “new” product. First, make sure you understand what problem she tried to solve with your product. Then, show her how it can be done using the latest features, pro tips, and so on. Don’t tell, show by doing it. If her concern is customer support, let her know that you’re constantly improving, and she can always contact you directly. Make sure she feels like she doesn’t really know your product.

But don’t push too hard. If she made a decision, wish her all the best and let her go. That will change a bit her opinion about your company and increase the chances that one day she might come back or suggest your product to others.


Autopilot is using this technique (in a way). They send an email that says “Would you like to keep your account?”.

This time you’ll need to make a decision - do I want to keep your account or lose it. Very nice example.

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