Should you focus more on growth or retention?

4 replies
The following is based on my own experience, feel free to leave your thoughts if you agree/disagree. You should NEVER focus on growth before you have retention. It may seem like a self-evident truth, but in my experience, it's one that is often overlooked. Every single article, video or lecture that addresses growth presupposes that you ALREADY have retention. If you don't have retention, then what you're doing is essentially pouring water into a glass that has a hole in the bottom; eventually everything will drain out. During our MVP a few months back we noticed that we were getting a lot of signups and positive feedback, but the users wouldn't stay long inside the platform before they churned. We listened to the feedback that they gave, and it was clear that there was an issue with how we displayed PDFs inside our app (it's a note-taking app that focuses on PDF documents, so naturally, having a good way to display PDFs is crucial). We then fixed this issue and the retention immediately went up. So basically, the TLDR of this is: - Measure your retention. This can be done with G Analytics, Mixpanel or even in Excell or Google Sheets if you really want to. - Make sure that it flattens out towards a number ABOVE 0. The measuring period depends on your app (for something like AirBnB where users only use their app a few times per year at most, their retention is measured over a yearly period whereas most other apps would measure it over a monthly period, or whatever period suits their use case). Initially, it doesn't matter exactly where your retention figure is, as long as it's ABOVE 0. You can always work on getting the retention figure to become higher. - If you can postpone raising money before your retention is high, that's great. Should you decide to get external founding, it makes a lot more sense to do that when you already have a working product where users are sticking. Pouring capital to grow the user base makes sense in this scenario (unlike doing so before having good retention figures, in which case you may risk wasting money). So all in all, in the beginning focus on retention, once you have some retention, it's time to focus on growth.


David J. Kim
100% agreed there Abderisak. Without retention you're pouring water (aka Marketing) in a bucket full of holes.
@between_team Precisely. It is very enticing to pursue growth. But if the retention figures are not there, it could end up being a waste of time & energy that would have been better placed on improving the product and addressing the users' needs.
Tolulade Ademisoye
Retention and sustainability.