I sat down with Vicki O’Neill for her Connect the Dots podcast, a podcast for business professionals who want to learn new ways to align and grow their business.
The Connect the Dots podcast provides tips, tools and actionable strategies that help business leaders with challenges regardless of the industry.
Here are Vicki’s interview notes from the podcast.
About Anita Toth
Coined as the Chief Churn Crush, Anita Toth is a consultant to growing B2B SaaS companies.
Churn is when existing customers leave your business. If you’re mostly focusing on marketing, most businesses don’t focus on what churn is and how to stop it.
The biggest impact churn has on your business is profitability.
If you want to increase your profits, keep your customers longer and try to slow down the churn rate. It costs 6-7x more to acquire a new client.
In relations to marketing efforts, the message needs to follow through to sales, customer service and throughout the customer journey. When it breaks down, imagine the cost associated with it.
When you have a customer already, you can expand your revenue with them. Sell them extra services, products, up-sell them, get referrals from them – it’s more than just keeping the customer. It’s engaging with the customer.
The opportunity to expand your revenue with existing customers is huge. Most people don’t realize it.
Let’s call it what it is. Churn isn’t sexy. No one wants to focus on why a bunch of customers left. It’s more exciting to look at leads and conversions, it’s tactical and it’s exciting.
It’s easy to turn your eye, and just accept that customers are leaving and saying “we can’t do anything about it.” But, yes, you can. You can actually do a lot to keep them from leaving.
How do you work with customers to help them identify or mitigate the churn process?
She goes into each business that’s a customer and:goes through the experience of being a customer of theirs. She wants to see the entire process from signing up and going through to the end to see what customers are experiencing.
More often than not right off the bat she’ll hit a big stumbling block. They address it then ask what can we change and how can we increase the conversion rate of these people?
Often what happens is people want to on-board and want to experience good things. When they hit that stumbling block they just say I’m not going any further, it’s too difficult, it’s too frustrating. A lot of times it’s in that initial process that they hit a stumbling block.
Further down the process of what is customer support like for them and also how they are reporting their metrics. So, not really fun stuff. But it’s so critical to see opportunities to increase customer retention and customer revenue.
Two stories with her clients:
1. He has a SaaS (software as a service, Netflix ex w a monthly fee), has a lot of early adopters. They have been for years now paying 1/10 of what others are paying. They got in early and kept grandfathering them in with each new release, features, value add for the app. etc. In Nov 2019 did a major new release. Helping them with their marketing sequence to bring all the legacy users to today’s rate and lock them in at this rate and everyone else’s rates will go up. Not sure how big the pot of money is but it’s going to be substantial. Not just an immediate injection of cash but their monthly recurring revenue has gone up as well. Her clients know these things exist but never really see the opp to see what they could do with it. That’s where she comes in They are too focused on growing their business so she comes in and helps them either recover money or expand their monthly revenue so profits can increase. She’s not using the product beforehand so she’s exactly like their brand new customers who are experiencing it for the first time.
2. Went through with one company and tried to sign in. It was actually a Google Chrome extension that they built but first you needed to sign up so it could send the information to their platform. Then you use the platform to do what you need to do. So, looks like 30 second sign up and the spinning wheel appears on step 2. Goes out and tries again and again and again. Chat window reach out to support, so back and forth on support. He called her – 40 minutes in total to figure out that the app itself when you are on-boarding wouldn’t work for people like her because she has multiple gmail accounts. She tells that client it took 40 minutes, customer service and the rep may not be able to help someone else. You do the numbers and that’s really expensive way to on-board someone. When she told him that he about flipped his lid – that problem was suppose to be addressed 2 years earlier. So they weren’t even knowing how many people tried to sign up and left – could have been in the hundreds or even thousands. It’s because she came along and tried to sign up and encountered the situation. It took development some time to fix it but now it actually works.
Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. So it takes someone like Anita to say ‘Hey, this is what I experienced so if I’m experiencing it’s likely your customers are too. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to make this better.’
He was told it was fixed. She also helps with information flow so data is getting to the right people. CS was logging the calls but the information wasn’t going up the chain to the CEO.
Now there are systems in place so he knows the key problems are for people who are customers and also people who are in or trying to get in the trial phase.
That experience is what led to them hiring her to find and fix the problem.
We all do it – that’s why you have editors if you’re writing a book or really big article. you have someone else review it because you’re too blind to some of it.
Companies she deals with typically have 5-20 people on their team. Everybody is still doing their own thing and the problem is sharing info across teams. So it’s great that you’re collecting it but if you’re not sharing it with marketing and sales, who could also very much benefit from the info you’re gathering, it’s such a common problem as well.
You’re either wearing multiple hats and don’t know where to look or it’s the opposite that you have teams but they aren’t sharing the information.
You’re creating a streamlined process – do you bring the marketing person, sales person or whoever needs to be involved in that process involved from beginning to end?
Yes!! Unless you make the link people don’t realize customers left and nothing I can do about it”. If you can reach out to those customers who left and interview them and find out why they left, then put that information back into sales process, marketing. What that ended up doing is reducing the CAC. If they aren’t a good fit and those people we are attracting are this type.
Story: Young guy opened a gym, in 10 months operating the first year. Going fairly well. Asked: What type of customers are you attracting?” A lot of people who are only staying 4 months, they have some big event like getting married, look good for it. She said what he needs to do is do an exit interview and find out more about their thinking, why they joined, or do it at the beginning.
His ideal customers are those that stay longer than a year. So you think only staying 4 months, every couple of months he’s churning over all those customers and to find new ones to replace the ones that left. Start gathering info.
Interviewing customers you have and the ones you want more of. They are fundamentally and geographically different than the ones you are attracting. Then you take that information in your marketing. Then you’re attracting more of those types of customers. In the sales process, start using that type of data to start asking the right questions to find out if they really are a good sales lead or not.
It doesn’t seem obvious to some. If I’m going to interview customers on why they left. Why would I need sales and marketing there? They become much better informed on who is ideal, who they are attracting through the work they are doing. Through the sales part, it’s important for them to make sure what they are promising the value of the service or product actually exists.
Some people are so excited on just closing the deal that they will over promise or they don’t really know enough what the product does and therefore doesn’t know the value to the customer.
Do you get the different team members with identifying Personas?
She doesn’t go through that specific process but they identify the various groups they should be working with. Mostly works with SaaS companies but can work for any business. Those active users or active customers engaging with your business, through customer support calls, responsive to emails – however you’re tracking engagement. You want to look at them.
Then she helps them look at those at risk of churning – inactive or ‘at risk’ and those that have churned.
She helps segment that way first, then they can start seeing the differences are b/w them and start seeing the customer persona from that.
She just went through this process with a customer which resulted in a brand new customer persona, marketing can take that, sales can take that. It’s building that so they can start to attract more ideal customers.
In the SAAS world it’s all about CAC – customer acquisition costs. SaaS companies may only be selling their products for $5/mo or $15/mo so if it costs them 25, 50 or 100 to acquire a customer that’s only going to stay 4 months, as an example, that’s a LOT of money!!!
The more you can develop this ideal customer profile or persona, the cheaper your CAC becomes. There’s a direct link between those.
Gym owner ex, if he’s putting in his marketing ‘look good for your wedding’ or ‘you’ve got a 25 year anniversary celebration’ or whatever the big event is, he’s only going to be attracting those types of people who only want to stay for that short amount of time, lose the weight, look good and then go off and to whatever.
Can only discover that by if he asks those big questions upfront and finding out what their thinking is. “Why did you come to my business specifically when you could go to any of 25 others in this area?” It’s hard to find out that information so you can flip that back into your marketing, and repel those people you don’t want and embrace those people you do. You have to find out what their problems are what they are trying to solve, what’s their goal (for losing weight in the first place).
Why do you want to lose weight? What will that do for your life if you lose weight?
If you dig into that deeper stuff that’s really what going to get them to say yay or nay. And that’s what you put in your marketing.
It doesn’t seem great to define your customer persona. Get some people in, and do it from the office, interview them and find out. It’s a continuous process. You should always be working on your ideal customer profiles. Why? Because people change, markets change, the world changes – it’s not a one and done. It should be an exciting process when you do.
If you don’t like doing it, put your investigative hat on and have fun with it and be a ‘what can I discover today’.
You have to talk to those key emotions or triggers as to why someone would go in and get to those deeper emotions, get the research and it ultimately is where you get he customers.
And what you do is it helps reduce churn. They will stay longer because now you have a vested interest in helping them and what they want to which is to lead a healthier lifestyle.
It also helps the sales conversation. Now you know what that deep down thing is as to why they want to do this.
Surface level – lose weight, then reunion I want to go to. Then it comes down to family history of not living past 60 because they have a lot of heart attacks and I don’t want that to happen.
No one is going to come out and say that in the beginning. It takes time to get tot hat level. If you’re noticing that as a business owner or as a sales person, speak to them, there are patterns in how people are going to be responding. If your ICA has these 3 problems looking to solve. Then you can focus the sales conversation on probing those.
We make the decision based on pain. If the pain is bad enough, they just give you the money and say solve this for me now.
But if you’re vague and aren’t sure why they really are coming, and what the real reason they are coming to your business in hoping you can help them. Your sales conversation aren’t going to convert as well.
This information goes directly into the marketing and sales process. Not to mention product development or service development.
Story: this gentleman is thinking about switching insurance companies. He’s been with them for 25 years but every year he’s required to fill it out and FAX it to them. For him, it’s such a hassle, just that one thing – loves the rest of the service – but they put such friction in the process from year to year he said screw it he’s going to a different insurance company next year. In two minutes, review info, click a button and click a button.
If you’ve been operating for awhile in a certain way, you may not stop to think how much friction is this causing my customers and are they leaving because of it.
The biggest thing that’s going to differentiate businesses are the ones that give great customer experience.
A lot of products and services are converging. They aren’t really that different. There’s really nothing new coming out like when Apple or Microsoft came out. They were vastly different and over time there’s not really much difference in what they can do, they can basically do the same thing just on different platforms. We’re going to see the same thing.
If you want to keep your customers and your customer experience, that’s what going to separate the good and exceptional businesses.
That’s going to keep the customers from churning as well. They don’t want to encounter a pain point. If anything creates friction in the process, they will weigh out whether it’s better for them to leave and find someone else to do business with.
It’s a constant evaluation of your process in order to make sure that with change your processes and the way you operate as a business is staying current with changes. If you aren’t you’ll start to see it in the numbers.
HUGE DEAL people leave. Social media and word of mouth is huge. There’s a reason Amazon has all those reviews on there. She doesn’t know who the people are giving feedback but she’ll review the 5 stars to 3 stars to see what people are saying. Social proof to make decisions – that’s HUGGGGGGEEEE
People don’t realize how big that is – every churned customer can potentially stop X number of others from checking out your business. Especially if you know that person and they say to not go to them. They may be a wonderful fit for you but if the person you know says bad things, they won’t even consider you because they trust that person.
What’s one thing your ideal customers may not know about you but they probably should?
She comes with a sense of curiosity and opportunity. Even though what we’re talking about is very serious – churn is directly affecting profits – a lot of times clients are coming to her because churn is a really big issue. And they are struggling financially because of it. That’s the one thing she wants them to know – we are going to look at this as opportunity. It’s not doom and gloom. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the bottom line but also in the customer experience. And make things better so they WANT to stay and they WANT to stay and happy to give you their money and say ‘yes please!’
They don’t always see her personality, expertise and passion until the become a client of hers.