The Journey to Negative Churn: How You Can Get There by Going the Extra Mile
While sales and marketing are key to gaining and retaining customers, that won't be possible if you don't commit to continuous product improvement.
Negative "churn" is seen as the holy grail for subscription-based services. Once your company reverses any attrition of customers, you can be pretty certain that most of those people are getting the value they need from your product or service.
Related: 3 Ways to Monitor Customer Churn
Achieving this goal, of course, means that a company is generating more revenue from existing customers each month than what it's losing from unsubscribers. Not only is this a great indication of both company and customer success, but it increases the company's ability to grow rapidly, and reduces the capital required to fuel that growth.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that it also makes your business more valuable to VCs and investors.
While you're likely aware that sales techniques like upselling and cross-selling to customers can be key in achieving negative churn, there’s more to it in terms of the overall focus and objectives of your team, and openness to avenues you might previously have thought impossible.
Below are the tangible ways you can significantly reduce your churn rate, resulting in a win-win situation for you and your customers.
Upselling can be crucial in increasing the revenue that comes from your existing customers. By encouraging them to purchase add-ons or upgrade to a more expensive package, you can seriously boost your revenue stream. In this regard, you might upsell premium packages to customers who have purchased the basic edition of your product, or offer extra campaigns to customers already maximizing value from the services they use.
How to do this? Free trials are a great way for customers to get a taste of the value an upgrade could bring. And, carefully crafted service and pricing levels can make it easier for these people to spend more, especially when they're matched with personalized contact from account managers.
Just take a look at these separately-priced product levels, from video marketing platform Wistia, each offering distinct benefits the more customers spend. This scenario presents a perfect display of the value that can be gained by upgrading service.
Cross-selling differs from upselling in that rather than offering upgrades and add-ons to what customers have already purchased, the company tries to sell them a completely different product or service.
Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Your SaaS Churn
Cross-selling is still instrumental in attaining a negative churn rate, but companies might tweak it in different ways: The SaaS companies in this McKinsey report for example that had the lowest churn rate were those that cross-sold multiple products to around one-third of their customers. A great example was New Relic, a digital intelligence company which grew very large very quickly by successfully cross-selling.
New Relic made a point to connect with companies' developers rather than their leaders. En route, a range of easy-to-deploy products and features was offered, making it easier than ever for customers to add different products onto their initial contracts.
By offering more products that solve customers’ problems, you’ll increase your own customer retention. This is key to reducing churn -- but it's not the only strategy for achieving negative churn. Here are some others ...
Prioritize customer success.
A strong customer success team for any SaaS company seems obvious. However, some companies still fail to grasp that this is a win-win approach for them and their customers. Putting customers at the heart of every decision and making it a strong and unifying principle throughout your business will boost team morale and make its work feel more meaningful.
Prioritizing customer success is also a simple way to retain customers. If they aren’t succeeding, they'll leave -- it’s that simple. If they're getting value from your product, they’ll purchase more. But achieving negative churn isn’t merely about a special marketing or sales promotion, it's about helping customers attain goals.
Data analytics company Algo.ai has this nailed. Its team prioritizes customer success so strongly that it's filled top managerial roles with former customers to ensure that everyone clearly understands exactly what customers need so the company is performing at its best. Examples? Algo's current VP of customer success, Jeff Fueston, and president, John Daly, as well as senior team members, all formerly worked at Sony Pictures -- a previous client of Algo.
Success in this sense doesn’t simply mean customers creating their accounts, migrating their data and otherwise appearing "active." Customer success at utilizing your product or service happens when those customers have reached measurable, value-based outcomes prescribed by both parties.
This is a simple concept: It entails viewing a customer's being onboarded as the start and not the end of your journey together. So, it really pays to proactively stay in touch with customers to make sure your service is fueling their ongoing success.
For example, team members at Liongard, an automation platform for managed service providers, minimize churn by proactively monitoring clients’ utilization of their tool, recording those clients' actions in active environments. If account managers notice any customers not fully using the product, they reach out to understand the challenges those customers are facing. Through such proactive contact, Liongard not only assists customers with training to get started in key areas, but also provides feedback to its own product team to improve the product experience.
Ultimately, learning how clients' needs have evolved and asking about the kinds of opportunities they’re considering will foster your relationship and allow you to provide a personal and valuable service. Because one size doesn't fit all. And sometimes clever hacks can be designed to achieve the particular functionality a client requests.
Nabto, a real-time internet of things communication platform, demonstrated this perfectly by correcting a mistake a customer made during setup, which meant that the product couldn’t run correctly when connecting to the internet. CEO Carsten Rhod Gregerson explained on LinkedIn that by analyzing the problem together with the customer, his company found it could adjust the platform to be aware of the issue, allowing the customer to circumvent the problem.
This meant that subsequent end-customers never even found out that the problem had existed.
And finally .. a quality product
Of course, achieving negative churn won't be possible without a great product, the factor which fundamentally drives the success of your business, and subsequently the value you deliver to your customers.
Team members at drop-shipping platform Revcascade ensure that their product quality is consistently kept high by prioritizing customers’ feedback on the platform above all else. And they credit this as one of the reasons why they haven’t churned a single customer to date. Bernd Engist, CTO at Syslink Xandria, has explained that many of his own company's product’s capabilities were born of customer-expressed pains and requests, paired with a problem-solving attitude from the Syslink team.
So, while sales and marketing are of course key in gaining and retaining customers, none of that will be possible without your company's commitment to a continuous improvement of your product.
Yes, reaching negative churn is no easy task, but it is possible if you take on these approaches and allow them to complement one other. By prioritizing your customers’ success; taking a creative, proactive, and open-minded approach; persevering through any obstacles that come your way; and continuously working to keep your product top-notch, you'll set your business up for the best chance to achieve the thing you want most: negative churn.
Steve Fenlon is the director of customer success at Easy Projects. In that role, he partners with leaders across all business units to transform the customer experience and ensure that the customers is at the center of every business decision. Fenlon has previously held similar senior management roles with other tech companies large and small.