FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: How to Use Marketing Intelligence to Prevent Churn

Attracting prospects to your brand is only half the battle. Long-term growth means you have to retain existing customers and hopefully build a base of brand evangelists. Use marketing intelligence data to establish and keep your good name and your customer base.

Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics


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Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to FOUND Friday. Today is our second Friday the 13th this year, so I’m really excited for that. Hopefully, this time we don’t lose Internet connection. Today we’re talking about “How to Use Marketing Intelligence to Prevent Customer Churn.” What we’re really talking about is once you’ve got people on board and into your organization, long-term growth really means talking about retaining existing customers and hopefully building a base of brand evangelists, too.


What we don’t want to do is pass that job off to just people in customer support or account management because there’s a lot of great information that comes in through marketing and that can be built on from the content that we’re already creating to make sure that you keep your customer base.


With me of course, as always, I have Ray. This is actually something that Ray and I talk about a lot and we touched on a little bit at the end of last week’s show. We’re talking a little bit about why customer churn is such a big deal for companies.


Ray: People usually talk about churn in the context of B2B or a SaaS company, but churn actually can also happen in e-commerce. It just looks a little bit different and it’s usually not called churn. But when you think about retention, the key to any business and growing it over the long term is retention and recurring revenue. From a SaaS perspective, obviously that means you’re keeping your customers, they’re not cancelling. Ideally, they’re expanding the amount of money they spend with you.


But in e-commerce even, it’s true. You have the same thing where you have repeat visits, recurring customers, as well. If you have a store online and someone visits you once and buys something one time, it’s nice but they’re not a very valuable customer. So you want to try to get them to come back as much as possible. That’s a retention issue. When you don’t get those people, you should do that as churn because they’ve churned out of your service and there’s no loyalty to your store.


Erin: One of the things that’s important to remember because, as you say, it’s not just a B2B problem, it’s a problem for any kind of repeat business. With e-commerce, what we’re talking about is important but this is anything where somebody would need to buy a similar product or service again and doesn’t use you but could. What we’re really talking about here is not just losing the revenue from that single transaction, whether it is a can of soda or a multi-thousand-dollar-a-month software package. You’re talking about losing that person’s revenue over their entire lifetime as well as your cost of acquisition the first time.


So the actual loss is huge because it did cost you money to bring that person on the first time, anywhere from a few cents to a few thousand dollars. When you add that up over lots of customers, it’s a really big thing. It also removes that person from your list of customers and puts them in your competitors’ list of customers because they’re going to get what they need somewhere and if it’s not you, it’s a problem.


Ray: Exactly. Actually, even before the Internet, CPGs knew this, as well. If you’re competing for shelf space in a store, you’re in a highly commoditized business, you’re selling soap, deodorant, or whatever, you’re basically are trying to figure out how to get those people to be customers over and over again of the same brand because that’s the only way you’re going to keep up those multi-billion dollar revenues.


Erin: It’s a lot harder to regain a lost customer than it is to get them the first time. So what we’re really talking about here is nearly five times harder to get someone back once you’ve upset them enough to not use you again. There are a lot of times where a lot of people talk about product reliability and uptime for software products and things like that being an issue. But there are a lot of things that affect customer retention.


I want to talk a little bit about how folks in the marketing space and people who have access to marketing data can take over some of that responsibility because it really does help increase the bottom line and that’s good for everybody. What we’re really talking about is keeping customers happy.


One of the things that’s interesting, too, is some people don’t know that they have a charm problem or a retention problem depending on what their role is. My rule of thumb here is, if you don’t know your churn rate: (1) ask and see if somebody will tell you, there’s no harm. And (2) if you don’t know and somebody won’t tell you, just assume you do have a problem and that you should be addressing it because there’s no better way to prevent something than fixing it before it happens. “An ounce of prevention, a pound of cure” adage.


Talking about keeping your customers happy from a marketing perspective within your brand, I would say that there are a few core things to remember and we’ll talk about each of them. The first is: knowing what problem that they had in the first place that led them to you. Kind of soda thing is somebody was thirsty and they have a lot of choices – water, juice, milk, soda, whatever. Thirst equals “I want something.” Or caffeine equals “I have Starbucks or I could get a can of Coke.”


Knowing why they chose you over another option – was it proximity? Was it price? There are a million different reasons that people make choices. You need to know why you’re the option.


The third is knowing what they’re using you for and how. A lot of times people use our products in ways that we didn’t necessarily imagine they would use the products. That’s something that you and I learned by having customer dinners and chatting with our users being like, “Hmm. I had no idea that that’s actually what you were using the product for.” Figuring out where they still have questions or want improvements. Talking to them about, “Hey, what are still some things that you’re challenged with and how might we be able to be the answer to that?”


The last is showing that you’re listening to them. That’s my list of things that you should be looking for in terms of data. Let’s start with the first one: knowing what problem they have in the first place that led them to you. This is one of the easiest things in my estimation to find out, which is there are a number of different things that I look at.


One is looking at search data by keyword and topic. Another one is looking at your competitors’ search and social data sorted by keyword and topic. The other is market exploration board. I’ll post a link to that on the follow-up blog post. I don’t want to spend too much time getting into it, but what that really is is a way to dig in and see based on your industry for what keywords, topics, and types of conversations are happening when people are discussing meeting a solution. It takes into account everything from search to forums to blog posts to social media, everything that’s a discussion amongst actual users about their issues and how people are talking about solving it.


From the search perspective for you and your competitors – Ray, talk a little bit about how getting groups of keywords and topics and getting to know those group things about your products is really helpful. I know that that works from an e-commerce perspective for sure but also from the B2B in general business perspective.


Ray: Keyword/topic grouping is actually a really powerful tool that people have. We’re always encouraging our customers to do it as much as possible because a lot of times the focus is still very much on ranking of individual keywords and everything else, and it makes sense because it’s quite intuitive.


The thing that’s cool about topic grouping is it lets you get above the day-to-day thing that you’re thinking about with whatever content you’re writing. Focus on the big picture all [8:00 inaudible]. By grouping a lot of your keywords into topics that you think your audience cares about, that lets you come back to those topics again and again. When you think about one keyword, while you’re at the article to target this keyword and we think we’re going to get this much target traffic from it and everything else, but if you have a topic then you can start building this theme around your business that you want to write about. You can use that as a recurring source of ideas.


Erin: It’s totally true. One of the things that we also see people miss out on in terms of an opportunity is not going back and regrouping keywords based on product ideas. We’re going to come back to that later on because it’s part of a bigger picture. But it also helps us discover why did they choose you?


A lot of this goes into what you and I often refer to as cohort analysis. Creating groups of people that are cohorts – and a cohort can be a variety of different things. It can be customers that came in based on a quarter or fiscal year. It can be customers that came in from a particular campaign. It can be people grouped by geography. A cohort is simply a way to describe a group of people that have similar attributes. And people can belong to multiple cohorts. There’s a lot of software and things like that that will help you manage some of this, but you can also do some of these on your own.


Looking at why they chose you. You should be able to know what features people are using most or what specific types of brands or products they’re choosing those. On the e-commerce side, this is the actual products and things from your line that they are most often purchasing. So if you’re making jeans, what particular cut, style, wash or whatever of denim are they choosing those? On a product like our side, are they choosing things like Competitor Discovery and Analysis or are they doing things like keyword rank or social engagement? It’s really important to know this stuff.


Second is this idea back to what are they talking about in customer support areas? What FAQs get the most views? Where on the site in terms of all of your feature overview and support information are people who are existing customers going? You need to be able to segment out people who are existing users and in your product or purchasing from people who are just prospective because those views are going to be very different.


Next is: what landing page were they on directly before a sale? What was the last thing they looked at before they decided to purchase? Because chances are, that was the thing that made them be like, “Oh hey, I actually would spend money on this.” Whatever that is, it’s probably important.


Where do they go most often after an initial purchase? If they come back to content that you have domain over, where in your contents here are they going once they purchased? Are they looking for more information? Are they looking for additional products? Are they looking to purchase the same thing again? Are they looking to recommend it to someone else? What’s happening?


If they are looking for additional information, this is a great opportunity for marketers because it means that they’re looking for more information around this and you could create content that is naturally going to get a lot of traction.


Ray: Yeah, absolutely. It kind of goes back to what we were talking about overall where you have a customer and you’re happy that they bought something. Then you’re thinking already about the next customer and you’re not paying attention to how can you get that customer to buy again. To your point, in order to actually understand their psychology why they bought something, you can look at the content that they’re interacting with the most – and website. You can really get a good feel for what motivates them.


I think this is one of the reasons that Amazon has always been so successful. Their recommendation engine is probably obviously by far the best in industry. What it’s doing is it’s not just looking at your products that you bought in the past. It actually built its map of all of these other things that are likely to be appealing to people who have bought things in the past. They could be entirely different product categories. You could be reading a certain type of book and they’ve done the analysis to say, “Based on that, you’re probably also interested in this garden tool set.” It’s something that seems irrelevant but they’ve got a psychological profile on this. Everyone has the budget of course to do that but it’s an interesting clue into the types of insights that you can get by looking at what people are actually reading and paying attention to.


Erin: It is really interesting. When we’re talking about this behavioral profiling situation which is really popular and important, there’s a huge part of where people’s marketing analytics and marketing data goes and a big purchase thing for a lot of companies out there. People are spending a ton of money on getting this information because it is super valuable. Often it can net out millions or billions of dollars but it can also be a little bit problematic.


One example of a partnership that you see actually now but didn’t used to be a thing is – they did an analysis where people who shop at Target most frequently buy Starbucks coffee and often used Apple products. Now there’s a Starbucks in almost every Target and Target is an Apple reseller. It’s like a natural thing apparently. But these are not three things that people would have initially been like, “I’m in Target, I should get coffee and an iPhone.” Now it’s all together.


The other thing that happened – and it’s a really great case study for marketers – was there was a woman, she bought four particular things like ice cream, a particular medicine, and then something else. For some reason, all of these things pointed to the fact that she was pregnant but she did not know she was pregnant. They sent baby and maternity pamphlets to her house. Because they resell their marketing data and they sent all these baby stuff to her house where, unfortunately, she lived with her parents and they found out, it became this really big snafu. There is a lot of marketing data that can point you in the right direction to help keep customers but there’s also some idea – don’t be super creepy about it.


Back on topic – even though I really like that from the side. You find out you’re pregnant because you bought something else.


Ray: More amusing things that your parents find out you’re pregnant. Not amusing for her probably.


Erin: I’m sure eventually it ended in a very joyous occasion for everybody.


What are they using you for and how this goes like we were talking about? Sometimes you don’t know how people are specifically using your product and you can come across great features that you could market or that other people might be interested in if you find out how specifically people are utilizing what you’re doing.


One of the things that’s interesting is you can actually group people into cohorts this way by how they’re using your product. For us, there’s a bunch of different ways to do that. Some examples might be agency users versus in-house marketers or people who are strictly trying to solve a reporting functionality like an automated reporting problem versus people who are trying to do a lot of really deep analysis and create new content. How somebody is specifically utilizing the product means that we can actually group them together and then market to them and provide resources to them based on those specific needs.


One of the other things that’s interesting to look at here is, do certain kind of customer segments look at certain types of marketing more? For example, it’s interesting to note, does a particular cohort of people really respond well to e-mail while another cohort actually really responds well to social media? It’s interesting to know how you need to market to your customers in order to keep them happy.


Ray: Whenever we talk about this, the thing that always strikes me is there’s actually a lot of difficulty in doing that well. Surprisingly, we know the state of the industry is that the tools are still rudimentary. If you look at all the marketing automation companies, they have businesses pretty much because they’re able to execute on that particular bullet point that you just mentioned. They’re able to answer that question of, what does this segment do versus this segment? What do they respond to the most? You’re able to send customized personalized campaigns to them.


Every company that we know that we talked to still struggles with their marketing automation platform because it’s pretty complex operation that you’re engaging with. And the tools, they’re good but there’s still a long way to go. This is going to be an area where you’re going to see a lot more growth and innovation because it’s one of those powerful things you can do and there are still a lot of companies just addressing the lowest hanging fruit part of that problem.


Erin: It is a really big challenge and I do think we’ll continue to see growth. There are a lot of problems with it and I’d say that one of the things that continues to be a struggle for a lot of folks is when you inherit a marketing team or a marketing platform and a bunch of data because most people are not starting from scratch like most people have some sort of existing set of data, is this idea of set up. One of the things you can do to segment people out yourself and do some of this cohort analysis yourself is you can create these buckets and you can actually look at people in them but you have to actually spend the time to create the buckets. You have to take the time to do this.


Being able to do the separation as to what features or how they’re using you is interesting but one of the other things you’ll find out is whether they still have questions or want improvements if you continue contact with people who have purchased once or people who are current users of your product.


I’ll take e-mail marketing as an example. Say you send out ten e-mails over the course of a couple of months. Knowing which cohorts open which e-mails will tell you a lot about what specific needs you’re meeting or not meeting because whatever they’re opening is probably the thing where they still have a concern or a question or a feature that they are power using. That’s something that you should be able to know and see. Of course, if you’re just sending out the same e-mail to everyone all at once and you don’t have any way to slice and dice that data, then you’re just being like, “Oh, I’ve got a 20% open rate. Okay.” But you don’t know is that actually 80% of one cohort and zero percent of another? It’s making that final open rate what it is. That’s a really important distinction.


This area of marketing and this area of data in general does have a really long way to go and the constant proliferation of new channels and new distribution techniques and tools is probably slow in the process because everybody always feels like they need to wait and add in all these channels and distribution methods into their platform to get this full view, but in actuality you really only need a few core things. Like you need search, you need some main social, you need e-mail, and probably some paid. But inside of social, I’m counting things like forums, blogs and stuff like that to be part of the ecosystem. But other than that, I think you’re probably good.


Ray: It’s true. There’s the surprising amount of stuff that you can do with a few simple tools. People tend to [20:09 inaudible] and think they have to get all these certain things because they heard about it at a conference and everyone is talking about it. Conferences, articles, and everyone else, they’re classic for making everyone seem amazing. We talk to people day in and day out and they’re like, “I’m just struggling to write a blog every week.” We tell them, “If you can do that consistently, you just e-mail the blog post that you write out. You’re pretty far along the game.” It’s a nice thing to go to folks like that.


Erin: It’s totally true. One of the things that we talked about previously, it’s still a really big problem. People are now like, “I don’t have time to write and come up with my own stuff because I’m too busy doing all of these other tasks.” So then they’re outsourcing the actual critical thing. And the critical thing is original, unique, good, compelling content.


I would actually outsource all the other crap. But don’t outsource the creative, real thought leadership piece because that’s the thing that nobody else can really do. So then you’re putting up all this content, it’s like water down and you’re paying money for it.


You’re like, “But we’ve posted 12 new blog posts. That’s one thing we paid $5000 from or $10,000 or whatever it is. Why aren’t we getting more traffic?”


It’s like, “Because your blog post sucks, and you’re actually turning people away.”


Speaking of turning people away, the last thing that’s part of this keeping people there or not

– it’s like customer retention, I guess showing them that you’re listening. You’ve got all this cohort analysis stuff. They’re looking at your stuff, they’re going through your content, they’ve purchased something from you once, show them that you are actually paying attention to what they’re doing. Send them updates on what you’re doing to improve their experience and ask them for additional feedback. You won’t always get people to respond because people are busy, but the people who do are really engaged.


Actually, it’s really important to go back and improve or update old support pages, FAQs, how-to guides, and educational materials as often as it’s relevant or as you can. Check out how that stuff performs across all of your content. It’s also really important – don’t skimp on screen shots and videos just because they a little bit longer to put together because they really help for people who love some visual content.


Share your educational material via different channels. Don’t just post it on your site or e-mail it out to somebody when they ask for it. Put that stuff everywhere. Put it on SlideShare, put it on social, throw a blog posts up about support stuff. There are all kinds of really cool things. People can scroll through and find it better than and they don’t have to dig around through this myriad support nonsense on some page that’s just a list of links.


Ray: If you’re going to take the extra trouble to create the visual content, you definitely should be sharing it on those mediums where visual content is most effective – Pinterest, SlideShare, Instagram, YouTube obviously, as well, if you have videos. It may not be the same volume as your website traffic but you’re going to get a lot of long tail referrals and you’re also going to get a lot of more serendipitous visits to your website based on – just people who are in different part of the Internet. It’s almost like free display ads. You’re basically capturing the same sort of psychological mechanism that display ads do but they’re not annoying and they’re in the middle of other content that people are trying to look at.


Erin: I always think it’s funny when people are like, “We’ll only put advertising pictures or these fake real shots on Pinterest.” Brands will do that. Then they won’t actually put anything else up there. Maybe it is something like an apple corer, right? There’s a pretty shot of but I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a really well done visual of how to use it, put on there, too.


B2B has the same thing. I tell people time to time, “If you don’t make ugly content, it’s not bad to post it somewhere like Pinterest.” If there was a really, really pretty visual way on how to create a blog post or how to make a video, and somebody wanted to put up a really pretty illustration of that somewhere, there’s no reason to not re-pin that. There’s no reason the post has to only be cupcakes and wedding dresses. There can be other stuff on there.


Ray: Yup.


Erin: Let’s wrap this up. I’d like to talk about where you can look for data in your organization, both marketing and otherwise to aggregate and find some commonalities to create these cohorts and to learn some more stuff.


First of all, very obvious one is e-mail opens. What subject lines are most popular to customers and how does that compare to their keyword data? Compare what’s going on the subject lines to what people are searching for. If you’re not cross-pollinating those two then go back and watch some of the FOUND Friday videos because I talk about it a lot. Also, how can you leverage what people are reading and opening most in e-mails into other areas of marketing because obviously it’s something that your current customers care about.


Next, search. What are people still looking for once they’re actually using your product? Take a look at what they’re still looking for or discussing and turn it into content that’ll actually keep them engaged with you.


Popular site content. What content are they consuming the most and how is it different from non-customers? You should actually be able to see current user consumption versus non-user consumption and take a look at what landing pages and stuff those people are looking at.


Social media. What are they talking about in your space? Are competitors talking to them and trying to steal them away from you? Can you leverage their network of people to try to get more customers or build up more of this conversation?


The last that people miss out on a lot is customer support. What are the most frequent issues for current customers? Your customer support team, if you have one or wherever you keep all of these inbound support requests, should be segmented by questions from people who are users and questions from people who are just out there. Are these issues something that could be better explained or resolved with better content from your department, like video overviews, better initial messaging, cool graphics and visuals like what we’re just talking about? Could you actually help close some support issues by just creating better content at the onset?

Ray: You mentioned probably five things here. These are all from a technology perspective, pretty simple tools, pretty simple things that you can do, which is good because you need simplicity, you need a way to access those sort of data very quickly. I can’t think of a single company that I know that’s consistently being able to do all of these at the same time in terms of the conversations we’ve had.


People are honest with us. They’re talking about the struggles that we have and so we’re able to do even three or four of these or even three, three. You’re doing really well. If you’re doing all five consistently and you’ve got a process built around these, then you’re probably going to be hitting it out of the park. Then the challenge of course is they actually respond to it quickly.


Erin: Yeah. What we’re really talking about is sharing information around other things that people are working on. So if you’re not a marketing department of one and you’re not solely responsible for creating the content, sending out the e-mails, sharing it on social, doing all sorts of stuff, which if you already probably do have some insight into how this is working – your job doesn’t stop once you’ve attracted the lead or attracted the person to make the purchase. Your job is to make sure that they continue to make that decision over time.


Thinking that you only have to get them in the door is a short-sighted view of what the entire ecosystem and what your real bottom line is going to look like. So, getting access to all of these data and being the champion in your organization for making sure that all of this information actually leads to customer retention and better marketing materials from the get-go is really important. Because if you actually just create the best possible content from the start and if you actually build in retention to all of your marketing efforts as a general idea that you keep it in the back of your head no matter what you’re doing, then you’re not going to have to spend as much time saving people or begging them to come back or whatever is happening.


Ray: Absolutely.


Erin: There’s a hopefully some good information about some steps and things like that that we always include in the blog afterwards, so go and check that out for the list and also include a few of the older videos and things where we catch on some visual content, ideas that we’ve had, as well as ways to take data from initial sources and use it to make better marketing decisions throughout the entire ecosystem.


With that, we’re actually out of time. So, everybody, have an awesome and safe Friday the 13th and we will see you next time.


Ray: Have a good one.


Erin: Bye.


Ray: Bye.

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