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Everyone would like more leads.

Companies dedicate significant resources to improving their lead generation, trying to get as many potential customers into the top of their funnel as possible. It makes sense; after all, the more leads you have, the more customers you’ll end up with, right? 

However, lead generation is only half the story. After all, a million new customers won’t do you any good if they stop using your product/service the very next day. 

Instead, smart companies realize the importance of reducing churn and retaining their existing customers. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. What causes customers to stop using your product/service, and how can you minimize this? 

What is churn?

When people talk about losing customers, they will often refer to their churn rate. This is the number of customers, as a percentage of your total customers, that stop using your product/service in a certain period.  

So, if you started the month with 1,000 customers, but 50 decided to quit, your churn rate at the end of the month would be 5%. 

The lower the number, the better you are at retaining customers.

It sounds simple, but it has big implications for your business.

Why you need to prioritize reducing churn

With 82% of companies agreeing that it costs more to acquire new customers compared to retaining their current ones, it makes far more sense to prioritize your existing customer base.

Mitigating churn can have a massive impact on the metrics and KPIs you use to measure your business’s performance. If you’re losing customers, you’re going to be losing the revenue they bring in too. As a result, monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and annual recurring revenue (ARR), two metrics commonly used to measure the health of SaaS businesses, are going to take a hit. 

If the churn rate is higher than customer acquisition, you’re in trouble. If they’re churning quickly and the customer lifetime value (LTV) is lower than the customer acquisition cost (CAC), you’re in serious trouble. 

It’s not just a matter of replacing those customers though. A 5% increase in customer retention can produce a 25% or more increase in profits. It’s even possible to achieve negative churn, where the revenue earned from existing customers (through upgrades, cross-sells, and so on) is higher than the revenue lost through customers leaving or downgrading. 

While there’s an obvious effect on revenue, a high churn rate is a warning, a symptom that something is seriously wrong with your service. Your brand reputation, maybe even your entire business, could be in danger. 

Why do customers churn?

It’s not enough to recognize that churn is bad for business; you have to identify why customers are churning in the first place. 

It might be a budgetary issue. As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, companies cut any costs they could, restricting outgoings to just the bare essentials. UK marketing budgets were cut by their highest levels in over 20 years. While you might argue that your product is actually essential and provides a positive ROI, there’s not much you can do if the customer has no budget available. 

However, in many other cases, churn is completely preventable. If a lead hasn’t been properly qualified, then realize the product doesn’t do what they expected after signing up, chances are they’ll quickly churn. In this case, you might have an issue with your qualification process, either on the marketing or sales side, that you need to resolve. While it may seem great to close a new deal today, it’s no good if they churn tomorrow. It’s a waste of time and energy that could be spent pursuing leads that are a good fit. Instead, it’s better for your sales and marketing to focus on the leads who’ll get the most value out of your product. 

According to Retently, 53% of churn is due to a combination of poor onboarding, weak relationship building, and poor customer service. For example, customers who haven’t been properly onboarded may not see the value to their business. Customers who don’t feel cared for will look for a company that does nurture strong relationships. 

Of course, your product/service has to deliver the value your customer needs. If they’re getting a poor experience, whether that’s a clunky design or sub-par results, it won’t be long before they start looking for a better alternative. 

The good news is that, with intent data, it becomes a lot easier to anticipate when a customer is likely to churn, then put steps in place to resolve their issue.

Using intent data to prevent churn

Once you know the reasons people churn, it’s easier to prevent it. For example, many companies now have a Customer Success team in place. Rather than traditional Customer Support teams, who usually only jump into action when a customer reaches out in need of help, Customer Success proactively works with customers to ensure they’re getting the maximum value. 

One way they can do this is by leveraging intent data. 

While buyer intent data is an excellent way of finding potential customers who are looking at products like yours, it can also be used after prospects have converted to clients to see if they’re sending out signals that show they may be thinking of churning. 

For example, technographics are commonly used to see what technologies your prospective customers are using or trying out. However, if one of your existing customers has just signed up for a trial of a similar tool to yours, it’s a clear sign that they may be about to churn. 

Even before they start signing up for demos, they’ll likely be giving off other intent signals. If they’re searching for competitors, engaging with their content, or visiting review sites, those are other potential signals that they’re in danger of churning. 

Alternatively, their searches might indicate that they’re struggling with your product. If they’re having to Google how to do key tasks, then they’re likely confused or are struggling with your product, and it won’t be long before they start searching for another solution. This activity could even be happening on your site; if they’re spending an excessive amount of time on support pages or—even worse—looking up FAQs on how to cancel their contract, you need to know about it.

The knowledge gained from intent data can then be used to take appropriate action. In a post on CMSWire, Wilson Raj (global director of customer intelligence at SAS) shared how, when combined with analytics, intent data can be used to learn more about how your customers use your product/service and promote stronger engagement: “You can apply churn models such as uplift modeling and survival analysis to preempt customer defection with corrective actions, such as special offers or free upgrades.”

Beyond reaching out to the specific customers who are displaying the churn intent signals, the lessons you learn can be used to guide your overall product development, improving your service for all of your customers.

Achieving negative churn and increasing customer retention

Even when you address all of the potential customer satisfaction issues to minimize churn, you still might be missing out on opportunities. Even the happiest customer may look at other vendors for additional services if they don’t realize you can also provide them. If you offer a range of services, you must educate your customers on everything you can do to help them, a role usually handled by your Customer Success team. However, it’s likely that, despite your best efforts, some of your customers aren’t aware of all the services you offer.

By continuing to monitor buyer intent signals from your existing customers, you can see when your customers are looking for these extra services. At this point, you have an excellent opportunity to unlock additional revenue by cross-selling the service or helping them to upgrade. Companies like Amazon rely on cross-selling and product recommendations, which account for 35% of their overall revenue

If they’re a satisfied customer, they’re far more likely to spend the money with a provider they already know and trust. By selling to your existing customers, you can move closer to achieving negative churn.

You can also use data to keep track of your most valuable customers and build stronger relationships. For example, if you see your contact has been promoted, or the company opens a new location, you can send them a message congratulating them. If a new contact joins the company, you can take the initiative to introduce yourself and ensure they’re aware of all the ways you can help them. By taking an interest in your contact and their company, you can build a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

Conclusion

While it’s great to have a pipeline full of fresh new leads, it’s important not to neglect the customers you already have. Churn is an important metric to track and can have a huge effect on the health of your business. By using intent data wisely, you can see when customers are facing issues and anticipate when they’re in danger of churning. You can also help your satisfied customers by offering complementary services they’re searching for and engaging with them. By retaining more customers and providing more value, you can build a stronger business.

Stay ahead of your customer’s switching to a competitor. Get a custom intent report to see where you stand.