5 Techniques to Help You Truly Understand Your Customers

Optimizing the customer experience is a great way to get new customers. It’s also one of the best ways of fostering customer loyalty.

According to Teradata, only 41% of marketing executives are using customer engagement data to inform their marketing strategy.

Despite this, marketers and other organizational leaders alike are neglecting the customer before and after the sale. The biggest barrier to even beginning is usually the lack of a deep understanding of the customer in the first place.

Having a comprehensive understanding of your customers is key to achieving core business goals. Whether you’re trying to build (or optimize) the customer experience, creating more engaging content or increasing sales. Knowing your customers better than they do is key.

In this article, I’m going to outline 5 techniques you can implement to understand your customers better. We’ll look at both qualitative and quantitative data, as well as at the tools and mindsets you need to equip to get started successfully.

1. Apply Intelligent Customer Engagement

An optimized customer experience is valuable for revenue and retention. If you get it right, it can be a source of customer insight.

Engaging with your customers in real-time has become more easily accessible thanks to new tools. Messenger is becoming an ever more popular customer service channel, while tools like Drift allow you to talk with your customers as they browse your website:

drift-on-website

These channels are a means of collecting customer insight. Your proprietary data from interacting with your customers, regardless of the channel, can help you understand them better. Work with your customer service teams to look for patterns and react to the insight you generate.

On top of this, nothing beats customer development. Getting your customers on the phone on a regular basis can help you go deeper into their pains, needs and challenges.

This is exactly what Alex Turnbull, Founder of Groove does, in order to understand his customers more. He schedules regular calls so he can fully understand what they love or dislike about his product.

As a result, he’s helped improve his onboarding process, turned unhappy customers into happy customers and created more sophisticated buyer personas.

As you work to keep your customers engaged during the first stages of the customer journey, think of your budding relationship as a two-way street. Encourage customers to share their thoughts and opinions by including a customer satisfaction survey into your email drip.

SurveyGizmo suggests these three key principles to follow when designing a survey:

  • Remove bias: Ask the customer for their opinion without projecting your own. Get their uninfluenced, impartial opinion. You want genuine insights, even if they’re negative. An example of this could be something as simple as “What do you think we could do better?”
  • Be concrete: Use simple language that asks for feedback on a specific topic. For example, “How have you improved marketing effectiveness using our software?” will help to determine the value your customers are getting from you.
  • Focus: Your surveys should address one area of the customer experience. The aim is to get insights that you can then act upon.

Keep these things in mind as you personalize your customer survey with questions pertaining to your brand and product.

2. Create More Robust Buyer Personas

Many marketers make the mistake of using generic demographics like age, profession, and location to develop their buyer personas. These data points simply don’t provide enough information to create messaging that resonates with your audience on an emotional level.

One way to dig deeper into customer preferences is to use the Acquisitions tab on Google Analytics to see which social media outlets, industry blogs and professional forums your site traffic comes from. Then, apply this information to your personas so you can find out where and when to reach them more effectively.

Additionally, acquiring keyword data is a helpful way to discover the terms and descriptions that certain buyer personas use to describe your services.

To segment customers based on keyword searches, for example, use Google Webmaster Tools to create a list of common keywords that drive people to your site. Then, group the keywords into overarching themes and assign to different personas based on the data you have available.

This video by Bryan Harris will help you find ways to get around “keyword not provided” and help you identify keywords people are using to get to your website.

To put this language into action, incorporate these keywords across your website copy, content marketing efforts, and other online interactions. Speaking the same language as your customers is a subtle way to make your current audience feel more welcomed.

3. Generate Data from Customer Analytics

From clicking on a link to reading through a web page, every customer action offers valuable insight into customer behavior.

To determine how customers interact with your website, you can try a user behavior tracking tool. Tools like Google Analytics and Inspectlet are great tools for gathering insights such as time on page and bounce rate. Inspectlet can even provide short videos of users on your page in real time.

Another obvious tool is Kissmetrics. Their platform tracks the behavior of each of your customers, allowing you to manage and gather insights on specific segments.

The behavioral data you collect should lead you to conclusions about what your audience doesn’t understand, what they do and don’t like, and how you can create a stronger website experience.

If people had trouble navigating to a certain sales page, for example, adjust the interface to allow for a more user-friendly experience.

If there’s one page people spend more time on than others, analyze that page’s content to see what’s retaining people’s attention. Most importantly, if there’s a page with a high bounce rate, try to see what’s making people leave.

4. Anticipate, Predict, and Plan for the Future

Creating a plan for future customer engagement is just as important as creating a plan for the present. This puts customer experience teams in the right frame of mind to respond to customers during stressful or challenging situations.

Predictive modeling software mines existing customer data to identify cyclical patterns and trends that can inform decision making. Two great tools are RapidMiner and Angoss’ customer analytics, both of which create realistic future models.

To see how predictive modeling informs customer strategy, imagine you work for a SaaS company that wants to adjust its product roadmap to anticipate customer needs.

Looking at historical behavioral data will show you which features customers have found most valuable over time, and which features they didn’t use. Understanding your most popular and most visited pages can also inform your content strategy, focusing on topics and formats that will best solve your audiences challenges.

Draw trends across the most commonly-used features to determine why your customers liked them. Additionally, looking at market trends and analysis will give you a good idea of what other companies in your space have already accomplished, so you can devise new features that explore these areas.

Julia Cupman of B2B International emphasis the importance of market research:

“Many companies turn to disciplined market research as a form of insurance, i.e. as a means of reducing business risk. The next section looks at how market research is used in product development – not only as insurance, but also as a tool to establish needs and to obtain intelligence on market potential.”

market-research-time-graphImage Source

The above image shows how all stages of the product lifecycle benefits from market research. As you can see, continuous market research throughout the product roadmap naturally leads to more sales. The more you understand your market, the better product/market fit you have.

5. Traverse Your Customer’s Path

The only way to understand the unique and dynamic customer buying journey is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

This is made possible by an advanced technique called customer journey mapping — a method where companies create a detailed, graphical representation of the customer journey based on critical touch points — interactions between a customer and your brand before, during, or after purchase.

brand-touchpoints-customer-experience-chartImage Source

Let’s use Uber as an example to define touchpoints and see how they apply to customer journey mapping. Minor touch points include activities like downloading the app, or following the app on social media.

Major touch points, on the other hand, include things like requesting a ride, or completing driver training. Once touch points are defined, explore the circumstances affecting each touchpoint.

For example, a marketer at Uber might ask: what influenced the rider to download the app for the first time? Was it related to Uber’s customer referral program? Engage your internal team with these issues to get a well-rounded perspective and promote collaborative problem solving.

When you identify failed touchpoints, such as when a customer fails to use the Uber app they downloaded, establish a plan for contacting these customers.

You may want to create milestones, such as when an app user hasn’t logged into their account in three months, or when an avid customer suddenly stops using the product. It’s best if your customer experience team is able to call, write, or meet with customers directly to understand why they’re disengaged.

If you don’t have these resources, create an email marketing drip specifically focused on re-engaging your customers based on certain milestones.

Conclusion

Thanks to advanced analytics, behavioral recording tools, and stronger customer touchpoints, understanding customer behavior has gotten easier than ever.

The techniques outlined in this article are common practices meant to inform and inspire your customer engagement efforts, but they should always be catered to what’s right for your audience.

What are your favorite tools and strategies for increasing customer engagement? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Brad is a Content Marketing Strategist at Pipedrive, a sales tool for small teams with big ambitions. Get access to their free email course Sales Pipeline Academy.

What Not To Do at Your Company Holiday Party

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Ah, December: a month filled with festive decorations, hot chocolate, and the long-awaited company holiday party. 

Company holiday parties are a fun occasion to celebrate the season with your friends, family, and colleagues. However, even if the party has all of the trappings of an event you would throw at your home, such as food, alcohol, and party games, it’s still a work function. We’re aware that last bit can be easy to forget, which is why we put together this post. 

To help you have fun at this year’s holiday party without embarrassment, check out our top 10 rules for things to do (and to avoid) with your colleagues, direct reports, and managers.

10 Dos & Don’ts for Your Company Holiday Party

Don’t:

1) Don’t skip the party.

Whether you’ve been invited to another function on the same date or you’re simply feeling antisocial, avoid turning to your backlog of excuses to get out of this year’s party. 

Social work functions are great opportunities to get to know your teammates, meet and network with people you don’t work with directly, and have fun with the people you spend 40 (plus) hours a week with.

At the risk of sounding cliché, don’t be a Grinch — go to the party.

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Source: Giphy

2) Don’t talk about work excessively.

The holiday party is a work event, but that doesn’t mean you should talk shop the entire time. You’re there to have fun, so mingle with colleagues. Ask about their plans for the holidays, meet friends and family members your coworkers brought with them, and don’t forget the cardinal rule of conversation in mixed company: avoid politics and religion.

Ask questions, don’t monopolize the conversation, and if you get stuck, here are some networking tips to check out.

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Source: WordPress

3) Don’t bring an inappropriate gag gift to the swap.

If your office plans a gift swap or Secret Santa for your company party, remember that your coworkers and supervisors will be witnessing your gift being unwrapped. You can purchase something funny, but not inappropriately so. Our advice? Stick to the price limit and grab something thoughtful for your deskmate. (Here’s a list of Secret Santa gift ideas to inspire your search.)

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Source: Imgur

4) Don’t appear bored or antisocial.

Everyone is glued to their phones these days, but try to resist the urge to constantly check texts and social media at the office holiday party. Hiding your face behind a screen sends the message that you don’t want anyone to talk to or approach you, and that’s not the way to make connections with your colleagues. Leave your phone at your desk and you’ll appear more engaging and have better conversations with people.

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Source: KiK

5) Don’t drink too much.

With parties comes alcohol, and we highly encourage that you drink in moderation at the office holiday party. When supervisors and executives are around, you’re better off erring on the side of cautious. You don’t want to cause a scene, discuss anything inappropriate, or make coworkers uncomfortable, and those can happen if inhibitions are lowered.

If you don’t want to come into work the next day wondering if you jeopardized your job, drink wisely — and be sure to sample the snacks, too.

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Source: Quotesgram

Do:

6) Dress festively (but not inappropriately).

Use good judgment and stick to the office’s dress code policy when you’re getting decked out for the company party. Here at HubSpot, we’re huge fans of ugly holiday sweaters, but generally speaking, avoid wearing anything to the work party that could double as an outfit for a night out at the club. Office parties are fun, but should still be professional.

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Source: Giphy

7) Be careful with what you share on social media.

You may be tempted to live-tweet your office holiday party or post videos to your Snapchat Story, but keep what you’re sharing on social media innocuous. Your colleagues likely wouldn’t appreciate you posting candid photos of them without them knowing, so stick to posting group photos you all posed for.

Additionally, make sure you’re not inadvertently posting sensitive company information visible on computer screens or white boards if the party is held at your office.

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Source: Giphy

8) Meet new people.

Have fun at the party with your work buddies, but don’t miss opportunities to meet new people. You may not have the chance to mingle with other teams very often, so take advantage of the fun atmosphere to make new friends, too.

If someone introduces you to a client, an executive, or their partner, have an interesting follow up ready after they inevitably ask you what you do at your company. HubSpot Staff Writer Aja Frost put together a comprehensive list of conversation starters for every occasion — my favorite is “Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin?”

Remember: You’re more than just your job title, so come ready to chat with a story, a joke, or a question to get the ball rolling.

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Source: Odyssey

9) Skip the dancing. Or just avoid “getting it started” like Elaine.

Dancing is fun, but read the room before you start busting out your signature move like poor Elaine on “Seinfeld.” If people are dancing on a designated dance floor, you should feel free to join in, but remember that you’re at a work event. Always refer back to number five on this list (don’t drink too much), don’t make people uncomfortable, and when in doubt, skip it altogether.

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Source: Giphy

10) Thank the host.

If you can’t thank them in person at the party, be sure to follow up with a thank-you note or email for your events manager. It’s hard work to plan an event for an entire company — make sure it’s not thankless work, too.

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Source: Giphy

Every company is different, so these are flexible suggestions. When in doubt, abide by your company’s culture whenever you’re at a work event. Be respectful, engage with your colleagues, and have fun. We hope you have a warm and happy holiday season this year.

What’s your advice for company holiday party etiquette? Share with us in the comments below.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

14 Scientific Reasons to Disconnect This Weekend [Infographic]

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So. Any exciting plans for this weekend? I bet you’re looking forward to spending some time with your family, or catching up with friends. Maybe there’s a new recipe or restaurant you’ve wanted to try. And, of course, there are those countless minutes of checking your work email.

Wait. What? That doesn’t sound like a relaxing way to spend the Saturday. Or Sunday. Or both.

And yet, so many of us do it. In fact, 81% of American workers say they are required to be in contact outside of working hours — that includes weekends. Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

The thing is, we know better. There’s plenty of research out there on the negative impact of screentime on our health, especially when it comes to our sleep cycles. But there’s even more science to support the art of unplugging, which our friends at NetCredit compiled into this helpful infographic. 

So have a look. And then — please — disconnect for the weekend.

Science behind disconnecting

free email productivity tips

The 10 Types of Content That Work Best for SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

After analyzing hundreds of SERPs over the past few weeks, Rand has identified the 10 distinct content types that work best for SEO and classified which formats are suited for certain queries. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, he explains those content types and how to use them to satisfy searcher intent, match them to the right projects, and enhance your overall strategy.

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Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the types of content, content formats that tend to work well for SEO, and I’m talking specifically about content rather than sort of an e-commerce product page or a contact page or those types of things, and that’s because what we want to try and do here is talk about those of you who are doing content strategy and content marketing and choosing which content formats you should potentially use.

So I actually spent a bunch of time over the last few weeks analyzing a few hundred search results, of many, many different kinds, trying to identify the unique, diverse kinds of search results in which content marketing pieces ranked or the types of pieces that would fit into the content marketing world rank.

10 content formats that appeared regularly atop Google

So I made this list of 10. There are actually 11, but I don’t particularly recommend all 11 of these, and what I’ve done is, below the video, you can see in the text content of this Whiteboard Friday I’ve made a list. For each of these 11, I have a URL that’s a good example of this and a search query for which that URL ranks, so you can get a sense of what this type of stuff looks like. So you’re probably familiar with most of these formats:

  1. Blog posts and those could have regular updates or be republished on a regular basis
    e.g. Live & Dare’s Benefits of Meditation (ranks for Meditation Benefits)
  2. Short-form evergreen content and articles
    e.g. Jim Collin’s Piece on Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (ranks for BHAG)
  3. Long-form articles
    e.g. Wait Buy Why on the Fermi Paradox (ranks for Fermi Paradox)
  4. Photo and visual galleries, I found a lot of these ranking, especially for things that lent themselves to it, for example if you were to search for men’s haircuts styles.
    e.g. Right Hairstyle’s 100 Cool Short Hairstyles for Men/ (ranks for men’s hair styles)
  5. Detailed and information-rich lists of information
    e.g. Wareable’s Best Fitness Trackers of 2016 (ranks for Fitness Trackers)
  6. Interactive tools and content, got some good examples of those.
    e.g. Zoopla’s House Prices Tool (ranks for property prices)
  7. Comprehensive category landers, so this would be like if you search for kitchen designs, how you might land on Houzz’s page of various kitchen designs and that’s really a lander to get you into more content, so it’s not technically a content marketing piece by itself, but it leads you into content pieces or could.
    e.g. HGTV’s Kitchen Ideas (ranks for kitchen remodeling ideas)
  8. Multi-page guides, things like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, but we have some other examples too.
    e.g. Bates University’s “Painless Guide to Statistics” (ranks for statistics guide)
  9. Data or complex information that is visualized
    e.g. CNN’s Election Results (ranks for election results 2016)
  10. Video, YouTube or embedded video on a particular page, Whiteboard Friday itself being an example of that.
    e.g. Whiteboard Friday itself (ranks for Unique Content)

Then an eleventh format that I don’t actually recommend, even though I found it in the search results quite often, and that is the formal research documents that are usually PDFs or Powerpoints or those kinds of things. The reason I don’t recommend these formats is because they’re actually hard to parse. They’re particularly hard to open on mobile devices. They’re not very user-friendly, and most of the time the reason they rank well is simply because they’re cited by lots of other things. But when you see content marketers invest in one of these spaces and make a document in one of these other formats that’s better and more comprehensive and more useful and more user-friendly, they do a much better job and they tend to rank better too.

Which format should you use for your project?

So the question is: Which format should you be using for your project? This is something we have to do at Moz. We ask ourselves this question when we’re creating content around SEO and around web marketing information and information of all kinds. So there are sort of three big ones that I ask and then a few tips that I’ve got for you as well. But first off, I like to start with:

What’s the searcher’s intent? What are they trying to accomplish?


Now generally speaking, if it’s navigation or transaction, content marketing-types of pieces are not the right match for those types of queries. But if it’s informational, which is a huge swath, a massive amount of the searches that take place on the web and certainly many of the ones that content marketing is designed to target, because then it can turn those people from, “Yeah, I now know about your brand and I’m now considering you and I thinking about you.”

There’s a bunch of different variants of these. So things like I’m looking for:

  • A quick answer to this question
  • A deep comparison of different types of information or different products, different services, different paths that I could choose to answer the action that I’m about to take.
  • A broad overview
  • I could be searching out something, searching for information purely out of curiosity and intrigue. You know when you go down a rabbit hole around, “Hey, I want to know all the films that Meg Ryan was ever in.” Then, “Wait a minute. What is that one? I’ve never heard of that one, and let me go learn more about that.” So the curiosity and intrigue.
  • Professional and scientific interests
  • Multi-threaded exploration.

Look, there are plenty of others other types of informational queries. The key is to ask yourself which of these are most of the people performing this search query trying to accomplish, and then you can do a better job of narrowing down this list. So you might be able to cut out five or six of these and only leave yourself with a few options after you’ve answered this question. The next one is:

What actually appears in the search results page?

I mean this two ways. One, who already shows up there, and what kinds of formats are they using? That can be informational. That can give you some inspiration, or it could drive you to want to be different from the rest of them. But also, I’m asking in terms of the SERP features that appear there. Are we talking about:

  • 10 blue links and ads, which is very, very classic old school, but uncommon these days? Or are we talking about search verticals appearing in their images, which suggest maybe I should be thinking about…
  • Photos or visual galleries or maybe data or complex information visualized, like maybe an informational graphic or more likely a data visualization that’s of high quality. I’m not a big infographic fan myself, as you might know from previous Whiteboard Fridays.
  • Is it news? In which case, maybe I want a short-form article or a long-form article.
  • Is it videos? In which case, I probably want to video.

If we see lots of things like:

  • Instant answers, people also ask, in-depth results, that could point us toward the complexity of the information and how much people are willing to go dig into this. So people who also ask suggest that it might be a multi-threaded exploration, a multi-page guide, or a comprehensive category lander could be a good match there. If I see an instant answer, probable that a short-form, evergreen article could do really well, or a blog post that’s regularly updated might do well there.

If I see…

  • Site links, maps or local, or one of Google or Bing’s widgets, that essentially answer the query for you, a search for a calculator or a search for flight prices, they answer that already. A search for weather, they answer that already. Chances are it might be pretty hard to do things in the content marketing world that will actually have success there. I might bias you to look for other things.

Then the third question:

What’s going to resonate with two groups — my audience and their influencers?

You need to ask these questions about both those groups. That could mean:

  • Device type and where you are searching from. So if somebody is searching on a mobile device and they are on-the-go and this type of query has an intent that is informational but it’s very quick information, you might want to consider some of the shorter form stuff.
  • If there are hopeful next steps and you know that that’s the case, you might want to give something like the multi-page guide or the category lander or the interactive tool or content or that detailed list that gives someone actions they can take right after they’ve consumed that information.

You also want to consider whether this is a person or this is likely to be a person who is:

  • looking for new and interesting formats and they would be fascinated and enjoy exploring that, or whether they’re…
  • looking for something familiar and trusted, that is not new, that doesn’t make them think at all, it just answers their query and gets them finished.

Suggestions

I would say…

  • Don’t ignore new formats. So if some of these are not things you’ve considered in the past, don’t ignore them.
  • Recognize that you shouldn’t just use a format because it’s new. That is a terrible idea. You should use a format because it works well for your audience, because it serves all of these functions.
  • Learn from who’s already ranking
  • I wouldn’t say that you should just copy somebody else’s format because it’s easy to do and familiar. Make sure that familiar and trusted is the best way that you can compete.
  • Look at these content formats and finding ways to get a competitive advantage from them. If all of your competitors are just doing blog posts and short-form and long-form articles, you might be able to win with a visual gallery, you might be able to win with an interactive piece of content or a tool, or you might be able to win with complex information visualized. That’s a powerful thing.
  • Do use a multi-keyword approach in this analysis. So when I’m saying, “What is the searcher’s intent,” I’m asking you to consider all of the words and phrases that you’re hoping to rank for with this piece of content, not just a single keyword term or phrase. That will give you the best way to choose the right content format for the search queries and the overall goal of attracting the right searchers.

All right everyone, look forward to hearing about some of the formats you’ve used, maybe some that aren’t on this list. If you have great examples of these you’d like to share, we’d certainly love to see them. And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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95% Of Your Churn Should be Ignored. Here’s Why

When it comes to customer dissatisfaction, Spirit Airlines has consistently been the forerunner in the airline industry. Even in the recent travel report published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index it had the lowest score, much below the average benchmark.

Having said that, you’d expect those numbers to reflect on the company’s growth rate, right?

Wrong. Despite the mounting discontent among its customers, Spirit was the second most profitable airline company in 2015, and its growth rate is far from plateauing.

So what happened here?

Well, all those customers who were “dissatisfied” with Spirit’s poor service were still opting to travel on Spirit, as their deciding factor wasn’t the quality of the service, but the ticket fares. Spirit knows this, and keeps giving customers precisely what they want – nothing more, nothing less.

Numbers can be deceptive; and many times, they don’t necessarily speak the truth. If you’re taking numbers at face value, without digging deeper and getting to the bottom of it all, then you’ll most probably get blindsided.

And in the case of churn, it couldn’t be truer.

It’s well-known that churn is of two basic types: voluntary and involuntary.

While involuntary churn occurs when payments fail due to expired credit cards or any similar reason, voluntary churn predominantly occurs when a customer doesn’t receive the value that they had expected to receive from your product.

The solution to involuntary churn is pretty straightforward – a smart dunning mechanism in place can tackle most of the payment failure scenarios. It’s voluntary churn that needs a bit more thinking through.

And that’s what this post is about – effectively handling (not reducing/mitigating) voluntary churn.

Put simply, should you try to get back every one of those two groups of churned customers?

The Churned Customers Worth Fighting For

First off, not all users who choose to leave your product would’ve been good customers to your business in the long run. Not all of them would’ve found a perfect fit with your product. Peter Fader puts it well:

“Not all customers deserve your company’s best efforts. And despite what the old adage says, the customer is most definitely not always right. Because in the world of customer centricity, there are good customers…and then there is everybody else.”

The “everybody else” mentioned above are whom Lincoln Murphy refers to as “Bad Fit” customers. According to him, if a customer neither receives value from you immediately, nor in the future (under realistic assumptions), then those are the ones who’d come under this category.

And when a Bad Fit customer leaves you, it is, in fact, good churn. And spending your limited resources in bringing them back will be nothing less than futile.

Then there are customers for whom you — apart from delivering immediate value — will be able to deliver future value, in a particular timeframe. Lincoln calls them “Stretch” customers, and these are the ones whom you can strive to get back, provided the stretch is worth it.

Filtering out the 5%

A freemium model is infamous for papering over the cracks, by showing a huge number of sign-ups, and concealing the actual count of the right, engaged customers (again, numbers can be deceptive).

For instance, Chargebee also caters to the early-stage startups, and a majority of the churned customers left because they were shutting down their business. Here there would be no point trying to retain them, and this will again get classified as good churn.

So it’s our job to dig through the fluff and identify the churn that matters. By experience, we’ve learned that those Stretch customers account for only about 5% of the churn.

And to identify that 5%, we implemented a top-down approach, with three major activities:

  1. Capturing the ‘right’ data from the people who’re leaving
  2. Using the captured data to influence our next move
  3. Spot our mistakes, and then prevent them from happening again

Capturing the Right Data

When a user has decided to leave your product for good, filling up an elaborate questionnaire will be the last thing that they’d want to do.

Put yourself in their shoes – they’re clearly not in a pleasant mood while taking the call, and you shouldn’t be rubbing salt to the wound by making the process harder. Adding to that, most businesses fail to capture the true answers; their forms are not designed that way. In short, this turns out to be a double-edged sword, affecting both the sides.

So the key is to design your customer exit process in a way that you can discover the right reason for their account cancellation, in the most non-intrusive manner.

Number one, do away with open-ended questions, for in most cases, the users would simply skip the step (if it’s an optional field), or would type in some gibberish and get it over with (if it’s made mandatory).

explain-why-youre-cancellingThis type of question generally won’t lead to great insights from your customer.

Instead, give them, in the cancellation screen, a list of specific reasons for cancellation, and towards the end, make it optional for the users to type out their feedback (we’ve had customers who were kind enough to give us a descriptive answer, but they make only a small percentage of the total respondents).

Here’s how Chargebee’s form looks (we got the inspiration from Freshdesk’s form, and made our own set of tweaks to fit our use case):

chargebee-cancel-form

Number two, only include those reasons that are the most important for your team to learn about and act upon (because, the paradox of choice), and arrange them in the most effective order (start with the most crucial of the lot).

Using the captured data

From a bird’s eye view, the evaluation process will look something like this:

stretch-customer-flow-chart

1. Are they a Stretch customer?

To answer this question, we evaluate the behavioral data of customers, in terms of pre-set yardsticks.

By keeping track of the most important engagement metrics (specific to the life-cycle stage of the customer), we’re able to clearly pinpoint those users who’d been receiving value from the product, before they chose to call it quits.

For Chargebee, these metrics would be completing the account setup, inviting other users from their organization on board, customizing the invoice, configuring the hosted pages, and the like.

A churned customer who passes these yardsticks will be deemed a Stretch customer, who’ll then be considered for the next question.

Another activity that has helped us is the classification of churned customers based on the acquisition channels (Organic, SEO, SEM, AdWords, Third-party review sites, etc). Segment the customers, and figure out the churn rate (both revenue churn and customer churn) for each segment. Note that analyzing the revenue churn as well as customer churn for each channel is important, especially if you have a freemium model.

In fact, this segmentation revealed that customers who were acquired from a particular channel (with low acquisition cost), and had an effortless onboarding process, were showing a higher churn rate than their counterparts. To top it off, we also found out that their servicing cost was also comparatively higher. In short, they belonged to the Bad Fit category.

2. Will rectifying their pain-point align with your product vision?

“In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”
Aesop, Aesop’s Fables

Listen to Aesop.

Des Traynor refers to a product’s vision as its guiding principle – the hub of the product wheel that holds every other activity. And the essence of that vision is the fundamental value that you want to offer to your customers.

Being a Yes-Man and developing features to achieve the short-term goal of retaining a single customer will only take you further away from long-term vision, eventually making your product bloatware (gasp!). The assumption that a single customer’s feature requirement perfectly matches with the needs of all the other users every single time, leads to stuffing your product with unnecessary functions and over complicating it. This, in other words, is known as feature creep.

feature-creep-cartoonImage Source

In 1988, Seth Godin’s book packaging company let go of their biggest customer, who was making up for more than half of their revenue, and he doesn’t seem to regret it. He claims that the move made his team “happier and more successful”.

Is going the extra mile to please the Stretch customer worth the effort? Will solving their problem enhance the value that you’re delivering to your other customers as well? Is the particular solution aligned with your product vision?

Only, and only if you find yourself saying a “Yes” to these questions, should you take the plunge.

Spotting mistakes and preventing them from happening again

Once you’ve separated the Bad Fit customers from the Stretch counterparts, your next step will be to figure out how to prevent less of the former from onboarding and more of the latter from churning, in the future.

We’ve got three words for you: Root Cause Analysis

Andrew Tate gives a neat framework to trace every cancellation back to a root problem. According to him, based on the results from your exit survey, you can box your churned customers into one of these four reasons:

  1. Bought away – When the customer feels that your product is too expensive, or is not worth the price that you’re charging them.
  2. Moved away – When the customer pivots their business, and shifts to either a more stripped-down, or a more elaborate, enterprise-y solution, compared to yours.
  3. Pulled away – When the customer simply wants to switch to a competitor.
  4. Pushed away – When a member in the customer’s team vouches for another solution (intentional push), or when the customer feels that your service isn’t up to the mark (unintentional push).

Now let’s look at how each of these problems reveal the hidden mistake (and hence the solution):

1. Bought away
Your pricing is not aligned with the right buyer persona, and/or the value that it proposes to deliver.

Solution: Pick the right value metric to device your pricing strategy, and target the right buyer persona while marketing your product.

2. Moved away
Your target market does not include this particular buyer persona.

Solution: Expand your offering to include the new persona, if they fit your long-term objectives. If not, then just cut them loose.

3. Pulled away
The competitor’s offering is more attractive than yours – either because of their marketing or the presence of a feature missing in yours.

Solution: If it’s the former, work on a better positioning of your product in the market. If it’s the latter, go to the second question from the previous section (Will rectifying their pain-point align with your product vision?), and start from there.

4. Pushed away
There’s a lack/inadequacy of communication and customer support.

Solution: Double down on your customer support and customer success efforts.

Conclusion

Trials and errors form an integral part of the startup realm.

Businesses take a stab at bringing an idea to life, and take the help of other B2B businesses to build and grow theirs, some of whom they find to be a perfect fit with their business, while others they don’t. And as a fellow startup comrade, when we realize that the value we’re offering doesn’t match with the value that they’re seeking, we’re obliged to understand and respect their choice, and step aside.

The freemium model is of great help here, by providing the startups with ample leeway to experiment, without consuming much resource.

And it’s our job as a service provider to identify those businesses that have already crossed the initial phase of uncertainty, have built sufficient momentum and have acquired considerable value from us, and help them in advancing to the subsequent levels of growth.

About the Author: Sadhana Balaji is a Product Marketer at Chargebee. She writes about the fascinating workings of the SaaS realm. Head over to Chargebee’s SaaS Dispatch to read more of her work.

5 Significant Inbound Trends For 2017 – A Summary From INBOUND16

We’re still digesting the huge amount of information we picked up from INBOUND16 in Boston. Even though I made lots of notes, attended loads of conference sessions, and got tons of new Inbound Marketing ideas, I needed to sift through all the content to pick the top 5 trends I think you need to look out for in 2017.

Now we’re into the 2017 planning season, the time is perfect to consider how these 5 Inbound trends will impact your business in 2017.

1. Video Gets Embedded Into All Aspects Of Inbound In 2017

2. SEO Is About To Change Big Time In 2017 – Be Prepared

3. The Sales & Marketing Process Is Finally Unifying Around The Inbound Methodology

4. Inbound Marketing and PR will be inseparable in 2017

5. LinkedIn & Facebook PPC Advertising – They’re Both Strategic And Necessary For Inbound Marketing In 2017 

28 of the Best Chrome Extensions for SEO, Productivity & More

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For all of the greatness that the internet affords — cute animal videos, GIFs, and interesting blogs — I think its biggest downside is how distracting it can be. How many times have you sat down to work and been pulled into a pit of procrastination?

Perhaps you get absorbed in updates on social media, or maybe you click through Wikipedia trying to determine what exactly Gina Rodriguez’s first TV role was (it was on Law & Order). No matter where you click online, it’s easy to be pulled into a black hole of distraction and low productivity.

Enter Google Chrome browser extensions. The Google Chrome web store offers a variety of different tools that help you be more productive with just one click. We can’t guarantee that they will make YouTube videos less tempting to watch, but we recommend them for busy marketers who want to make their time online more efficient. We’ve broken them down into different categories if you want to jump ahead:

Social Media, SEO, Content Sourcing, Blogging, Productivity

Please note: All of these are free tools, but some of the services that they work with have paid features or subscriptions, and those prices are included below.  

28 of the Most Useful Google Chrome Extensions for Marketers

Social Media

1) bitly

This extension lets marketers quickly and easily shorten links and share them on social media directly from their browser. This is particularly useful for social media marketers, given that Twitter has a 140-character limit.

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Image courtesy of bitly.com

Price: Free; bitly Enterprise pricing varies depending on company size

2) BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo provides insight into how content is performing. When you’re on a web page, click the extension to show metrics such as the number of social shares and backlinks to a piece. This tool provides an easy way to see how much engagement your content is generating. You could also use BuzzSumo to perform competitor analysis to uncover strategies that might make your content more shareable.

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Price: Free with limited number of link analyses; BuzzSumo Pro starts at $99/month

3) Pinterest

This extension allows you to easily save items onto your Pinterest boards without navigating away from what you’re doing. What’s neat about this tool is that it shows you multiple pinnable items available on each website so you can save more than one item to your board at a time. (Normally, you would have to click into each blog post or image in order to separately pin each to your boards individually.)

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Price: Free

4) Save to Facebook

Facebook’s new “Save” feature lets users aggregate links, images, and videos they find on Facebook in one location in their account. This bookmark allows you to do the same from anywhere on the web, making Facebook a centralized place to save content you’re interested in checking out later. (As you can see, in addition to inbound marketing, I’m also interested in learning more about footwear and vegan recipes.)

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Price: Free

5) RiteTag

RiteTag shows you how hashtags are performing on Twitter and Facebook before you post content. Once you log in to RiteTag using your Twitter or Facebook credentials, it checks the hashtags you begin typing in real time and color codes them: 

  • If your hashtag is green, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen now.
  • If your hashtag is blue, it means the hashtag will help your content be seen over time.
  • If your hashtag is gray, you should select a new hashtag because it has low levels of engagement.
  • If your hashtag is red, you should select a new hashtag because it’s so popular, your content will disappear into the crowd.

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Price: Free

6) List Builder for Twitter

If you’re following a hashtag or event on Twitter, you may want to make a list of users tweeting about topics you’re interested in, which is time-consuming to do manually. With the List Builder for Twitter, you can navigate to a hashtag or trending topic and build a list of all users tweeting, or you can select which users you want to add to a list. Here’s an example of the tool in action: I built a list of all users tweeting “#INBOUND16.

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If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can easily create lists using the social streams featuring in the HubSpot Social Monitoring tool

Price: Free

7) Instagram for Chrome

Want to keep tabs on Instagram notifications without having to constantly check your phone? With this extension, users can see what’s happening on their Instagram content directly within their browser.

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Price: Free

SEO

8) MozBar

The MozBar is a Chrome extension that allows SEO marketers to easily get insights about different websites without leaving their web browser. With one click, you can find search ranking and link coding information about all of the search results on a Google results page.

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Image courtesy of Moz

Price: Moz subscriptions start at $99/month

9) Check My Links

Check My Links does what it says it will: It quickly scans web pages and shows you which links are working properly and which are broken. With this extension, marketers can ensure that their own websites are functioning properly for their visitors. Additionally, marketers can check for broken backlinks to their content on other websites to build backlinks to their content and increase their domain authority.

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Price: Free

10) NoFollow

NoFollow quickly indexes web pages and identifies links that are coded with the nofollow metatag. Nofollow links aren’t crawled by search engines and don’t contribute to search engine authority, so SEOers can use this extension to determine if external sites are backlinking to them with followed, or indexed, links. Additionally, you might use nofollow links on web pages you don’t want crawled, such as a landing page or thank you page, and this extension can easily double-check if you’ve coded links correctly. In the example screenshot below, nofollow links are highlighted in red.

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Price: Free

11) Impactana

Impactana’s Chrome toolbar offers a wealth of SEO, social media, and content marketing information about any web page. Its two biggest metrics are “Buzz,” which measures a website’s reach on social media, and “Impact,” which measures SEO metrics such as clickthrough rate, backlinks, and time on page. It also shares details like author and publisher contact information that are useful for PR professionals.

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Price: Impactana subscriptions start at $99/month

Content Sourcing

12) HubSpot Collect

Whether you’re conducting research for a project or simply reading different articles online, you most likely come across resources that you want to save and return to for later use. That’s where HubSpot Collect will come in. Instead of saving content to another application or document, you can save it directly to your HubSpot software for easy reference when you sit down to write a blog post or web page. Coming soon to HubSpot software, Collect will automatically generate author attributions and citations if you want to cite a link you saved for a blog post.

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Price: HubSpot Marketing Software starts at $200/month

13) AwesomeScreenshot

AwesomeScreenshot is a screen capture extension with capabilities for annotation and photo editing while staying in your browser. Once you take a screenshot of a selected area of your screen or an entire web page, you can crop, highlight, draw shapes, and blur sensitive information.

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 Price: Free

14) Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote is a note-taking and organization app that can be shared across teams for content collaboration. With the Evernote Web Clipper extension, users can save links onto a clipboard within their Evernote app for later reading and reference.

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Price: Free

15) Giphy for Chrome

Everyone loves animated GIFs. They make emails, blogs, and social media posts engaging and funny, and with this extension, you can easily grab a GIF from Giphy’s huge database for whatever content you’re working on without navigating away.

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Price: Free

16) Bookmark Manager

Manually bookmarking websites can sometimes be a tedious process, so Google created this extension to organize websites you want to save without having to open a new tab. Save websites to bookmarks, create folders, and add notes for later reference.

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Price: Free

17) OneTab 

When you conduct research for a piece of content, it’s easy to get swamped in multiple open tabs with great resources you want to cite. The trouble is, once it comes time to write and refer back to the sources, it’s hard to navigate between all of the tabs. Luckily, OneTab lets you put multiple different URLs into a single tab for easy reference.

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Price: Free

Blogging

18) Grammarly

Grammarly is my go-to app for reviewing blog posts for proper spelling, grammar, and word use. You can drop large pieces of text into the desktop application for review, or you can use the handy Chrome extension to call out any grammar errors you’re making while typing on the web. Here’s an example of Grammarly pointing out an error I was about to make in a tweet:

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Price: Free with subscription upgrades for more in-depth reviewing

19) Google Dictionary

Have you ever come across a word you’re not familiar with while doing research online? Instead of Googling it in a separate tab, quickly highlight the word and click on the Google Dictionary extension to get the definition.

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Price: Free

20) Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides

For those times when you and your coworkers are working on computers with different operating systems, or want to collaborate on a live document together, check out Office Editing. This extension lets you easily drop Microsoft Office files into Google Drive to view and edit them without needing the software installed on your hard drive. Here’s an example of an Excel file that I dropped into my Google Drive:

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Price: Free

21) QuickWrite Text Editor 

Sometimes it’s hard to free yourself of distractions to write productively, especially if you’re writing online. This extension quickly opens a new tab for a clean and neutral text editor that auto-saves while you’re working if you need a break from where you normally write.

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Price: Free

Productivity

22) ToDoist

ToDoist is a project management tool that lets you create highly organized and visually appealing to-do lists across all of your devices. What’s neat about the Chrome extension is that you can see your to-do list, or your team’s shared lists, and add tasks to it without having to open a separate tab, app, or device.

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Price: Free for Basic; $29/year for Premium

23) Rapportive

Rapportive uses LinkedIn account information to provide details about the recipient of an email you’re drafting. This is a great way to get details about someone you’re trying to connect with and to ensure that you’re contacting someone on their correct email address.

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Price: Free

24) Momentum

Momentum is a simple Chrome extension that replaces blank new tabs with beautiful photography, inspiring quotes, weather reports, and a space for you to write down a priority for the day when you open up your browser for the first time. (Don’t worry — the temperature is in Celsius, it’s not that cold in Boston.)

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Price: Free

25) StayFocusd

StayFocusd lets you budget your time on specific websites so you can eliminate distractions when you need to buckle down and work. It’s highly customizable — you could set your time limit to 20 minutes on Twitter and only five minutes on Facebook, for example. It also has neat features like the Require Challenge: Once you set time limits on sites, if you want to go back and change your settings, you have to complete a challenge (think: retyping a piece of text without typos or answering questions).

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Price: Free

26) LastPass

LastPass is a password manager that auto-fills in passwords for all of the accounts you save with this extension. You only have to remember one password: your LastPass password. This saves you time, headaches, and increases the security of your personal data.

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Image courtesy of LastPass

Price: Free

27) Add to Trello

If you use Trello for project management, team collaboration, your content calendar, or just a personal to-do list, this extension lets you easily add links as cards to your Trello boards.

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Price: Free; Trello subscriptions start at $9.99/user/month

28) Extensions Manager

We couldn’t give you 27 different extensions to try out without also suggesting Extensions Manager. Try this tool to organize all of your extensions so they don’t take up half of your browser’s screen. It shows you what extensions you have operating on Google Chrome and gives you the option to hide some of the icons to keep your browser better organized.

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Price: Free

Now that your browser is loaded with extensions to make marketing easier on a day-to-day basis, test them out to see what time and efficiencies you’re able to save. When you’re ready to work on your next piece of content, try these content curation hacks and tools to make that process simpler, too. 

What’s your favorite Google Chrome extension? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016