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Customers Before Metrics with Churnbuster’s Kristen LaFrance

Episode #

3

Show Notes

We talked to Churnbuster’s Head of Growth Community about and host of the Playing for Keeps podcast Kristen LaFrance about:

  • What SaaS companies can learn from the world of DTC Ecommerce.
  • What retention based acquisition means and the impact making customers successful has on the business bottom line.
  • How deeply understanding customers leads enables companies to build more meaningful relationships with them.

Resources

Connect with Kristen on Twitter


Episode Transcript

Hello everyone, today I'm talking to Kristen LaFrance. Kristen's the Head of Growth and Community at Churn Buster, and the Host of the incredible Playing for Keeps podcast, and newly appointed Mayor of DTC Twitter. Super excited to get into this conversation.

We're going to talk about all things customer attention, all things customer understanding, and really see what we can learn from Kristen's experience both in SaaS, and eCommerce. Kristen, welcome to the podcast.

Kristen LaFrance
Ah, thank you so much for having me. I feel like this is a long overdue interview. We've been Twitter friends going back and forth for months now, so I'm super excited to be here.

Stuart
Yeah, it's great to have you. I'm super excited being a long time listener of Playing for Keeps, and I'm sure we'll dive into some of the experiences and some of the learnings from that. But, just for the, I guess for the audience who doesn't know you so well, you're currently Head of Community and Growth at Churn Buster. What does that mean? Because that's maybe not something that is a particularly common role.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah it's, I have to be honest, a little bit of a made up title that I love, that I got to just kind of plugin. But really where that's come from is over the last year we've kind of shifted focus from marketing to SaaS communities, to marketing more heavily to eCommerce companies, which actually gives me a really interesting kind of cross view of these two industries. I know we're going to get into it today, but there's a lot of learnings that I've actually taken from SaaS to eCommerce, which is why it's cool to kind of come and talk back on the SaaS stuff and how I've learned. But, really what we found in the last year or so is, especially marketing to eCommerce companies, building a community is just our biggest mote, and really helping these eCommerce founders actually getting technical advice on retention, it's an area that's not really that talked about, at least not until kind of we started talking about.

Kristen LaFrance
Now, the industry's kind of starting to talk about it, but we really found that community aspect was so key to our growth. That, once we started building trust with people by just giving them value, and talking to them one on one, getting them into Churn Buster was like a no brainer. I'll have a conversation with someone really close, and then if I know they're on ReCharge it's like, "Oh hey, why aren't you using Churn Buster?" And we've got them set up in about five minutes.

That's kind of where the community has been added into my title, so it's really I have, I'm Head of Growth which means we're thinking about marketing, we're thinking about acquisition, but really in this longer term play of community. A lot of my focus is actually on a Slack group that I run, the podcast, blog content, Twitter. It's really just about education, and it's a really big mission of Churn Buster in general, is this high level education and connection with people. That's kind of where that role has come out of, and it's been really fun. I never really thought I'd be a community leader, but I'm loving it.

Stuart
Awesome, yeah. Certainly very active on Twitter, and certainly a great follow. There's so much there to unpack. I'd love to dive in. This is one sort of theme, or one I guess Kristen-ism that you have sort of brought about, which I really love, and I think this is just as applicable to SaaS as it is to eCommerce. But this idea that you talk about a lot of retention based acquisition.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
You certainly do acquisition activities but, at least the primary focus of Playing for Keeps and the podcast is retention. Can you sort of talk a little bit about what retention based acquisition mean to you, and where did it come from? When was the first time you sort of coined that term, so to speak?

Kristen LaFrance
The interesting thing is I actually started coining this term back when we were doing a lot of SaaS marketing. Something in retention that I found that one, I connected with a lot and then just made a lot of sense, was this idea of if you're going to be spending so much on acquisition, you should make sure that you're spending that on people who are actually really fit to be with your tool. It makes a lot of sense in the SaaS world, right? If you are, you're Buffer and you're selling to Social Media Managers, there's a certain kind of persona that's going to understand the value of your tool a lot better than say, another type of persona. Really, this idea came from first, an article that I wrote that was just like, "Seven ways to figure out your bad fit leads." Or, "Making sure that you're not singing on bad fit leads." It's kind of transcended into the world of eCommerce which is really cool, but it sounds like a buzzy marketing word because I'm tossing in retention based acquisition, like it sounds very serious. But, it's actually not that complicated.

It just essentially means when you're creating acquisition campaigns and you're trying to bring on new customers, you're thinking about the long term. You're thinking about, am I bringing on customers who will get the value of my tool, who will understand the product, who will find success with it, and will naturally then lead to retention? I think if you're in SaaS, everybody knows you have a free plan, you have a bunch of kind of bad fit customers come in.

You can tell pretty quickly which people are not going to really jive with your brand values, with your tool, with the things that you preach. And, it's this idea of being okay with that and saying, "There are some people who just aren't fit to work with our tool, and that's okay. But, there are people who are really fit to work with our tool, and so can we market to that kind of customer?" Versus marketing to someone that's just, they come in and they're a support cost, they're a churn number, they're adding to kind of the negative side of your business. Retention based acquisition in a nutshell, is really just can we acquire with long term goals in mind?

Stuart
I love that, and it's so aligned with your product actually delivering value, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yes.

Stuart
It's so easy if you focus, and a lot of companies do this, right? They focus really heavily on acquisition, get people in, they count conversion, that's the number that we really care about.

Kristen LaFrance
Yep.

Stuart
How much did it convert, what are our growth numbers, measured by conversion? But, what actually happened once those people got in? Were they actually finding the tool valuable, were they actually becoming power users of the product? Because ultimately, we got ... and to talk about some other metrics, but ultimately you want them to be retained, you want to have as high of lifetime value as possible. You also want them talking about your product, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
You want them referring other people because that's sort of their, one of the secrets to negative churn, to of exponential growth is your own customers selling for you.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, absolutely. And it's really interesting, we actually have, I like to talk about our own internal story at Churn Buster because we actually in the last year, like I was saying, shifted from kind of SaaS to eCommerce. And, the reason we did it is because we did this best fit, worst fit analysis at our retreat. We really sat down and we looked at our numbers, and we looked at support costs, we looked at churn numbers, we looked at who was coming in and was really most excited right away? Who was talking about us? And within about 30 minutes we were looking at these things and we say like, eCommerce companies are driving our growth. This certain kind of SaaS company comes in, and they just are, they're loading us with support costs and stuff.

It just came down to the things that we preach and the mission that we live, just resonates better with eCommerce. We just took the hard stance of okay, we're going to market specifically to eCommerce. Not that we don't ... we work with a lot of SaaS companies, but it's just that idea that if we're going to be pushing money into something, if we're going to start an entire podcast, we're going to be writing stuff, we're going to be doing it for the customers that when they come in they're like, "Wow, this tool is awesome, we get it, I love the value you're bringing, your team is amazing." Like let's do that, those are the people we want, rather than the people who come in and ask us really, they just kind of go on us with metrics, and they talk about benchmarks, and they want to get all these specific answers. We've gotten to the point where we're so confident that we can say, "This is where our focus is for our customers, and if that isn't agreeing with where you want your business to go, then by all means go find another tool."

Stuart
Right. Yeah, it's interesting. I've talked to a number of founders who have said the same thing and even beyond just, "Hey, we're not for you, go find something else." Like, we will help you find the right thing.

Kristen LaFrance
Yes.

Stuart
Because still, it builds the brand, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yep.

Stuart
You're still adding value, it comes back to this value delivery thing. It doesn't matter if it's with your tool, if somebody associates you and your brand with value, it makes everything else so much easier.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, exactly.

Stuart
I'm sure the question that people are going to ask as soon as you say sell to your best fit customers, really focus on your best fit customers. How do you identify, and I mean, examples from Churn Buster here would be great. How do you identify those best fit customers that don't necessarily show up in metrics, right?

Kristen LaFrance
The first place to start is just getting on the phone with your customers. I spent about two months doing this, and that was really what started our shift into thinking about a new kind of market to target. It was, I got on the phone with some eCommerce customers, I got on the phone with some SaaS customers, and I wasn't just asking them like, "Hey, what do you think about Churn Buster?" I was really just trying to understand one, what was their story before they found Churn Buster, what was it that connected them to Churn Buster? Why did they say, "Okay, this tool is the right one for me."

And then, moving forward I asked them, "How would you describe Churn Buster to me? How would you describe our team? What do you think about our brand?" All of these things, and from that we were able to just pull out this whole crazy amount of content that was like, you call an eCommerce customer and they're like, "Oh, we love it. It's the best tool we put in. I rarely have to check in with it, blah, blah, blah. Your brand is about education," and all this stuff. And, so quickly in those conversations it was like, whether the metrics back it up or not we know that these people are the people that are best for our brand.

And then, past that it's really that looking at the data and seeing if you can prove certain things or not, see if you can prove that a company with 5K MRR are generally pulling the most support load. Then you can say, "Okay, these customers, they might be good coming in but they're also pulling us from our best customers." So thinking about which customers kind of are taking so much of your teams time and resources, and which ones are actually just adding to your teams kind of whole thing. Really, you can kind of break this down into steps which is first, know your customers, figure out your customers, figure these things out looking at data. Then the next is, making actually buyer personas. Not only, we do this a lot, we make buyer personas for our best fit customers. But, we also sometimes can get a little locked into those so we're like, okay, we sell to women aged 24 to 36, they live in cities, they make this kind of money, they're interested in these things.

That can be really useful, but shifting it more to what are the reasons why someone is going to come on? Versus, what are the demographics? A lot of it is marketing to the mindset someone's in. My interview with Damian Soong at Form Nutrition, he's the one who in the eCommerce world, really opened my mind to this was, he was saying they market to everyone, from a ballerina to a body builder. As a digital marketer your first thought is, that's too big of a market. You can't do that, how do you market to that many different demographics? And the answer is, you don't market to the demographic, you market to the mindset. He was saying everybody from a world class ballerina to a single mom wants to find the best version of themselves, and anybody who has that desire is going to connect with Form Nutrition.

And so, making buyer personas, but also making them really deep. Talking about like the actual stories that those people are living. And then, the next step is make a buyer persona for your worst fit customers. Know that if you see a lead come in and they hit these three things, like generally these are the questions the bad fit customers ask when they first come in, generally this is the attitude they have about our brand, generally this is this. You nail those two things down, and then after that it's getting everybody on your team aligned around those things. Retention is a cross departmental thing, which makes it really difficult. A lot of SaaS companies kind of silo teams. You've got your developers, then your marketing, then your sales. But, when you're talking retention, you need all these things to work together. You need your marketing team to be informing your sales team, and then your sales team to be saying, "Hey guys, from this campaign we've got a lot of leads that kind of sit in the bad fit area, so we're marketing to the wrong persona."

And then customer support can come in and say, "Hey guys, this kind of person, this is what they're saying about our brand. We should take this copy and put it into an ad because they connected with this." It's this whole idea of lock down those two things, best fit, worst fit, and then make sure everybody on your team is educated about it. And then, make sure especially your sales people and your marketing team, they're empowered to actually say no. That's a really hard thing.

When we hold our marketing and sales teams to just strictly sales numbers, how can you expect somebody to say, "Okay, I'm not going to actually make this sale because in the long run it's going to cost our company more money." When really, the only thing they're living by is that first sale. If you can also add in that high level of retention focus in your team all around and say, "You are empowered and we trust you to make a business decision to say, 'I'm not going to spend 30 minutes going back and forth with this person.'" Because at the end of the day even if they sign up, they're not going to be a great customer.

Stuart
There's so much there that I love. It's also applicable, it doesn't matter whether ... we talked about this before, it's not about SaaS or eCom, this is just good business.

Kristen LaFrance
It's just good business.

Stuart
There's a great post from Des Traynor at Intercom, this is years ago, probably 2012, 2013. He was talking specifically about onboarding, but I think it applies sort of more generally. The title of the post is something like, "Don't make your customers have to understand your company directory," or something like that.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
The idea being that like, oh, well sales ... the first touch is with marketing, then it's with sales, then it's with product marketers. And there's a handoff in between each step, and if none of those departments are talking to each other, your customer does get a very different experience with each- so you'll have different pulls, you'll think about things slightly differently. That idea that getting alignment across your team, empowering people to say no is a great way to sort of influence the end result, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
You said something there that's really interesting too that is, by empowering people to say no, you really impact the long term consequence, right? Like something that might be good today is not necessarily going to be good down the line. And kind of the other way around, right? If you know things are going to be good down the line, it actually makes things easier today. Because if you know the specific best fit customer that is going to work well for your business, you can better target that person. You can better communicate with that person upfront, which has an impact on everything. This sort of gets into the next thing that we're going to talk about a little bit which is, customers over metrics. You sort of mentioned it there with the sales, the sales team being empowered to say no, but that's really hard for them to do if the thing that they're being measured by is number of closed leads, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
I know this is something that you want to put on mugs, and you want to make this a thing.

Kristen LaFrance
Yes, I do.

Stuart
What does that mean to you, and what does ... I think there's probably a lot of people out there sort of screaming at this. Well the people who are listeners will say, "The metrics are how we run the business." Right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
Yes, this is great in theory. But-

Kristen LaFrance
But in practice.

Stuart
... Exactly, exactly. I think I said this to you too, that Gia Laudi sent this amazing rant on this yesterday to her email list, which I'll link up in the notes. But yeah, what does that mean to you to actually sort of put customers over metrics into practice?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah. I've shifted my phrase a little bit to now go customers before metrics because over metrics seems to get people extra uncomfortable with the idea. But, it's something that I found a lot one, in my work with Churn Buster. And then two, just talking to eCommerce people, and hearing how they're thinking about things. It's this idea, I mean one, your customers are your metrics. Your customers make the metrics. Metrics aren't just happening in a silo, they are happening because human beings are doing something, and your systems are reporting on that something. It's something really important to remember that, at the end of the day metrics are your customers, so it's the same thing we're talking about.

But, it's really this idea that we're all searching for these numbers, we're searching for this magic churn rate that feels good, we're searching for high LTV and a low CAC, and a high conversion rate. And, these numbers that just make us as marketers really go like, "Yes, I won today." But, at the end of the day if you just focus more on okay, are we treating our customers well? Are we making every time they come into contact with our brand, really an exceptional experience? Rae we focusing on the touch points? And if so, then naturally the customers are going to be doing better things, then the metrics are going to follow.

It's not don't pay attention to the metrics, but it's make sure you're not getting blinded by your metrics. If you just follow the metrics and you just think that way, it becomes this kind of rat race of okay, we're going to do this campaign because it's our top priority this month. Versus stepping back and saying, "Wait, is this campaign actually doing something good for our customers? And, when we're bringing these people in, is it good for them as well?" That can kind of change a lot of things that you're doing and a lot of campaigns that you come up with. It's just, instead of thinking about a metric potential, think about a customer potential. Are you creating success for your customers? Are you making it enjoyable to work with your brand? If so, it's going to work. LTV is going to increase.

Retention, it can be this very confusing, chaotic thing for a lot of brands. You've got all these things we talk about you can do, better onboarding, better engagement, better email content. All these little things, but it really comes down to is there congruence in the entire customer journey, from day one on an ad, to day whatever when they churn? Does it feel like your company is set up to actually do something really well?

I'm going to relate this back to Churn Buster. We have a lot of people who will come into Churn Buster, and they'll come in and they'll just start grilling us on recovery rates. They want to know how much can I recover, how is this compared to other companies in this space, is my recovery as good as this other coffee subscription? And, we're having to really back up and kind of retrain customers and say, "If you're getting to the point of a customer passively churning because of a credit card fail, it's not really going to be ..."

"Your recovery campaign, it's going to be fully optimized with us to a certain extent. We're going to make sure that it's the best possible experience for your customer." But, at the end of the day your recovery rate also depends on a lot of stuff upstream. So, was your relationship with a customer really good until they got to this at risk point? If you have a crappy experience, someone's going to use a credit card failure to kind of get out of a subscription.

And so, there's always a little salt with it, that if you really want to increase your recovery rate when we're saying, you really want to increase that recovery rate, you've got to, I mean hone in on what Churn Buster does. We're going to set you up with the best possible campaign, but at a certain point you're going to have to look upstream, and you're going to have to start doing other things for your customer further up their line. Is there a big lag that tells you, "Okay, there's something else going on."

It's a really cool thing we've got, we were looking the other day at two customers of ours, both beauty brands, both selling very similar things. And, very similar campaign setup, but wildly different recovery rates. When we went in and looked at it, it was simply because one brand was kind of tricking people into a subscription, the other brand was doing everything really well on the customer experience side, so BattlBox is a really good example of this. Their customers absolutely love them. They set up a Churn Buster account, their churn rate went down half a percent right away just because they had these campaigns. And it's yes, we did a lot of really good kind of stuff in their campaigns. But, what they do so well is their customers love them so much, that when they get a dunning email, they have so many people that reply and they're like, "Hey man, sorry, I'm going to get this updated-in like two days, try it then." It's just that idea that if you get to this at risk point and a customer loves you, they're going update their card. It's that idea, I know I just went on a full ramble. But again, that idea of are you putting your customers best interest in mind every single time? And if so, the metrics we are so sought after are going to naturally follow that.

Stuart
Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. I think it's really interesting, that difference between almost like an excuse, and an apology at that point of, and like you said, it is passive churn, right? If they didn't actually go and cancel their account, they weren't maybe expecting that charge and it gives them, it becomes a decision point, right? I think this is so applicable to not just sort of, this mentality is not just applicable to sort of passive churn with credit card failures. But, at any decision point in the customer lifecycle, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
Any time you need to add a new team member to an account that has user based billing, any time that you have to have an annual plan. Anything at all where the customer has to make that decision and say, "Is this tool actually providing the value that I paid for?" Right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yes.

Stuart
"Am I ROI positive on this tool?" That doesn't have to be an eCommerce brand, it can be a SaaS product, it can be absolutely anything. We make decisions like that all the time. I love that point that, it's not about that decision. By the time it gets to that decision point, it's kind of too late, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
Like yes, you can actively improve the experience around that, you can help make that decision easy. You can reinforce your brand at that decision point. But, there's a lot of weight which is coming from, like you say, actions upstream the actions upstream that customers have had with your brand.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, and like you said it goes towards every single time you're asking your customer to do something, like yes, make that touch point as incredible as possible. Make it a good experience because that gives you a better chance of getting that decision made. But, also think at that decision point what was happening before that got them there? If it was a great experience all the way up to that decision, it becomes a much easier decision. It's like, I don't really use Buffer all that much but I pay for it every month, and every time it comes up I'm like, "Yeah, I'm going to keep paying for it because when I do use it, I love it." It's that simple thing of if you can just be great all the time, when they do come to those decision points you're at least giving yourself a better chance at not losing a customer, or getting an upgrade, or adding a teammate, all these little things you want your customers to do. I mean, it's the same as like a regular relationship in person.

If I want my husband to come home and empty the dishwasher, if he just walks in the door and I say, "Oh my God, empty the dishwasher," he might do it but he's not going to enjoy doing it. If he comes home, and I've poured him a drink and I'm like, "Hey babe, I really am tired today. I'm going to make dinner, do you think you could empty the dishwasher?" Most likely he's going to be like, "Oh yeah, for sure."

So really just thinking about this, it's just human relationships, right? It's just thinking about your customers as humans, not as users on a screen, or metrics. They are actual people, and you're having a relationship with them. So before you ask something of them, make sure you've built some reason for them to say yes.

Stuart
Right, yeah. I love that so much, that's a great example. I want to tie this back to what you said at the beginning about your role at Churn Buster, about how it's sort of a, not necessarily an abnormal role. But, it's a role that a lot of companies don't have, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
I know it's something that you've talked a lot about on Playing for Keeps, about subscription eCommerce brands who are making consumable items where the value is really utility, right? That you don't have to go back and pay one time for everything.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
But, a new sort of, or an emerging trend in eCommerce is companies building almost like membership sites.

Kristen LaFrance
Yes.

Stuart
I'd love for you to sort of talk a little bit about that because I think that's directly tied to, I mean it's so smart that Churn Buster has you as a community [inaudible 00:25:54]. That's such a focus of your role because I don't think that's common. But, how that impacts when people get to their decision point. And also, how easy it is for them to make that decision.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, so it's a really big trend. I mean, if you're in eCommerce most likely you're going to have some sort of loyalty program. And so, we're talking about either making your loyalty program feel more like a membership, or really what it is, is subscription brands, instead of saying we're a subscribe and save, we're actually a membership. My favorite example is MeUndies, and it's not ... I'm not paying some $15 fee just to be part of the membership, the cost is me buying products. But, it's not just, the convenience of a subscription, it used to be what people bought were price and convenience. And now there's, you could get everything on subscription, even with Amazon. So the question is, why would somebody come to your site and sign on a subscription with you? And adding in a membership element makes it feel like you're joining something much bigger than just a pair of underwear every month, and you're getting access to things that you wouldn't have otherwise.

So, MeUndies, if you're a member you get member pricing on every single product on their site, so you're going to get a discount all around the site. You're going to get free shipping every time. And then, you're going to get access to prints that nobody else does, and if you're a MeUndies fan, you'll want those prints because they're adorable, and you want to get them before anybody else, and they sell out of things. It's the shift towards, can we offer something bigger than just products? And in the SaaS world that's so important, that's why we all have blogs, it's why we run webinars. It's important to have something that feeds your product, and makes it a place people don't want to leave.

With Churn Buster, the idea is if you are a customer at Churn Buster you're not just getting some nice dunning campaigns, you're also getting a team that's fully committed to continually optimizing those campaigns. You're getting an entire Slack group community where you get to talk to other operators in this space. You're getting, if you're a Pro customer, you get to talk to me and I get to run a CX audit on your company, and have an hour long call with you on, "Here are all the other things I've seen on your experience that you can improve, to then improve your recovery rate at the end of the day." It's that, just that thing of making sticky customers by giving them something that's not just your product, because as valuable as your product is, there's probably something out there that can do it just as well, or similarly to what you can do.

So, how are you going to stand out from that competition? How are you going to ... how did I choose Buffer versus Sprout Social? At the end of the day it's because of the brand the value that Buffer offers outside of just their product. They're probably not even the best software scheduling product out there, but they have such a brand value, and so much fandom around them because they provide more than just the tool, that you're going to stay with them. That's really this idea of memberships is becoming more than your product, and in eCommerce it's something that, it's a new trend that's really happening, and I think it's something that in SaaS we've done, and we do it. But, we don't really think about it in terms of community or membership.

It's really, can you connect all this stuff that you're doing to supplement your business back to your customers to make this environment around it?

Stuart
Yeah, I think that's such a great point. I think it's interesting to look at this in SaaS because I totally agree that SaaS companies do this to a certain extent, I think they sort of hand wave at this. I think there's a really interesting idea of marketing to the whole person. Which is not just the person who functionally has to get a job done which is, I need a way to manage my tasks. There's so much more that's going on in their life, there's so much more. They have different goals, like how can you actually help them level up as a human

Kristen LaFrance
Yes.

Stuart
So the Form Nutrition example, right? How can we help people be a better version of themselves whether they're a ballerina or a body builder? I think that applies to everyone, right? Everybody wants to be better. Everybody wants to improve their life somehow. I think this is where we can get into jobs to be done, and all that good stuff. But, one company that I think does this particularly well in the SaaS space is Drift.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
So much so that they, maybe it's not paid anymore. But, they were able to launch a paid community on top of their product- a paid community, and people jumped at it.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, people loved it.

Stuart
Right. I remember way back, I was definitely an Intercom fanboy. Like used that, I was like in the beta program and all this stuff. Used their product in one role, and then after I left that role I didn't use it anymore, but I was continually looking for ways to use their product, or get another company that I was at to use their product because I loved the company. Even if like, it might not have been the best fit for that company. But, I loved Intercom so much that  the relationship that I had with them, I wanted other people to have that too.

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, exactly.

Stuart
I know we are, this has been a really great conversation, we could certainly talk for hours and hours about about this stuff, but I want to sort of close this out with some thoughts on, we've talked sort of reference examples from both SaaS and eCommerce.

What do you think are the biggest things, and I know you've done both, so sort of well positioned to talk about the differences and the similarities. But, for people who are maybe listening to this and saying, "Hey, I have a SaaS product, why are we talking so much about eCommerce?" What is sort of the top one or two things that SaaS companies should be looking to eCommerce to learn that they can go and apply in their own business?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah, the number one thing is storytelling, and understanding the why behind what you do, and then presenting that to your customers. eCommerce is getting really good at it, you see these founder videos, you see thee really authentic things coming from companies where they're telling you what their mission is, why they do what they do, why they're so passionate about their customers, and telling ... it's really getting that rich storytelling out, and that's something that I think SaaS could really start to embrace is yes, you are a tech product. But, do you have a really cool founder? Do you have someone on your team who can be something bigger than the brand? I mean, similarly to how Churn Buster has now positioned me, because we found that I have a strength in this area. So, can you hone in on the storytelling aspect?

Like you were saying, marketing to the whole person, and telling them why this tool is going to do more than just what we say it's going to do, it's going to actually improve your life this way, and this way, and this way because this is what we believe, this is who we are. The second one then is, and SaaS does this pretty well, and this is my recommendation for SaaS and DTC's where everybody needs to improve. But, it's focusing on that customer experience, so thinking about the interactions with the customer has with your brand and your product, versus just is the product good?

Stuart, you and I have kind of riffed on this, this product led versus customer led idea. Product led growth is in its essence, a pretty intuitive thing that, "Hey, we should develop a product that actually is what people want, and is useful, and good, and works well, and looks good." It seems like a no brainer, but this is what you and I think is, it kind of almost gives devs team an excuse to then say like, "We don't need to work with customer support, marketing, whatever. Our focus is just making this product really great." But, what that actually means is, it's not just the product that's great, it's how your customers interact with the product that's what matters.

And so, thinking about these little touch points, and engagement, and getting deeper connections with the customer is the biggest thing I think that SaaS can kind of wake up to with the DTC space is, they're starting to hone in on okay, my abandoned cart email. Does it really connect with a customer, does it portray the version of my brand that I want it to, does it connect with them deeper? And if not, we can improve that. In the SaaS world I think it's the same thing, really thinking about your onboarding not just, is it getting the customer to do the actions that I want them to do with my app? Is the metrics working? But, when they do those things, are they enjoying it, are they reaching out and talking to us if they have questions, do they feel like they can approach us? If so, can we help them in a way that's really good?

And then, just what we talked about, brand awareness versus hard quantifiable metrics. I said storytelling, and storytelling really forces a brand to step away from themselves, stand in the shoes of their customer. And then saying like, "Okay, if I was my customer would I even buy this product? And if I did, would I continue to buy it month after month?" I've brought up Buffer a lot, it's because I actually interviewed Brian Peters very recently. But, I think it's one of the best examples in SaaS along with Drift. But, Buffer is a 25 million dollar company. They don't have a sales team, they're probably like I said, not the best product out there. But, they've put so much focus on storytelling and brand awareness, and the customer experience when you're with Buffer. Whether that's the emails from Buffer, or talking to a customer support person, or actually using the product. They focus on making all those experiences really good and congruent with Buffer's brand, and their churn numbers are ridiculously low. Customers love them, it's a cult. They've really, they've built up that brand.

I think if I just have to bullet point, if you're in SaaS and you're trying to learn from the eCommerce space, which is something both ways I suggest all the time. If you're in an industry, look at other industries and figure out what's making them successful because that's how you're going to differentiate yourselves. Don't just look at what your competition's doing and copy it, try to find something like sneaky. If you're thinking, it's storytelling, brand awareness, and being customer led versus product led.

Stuart
Cool, that is super actionable and I love all of those so much. I want to ask you one final question, which I'm going to flip around one of the questions that you ask on your podcast!

Kristen LaFrance
Ooh.

Stuart
We talked a lot here about the importance of every single interaction with customers and every touch point. What's an example of something that you've done to really delight a customer? It doesn't have to be scalable at all, just something that what's sort of the most out there thing that you've done to really give that experience for the customer?

Kristen LaFrance
The most out there thing we've done, this is actually something that we have started doing recently that's been really fun. We started hosting some in person Playing for Keeps events, and we were like, "Yeah, it's a cost to not get any direct sales." But we had one, and we had three or four of our customers there, and the connection that we were able to build with them in person.

They were already happy customers with us, but after we put on an event where we didn't ... some of our customers said, "We didn't even know you guys hosted it." Because we didn't say it was about Churn Buster, we just said like, "We're connecting eCommerce people. Come learn with agencies, and blah, blah, blah." And then they walk away and they're like, "You just provided us so much value." And then on our side, we got to talk to our customers, and make ... I'm really good friends with one of our customers, Four Sigmatic's Head of eCommerce, her and I like chat back and forth every day, and that is something now, they're not going to leave Churn Buster because now they have to leave us as people.

And that is really difficult. Going alongside that, we've done some like, if we're in ... we were in Austin and we went and just met for coffee with one of our customers, and we're doing these in person check ins, and those seem to be just ... I mean, it was mind boggling, the first one we did. We all walked away and we were like, "We've never been so energized," because we got to talk to our customers, and hear about how much they love us, and we got to tell them how much we love them. That's been the biggest kind of out there thing that's not super scalable.

Other than that, the thing we're starting to do now, I kind of mentioned it before, are these CX audits. I mean, if I were to go and do this in consulting, what I offer is worth five to $10,000.

I'm running through your customer experience, and I have a call with Kopari Beauty coming up and I have slides, and screenshots of, "Hey, this email kind of fell short." Or, "These two systems aren't working together, you sent a cancellation email while you're still in the dunning sequence." It's spotting these things that, if you're a brand operator, you're usually too close to it to see, and who has time to step back and run through two months of a customer experience and not be doing anything else? And so, we're delivering that kind of value, that's another thing that I can only do two of those every two months, it's not scalable. But, when we deliver that to a customer, they know hands down, that this is ... one, they know it's the best dunning tool. But two, now they know that we care so much about them and their customers, that why would you switch a dunning tool?

Because you're not going to get this from everybody else.

Stuart
Yeah, and that's something that's totally outside of what you could call the product, right?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
It's all about value delivery, all about how much can you improve that customers life, right? How much more successful can you make the interaction with your brand?

Kristen LaFrance
Yeah.

Stuart
This has been incredible. I'm so glad that we got to do this. Thank you so much for being here.

Kristen LaFrance
Yes, thank you for having me. This was so much fun to kind of dig back into my SaaS roots and connect it all. My brain is firing on all cylinders this morning now.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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