Churn Rate – The most important metric for a monthly revenue business

I just finished reading Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS by David Skok. I have always been aware of Churn, and it’s impact it has on a business that has a monthly revenue model, but it is something that I have largely neglected to pay attention to over the years.

Mark MacLeod, Partner at Real Ventures, points out that the churn rate is the most important metric for the long term success of a monthly revenue business. The lower the churn, the more revenue you will generate from each customer.  This increases the customer lifetime value, enables you to invest more in customer acquisition, which helps you grow faster!

I thought that David’s blog was one of the most intuitive posts on the topic I have seen, and it inspired me to take a look at Purlem’s churn rates. The results were very interesting…

As the chart below shows, a year ago Purlem’s churn rate was 30%!  This is saying that for the month of May, 2011, 30% of paying Purlem users cancelled their account.  Not good!  Mark MacLeod says that from his experience churn rates should be 5% or lower to have a true long term money maker.

Purlem Churn Rate 1

The good news is that today, Purlem has a Churn rate at 6%!  I huge improvement from a year ago.  I credit this to both the instantPURL and Landing Page Editor that we released in the past year.  Both features helped those “non-techy” users to still create PURL campaigns and engage with the application.

Purlem Churn 2

My goal is to get the churn rate below the 5% as Mark suggests.  Actually, I think it is achievable to have it down in the 3-4% range. This is what I’m going to be doing to try and reduce Purlem’s churn:

  • Follow up with cancelled users
    I was much better at doing this when Purlem was in it’s infancy.  Recently I have not been following up with cancelled users at all.  So time for this to change.  I now have an alert sent to my inbox every time a user cancels with the email and phone number.  For each user I will attempt to reach out to them and ask why they have cancelled.  Hopefully this will help me to have a better understand for why users cancel, and take actions to help prevent it in the future.
  • Add more API integrations
    I have a hypotheses that by adding more API integrations with email marketing and CMS platforms, the application will not only get easier to use, but will increase the “stickiness” level.
  • Target larger users
    There are many users that use Purlem on a temporary basis.  This is because they are smaller companies with only a couple campaigns a year that use PURLs.   By starting to target larger users, it churn rate could potentially decrease because they will have a steadier stream of campaigns to use with PURLs.

The Mobile Office

Heading out to our home in Breckenridge, CO with my parents.  This is what I call a mobile office!

The mobile office

Oysters with Ajay

Last night I shared a drink (and some delicious oysters) with Ajay Goel – founder of JangoMail. JangoMail is an email marketing platform that Ajay has grown into the multi-million dollar company it is today.

When networking in the Chicago startup scene, it often seems like a “lifestyle” business is sometimes laughed at.  There are so many people looking to become the next Instagram.   They laugh at people with meager goals of earning a good living, while maintaining a “well-balanced” life.  To them, it’s billions or bust.

I think this is why Ajay and I connected.  We both started our companies as single founders, never took on investors, and have an appreciation for a well balanced lifestyle.  Ajay has brought JangoMail to a level that I aspire for Purlem to reach, and he did it in a way that I deeply admire.

I met with Ajay yesterday to bounce some ideas off him regarding Purlem’s growth.  I explained to him that people currently find Purlem by going to Google, and searching for something like “PURL Marketing” or “Personalized URLs.”  They are already aware of the technology, the benefits it provides, and are simply looking for the right provider.  These users are typically print providers or marketing agencies (the traditional verticals for PURLs).

Ajay helped me to realize that the real potential of PURLs doesn’t lie in this traditional market.  Really, anybody that users email marketing or direct mail could use PURLs.

The challenge will be that to successfully sell to email marketers, I will have to…

  1. Explain to them what PURLs are
  2. Define the benefits of PURLs
  3. Show them what options they have to execute their PURL campaigns

… and only after these are completed can begin selling Purlem.  Essentially, we’re introducing a new technology, and will need to approach marketing in this light.

So that will be the challenge moving forward.  I guess it’s time to get my marketing hat out and figure out what the best way is to introduce PURLs to email marketers.  This is going to be fun…

 

The One Thing QR Codes Do Extremely Well

PURL QR CodeQR Codes come up in conversation with prospects and customers quite often.  Usually the conversation starts with something like… Do QR Codes work?  My answer – It depends. (I know, I hate that answer as well!)

A recent study by comScore found that 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device.

Let’s assume that 44% of your audience has a smart phone, and you send out a Direct Mail or Email Marketing blast to 1,000 people.

1,000 People receive your marketing piece
44% have a smart phone
———–
440 People with smart phones
6%  Have scanned a QR Code in the past
———–
26 People will potentially scan the QR Code
2% is an average Direct Mail response rate
———–
0.5 People will likely scan your QR Code 

So for every 1,000 people, you can expect 0.5 to scan your QR Code.  From my experience, this seems to be about right.  Obviously every campaign and market is different.

Learn more about adding QR Codes to your Direct Mail piece using Purlem and Adobe Photoshop.

Despite the dismal QR Code responses, they do one thing extremely well.
QR Codes are perfectly positioned to showcase that your company as “cutting-edge” and innovative. QR Codes may not get direct responses, but if you want to brand your company as innovative, then using QR Codes is a great tactic.

 

1 Hour Work Day

My brother is getting married tomorrow. We had the rehearsal dinner yesterday, family party tonight, and wedding tomorrow.  It’s a three day event!  It is great to catch up with family that you only see once every couple years.  I am truely blessed with a great and loving family.

All the family time doesn’t leave much room for work.  Today, I have a 1 hour work day. I have to hunker down and attack what’s most important.  My routine is pretty consistent – wake up and while still in bed skim through/delete/unsubscribe emails, read blogs, look at my stocks, and finally a little Facebook to see what everybody has been up to.  Then its onto the computer where I answer the emails, and finally I use OmniFocus to help focus on what’s import ant actually make progress towards my goals. I’m always surprised when I really hunker down, just how much I can get accomplished in an hour.

The ability to take these 1 hour work days to focus on what is really important in life is a nice benefit of having my “lifestyle” business.  Yes, I said it, I have a lifestyle business, and I’m proud of it.  You better believe that my computer still comes with me wherever I go…  My wife now calls my computer my “mistress.”  Yes, it/she be at the wedding.

Canceling Users

When I first started Purlem I remember saying –

I hope people know that when they cancel I take it personally!

Now, of course I was just trying to be funny, but there was definitely some truth in the statement.  Purlem is my baby, and when somebody cancelled their account, I couldn’t help but to feel a little rejected.

Eventually I had to understand that canceling users are inevitable.  In fact the pay-as-you-go model that Purlem has is beneficial for people that have changing needs for a PURL application.  They can upgrade, downgrade, and cancel whenever – and it is one of the reasons they decided to go with Purlem in the first place.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when I get an email from a user after they cancel their account.  Below are some of these emails I have received recently.

Thank you to everybody that has sent a personal cancellation email – it helps to deal with the loss 🙂

Just wanted to drop you a line because I just canceled my Purlem accounts.  I wanted to let you know that it’s not a reflection on my satisfaction with Purlem; in fact, I was very satisfied with your product and service and would use it again (if there’s a need) and recommend it to others.

 

I just wanted to say thank you for a great service. I will be back in a short amount of time to use your services !
Thank you for good support and guidance during this period of time.

 

I will highly recommend purlem to anyone in need of a solution such as yours. Great value and prompt service.

 

I love how super simple the setup is and it will have a fit for some of our clients for certain.
I’ve been pulled to another project and didn’t want to bill the client for something they weren’t going to use just yet.

 

PURLEM has been a Great Service, I would not have ever offered PURLS to our clients if PURLEM was not available. Currently, I just don’t have time to offer this to our clients due to the complexity of these print/purl orders and the resources required. Truly been a pleasure to work with you Marty!

 

P.S you should do something about better marketing your services as I never heard of you before and think this has a tremendous potential if more people knew about it.

 

Your service is awesome. We just are not using it right now. I will reopen in a few months when we have a handle on everything.
I have cancelled our Purlem-account today.
Just wanted to tell you, that I have been very pleased with your help and service.
We need a break to consider our “marketing strategies”, but if they include the use of PURLs in the future, we will definitely come back again.

 

Our purl campaign ended this month and our customer was pleased with the functionality. While they hoped for a better response rate to the mailing the feature and function set worked well. I will definitely recommend using your software again on our next purl campaign, just not sure when that will happen.

 

By the way, I’m sorry I had to cancel.  The client I thought was going to use your system decided to bail out on using Purls.  As soon as I find another client who is interested in PURLs, I should renew.

 

I’m very satisfied with Purlem so far. I will recommend the service to my customers.
I’m a freelance web developer and I do not need the service for myself. I will be back .-)

 

Your system works great, but it wasn’t meant to be for me right now.
Thanks for all your great support. I will highly recommend you to others and will write a review of the software to post on my site (and possibly elsewhere).

 

Canceled, not mad or anything at all like that.  The mail house we use gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse if we use their PURLs so we are going to give it shot. If it doesn’t pan out, we will be back, I like your system Marty. Just wanted to know that and more than anything, I appreciate your hands on approach in helping us.

 

 

What marketing really works?

A couple of days ago I had a great conversation with a good friend and mentor Erich Moor. Erich is always staying on top of new marketing trends, and I have him to thank for introduce me to PURLs.  If Erich didn’t come into my life, Purlem simply would not have existed. Thanks Erich for changing my life!

In our conversation he brought up a very challenging question – What is really working for marketers today? There are so many innovations in marketing, how can we take advantage fo what is out there?

The question prompted me to do a little research to find out where people today are putting their marketing dollars.  I came across study from Forbes’ Report: Bringing 20/20 Foresight to Marketing. This gives a nice oversight on how marketing dollars are shifting, but really no surprises.  We all know that online and mobile is hot, traditional print and broadcast is not.

When looking at what is actually working today, we can follow the money. The chart above makes it obvious that companies find value in online, social, and mobile marketing that focuses on customer acquisition and retention.

Online, Social and Mobile marketing allows marketers to know more about their customers and prospects than ever before.  I think we can all agree that advertisements will not become less targeted and less relevant as time goes on.  As the marketing dollars and attention shift to these online mediums, so will the targeted and personalized nature of the ads.

Going back to the original question… how do we take advantage of these new marketing trends?  As a marketer, your probably going to start with a Google search to see what types of marketing tools are out there to help manage your new marketing plan, and your probably going to be overwhelmed with what is out there.

It is easy to get caught up in new technology and think it will solve all of your marketing problems.  But the truth is that successful campaigns still depend on the basic principals of successful marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place).  The tools that are out there can only help to enhance a successfully executed marketing campaign. There is not a tool out there, nor do I think there ever will be, that will magically pull in new customers.

So where does one invest their time in moving forward.  The most important thing is to continually learn and understand the basic principals of successful marketing.  Don’t get overwhelmed by the number of new products and services that are out there.  Sure, stay on top of new products and trends, but view them as only tactics that can be used to give your marketing efforts a boost.

Secondly, I would say invest time in looking for creative ways to continually create more targeted, relevant and personalized ads.  Experiment with some of the tools and tactics out there that help you execute these types of campaign.  It’s when you combine these tools with a successfully executed campaign magic happens.

 

Purlem Mentioned in Marketing Sherpa

Marketing Sherpa PURLsA couple weeks ago Daniel Burstein reached out to me for a quick interview.  Burstein was doing some research for a blog he was writing on Personalized URLs.  His questions and my answers are below:

Q: When would you recommend marketers use pURLs?
A: PURLs are a great tool for any marketer using email marketing or direct mail.  Historically, the high cost of PURLs would limit the technology to larger companies with the matching budgets.  But today, PURLs have become much more affordable and easier to use.  Now any marketer, no matter the budget or technical ability can give PURLs a try without much risk.

Q: When should they avoid them?
A: If your looking for a magic pill that is going to take a poorly executed campaign and make it great, PURLs are not your answer.  PURLs are like icing on a cake.  If you bake a great tasting cake, the icing will make it taste even better.  But if you bake a cake that tastes like leather, the icing won’t do you much good.  In other words, by putting PURLs on top of a poorly executed campaign, you’ll still end up with poorly executed campaign.  But when PURLs are placed on top of a well-executed campaign, the results can be astounding.  I see to many people that think PURLs are going to be their answer, and they can neglect the basic principals of marketing.

Q: What are the pros and cons?
A: PURLs will increase response and conversion rates by making your campaigns personalized and relevant to your prospects.  PURLs also allow you to track the real-time responses to your campaign efforts and build a closer, more intimate relationship with your prospect/customer.

Despite the fact that PURLs have become much easier to use, there is still a slight learning curve.  Some can pick up the basics in a few minutes, others may require a day.  But regardless, there needs to be a willingness and desire to learn a new technology.

Q: What are some good examples you’ve seen?
A: Here are some great examples: http://www.purlem.com/blog/category/personalized-urls-purls/examples
And our delicious feed is another good resource: http://delicious.com/purlem/example

Q: Anything I should have asked but didn’t?
A: I think we pretty much covered the basics.  Our press page might also be helpful: http://purlem.com/press

—–

You can see the final blog post here:
PURL Jam: 6 ways personalized URLS can help increase the virality of your campaigns 

Is Personalization Creepy?

HowToPersonalizeWithoutBeingCreepyWe know that personalization works, but is it creepy?  This is a conversation that comes up quite often.  Companies want to use personalization in their marketing because they see the case studies and statistics that prove it works.  They want a piece of the cake, but the fear of being creepy holds them back.

The fear of being creepy is absolutely warranted – if you violate people’s expectations, it’s hard to regain the trust.  In this post I would like to argue that personalization in marketing is not creepy, as long as you maintain trust with those that engage with your brand.

Let’s take a look at Netflix.  They recommend tv shows and movies based on what they know about you.  Is this creepy?  Most would agree that it is not, and the reason is that you expected Netflix to provide this service.

Or what about Amazon?  They make product recommendations based on past purchases.  Is this creepy?  Again, most appreciate this service to help make their shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable.

Now what about Personalized URLs?  One visits their Personalized URL to see a webpage that is personalized them.  Is this creepy?  Now this is not as easy of an answer as with Netflix and Amazon.  There is a potential to be creepy, and it is important to realize this potential and take the steps necessary to prevent it.

No matter the medium of personalization, it always comes down to expectations.  Do people expect your website, application, or advertisement to be personalized?  If people dont’t expect personalization, and your provide them with a personalized message, then your creepy!  So going back to the question on Personalized URLs, do people expect the webpage to be personalized?  If the expectation is there, then Personalized URLs would not be considered creepy.  Lets dissect the Personalized URL campaign a little further to come to a logical conclusion.

  1. The first step of a Personalized URL campaign typically starts with an email or direct mail piece.  In either case, the recipient expects the piece to be personalized to them.  It is not unusual to receive an email or letter addressed to you.  So far we are meeting expectations, and are not creepy.
  2. The second step is to provide the recipient of the email or direct mail with a Personalized URL to learn more.  In most cases the copy is something like:  Hi Joe, to learn more about our service, I have created a website just for you at mysite.com/Joe.Smith
    So now we have upped the level of personalization a little by putting their name into the URL.  Still, the URL is part of the already personalized email or direct mail piece, so we still have not violated expectations.
  3. Finally the recipient visits their Personalized URL and is provided with a website that is personalized to them.  When we originally introduced the recipient to the Personalized URL, we told them that the website was going to be personalized to them, so the expectations have already been set.  So far, not creepy.  But what if we personalize the site with information they don’t know how we got from them – Like their shoe size, or the amount of their mortgage,  or their child’s name.  This has the potential of being creepy.

The key to personalization is that the user understands where you’re getting their information from.  Let’s take the child’s name example mentioned before as having the potential for being creepy.  Let’s say that yesterday you visited a new childcare company to receive some inquire about their services.  During your visit your filled out a form with your child’s information.  The next day you receive an email from the childcare company with a Personalized URL.  You visit the Personalized URL, to find a personalized website that says “Hi Sally, we would like to invite you and Jimmy to our story time. We’ll have juice and cookies…”  In this case we personalized the website with the Child’s name –  mom understood where the information came from, and it was expected.  This would be a completely different story if mom was browsing children’s clothing online and was greeted with an ad that said, “Hi Sally, why don’t you purchase this shirt for Jimmy.”  Sally had no idea how this clothing company got Jimmy’s name, and this is creepy!

Zappos Personalized AdBefore launching your next personalized campaign, just ask yourself if the recipients are going to expect the level of personalization that you are engaging them with.  If there is any potential at all for surprise, if would be a good idea to be upfront with how the data was used, and what is happening behind the scenes to display the data.  Zappos does this well by displaying “Why am I seeing these ads?” under their re-targeted banners.

The truth is that personalization is going to continue to to make larger and large waves in the marketing world.  Providing marketing that is actually relevant and personalized is more efficient for everybody involved.  If you let fear keep you on the sidelines, you will get left behind.

As Hugo Liu of Hunch says – “Personalize is important because life is to short to see a generic website.”

Other helpful resources on personalization:

  • SXSW Panel: How to Personalize Without Being Creepy
  • How to Personalize Without Being Creepy
  • How not to be creepy when it comes to personalized web banners
  • How Companies Learn Your Secrets
  • Forget Evil, Don’t Be Creepy

 

A PURL Landing Page That Will Make You Laugh!

I recently had the pleasure of working with the guys at Studiowide Ltd from Liverpool.  When they asked me to be a part of creating their PURL landing page, and sent me their design, I was blown away.  What a creative way to cut through the clutter and provide their prospects with a campaign they will never forget!

Not only is the character’s name, street address, car personalized to the viewer, but the main character in the comic changes depending on the gender of the person visiting the page!

I asked Studiowide to provide some insight on the design process used to create this PURL landing page.  Here is what they wrote back:

Comic Strip Design Process 

Studiowide’s latest project was to devise a design campaign for Warrington based Life Insurance Company, GID.

Our team decided to strategise the brief into an online comic book form and personalise it using the email recipient’s information such as their name.

We had to consider comic scenes that covered a variety of scenarios without making too many assumptions into the background of the person. Following the creation of a storyboard and conversation script, through an initial brainstorming session, Michelle Hird the Graphic Designer for Studiowide then went on to create all of the elements.

The main design objectives were as follows;

  1. To plan, develop and design an assortment of characters to play out the scenes of the comic
  2. Transform the rough storyboard into clearer and perfected series of hand drawn sketches
  3. The sketches were then scanned into Adobe Photoshop and enhanced through the use of lighting and contrast effects
  4. Once they were copied and pasted into Adobe Illustrator, it was at this stage the hand drawn images were converted into vector images
  5. Firstly, the Pen tool was used to make all images into line drawings
  6. A cartoon style colour palette was adopted to create the visual impact we required, then the speech bubbles were the last detail put into place

Once we had the comic book concept complete we placed it into a desk setting, similar to that of comic book panel 2. This was to create an environment for the landing page and to construct a paradox like setting for the email recipients.

PURL Landing Page Man

PURL Landing Page Comic featuring a Man as the main character

PURL Landing Page Woman

PURL Landing Page Comic featuring a Woman as the main character