Why CXL’s Head of Growth focuses on retention to drive growth.

Alex Atkins


Head of Growth


CXL Institute
Alex Atkins
Alex Atkins

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Alex Atkins, Head of Growth at CXL Institute.

In this episode, we talked about the process Alex took to decide the key metrics to focus on during his early days at CXL, what motivated him to work more on churn & retention over acquisition, and how they saw an increase in customer retention within 3 months of the team's new focus. 

We also discussed how the growth team at CXL is built, their efforts to put out the fire Covid19 is causing their business, and how they managed to persuade 37% of their customers at risk not to churn. 

As usual, I'm excited to hear what you think of this episode, and if you have any feedback, I would love to hear from you. You can email me directly on Andrew@churn.fm. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

Mentioned Resources



Alex’s process figuring out the important growth metrics to focus on. 00:03:05
How the removal of monthly subscriptions and focusing on quarterly and annual customers, resulted in an increase in cohort retention within 3 months. 00:04:31
What motivated Alex to focus on retention rather than acquisition during his early days at CXL. 00:08:33
The growth team at CXL - Lean and Mean 00:23:51
How the growth team at CXL are putting out the fire caused by Covid19. 00:17:30
How CXL managed to persuade 37% of their customers at risk to pause their account or pay a reduced price instead of churning. 00:15:35


Andrew Michael  1:30  
Hey, Alex, welcome to the show.

Alex Atkins  1:33  
Hey, man, glad to be here.

Andrew Michael  1:35  
It's good to have you. For the listeners. Alex is the head of growth at CSL Institute and see Excel provides marketing training programmes and manage conversion optimization experimentation services, to help mid to large companies accelerate growth. Practice Excel. Alex was the senior marketing manager at Cloud guru. And so my first question for you Alex's as head of growth at CXO. What does your job entail?

Alex Atkins  1:59  
Yes. Absolutely So you know, I joined the team not too long ago November initial focus when i when i when i joined the team was to sort of establish more of a less baselines of growth metrics. So I focus very much on both new net new acquisition as well as retention. So you know, that really kind of boils down to developing building out models around MRR, MRR monthly and it will turn gross sales and you know, net revenue, all that all that fun stuff. And so I really do focus on acquisition and ensuring that we don't lose, don't lose any business to keep this growth, you know, keep this growth going.

Andrew Michael  2:40  
Interesting. So you joined as well, like you said not too long ago and one of your focuses really now has been trying to get a baseline and understand the metrics for yourself like maybe when Talk to us a little bit deeper into their process, and I'm sure there must be others out there listening that are just starting roles and growth of different companies and what did you go about doing when you Look coming into and looking at these metrics, how did you decide what metrics were important to look at? And then how did you make sure everything was up and running? So you could track and evaluate?

Alex Atkins  3:08  
Great question. And, you know, when I joined, I was tasked with with a pretty aggressive goal of increasing, you know, annual sort of revenue by around 100% year over year. And, you know, pretty, pretty aggressive and Well, what's what's great is since 2016 16, has grown roughly by around 40%, year over year, so this was a pretty big jump, but there was a lot of opportunity there. So you know, when it came down to the metrics I was looking into, and why I chose those I can get, I can get a little little more into that. So what I found interesting when I joined was that, you know, we had this continued growth month over month, year over year, but our monthly churn sort of was hanging around a 13 to 14% range, which was a little high for for this E learning space that we're in and since we have you No and have had traditionally an incredibly strong organic presence of CXO. It accounts for the vast majority of our acquisition. I wanted to spend some time diversity diversify in this acquisition acquisition channels. But I also wanted to spend a lot of time cutting down the monthly churn below that double digit level. So really focusing on reducing that monthly churn and focusing on diversifying the acquisition channels. That's kind of where my head was at when I first joined in November. So you know, there were several ways, I guess, to go about doing this. One of the bigger levers that I was able to pull within my first couple months of working at CSL was actually removing monthly subscriptions and focusing on quarter quarterly and annual subscriptions. So just again, just quick recap really wanted to make sure that we lowered that monthly churn month over month and to me something that aligned with our brand, which is really our mission is kind of double down on on, you know many degrees and making sure that we're providing content for folks that are really serious about building skills and becoming the best at what they do. Which takes time to do. It takes more than a month, I would argue to do yeah. So you know what I mean. So I felt like these many degrees that we're basically building out for folks in different sort of verticals like, you know, conversion rate optimization, analytics, you know, digital psychology, and growth. They take about three months ish, we've seen in the data to complete. So I wanted to build out an option, a subscription model for folks for that 12 weeks, so that we can really align with what our brand stands for, and at the same time, reduce churn. So that was that was one of the first things we did when i when i when i joined and, and actually it had a had a very, you know, significant impact, which was awesome. It worked out really well for us on November into December and into January and we started to see some really I guess excellent results for that. You know, I think one of the the all time, sort of, you know, leading indicators that things are starting to go in the right directions, we begin to see that, that the cohort retention was increasing, you know, month over month. So between, you know, the month of December, January, we were at a MRR cohort retention of around 76%. But in January, we saw that rise to 91.2%. And a lot of that, you know, is what we were working on in sort of the development of this new quarterly plan and sort of the the rolling out of that plan versus the monthly plan we had traditionally had. And, you know, February, same thing, you know, February, we sell just about 89% of the cohort retention. So, I started thinking this is this is where we're moving in the right direction. This is this is going pretty well for us. And as I mentioned earlier, that revenue was was was continuing to go up through January and into February and we're feeling pretty good about things. So, yeah, first few months where we're actually and then, of course, you know, mid to late February, early to mid March, we started seeing seeing some things happen. You know that?

Unknown Speaker  7:11  
Yeah, everyone's pretty,

Alex Atkins  7:12  
pretty related. Yeah. Everybody else thought too. Yeah. So, yeah, a great start to the to the engagement. But, you know, it kind of started to we started running some tough times around March.

Andrew Michael  7:22  
Nice. And when you say like, the 90%. Mark, is that net tomorrow attention, like, including things like expansion and contraction, or did you not really have the product line for that? Because that's also was thinking back, do you have the expansion or contraction?

Alex Atkins  7:37  
No, it's a great question. So not necessarily our product line, you know, lends itself well to that area. We were just specifically looking at Mr. Mr. cohort chart. So So relatively basic, I guess view of it, both from an EMR perspective, as well as a subscription perspective, too, as a total as a percentage of the total, I guess. Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew Michael  7:58  
I think because obviously, like the net negative retention is like the the goal of every SAS startup and oh, yeah, sweet spot. But I think your business needs to be able to lend to it like enable to sort of have that obvious expansion path for customers to grow in in as well.

Alex Atkins  8:13  
Yeah, we'll get into that a little bit, too. I I definitely want to want to chat a little bit, a little bit about that, you know, looking forward, cool.

Andrew Michael  8:20  
The other thing as well, that interests me a little bit as well, coming into growth, setting some pretty aggressive targets for you yourself as active growth hundred percent. What was the motivation then to sort of focus on retention itself, I think, maybe just talk us through the logic and the math behind it as well. Like What went through your mind when you're seeing Okay, the opportunity really, when we think about growth is like focusing on retention because I think more often than not, like most people come into growth for the first time. They started looking at sort of, like, how can we increase these conversions and obviously, Excel like we can, yes, revenue and I think we often overlook the compounding and exponential impact that retention can have. So maybe just talk us through a little bit about that. The full process there.

Alex Atkins  9:01  
Absolutely, yeah. And 100% most folks do do think of growth, they think of that acquisition, I think of really focusing on top of the funnel conversion, and, you know, gross sales. And, you know, totally a focus of ours too. But, you know, as I was mentioning earlier, we have traditionally had a really great, I guess, acquisition engine in the sense that we've been built on this long, long road long term growth of focusing on organic and really having a really great presence in organic and allowing that fantastic thought leadership and authority. Help us in in you know, in generating more conversions. Yeah.

Andrew Michael  9:46  
You know, I work I mean, our culture as well. And when we interview customers time and time again, we ask them what content are you consuming? It always comes down to two companies. I think it's L and conversion rate experts. I think like those things, always come in When it comes to sort of industry related content, so neither of

Unknown Speaker  10:04  
them yeah.

Alex Atkins  10:06  
It's true. That was where it was, it was that was the same thing with me. You know, I first started reading Excel quite a while quite a while ago. And the the content has resonated, it's really high authoritative, and really, you know, research based, fantastic content. And you know, it's funny is it is a lot of it focused on conversion rate optimization, which again, is more on the acquisition side, it doesn't really have to do much with the retention piece. I mean, that's not totally true. But it is heavily focused on acquisition. So when it came down to it boiled down to it, it was it was important to continue building and doubling down on that acquisition and the channels that were performing, but at the same time, there was some, I hate to use this term, really low hanging fruit when it came to how we could sort of tighten up retention and lessen the churn that we received. And so, you know, there was several ways several ways of doing that, you know, there was sort of leading indicators and reading ducing the churn and there were, you know, some lagging indicators as well, we chose to sort of tackle the lagging lagging indicators first, they were a little bit more quantifiable a little bit more, you know, low hanging again for us. So, so things again and this is all within three months, things are going very well. And then, you know, naturally we continue to focus on this but we started to see some things changed and it became very interesting to watch this happen in real time. You know, because as March came around, you know, this past month a lot has happened. Um, you know, not only in March do we start to see gross sales dropped slightly, but we started to see churn really kind of take off which was scary, to say the least. You know, interestingly enough, I you know, I keep a very close pulse on on churn. You know, as I was mentioning before, between the first two weeks of March, for instance, churn was actually dropping slightly, but between the second and third week of March, a, you know, we started to see churn and we started to see refunds taking off. I'm looking at the data now it went up by 95% between weeks two and three in March, which was terrifying to see in real time. Yeah. So, you know, with a couple hours though, the team we we huddled up and started working on several campaigns and figuring out ways to put out that fire, you know, so several things that we began to do. Again, a lot of these were lagging indicators, but what we started began to do was build out, revamp, I guess, you could say, our POS subscription campaign, you know, offering, you know, updated flow and copy for that, you know, including sort of building out more friction around the cancellation process, right. We started offering some pricing reduction for folks that were clearly impacted by the crisis. What else did we did a lot, you know, one thing we also did, which was a little bit counterintuitive from a retention perspective, was we began launching our monthly reminder emails, and pushing those out creating transparency around the auto renewals. And, you know, we figured this would increase cancellations potentially at a time where we really couldn't allow for cancellations to increase refunds to increase. But at the same time, you know, one learning path has passed down to us. Is that brand matters more now than ever, especially during this time, right. And he actually forward us this tweet from Rand Fishkin, who's you know, you know, Rand Fishkin, Guinea traditionally sort of the the Wizard of Moz we also just founded this Yeah, just kind of a new company called spark Toro which is really cool. It's uh, I guess I would describe it kind of as a market research you know, audience intelligence tool and company. So I've been I've been playing around with it recently over the last couple weeks. But he wrote something along the lines of and I'm totally gonna butcher this but like something along the lines of like they send out a 48 hour reoccurring email regarding you know, the bill from spark Toro to clients. Tell And then you know, this is gonna be kicking in for eight hours. And what he said was interesting. He says, you know, basically, they're not VC backed, and he doesn't have to worry about artificially high retention rates, you know what he cares about his brand to being customer centric. So being truthful, being honest, and well, I want to get into that a little bit later on how that actually in the long term pays off, even though it seems in the short term, that you're opening up the doors to potential higher churn and more cancellations. So it's, so it's been it's been interesting. It has been it has been really interesting. Seeing has as marches sort of progressed into April how things have have changed.

Unknown Speaker  14:37  
You know, you know, I think,

Andrew Michael  14:39  
like from this point, as well, I think from the brand perspective, it makes so much sense as well. And I think like often, you mentioned like you see the numbers and dropping 95% and like it scares you, but as well, like we are sometimes with our work, we detach ourselves from the human side of it, and I think Sure, behind those numbers is actually companies and people and they're struggling in They need to sort of thing. So anyway, you can really make sure that you're thinking about them. And you're putting them first and always like this as an example, because we had similar conversations and culture around looking at sort of potential dominant customers, and how can we try and reactivate them? And then there's obviously the sort of questions well, if we try reactivate them, there's a cancellation component to it as well. And yeah, right. It's risky. But then at the same time, like you said, like that brand, equity that you build from being really transparent and upfront, and if it's part of your culture and DNA, it's what your customers expect. You don't want to change the behaviour now because you absolutely,

Alex Atkins  15:35  
absolutely couldn't agree more with that. Yeah. And it kind of keeps coming back to that for us. And Pat keeps keeps, you know, knocking out, you know, like, Hey, remember, this is what it's all about, this is what we're all about. And he's he's very, you know, he, you leave the team, you know, he makes sure that we remain agile and we move quick, which is awesome, you know, having him sort of at the helm to help It's sort of through these tough times, um, you know, and I'll be it, we're reacting a bit reactively here to what's going on with this crisis. But it's happening for, you know, almost everyone. So, you know, it is about saving folks from churning, but it's, again, remaining true to the brand. And, you know, it's, it's interesting in the last week of March, you know, because we saw this particular churn take off in March, about mid March. And so immediately, we started working to combat that the right way, I believe. And so following the deployment of these campaigns actually was pretty interesting. We saw 37% of those folks who would initially took action to cancel they were persuaded to either pause or receive a pricing reduction. So that is, in my opinion, massive 37% right. Massive right. And not to say that this still wasn't that's a huge win. But still considering this was you know, a considering everything that's going on it's we still got hit really Hard in March, I'm pretty sure I was just right before we hopped on this call checking the numbers one more time. We saw refunds, you know, jump 130% month over month between February and March. So not a surprise at all. And again, one of those scary numbers for sure. And, you know, now in April, you know, keep very close eye on this, we're currently pacing towards a 19% drop from that month of March, but it's still it's still not great. You know, we're still in a, in a position where, you know, we're seeing relatively high churn relatively high refunds. It's an interesting thing to see here in the E learning landscape. Because, you know, traditionally, you know, folks, they, when they're not impacted by pandemic like this, there's so many things that you can do to keep kind of keep them on the hook, keep them learning, you know, obviously, within digital marketing and within CRM, things are changing all the time. So what you've learned, you know, a couple months ago, you know, might not be relevant today. So the is inherently a great way to keep folks the subject matter itself, keep folks coming back and you know, retaining them as customers but seeing as this was all happening, we were losing tonnes of folks that were really truly genuinely genuinely impacted so there was nothing we could do beyond what we did while remaining true to the brand and I still think it paid off for us it really worked out for us as best as I think it could. But you know, we're still working are still working our tails off here to you know, to continue to increase acquisition while reducing that churn because you know, we did also see you know, acquisition dropped slightly from from you know, January to February and then certainly solid drop from February to March but this is all starting to pay off you know, it really is over the last month we've seen actually some some pretty interesting stuff happen you know, I've been personally consuming a tonne of content charred related gods that you know, because there's there's so much reading out there and you know, webinar As to watch and articles and videos and, you know, I've been tuning into what Patrick Campbell's been doing a profit well, and what Ed fries doing and paddle and the content that they've been putting out. I've been watching a lot of our cx alive panels recently which, you know, focus on what the experts in various industries are doing right now, you know, navigate these these uncertain times. Without that content, I would be we'd be kind of flying blind in a lot of ways. So it is, it is incredibly important to to kind of tune in to what other folks are doing in similar industries or maybe not even in similar industries, whether it's, you know, SAS or e commerce, you know, it might not be directly aligned with with elearning. But, you know, a lot of the ways that these companies are set up are similar. So it you know, it got to read got to look into what other folks are doing. That is that is the biggest The biggest thing that's been helpful for me over the last month as it pertains to Cheshire.

Andrew Michael  19:56  
I mean, they obviously a lot of similarities. That can be the things you've said now as well and then We are a SaaS business at HR. And we've definitely been like, for example, we did the same thing in terms of helping customers pause the exit survey. And we saw like a 60% reduction in churn after introducing that pause for customers to be able to deflect it, which was really good because we're, it's amazing. From one month to the next, like 45% of churn was coming from COVID-19 we actually had it as a response for people to fill in.

Unknown Speaker  20:29  

Andrew Michael  20:30  
Yeah, just say 10% now, so it's,

Alex Atkins  20:32  
yeah, Wow, man. No, it's, it's, um, it's really actually quite, quite impactful when you start putting these campaigns in, you start, you pull the trigger on them and actually see how much they can help it. It does sort of alleviate some of those fears and some of that stress. I mean, obviously, we're still you know, were in tough times, potentially, you know, about to move into some tougher times. But, you know, being proactive about what you're what you're saying right now, being proactive to combat that churn, whether, you know, it'd be sort of identifying these lines. indicators or these you know, leading indicators whatever it might be, there's so many different things we can focus on right and so like you were just mentioning the you know, the survey and the pause you know, functionality which we also kind of included within our our flow and we both you know hot jar and and CSL both seen great things come out of that, you know, we also opened up you know, communication around reoccurring payments to combat involuntary churn to right. You know, on the leading indicators front, this was interesting, and this is something that's a little bit less in my wheelhouse. You know, RCS team has done an extraordinary job improving the onboarding experience, keeping folks happy, you know, Pep has all read, never lose a customer again, by Joey Coleman, I think, which is an excellent book and RCS team basically just started immediately applying those learnings that's helped out incredibly on the leading leading indicator Front. And well, I've been working on the lag indicators and trying to ensure that we're, you know, doing what we can on the growth side. But yeah, so, you know, at this point, there's a couple things we're looking to start, you know, trying to do. Again, without the help of all this other content out there, we didn't even really know where to start. But, you know, we're really kind of working back after, after putting out some of these more immediate fires towards you know, more leading indicator things like campaigns around, you know, getting folks to upgrade to an annual annual subscription versus the quarterly subscription and you know, as you know, annual contracts and you inherently have a reduced churn. So I'm, we're, we jumped on those lagging indicators, we jumped on the stuff that was post and really tried to put out the fire and now we're trying to get back to a Okay, how do we set ourselves up from start to finish to really address churn and ensure that we're proactive, proactive, practically tackling these things, when you know the beginning we were kind of reactive

Andrew Michael  23:00  
For sure, I think like obviously, the reactive nature is just due to the current circumstances really unprecedented as well. And I think like typically the this reactive approach and like focusing on things like resurrection are typically very, not very successful because you come into an audience at a time when they've already made a decision to cancel your product. It's very hard to win them back over again. But I think definitely, like everybody's going through the same boat, everybody's experiencing the pain. So it's not, it's not like something that they've experienced a bad thing with your product, and they've decided they need to cancel or whatever. So spending the time to do those things now is effective, but then, like you said, like really focusing on those inputs that are affecting the final output. And looking at things like onboarding and what you can be doing focus is definitely where the energy needs to be spent when it comes to churn and retention.

Alex Atkins  23:48  
Absolutely, no, that's absolutely right.

Andrew Michael  23:51  
So the team at six sell now like how big is it when you talk about the growth team? Like what is the makeup Who's on your team?

Alex Atkins  24:01  
Oh, absolutely, yeah. And so we're a relatively lean team. Um, you know, we have I'd say just under 10 folks that work within the growth landscape and that you know, that's that's basically focused in anywhere in between analysts to copywriters to front end back end Dev, which resources internally allow us to move at, you know, in a completely, very quickly and remain agile, which is excellent. We have a content lead. And just trying to think if I'm leaving it out, we have we have a videographer as well that's dedicated to the marketing department to as you know, we have a tonne of video content that comes out for learning for the product, but also, it allows us to translate a lot of that into marketing content as well. So the team again, is relatively small, but that does allow us to be quick, it does allow us to make the pivot and change direction and move incredibly fast. You know, specific campaigns, and, you know, full honesty, Pep, you know, you know is is this this great personality, he's, he's huge in the space. But you know, he works really hard he expects us to work really hard to. So it's a fun fast paced environment to be in. And I'm really excited at the idea that the team has built, lean and mean, and we're able to tackle these issues as quickly as we are. Because I've worked with in larger teams, larger growth teams. And while they're, you know, usually are more resources, and there's an ability to build out larger campaigns, because they're typically really large sort of cross cross functional teams. Our smaller team has been able to, I believe, absolutely crush it at this crucial time, especially over the last month.

Andrew Michael  25:47  
Yeah, for sure. Like I think speed and the ability to iterate really fast is critical when it comes to this sort of experimentation different instead, like as a company gets larger, that experimentation becomes a little bit more Difficulty when you really want to do like, cross functional changes as well, I think yeah,

Alex Atkins  26:05  
it just moves a little slower. And while you know, while it might be, you know, we have this 8020 mentality like we we love getting stuff pushed live, you know, at the 8020 kind of like, it's good, it's not great because perfection kind of kills. And while the larger organisations might be able to, you know, get that, you know, perfect 100% campaign a push live, we move much faster than a larger a larger marketing group for sure. And I I love that I think it's really, really cool to work with this team. They're incredibly hard workers, they are incredibly talented at what they do. So it just makes me excited that I know that I am working with the best of the best and they're, they're able to kill it when we need to. Right so it's, it's, it's been scary. I've said this multiple times over this chat. It's been scary, but it's also been weirdly exhilarating. It's been weirdly you know, We've had, we've had some scary times, but it's also been pretty exciting at times. I can

Andrew Michael  27:05  
imagine when I was off for four months on paternity leave, so I chose a really amazing paternity programme and no doubt I was off for four months and returning back to work three weeks ago like everybody's first reaction was Wow, that this is like some scary times coming back and wow, Gary, but it's also definitely the most interesting time to come back. For sure. Like this has never happened. At least in like, if we think about sauces and industry like we've never been in something like this. Just use the idea of like sauce being so early in its stage and then like what's happening now in the market? So

Unknown Speaker  27:38  
sure, sure. uncharted territory. Exactly. Yeah,

Andrew Michael  27:42  
even it's already uncharted territory to some degree, but now this is definitely it and trying to figure out to navigate our way through this, I think is really an exciting challenge. And yes, it's scary because a lot of things are going on around us but it also I think there's opportunities hidden as well, but if we find And we're kind enough back, we're gonna be able to find them.

Alex Atkins  28:03  
Yeah, and you know what one one last thing I wanted to I wanted to note and you know, I'm a huge fan of hot jar, we see excel in something else that lends it lends well to having a small sort of agile team are all about testing, right? And so, you know, whether it's hot jar or optimised or whatever kind of tests we're running, I feel like that's been hugely helpful for us to test quickly, effectively, and then implement. And obviously, that's sort of inherent to any growth, you know, successful growth team, along with sort of the idea of having a growth team of T shaped marketers that you know, have a really good knowledge, solid knowledge of a lot and really good sort of expertise within certain disciplines of digital marketing. It This is something I've really touched on yet in this conversation. But but but that has been so crucial for us in allowing us to better understand what initiatives have have allowed us to sort of reduce churn right, especially recently

Andrew Michael  29:00  
Yeah, absolutely. To be able to interact really fast is important. Yeah. Yeah. The one question I ask everyone on the show and you've given half the answer, I guess it's a little bit late to move for this. But I'll ask everyone to join us here. As always, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario now. And for you the idea that you've joined a new company, and you arrive and tuner retention is not great. And you've been tasked with trying to turn things around. Sure. I'm just laughing because like, you've basically me off of your toe, but what would be the things you'd really want to focus on the first two to three months, like the first 90 days to try and prove and show some results for the company? So right, moving aside, like taking plans from monthly to quarterly and yearly, what would be next on your list?

Alex Atkins  29:47  
Sure. Um, yeah, that's a great question. So for me, it's really when it comes to trends specifically. It's really identifying those leading and lagging indicators. It's really understanding why What you can pull the lever on now what what you can quantify and pull the lever on now to ensure that you're putting, you know, practices into place that are going to allow you either you know, pre or post, you know, basically keep folks from churning, I think there's such a human element to it as well. So for me, obviously it comes it boils down to the numbers, getting some really quantifiable sort of facts here that I can use as baseline to understand where we are where we need to go setting up some some aggressive goals has usually been sort of my go to for for both myself and my team. So you know, set up that baseline understanding of where we stand now with churn, figure out where we want to be what's doable, what's aggressive, but not impossible. So we can push ourselves to then address those lagging indicators. First, most likely, those are the ones that are the low hanging fruit that I've mentioned previously. And they're usually more quantifiable, you can usually just just knock those out and campaigns you know 24 hour campaign you can set up and just set live. And then, you know, once you've sort of, I guess, put up the fires, you know, on the lagging side, it's about going back and really seeing the whole experience, you know, holistically really understanding from start to finish, what is it like to be a customer at CSL or at this company, you know, this hypothetical company? How can we ensure from starts from day one, to the last day that we are providing anything and everything that's necessary for this individual to continue seeing value in this product or service? That is ultimately the way to keep folks around to keep people from churning if you're providing value consistently. And you're staying true to that brand? You will keep customers? Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew Michael  31:46  
Yeah. If you have a problem and you're solving it, and they're getting the value out of the service, like there's no reason to quit, I think

Unknown Speaker  31:53  
that's true.

Andrew Michael  31:55  
I want to just touch a little bit more on this topic of leading versus lagging indicators or anything. It's anything over really gone into in much detail like we always take it as well for granted. Wouldn't we have conversations that everybody gets it but I think like when we think about sort of the leading versus lagging indicators and inputs and output metrics like churn itself when we say it's an output metric, the reason like it's not put into lagging is because when somebody decides to churn like that is instance, but the decision to churn happen maybe a month ago or two months ago, or it's been slowly leading up to the point where they've decided, Okay, now I need to go and cancel my account. It's not something that's an input that's immediate, and we can understand as well. So when you when you're talking about sort of the inputs now and these leading indicators, thinking with that in mind, like the inputs and the leading indicators ultimately are what's trying to get you understand, when it comes down to turning like, what can you be pushing more of So you mentioned that onboarding, how can we make sure that we onboard customers As better so they get to the point to value so they never get to the point where they are one part of that upward metric in churn itself because we've realised and you've engineered backwards. So when you went through this process, it's here Excel now, how, obviously like you, I think you mentioned, was going to say, Well, the main fires and why the reasons for people turning, but then looking on the inverse sec, what were you trying to figure out? When it came to those inputs that were really driving retention? How did you know we're working?

Alex Atkins  33:29  
Right? Right. That's so that's such a good question. It is, it is interesting too, because a lot of time you come in with these, you know, these, this focus that there are these things wrong that you need to fix. It's so true and And oftentimes, there are so many things that are going right that you need to double down on, honestly and you know, pour some gasoline out because they are the things that are truly not only generating net new revenue, but you know, basically retaining customers as well. So for me I, you know, also first day signed up an account and started working myself through the flow and through the experience and sort of understanding the onboarding, understanding, you know, first courses, understanding how, you know, certain pads or many degrees were set up and how they operated, how they worked, how the product itself worked. And so it is, it is so important to see what works, what kept me there, what kept me interested, and what kind of information was I learning? That was that was sort of unique and something I couldn't find anywhere else. I think the number one thing for me that is actually very true about CSL is that it is the only skill building platform that uses the world's top 1% of practitioners right as the instructors, right. So instead of your traditional University, you don't go to class and see someone who probably has done very well in life as a practitioner is now in the future. You are seeing folks that are currently doing this stuff right now. Teaching you How'd They Do it and how they successfully do it. So the content, the content is what I believe truly gets people, you know, to, to join, and then to stick around. Yeah, it's the nature of the nature of the content and the nature of the space. You know, as I was mentioning earlier, it is moving so rapidly, it is moving so quickly that, you know, I've been in digital marketing for quite a while a tonne of the stuff I've learned even a year ago isn't relevant anymore, right? Even six months ago, maybe even four months ago. So the idea that you need to kind of stick around because this content is regularly updated, it is updated by the best people currently practising. That, to me was was what kept me around as a user and what I, I believe, and we've done some surveys, we've done some user testing, what keeps users around as well. Right? That that is the big that is the big piece, right? So knowing that, how do we double down on pushing that content out? How do we create more of that fantastic content, and how do we allow folks to do That just that content in a more easy fashion, how do we start building off more offline programmes so that we can have folks while they're, you know, going to work or while they're, you know, on a plane, you know, how do we allow them to digest that content outside of this standard, you know, you know, being online and doing it there. So it's really about, okay, we've identified what that is, we've identified why it's amazing. Now we just need to figure out how we can get it to folks in other places at different times than we've traditionally been able to.

Andrew Michael  36:29  
Very cool. Yeah, absolutely. I think to your point as well, like the the playbooks are really being written on the field at this point in time when it comes to digital marketing and sauce and everything's moving so fast. sitting and listening to teachers, maybe at a fancy University who are teaching you things that are definitely going to be outdated. Yeah, and yeah, the value is I think, definitely agree would be in that sort of having the top 1% really keeping a pulse and learning from people that are actually in the in the trenches with you as well. Exactly.

Alex Atkins  36:59  
Consistently out there. It is pretty cool that and you know, it's kind of interesting too, because this is my history, right I was a marketer and went through the university as a marketer and you know, Masters as a marketer, and there are so many things that I learned then fantastic that, you know, learnings, but a lot of them just aren't applicable anymore. And so, like, you know, to be in this space now is it's quite interesting not only from the perspective of being, you know, the, the head of growth, but also continuously learning, because that is the one thing I think all of our practitioners would say, always be learning continuously be learning because if you are not, it won't be long until you are no longer you know, speaking speaking the right language.

Andrew Michael  37:39  
Absolutely. I mean, here I actually am I'm based out in Cyprus and been invited by the university a couple of times to come share and topics and going into the class normally sit in before the class before and listening and this is, like boggles my mind as well. I feel like really disappointed leaving those classes because I'll be teaching today like two three years ago. Like, we really need a pulse on a shirt, stop wasting people's time like University classrooms go down. But going back, because also, I think it's really interesting, you really figured out, okay, the reason people are sticking around the reason why users are attending is because it's this amazing content. And then we started touching on some of the input metrics and some of the leading indicators that can really help you drive and reduce the output metric. And that lagging metric. Sure, which was like doubling down on the number of pieces potentially that people are viewing or how much time they post this content. Yeah, and really like that sending my guessing and assuming is like, part of the focus of the onboarding now is like, how do we drive these specific leading indicators? Exactly. numbers up? Yeah,

Alex Atkins  38:48  
exactly. Right. Yep. That is that is absolutely correct. And, you know, we we preach, test and learn and that's something we do from a from not from the marketing side, but also from the product side and from the customer success side. It is consistently happening internally as the Excel So, so we know, we know what what pulse pulses we're getting from, you know, our internal community also as well as prospective purchasers. And we try to action on that as quickly as possible. Because again, being able to provide that fantastic content, you know, in a very easy easily, you know, easy way to digest, I guess, and set folks up for success. And then, once they've earned a specific certificate, or they've completed a specific exam, really being able to let them know how big of an accomplishment This is, and allow them to apply that learning really quickly to whatever job they're doing. Right. And then they start to see, okay, so the learning isn't just about the learning the learning is about now, I know how to do this, and I can apply this and now I'm indispensable. Now. I'm creating projects and programmes and campaigns that are absolutely killing it. Because of this content that I've been, you know, you're reading up on watching

Andrew Michael  39:58  
the show and not you touched on As well, like, if people are getting value, ultimately they're not going to churn. And I think the closer you can get to be able to measuring that value ultimately better. And I think like a really good interview we had was with GoDaddy. Sure, which added to them about sort of the metrics that they were looking at when it came to retention. And ultimately, they figured out as well, like for their website builder, they had, initially they were looking at sort of the monster trained and trying to find this metric that they were saying, okay, like, yes, they created a site and they've got traffic, that's good. But ultimately, they realised, okay, that's the reason why people create these arches to get business or to, if they're in a restaurant, it's to get bookings, if it's an e commerce store to drive sales. And they were in a fortunate position where they could actually measure the direct value that they're providing their customers. Sure. Sure, absolutely. The closer you can get to being able to record and track and measure the actual value that your product delivers your end user, and then being able to double down on how you deliver i think is definitely like it's sticky. It's the only way really to Absolutely ensure retention.


Alex Atkins
Alex Atkins

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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