How fast are you churning?

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Recently, I was asked, “what’s an acceptable churn rate for X”, where X can be your email list, your social media following, your customer base, etc. The simple answer is straightforward: anything over zero is preferable to anything negative. At the most basic understanding of churn, you always want to be growing rather than contracting.

That said, the more complex answer is that it’s dependent on the seasonality or cyclicality of your business. For example, once upon a time, I used to market student loans. Obviously, there’s a relatively narrow demographic of people who need student loans. Thus, every June, we’d see a significant portion (20-25%) of our email list unsubscribe – they were done with college and no longer wanted or needed information about student loans. Our mailing list no longer served them (in their eyes).

Conversely, every summer around July or August, we’d see a massive influx of new subscribers as students entering college got their first tuition bills, wondered how they’d pay that obscene amount, and subscribe to every student loan resource they could find.

This massive churn rate came out as a wash, but it raised two important business questions – was there a way to keep any amount of the people we normally lost, and was there a way to capture more of the new customers. The answer to more new customers is of course media, marketing, and sales. The answer to keeping some of the losses was to diversify our product line so that we offered services relevant to people even after they left college.

Here’s a better question for you to think about. Look at your churn rate for any two properties and see how they compare. For example, does the number of returning visitors to your website look at all, percentage-wise, similar to the number of people who actively open your email newsletter? If the answer is yes, then there’s something you’re doing right to keep people coming back. If the answer is no, they look dissimilar, then one is serving your audience better than the other. Figure out what the difference is and try to strengthen the weak method.

You can use your existing media mix to help with this. Make sure that you’re cross-promoting effectively. For example, if you’ve got a robust, growing email list and other channels that are important to you are not growing, make sure to give them some added prominence in your email marketing. If you’ve got a strong Twitter account, but your email list isn’t growing, then tweet more about your list. Leverage the full power of your marketing mix!

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