October 19, 2019

First customer churn 😢

Danielle Johnson @dinkydani

I always advocate sharing the failures as well as the successes, so here's one of ours. Yesterday we had our first Teams customer churn 💔. I think it's super important to talk about these sorts of "milestones" because they are a part of growing a business everybody experiences.

For people who don't know, Leave Me Alone has 2 types of pricing; one for individuals to buy credits for unsubscribing (one-time payment), and one for teams to pay per seat for unlimited unsubscribes (monthly subscription).

We have 10 teams customers right now paying for 1 or 2 seats putting us at $112.80 MRR. Most of these are people who are using the Teams plan for themselves rather than for their team - which is great but we would like to get more small teams and companies on board.

Leave Me Alone for Teams is still in a discovery stage right now. Perhaps it's something people don't want, or perhaps we are terrible at selling it!

We have some upcoming improvements to Teams to better demonstrate the value we are providing; team-wide time & money saved by unsubscribing, team leaderboard for most unsubscribes, and more (suggestions welcome!)

The big wins feel so good, and remind me that we're on the right path and doing something right. However, the road IS bumpy and full of things like churn and unsuccessful sales (after weeks of work and follow-ups), negative feedback, and day with no sales.

As always you can see all of our stats on our open page - more recurring revenue stats (like churn lol) will be added soon!

  1. 5

    When I was in elementary school, my teachers frequently had a poster on their walls that said "VOICE" - as in a reminder to write with personality and soul.

    Leave Me Alone is a business with Voice - and I mean that as a complement of the highest order.

    Thank you for sharing the good and bad! And I absolutely love this degree of openness "Leave Me Alone for Teams is still in a discovery stage right now. Perhaps it's something people don't want, or perhaps we are terrible at selling it!"

    My gut reaction to this is that Leave Me Alone sounds like a very "single player" product. For something that's team based, I'd imagine the prompt "What if the product was called Leave Us Alone?" and what that might mean.

    I know at my current job (large organization with over 20K ppl), my inbox is flooded with automated emails. Emails from every code review by someone on my team (which is a loose definition of team and includes too many people), stale alerts from some legacy system which is hosted in a repo that I might not have access to (and even if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to track down the code that generates the email alert), spam from internal mailing groups that I'm too lazy to leave etc.

    My inbox is pretty much unusable without aggressive filtering (and having certain emails skip the inbox). If one of my teammates told me - "Hey, I found this product called Leave Us Alone and it's identified all the offending spammers in our company." I'd be quite happy.

    If that teammate also said, "Oh, it also automagically creates Gmail filters for you to ignore those emails." I'd ask them for a link ASAP.

    1. 1

      That's an interesting thought, but I'm not sure if renaming our product depending on the customer is quite the right approach 🙈. It would be you telling the subscriptions to leave you alone after all! It sounds like you really could benefit from using Leave Me Alone though 😇. If you unsubscribe then you shouldn't need Gmail filters since you won't receive the emails any more!

      1. 2

        Oh hahaha, I didn't mean "Leave us alone" as a recommendation to change the name (I think the name is great!), but merely as an exercise to trigger the imagination.

        My issue at a large company is that there often isn't a way to unsubscribe from some of these emails because they're all internal tools. Some of these tools allow you to unsubscribe (where you can navigate the UI and change the notification settings - like JIRA), but many others arrive just because I'm part of an email list and I couldn't unsubscribe if I tried (well, if I tried hard enough, I could do it, but I would have to try very hard - might involve jumping into a codebase I'm not familiar with and updating an alert to target a more specific email list, that I'm not a part of).

        But that's just what comes to mind for me. I'm sure others will report different problems with their company email account!

        1. 2

          Ah right yeah I understand your problem. I used to be plagued by these working for a big company too. Unfortunately, Leave Me Alone can only help with these if there is a way to unsubscribe. Maybe you're looking for more of an inbox management tool that will sort/organise these away for you? I can recommend CleanEmail as a good (privacy friendly) one :)

        2. 1

          This is a great idea, and this immediately came to mind:
          https://github.com/mbrt/gmailctl as a way to manage filters. I'm imagining now a really nice UI that makes deciding, and managing filters really easy, and even going as far as suggesting filters based on things like how often you read some types of mail (identified by sender address, commonality of subject line, who they are sent to, and even when they are sent, such as it may be detectable that it's an automated email because of non-organic metrics) or how quickly after receiving you read the email.

          You could present some of this data in an "Eisenhower Grid" like fashion (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm) and educate users on some ways they can prioritize how they handle incoming messages.

          Go a step further, and gamify "Inbox Zero" in order to help bring important things to the "front" of the line.

          https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/ultimate-way-inbox-zero.html

          https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/lessons-on-email-processing-from-gmails-priority-inbox.html

          This makes me want to start my own Indie Company.

          Also, I created an account with LeaveMeAlone, and purchased 50 credits, after using my first 5, and creating a reminder to give me 5 more.

          Keep it up. This is really cool!

          1. 2

            Haha wow you've got a lot of really awesome ideas! Let me know if you ever build this, it would be really cool to collaborate!

            We have something to the filter suggestions called Subscription Score - our quality rating for mailing lists based on how often they send emails, how many addresses they use, how many people unsubscribe, and other stuff. We think it's going to be a powerful tool in our mission to help people "keep" control of their inboxes 💪

            And thank you so much for using Leave Me Alone, and for your kind words! I look forward to having you back when you get that reminder email - in the mean time, enjoy your cleaner inbox! 💌

  2. 2

    The biggest thing is not to take it personally. Sometime a customer leaving an app you built can feel like a rejection of you personally, but in reality, there are 1001 reasons why they might go, and probably only 1 out of those 1001 reasons will have anything to do with you personally. (Tip: Don't abuse your customer on Twitter like one SaaS company did to me - that is the one and only time in my life I unsubscribed from a service due to 'personal' reasons).

    The very first customer to our HR SaaS churned a few months after he signed up. It was a punch to the gut for us. We found out that he had lost a government contract which means he did not need our system any longer. But guess what, about 12 months later he got a new contract, and he re-signed up with us, and he is still a customer to this day!

    1. 1

      That's awesome! Yup there's usually a valid reason - I just want to learn from every single one of our churned customers why they didn't feel it was for them and if there's anything we can do to improve 😊

  3. 2

    Kudos for sharing one of the downs, among the ups! We all need to be doing this more.

    LMA is awesome and will bounce back. 📈

  4. 1

    One thing I would think of to increase MRR is to increase engagement with the product. Or, the opposite by enabling some behavior or result (on a recurring basis) without requiring the customer to do anything.

    Maybe after detecting subscriptions, you can allow the customer to mark some subscriptions as "wanted" so that they disappear from the main list, then make suggestions (based on email quantity, frequency, email read rate, etc) of subscriptions that they might want to go away.

    You might be able to check both the "engagement" and "do a thing then get out of my way" checkboxes, by sending weekly or monthly emails, letting your customer know they their inbox is actively being monitored for subscriptions, and they are either on the right track ("Yay! 🎉") or a list of suggestions (or both). Include graphs of emails "missing" from the inbox, to help them understand the value of removing the subscription N months ago (@Pixcoder suggested marketing on "time saved", which I think would make sense here).

    1. 1

      Thanks for the suggestions!

      Maybe after detecting subscriptions, you can allow the customer to mark some subscriptions as "wanted" so that they disappear from the main list, then make suggestions (based on email quantity, frequency, email read rate, etc) of subscriptions that they might want to go away.

      We already do both of these things 😇

      You might be able to check both the "engagement" and "do a thing then get out of my way" checkboxes, by sending weekly or monthly emails, letting your customer know they their inbox is actively being monitored for subscriptions, and they are either on the right track ("Yay! 🎉") or a list of suggestions (or both)

      We can't do this because we don't (and wont) store any email data and we don't monitor inboxes, keeping things in line with our tough stance on privacy and trust 💪

      Time saved part is possible, but we don't really want to be sending too many emails to our users (for obvious reasons).

  5. 1

    What's the value prop for teams?

    1. 2

      Saving time, time is money, money is business!

      Seriously though, the average worker spends 28% of the work week managing email source. Not only that, but receiving unwanted emails is a source of interruption, and the most efficient teams work stay focused.

      We have a landing page for our teams plan - but I think we could do with improving this to focus even harder on the value props I mentioned above. It's a never ending cycle of learning + trial and error!

  6. 1

    First of all -- this is an important milestone - your first churned customer. While emotionally, it doesn't feel anywhere as getting a new customer, there's a lot of value in what you can learn.

    I keep this quote by Bill Gates on my desk:
    👉 Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

    I don't know if you're able to reach out to speak to this churned customer, but if you are, they can give you very valuable insights into the product, sales and marketing they encountered while with you.

    Most of all, if you can get to the real reasons why they chose the product in the first place and the realreasons why they left, you'll have very powerful data to use to your benefit.

    The reason I used real is that it takes an in-person interview to get to the deeper levels of understanding that survey or text based answers just don't give. When interviewing, you always want to dig past the first 1 or 2 answers they give to discover the real reason.

    Many companies reach out to churned customers to speak with them in person because they can ask questions and get some really insightful answers.

    And the earlier you can put this into practice for your business, the quicker you'll discover things you didn't know and you can make changes to better the customer experience as well as improve your product, marketing and sales.

    There's a section on how to do this type of interview in this guide, including the specific questions to ask and how to dig deeper: https://anitatoth.ca/crush-your-churn-guide/

    I'm glad you shared this milestone as every business at some time will experience their first churned customer and hopefully will see it as an opportunity to learn more. 👍

    1. 1

      This is super valuable feedback and advice! Thank you Anita for taking the time to write this - and I really appreciate the Bill Gates quote 🙂

      I have reached out to them, but I haven't had a response yet - I will try again but I don't want to spam them of course!

      Hopefully we won't have too much churn, but i appreciate your guide for if we might need help crushing it :D

      1. 1

        @dinkydani

        If you have their phone number, call them. Let them know that you really appreciate their feedback. If you can, offer to help them in some small way for their time. Let them decide how you can help them in return.

        Also, if you can, start asking your new customers some questions around why they chose your business and what they like and don't like about it. Again, if you can, get them on the phone for a quick 15 min chat (the guide also tells you what to do on those calls and immediately after them).

        You've got this! Just make a formal process. You'll be surprised by what you learn. 🙂

  7. 1

    Hey Danielle,

    I haven't used LeaveMeAlone too much, just once I think, I don't have that many subscriptions atm. So don't know if the app has any reminders but it would be nice to remind me once every few months to check again.

    As for teams/companies:

    Again, didn't actually check how it works, (user experience).

    But, two things come into my mind:

    • Individuals have easier time at deciding on using something as it is their direct responsibility
    • Teams have bureaucracy, so even if I got this Saas for our team because I find it valuable, doesn't mean my team thinks the same and they will adopt it/change behavior
    • So maybe is not that much focusing on app's features but on human behavior/psychology
    • Selling to teams and bigger companies maybe could be dealt at the moment as a custom service and not as an automatic subscription process
    • First meet those 50 companies that have the issue you can solve, even if you have to give them some in-person support (setup)
    • Charge them more money for your time, use all that feedback to improve the process so you don't have to spend so much time on it

    Maybe for a while your teams/companies plan should be dealt as other Saas companies do with Enterprise, they make sure some sales/account manager hears their problem, sells them the solution and then does the entire setup.

    Okay it might sound like not so fun thing to do but maybe you can try something and get some feedback.

    Regards and good luck!!

    1. 1

      So don't know if the app has any reminders but it would be nice to remind me once every few months to check again.
      We already offer this 😇 - you can set a reminder from the button in the header

      So maybe is not that much focusing on app's features but on human behavior/psychology
      This is good advice, we are trying to focus on saving time sorting through emails, which means more time to focus on work, which means more time with family/the things that matter. We need to do a better job of conveying this on the landing page.

      Selling to teams and bigger companies maybe could be dealt at the moment as a custom service and not as an automatic subscription process
      It is both, half of our Teams customers are from direct sales with personalised solutions and customised onboarding/support. I added the ability to sign up for Teams without having to contact us first, since that can be a blocker for some small teams and companies - and now we have a few more teams customers! But you're right, the big and important sales early on will be personal and one-on-one solutions :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  8. 1

    Thanks for the post Danielle. I also lost my first 130$/m customer, arf! Due to Beta bugs... He's been very encouraging though!

    As for LeaveMeAlone, I find the idea interesting. A copywriting suggestion: why not emphasize on the time LOST each day deleting or marking as read dozens of emails? For me personnally, it's what happens... So yeah it can be "unwanted" emails, or "too much emails", but I would have personnally edited your headline to something along the lines of "Save 10 minutes a day with a CLEAN inbox", something like that... What do you think?

    1. 2

      Oh no! I hope you're not taking it too hard :)

      I've tried to focus our copy on positive benefits and value props plus the 'how', rather than things like time lost and negativity. I like the idea of time saved but I'm not sure where in the tagline or lead it would fit, since I think our current copy does a good job of explaining the product and what it does.

      We have time saved on our teams page where you can move the slider for number of emails received per day and we'll estimate the amount of time your team can save. Perhaps we could make better use of this for individuals.

      Thanks for your feedback and input! ☺️

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

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      This comment was deleted a year ago.

  9. 1

    Do you think a monthly subscription would work for normal consumers? B2C is a harder market than B2B though. As a business I don't see it being financially stable unless there is some kind of recurring revenue.

    1. 1

      If we're doing our jobs properly then individuals shouldn't need to pay monthly to unsubscribe. I think our credits pricing model fits well as customers pay to unsubscribe from what they don't need any more, and they can come back every few months or whenever their inboxes become unmanageable again.

      For teams, especially ones in industries that rely on email to operate like marketing and recruitment, speed and efficiently directly equates to profit so keeping your inbox clean regularly is more important - plus they're more likely to accumulate spam and mailing lists faster as their email is more public.

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    This comment was deleted 6 months ago.

    1. 2

      Hopefully we won't get too much 🙈 but yes we can better analyse it when we get more.

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