Reducing Churn & Increasing Customer Happiness with Val Geisler

Val Geisler helps SaaS and subscription-based e-Commerce brands use email to strategically convert leads, retain customers long term, and close more monthly recurring revenue. Her passion is great email copy, crafting email marketing strategy and helping businesses reduce churn and increase customer happiness. Val is amazing at customer retention and customer communication and I’m super happy to have her on the show.

In this interview with Val, we discuss:

  • The metrics you should know when it comes to your email marketing
  • The benefits of using consultants to scale your SaaS business
  • The importance of asking ‘why’ a lot when it comes to understanding your data
  • The role of building brand affinity to reduce customer churn
  • How to build strong connections with your customers through your onboarding flow
  • Adding a personalized touch to your onboarding to make your customers feel cared about

You can find Val at:

fixmychurn.com

@lovevalgeisler

Transcript:

Keith:

Hello, this is Keith. Welcome to another edition of Data Beats Opinion. I’m here today with  from fixmychurn.com. In a single sentence, she is absolutely amazing at customer retention, customer communication, and, by the name of her site, fixing SaaS, apps, churn. Everything from email to support copy to everything in between and I am super happy to have you on the call with us.

Val Geisler:

Well, that’s very kind and a really nice intro, Keith. I am a firm believe that data beats opinion so I was happy to take this time.

Keith:

I really think that data, especially in the fields that we are, which is customer acquisition, customer retention, anything that is dealing with things that scale, you have to understand your numbers and you have to understand what they mean.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

That’s the crazy thing that always gets me is that so many people just don’t have a good sense of what they should be measuring, let alone how they should be measuring it.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. I think data’s really important and I believe that it should be both quantitative and qualitative.

Keith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Val Geisler:

I live in the world of email and so if all you do is look at open rates and click rates and conversion rates on email campaigns, you end up creating email campaigns that work really well for you but, over time, don’t work for your customers. You have to marry the qualitative with the quantitative and you also to be willing to try things that will fail.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

In order to have that failing as data, right? It’s all just information.

Keith:

Yeah. To go out into left field and say, “Okay, this is something we’ve never tried before. Are people going to respond to it or not?” Because you don’t know until you try it. One of the things that gets asked to me a lot is what KPI should I be looking at to improve my marketing. I’m like, “Nothing.” KPIs are a judge of how well you’re doing but they don’t show you any outliers. They don’t show you what you should do next because everything’s averaged out.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

Especially when we’re looking at customer retention, churn, and stuff like that. You have no idea what the problem is. All you see is a number, this churn number. Then you’re like, “What should I do with it?

Val Geisler:

The one question that consistently goes unanswered on my intake form when people want to work with me that have a generally long application and one of the questions is what percentage of your revenue is driven by email? Almost everyone-

Keith:

No one knows.

Val Geisler:

… writes, “I don’t know. N/A.” They put an asterisk there because it’s a required question. Everybody bypasses that question. Nobody knows what percentage of their revenue is attributed to email.

Keith:

Wow. Wow.

Val Geisler:

Yet, they all know what percentage their churn is. They know their customer life term value and they know all these other numbers that everyone talks about. But they haven’t dug into what-

Keith:

Why.

Val Geisler:

… all that means.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Okay. You have a 10% customer churn and you want it to be seven. Well, what do you know about where your revenue comes from and you know your customer life time value but do you know how many times that customer has purchased from you? Because I work with both SaaS and e-commerce. Really, anyone who’s focused on monthly recurring revenue. So e-commerce, subscription models, and then SaaS is built in. But if they’re looking at how many months is somebody sticking around or how many purchases has a customer made, it’s not necessarily just average order value in the world of e-commerce or number of months they’ve been a customer, that long life time value. I think that it’s really about when are they leaving and what does that cliff look like and how can we shorten that cliff? Because-

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

… if all you’re doing is tackling that term percentage, it’s going to be really challenging. But if you look at all the other factors that go into that and start tackling those individual little things, then, over time, you see that churn number go down.

Keith:

Right. It goes back to, I think, there’s a part of one of the reasons that they focus on the churn number or that average life time value or whatever is because it’s an easy number that they can plug into something like Barometrics or psychometrics and easily get that number. Right? It’s something that any platform instantly reports on. But it’s not the valuable number. That’s your marker of where you’re at but, like you said, how many people come from your email list? How long are people on your email list before they convert?

Val Geisler:

Yeah. Are people who are converting long time customers? Are they even still on your email list?

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Did they unsubscribe at a certain point? Another one that I think about is of your successful customers, on average, how many tickets do they send in? Are they noisy customers? Are they quiet? Those numbers are there. You have to do some digging and you might have to do some mapping in there but I think it’s important to look at how all those things tie together. Because, ultimately, customer success isn’t just let’s get our queue down and answer all of our tickets and make sure everyone’s taken care of. But then how does that correlate to other areas of the business, of the whole?

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Particularly, churn.

Keith:

I think that especially when a business is younger, those numbers that are aggregates, churn, life time value, are so easily swayed by kind of the day to day or the month to month. Right? I just had a call with someone and they were looking at their average life time value and they were like, “Oh, you have an average life time vale of $1,100. That means people stay on for 10 months. Why do they quit after 10 months?” I was like, “Well, if you actually look at the data, they’re not quitting after 10 months. You have some people on here that have been on for three years but you have a lot of people who’ve canceled in the first month.” You’re looking at the average.

Val Geisler:

The aggregate. Yeah.

Keith:

Right. You look at the aggregate and you get one story. But once you start digging into, okay, what’s the distribution of that? Then you start seeing, oh, this is telling us a completely different story that people who love us, love us, but it’s hard to get over that first hump. That’s the kind of stuff that I think you need an expert like yourself or someone who’s been around the block with this kind of stuff. Because it’s not something that you understand and it’s not something that people teach.

Val Geisler:

Well, it’s that outside perspective too that sometimes you are too in the weeds and looking at that number and thinking, oh, this is terrible. What are we going to do about it? But when you have somebody who can say, “Wait a second. Let’s look at this.” Again, I have people come to me all the time who are like, “We did really bad. We aren’t doing anything with email and I don’t really know. We haven’t talked to our list in forever and I’m so embarrassed to even tell you that.” I’m like, “Hey, you’re the third person this week who’s told me that.”

Keith:

Yeah, yeah.

Val Geisler:

Sometimes it’s helpful to just have that outside perspective of somebody who has seen these things come up time after time and then knows kind of how to address and what works and what doesn’t.

Keith:

This has always been my kind of reason that I recommend consultants because the advantage that a consultant has is they’ve seen this exact same problem in 20, 40, 100 different places. Right? This is not a new issue that they’re coming into and have to figure out. They’re like, “This is why this is happening. These are the things you need to look at.” It gives you, as a company, such a jumpstart into, oh, this is how I’m going to start fixing this problem instead of trying to figure it out yourself for months reading blog posts that are-

Val Geisler:

Right.

Keith:

… honestly, usually, pretty white washed. Right?

Val Geisler:

Yeah, and the same.

Keith:

They don’t talk about the horrible stuff. And the same. They really are.

Val Geisler:

I always think consultants, we’re a dumpster fire breed. We’re attracted to those big, flaming hot fires. We want to have an impact on them. We want to get them down to a sizzle. Roast some marshmallows and call it a day. But what’s fun about working with someone, you can work together on a very short term basis. It’s not a life long commitment. It’s however long the term is that the consultant is seeing success with and then being able to turn around some real results in a short period of time and then maybe go away for a while and come back.

Val Geisler:

A lot of people I work with, I see again six or nine months later to pull the data, look at what we did, see how it performed, what worked, what didn’t, and then what adjustments do we need to make to that? Then what else do we need to work on? What does that data tell us now? What other opportunities are there? I think it’s a really fun way to have relationships and, also, for small SaaS companies to be able scale up a little bit. You can scale your business without hiring someone full-time.

Keith:

Exactly. Exactly. It literally is. It’s hiring an expert for a short period of time to be laser focused on what you want to accomplish. I actually love the fact that you said that consultants were attracted to dumpster fires because I found the exact same thing. If a company’s going smoothly, there’s nothing interesting to do. It’s kind of like rubber stamping, cookie cutter stuff. But when someone has no idea what’s going on, everything’s on fire, you’re like, “Oh, this is going to be fun.” You get to dive in and do all this stuff because you know you can have an instant impact.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. That’s why with consultants who offer retainers, typically, you have the project fee and then the retainer is much lower. It’s more of a maintenance situation where maybe they’re going in and pulling reports for you and looking at numbers, making suggestions. But it’s not the volume of work that a shorter project is. You should expect that from a consultant. Right? That a retainer is not just kind of we’re doing the same thing every single month because, eventually, hopefully, those problems go away with a little bit of work.

Keith:

Right, right.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

It’s interesting. We’re talking about data. We’re talking about churn. Because churn is probably the most argued about metric ever created. Every single company, I think, measures churn in a different way. I know that there was a lawsuit against Netflix a number of years ago now but they were calculating churn one way and they were sued by their investors because they said that they had calculated too loosely.

Val Geisler:

Oh.

Keith:

They won the lawsuit because they were able to prove that there’s no one right way to calculate churn.

Val Geisler:

Interesting.

Keith:

But I’m wondering, is that… There are metrics that we look at that are not set in stone but there is no specific way of calculating them, especially when we look at cohorts. Okay. We’re looking at life time value. Do we only look at people who have been until they cancel or the people who are still there? There’s so many ways to slice and dice that data. Because I know that you probably have customers or clients that come to you and say, “Well, I thought that the number would be more like this or this is what this system says.” How do you kind of bring together all these different views of what data should look like?

Val Geisler:

Well, just like you said, there is no one right way to calculate churn. I think it’s important to go into the relationship with.. My mindset is always what are you currently working with? Even people will ask me, “Well, what email platform should we be on? What’s the one that will work the best?” I always tell them the best one is the one that you will actually use. Certainly, there are differences between the platforms and capabilities and all of that. We can make a few recommendations but, ultimately, I’m going to give you three or four that are the same as far as features and things go. The one you use is what works.

Val Geisler:

For me, the way you calculate churn is likely that’s the number that you want to see change. I want to know how do you make that calculation and what goes into that? What do you consider part of? This is a formula, not just a static number. So what are the pieces of the formula? What is X and Y and Z-

Keith:

Right, right.

Val Geisler:

… that gets you to… Because everybody’s X, Y, and Z are different. I always just ask, “How are you calculating it?” Then if they’re calculating churn on a monthly basis versus an annual basis, then we can talk about, okay, well, let’s measure it on an annual basis.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Let’s carry that out. Let’s not be so concerned about that monthly churn because, ultimately, especially in the world of SaaS, let’s get them through a year.

Keith:

Right. Exactly.

Val Geisler:

Because then those are the customers who are around for a very long time.

Keith:

Yeah. Just what you said right there. Let’s look at churn at a yearly basis and monthly. I don’t think that anyone who’s not involved in that already knows that. It’s definitely not said anywhere. Right? I remember-

Val Geisler:

About annual?

Keith:

About the annual churn. That’s the number you need to be looking at, especially in SaaS. Right?

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

I think that there are a lot of those things that people… No one writes about it. It’s interesting because the people in the know… Because I know about it because we had to do a lot of research when we were building out our churn functionality. Right? But as far as our customers that come to us, they’re like, “Oh, looking at our monthly churn or all the articles we’ve read, most of them refer to monthly instead of annual.” I bet you see a lot of areas where the common knowledge is not the real knowledge that people need to be looking at.

Val Geisler:

I think what actually happens is that some expert talks about churn and they don’t clarify monthly or annual. So whatever you think it is is the way you read it. Right?

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Lincoln Murphy is quoted as having said that a good SaaS churn is seven percent. If you don’t know that he, in that article, talks about annual consistently but all you hear is that little quote, you start to think that that’s a good measure of churn on a monthly basis. I think it’s that you see things through the lens that you have. It’s also just not getting clarification.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

I have two kids and when I was pregnant with my second one, the person who said that a pregnancy is 40 weeks, this doctor that said that, he never clarified if it was 40 weeks from the first day of the last period or the last day.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

That’s a seven day difference. Everybody’s always like, “Oh, 40 weeks and you’re still pregnant. Well, you’re late.” Late for what? But, also, there was no specificity-

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

… around when those weeks were started to be counted.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Most people default to the beginning but he never said. He could’ve meant the end. I think we have to know, we have to ask more questions, quite honestly. I think the default is to just pull the numbers that segment or next panel or whatever gives you-

Keith:

Shows you at the beginning.

Val Geisler:

… and then not ask any other question.

Keith:

That’s the thing because most of the tools default to a month because they think, okay, month is what people want to see. When someone says, “Look at your churn. You log into Mixpanel or Barometrics or Psychometrics or whatever, and you look at the churn and it says 11% for this month. You’re like, ‘That’s my churn.'” It’s interesting because-

Val Geisler:

Oh my God. That’s so bad.

Keith:

I know, right? That’s what the tool tells you and you don’t know any better because there was no clarification. I’m reminded. I went to a yearly check up or something in Japan and they said, “Do you brush your teeth enough?” That’s the question on the form. It was yes or no. Do you brush your teeth enough? I’m like, “I don’t know.”

Val Geisler:

I don’t know if two times a day is enough.

Keith:

That’s why I’m asking you. I went to them and I was like, “Hey, I have a question. What is enough?” They tried to explain what it means in Japanese. What the word ‘enough’ means because they thought I didn’t understand Japanese. Well, no, no. It’s not a set number. Should I be brushing my teeth four times a day? Six times a day? What should I be doing here?

Val Geisler:

All of a sudden you’re nervous about… I don’t know. Am I?

Keith:

But I think I’m the only person that’s ever asked that. I told that to my wife and she’s like, “Yeah. Everyone just says yes.” Just say yeah.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

Because we’re data oriented, because our professions are wrapped around data and understanding what is the underlying reason for these things that are happening, we want to be more specific. We have to be more specific.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. I find that even when I’m looking at that qualitative data side and I’m doing customer interviews. I ask why a lot. I dig in with the customers. I don’t just ask the 12 questions on my list and move on to the next one.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Sometimes I don’t even ask all of those questions because I’m busy digging into one. Because that’s the most interesting one going to give me the best story, the best information. I really think that it’s about asking why a lot and digging in. Not just having the data but understanding the data.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

Yeah. I agree. I agree.

Val Geisler:

That’s the other thing too in emails, a lot of people guiltily admit to me and say that they, well, we have customer IL but we only use a fifth of its capability, if that. We could do so much more with it. We just don’t know. Everybody admits that for whatever platform they’re on.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

It’s like, well, okay. Let’s dig into what you have available to you, better understand your tools and the information it has for you. A lot of times, I end up helping people save… I guess I cause churn in other softwares because they have their redundancies just because they don’t understand their tools and they don’t ask why.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Why do we have both of these?

Keith:

Right. Well, you’re building your customer base and say, “You need to quit a customer I owe.” Then you go up to Colin and you say, “Hey, Colin. You should really hire me to fix your churn.”

Val Geisler:

I noticed. Have you had any churn problems lately? Because I just got a sense you might. Yeah. I think that that is a brilliant growth strategy. Thanks.

Keith:

Exactly.

Val Geisler:

Amazing.

Keith:

I think a lot of people would be curious to know what are some of the things that you do look at when you are starting to look at someone’s churn. Let’s say, someone has a churn problem, what are some of the questions you ask and what are some of the things that you’re looking at to try and solve this? You had mentioned one. How much of your revenue is from email?

Val Geisler:

In my case, I’m looking at emails. How often are you emailing your list? What are you emailing them about? In a lot of cases, we’re looking at other factors too like, how often are you talking to your customers outside of support? What are your support turnaround times like? What do your transactional emails look like? How are you building a relationship with your customers because, ultimately, we have a lot of choice in this world. Even in the world of software, even if you feel like I have something that nobody else has, Barometrics, for example, nobody else does open public metrics-

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

… like they do. Yes, they have, quote, competitors. There are alternatives. There are things other people are using. There are other customers for them to acquire. They don’t have the lock on it and nobody does. It isn’t until you build a relationship with your customers because it’s really hard. Well, it’s simple to walk away from a piece of software. It’s easy to say, “Barometrics. I’m going to go use something else.”

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

It’s really hard to say to Cory or Josh or any other member, an individual at Barometrics, “Hey, I’m not going to use this anymore and I’m going to go use this other thing.”

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

It’s hard when you have a relationship. Even if you only feel like you have a relationship. Even if it’s through automated emails that introduce a team or are written, quote, from Cory. I think it’s really important to build that kind of brand affinity because, to me, that’s the ultimate measure of how we can reduce customer churn long term is that what is your relationship like with your customers and how are you talking to them? If you’re talking to them at all.

Keith:

Right. It’s interesting that personality side and that real talking because that is something that I see a lot of places try. A lot of places don’t do it a lot. Places try and don’t do very well. I know Mixpanel does, Pat Nelix, I believe, is the person who every single automated email is from him. It’s interesting because now I know Pat’s name. Right? My favorite one was Lars Lofgren. He used to work at Kissmetrics. Then one of my clients was saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about hiring this guy. Do you know Lars?” I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Of course I know Lars.” I thought back, I was like, “I actually don’t know Lars. But he’s been in my email every single day for the last three years so I feel like I know him.” Right?

Val Geisler:

Yeah. When I was at ConvertKit, I was running the email marketing for them. It was a very meta job. I signed all of the emails. Well, the from name was Val at ConvertKit and then all the emails were signed from me. They were written as though I were writing to you individually. For the longest time after I left, I was Val from ConvertKit. That was how people referred to me. If I introduced myself and they didn’t really know who I was, I would say, “I used to work at ConvertKit.” They were like-

Keith:

Oh, you’re Val-

Val Geisler:

… “Oh, you’re Val from ConvertKit.”

Keith:

Yeah, yeah.

Val Geisler:

To the point that Mason, the actual founder, would go to conferences and he’d say, “I founded ConvertKit.” People would say, “No, that was someone named Val.” He loved telling that story because-

Keith:

That is great.

Val Geisler:

It’s a testament to that relationship building that people felt like they knew me and had a relationship with me and saw me as part of the company. It wasn’t that they just liked the software. They liked me.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Which is great but you know. Yeah.

Keith:

Yeah. It’s interesting. You mentioned disappointing Josh from Barometrics. It’s one of the reasons I still have a Barometrics account even though Psychometrics does 90% of the stuff. We’re a different focus but we have the same data. But I still use Barometrics because I like Josh and I want to support something that he’s doing because yeah.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. I’ve had teams I’ve worked with where they’ve built in a downgrade option to whatever they have available for people who have said, “Hey, I’m not really using this. I want to keep supporting you. I might come back in the future. Do you have a way for me to kind of put things on hold?”

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

They’ll have a $10 a month kind of downgrade option, which is really awesome and a testament to that relationship. Plus, I don’t want to piss off Josh.

Keith:

He’s got the Alabama mafia down there.

Val Geisler:

That’s right. Yeah.

Keith:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. We talked about email and we talked about building that relationship with people over time and building that relationship with the product. That’s something I’ve always been very gung ho on. I know a lot of, especially internet marketers, product people, personality brands and stuff, they always say, “I would give up every single dollar in my bank account but just don’t take the list away.” Right?

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

Because it’s really this part of building. Once you have these Evangelists, these people who have a connection to you, really, there’s nothing more valuable for your business than that. Then, I guess, that’s kind of the basis of what you do when you’re looking at churn and stuff. Is how do you build that relationship? How do you get people to be able to not only help themselves but to build that connection through that onboarding flow?

Val Geisler:

Yeah. One of my favorite metrics to look at is replies. Of course, I always get the push back like, “Our support team can’t handle any more tickets. We don’t need more replies.” Replies are a good thing. Replies to your emails open up a conversation that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. People don’t know what they don’t know. They sometimes don’t even know what to ask but they’re going to reply to an email and say, “Oh, by the way, I was thinking about this thing the other day.” Or, “I had this problem.” They tell you what’s going on with them and you could save an entire account from one reply to an early onboarding email.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

I think it’s really important to look at those conversations that are happening. Know what your reply rate is on emails and then what emails are getting the highest replies and doing more of that. Let’s do more of building connection and community and that conversation.

Keith:

Yeah. It’s interesting because there is this line, I think, of when you want to do things that don’t scale and when you want to do things that do scale. It’s very difficult because that line always feels like it’s moving. We actually found out recently that we had accidentally stopped the kickoff calls, the onboarding calls, for a large portion of our customer base. I was like, “I was wondering why we’re not getting as many calls.” They’re like, “Oh, we got to just turn this on for everyone.”

Keith:

Now, I’m on eight calls a week, 10 calls a week. Something like that. It’s a lot of calls but every one of them is completely worth it because, A, it’s building that relationship, B, it is getting that feedback and solving those problems and helping people get set up. Yeah. The numbers work for themselves. Every time we get on those calls, those are the people who stay on.

Val Geisler:

I think there’s a lot of crossover between e-commerce and SaaS. We can learn from each other. It’s one of the fun things about working in both industries is that I can bring what I learn in e-commerce to SaaS and vice versa. The conversation in e-commerce is largely around the things you need to do to build your brand are not scalable. They are truly sending a handwritten card to new customers. It was after my two month through my second order. I’m on a subscription with chewy.com. I hit my second order and I got a handwritten card in the mail from them. That’s not scalable.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

That’s a person sitting down and writing a card. It’s having those one to one calls. I’ve been in customer interviews for my clients and the customers say, “Wow. No one else asks me about me. You guys really care about your customers.” They mean you guys like, I’m representing that brand.

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

Even just doing those customer interviews creates that loyalty and affinity for your brand. It’s those things that don’t scale that are so important to do. ConvertKit, we found a way to scale sending t-shirts. We had this onboarding checklists so you could go through the app and make sure you were properly onboarded in the app. If you completed the checklist, you got a t-shirt. We had startup threads. There’re ways to scale those kinds of things. But then you could also just randomly mail someone… I know Nathan would go on Twitter and say, “Hey, I found this box in my closet of 20 t-shirts. Anyone want one?” Then he would manually package up a bunch of t-shirts and send them out. That’s work but, man, that does so much for a brand.

Keith:

That’s what we’ve been finding. Part of our onboarding package is we send everyone a free t-shirt and a little welcome. We actually do it as a complete surprise. We actually sleuth out their address and then we send it to them because, for me, there’s one thing if you’re expecting something and one thing if something arrives completely random. We send out a handwritten thing and a free t-shirt to everyone who signs up that we can find their address on.

Val Geisler:

Nice. Yeah, I know our friend, Nick D., likes to send books. There’s little things that you can do that create a connection. Every time somebody picks up that book, they think of him. Every time somebody puts that t-shirt on, they think of you guys.

Keith:

Yeah. I think it shows, I guess, a classiness, I think, would be a good word. I was working back in the consulting days, I had a call with Danielle Laporte and it was just a pitch call. We were just saying, “Hey, this is what we do. This is what we’d like to work on.” The next day, I got a copy of her hardbound book in the mail. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t even know how she got my address but she sent it next day to Japan.

Val Geisler:

Oh my God.

Keith:

I got it. I was like, “What in the world?” It was signed from her and it’s like, “I hope we get to do something amazing together.” I still have it on my bookshelf. It was the classiest thing that anyone had ever done. It blew my mind that this was how much she cared about that relationship. Right?

Val Geisler:

Yeah. There’s AI coming out that makes some of these things a little bit more scalable. I know that I’ve used Postable in the past for sending cards and they look kind of handwritten. There are options. I think Bond, I don’t know if Bond even still exists, where it’s a machine that actually uses a pen and you’ll write in the computer what you want it to say and it’ll write out with an actual pen what-

Keith:

My friend built a farm of those. He has 20 of them in a room and they’re all hooked up. He had to build it himself on raspberry pies with actuators. But he wrote the letter the first time himself and then scanned that in. So all these machines, it goes down the conveyor belt, writes it, sends it off to the next one, and they just sign it at the end.

Val Geisler:

Wow.

Keith:

It’s mind blowing.

Val Geisler:

I need a video of that. It’s pretty amazing. Yeah. You can either build it yourself or some software exists in the world.

Keith:

Exactly.

Val Geisler:

Services. Ultimately, the things that really make a difference just don’t scale at all. It’s the Bonjoro app that you can create a custom welcome video for every single person who-

Keith:

Oh, that’s cool.

Val Geisler:

… becomes a new customer. Bonjoro is, yeah, you literally take your phone and make a quick video and you say, “Hey, Keith. Thanks so much for joining us. I noticed that your site is on WordPress and we can do these things.” Whatever it is. Creating that little custom video and sending it, that makes a difference.

Keith:

Yeah. It’s interesting because I find that the parts of… We do the lumpy mail or that welcome video. The parts that are the hardest are the things that can scale. Right? Recording a video, if I had a little message that came up and said, “Hey, record this video for John. Here are his details.” That’s easy to do. Record the video. Done. But the problem is that, okay, I have to get that data, then I have to record the video, then where do I send it? Someone uploads it and it’s all that part that I think is what makes people not do this. Right? But that’s the easiest part to scale. It was funny. It’s funny because with our lumpy mail, the hardest thing was figuring out how to get the t-shirt size and then actually getting the address to come and be printed on my printer.

Val Geisler:

Right.

Keith:

That’s the hardest part. It’s printing out the address. Everything else is super simple. Why is that the hardest part?

Val Geisler:

I don’t know. There’s part of me that’s like, is it the hardest part? Or is it a really convenient way to-

Keith:

It’s a scapegoat. Yeah.

Val Geisler:

… do away-

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

… with doing something. Right? I hear this a lot too with onboarding flows. It’s one of the reasons that I created the dinner party strategy. When I shared it at MicroConf a couple years ago, people said, “Thank you for a framework on this because I literally have nothing because I didn’t know where to begin as a human being who would rather do nothing than something.”

Keith:

Right.

Val Geisler:

I feel like sometimes it’s that it is actually the hardest part. I know people who would rather spend three months choosing an ESP than just picking one and sending emails from it.

Keith:

Yeah. I was talking with a couple of friends. We were talking about default modes. Right? When we don’t want to do something, what is the work task, the productive task, that we fall into that we want to do? For me, it’s programming. When I want to step away from everything, I don’t want to send out emails, I don’t want to talk to people, it’s just I would rather program. For him, it was research. He doesn’t want to write the book. He just wants to research.

Val Geisler:

Same. I’m a researcher.

Keith:

Yeah. It was interesting to me because I never thought of it because there are things that we do that are still productive. But they’re the productive things that we do to escape from the things we know we should do. Even if it takes 10 seconds to do, we have such a barrier to do them.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. Absolutely. It’s amazing. That carries over into so many areas of your life. I feel like maybe tackling it on a really small scale will help you over time. Instead of emptying the dishwasher so you can reload it, you just let the dishes pile up in the sink and think, “I’ll get to it. I’ll wash those by hand.”

Keith:

I see you’ve seen my sink.

Val Geisler:

I actually had this debate with myself at one point and then I set a timer for emptying the dishwasher. I didn’t do it as fast as I could or anything. It took me seven minutes. It took me seven minutes to empty the dishwasher when I had then created 30 extra minutes of work for myself in not doing it. Right? I think you can tackle it in small areas of your life and you’ll start to see it carry over into your work.

Keith:

Yeah. I think part of running a business and one of the lessons that was taught to me that I have really tried to take to heart is there are people who enjoy the work that you hate. For me, specifically, support is one of them. I love getting on calls. I love talking to people. But the sending an email or responding to an email is so stressful. I once took three hours to respond to an email. It took me five minutes to actually write the email but I would sit down, I went and got a cup of coffee, sat down, oh, got to go to the restroom, sat down, I’m kind of cold, let me go take a shower, sat down. Three hours later, I finally write the five minute email. Right?

Val Geisler:

That’s the writer’s process. For sure.

Keith:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Val Geisler:

yeah. My husband is my business partner. He runs all the operations. He was working on some tax stuff the other day and I looked over at him and I said, “I’m sorry.” He goes, “What are you talking about? I love this stuff.” I was like, “Okay, good. Because I hate it.” That’s why I’m saying I’m sorry because if you were me, I would be miserable but you’re not miserable. You think it’s fun.

Keith:

Yeah. There are people who like managing Excel spreadsheets. I’m not one of them. But there are people who love it. Yeah. For anything, pretty much any job, there’s probably someone who would love to do it.

Val Geisler:

Which is all the more reason to-

Keith:

Delegate.

Val Geisler:

… expand your team and hire individual experts in things. Right?

Keith:

Exactly.

Val Geisler:

They can contribute in places you can’t.

Keith:

Exactly. Exactly.

Val Geisler:

Yeah.

Keith:

Well, Val, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Anything, kind of closing thoughts? Or any pieces of wisdom you’d like to… Not to put you on the spot.

Val Geisler:

No. I think the biggest takeaway. There’s kind of two things that I think are important from our conversation. One is something is better than nothing. Do something. Two is to ask why more often. Dig into the data that you have and figure out why. Don’t just look at a churn number and say, “Well, that’s our churn and we need to fix it.” Do we need to fix it? If so, what are the seven different things that go into that that we can fix one thing at a time?

Keith:

Yeah. I think, to me, I think that’s a key part of this, which is asking why. I think not enough people either do ask why or know how to ask why for the data that they’re getting.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. Absolutely. You got to channel your inner three year old and just keep asking why. Yeah.

Keith:

Well, Val, people can find you at Twitter at lovevalgiesler and at fixmychurn.com. We’ll put both of those links in the show notes. I just want to say thanks so much for joining us.

Val Geisler:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Keith:

Thank you.

 



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Keith Perhac