Why would you let as much as one-third of your revenue walk out the door every year? And knowing it will, why include it in your forecast, and consider it a “success” as long as it’s no more than one-third?
This is exactly what many companies with subscription-based business models are doing.
The move to subscription-based business models has accelerated in the past decade, led by technology-services companies moving to cloud-based offerings. Most companies that have made this shift have benefited from having a recurring revenue stream and the ability (generally) for more automated sign-up and service options for prospects and customers.
But we missed something.
Recurring revenue means it’s critical to ensure that customers who walk in the front door this year don’t walk out the back door next year. Put another way, it means the value of renewing your customer’s subscription is just as high as starting the subscription in the first place.
A few of you who are doing this right may take exception to this, but in most of the organizations with which I’ve worked, the effort devoted to renewing customer subscriptions is not even close to the effort put into acquiring the customer in the first place. Ask yourself this: In your organization, how much of your budget and staff are devoted to ensuring customers renew? I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the answer.
Conventional wisdom says it is far less costly to keep a customer than to find a new one. But translating that into action is far more challenging than it sounds (isn’t it always easier said than done?). Some companies do a good (sometimes great) job of bringing a customer up to speed with their products or services (called on-boarding), but then don’t do much of anything else until it’s time to renew. At that point, many companies will alert their customers of upcoming renewals and even assign so-called renewal reps to solicit the renewal.
Which means those companies missed numerous opportunities in between to understand how the customer uses their product and gets value from doing so.
Is it any wonder that as many as one-third of customers walk away every year?
How do we do better?
I propose three areas on which we need to focus to do a better job:
1) Treating renewals with the same respect we do new customer acquisitions: This will ensure we gain the expected financial and market benefit from our customer relationship.
2) Gaining a better understanding of how customers value our products and services: This will help us understand why customers renew or don’t — and what do to about it.
3) Understanding how valuable our customers are to us: This helps us understand how to prioritize investment in our customers and in our renewal efforts.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 of this series will discuss these and how to make them work for you.