Hey Cori, thanks so much for joining me today, the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Really excited to have you here. How you doing today?
I'm great, thanks David. I'm glad to be here.
Yeah, really excited. Lots of good conversational pieces around experiments, initiatives that you guys are doing over at ChurnZero in marketing. But before we jump into those topics, why don't you explain a little bit about ChurnZero, when it was founded, who the customers are, what you guys are doing uniquely in the marketplace.
Awesome. I'd love to, so ChurnZero, as you might've guessed from the name, is a customer success platform that helps subscription businesses fight churn and the company was founded four years ago in 2015 by our CEO You Mon Tsang and our CTO Mark Heys. Now how ChurnZero came to be is kind of an interesting story. So Mark and You Mon were both executives at this PR and marketing software company called Vocus, which is now called Cison. But one of the things that they noticed is that customer renewals were often talked about in board meetings and across all other departments, but there really wasn't a sophisticated way for them to really have a handle on their customer's health or their likelihood to renew. And it was a real struggle. And I'd say from any company I've worked at and talking to many other SaaS companies, that's a struggle that everyone deals with.
So anyway, they started to work on building this tool internally first lead to kind of be able to track customer usage data and get that information to the team that owned the customer at the company. It was the account executive team at the time. So they could have more informed customer conversations and really just allow them to better focus their efforts around the customer. And what they saw was after pulling together that customer data and adding in automation and customer health scoring capabilities, they really started to see a great impact. So this kind of pet project or task force is what eventually a few years later became ChurnZero.
That's fantastic. And what is the exact customer type you're working with? Is it mostly just SaaS companies?
Yeah, so our target market is SaaS companies B2B SaaS companies more specifically. And also we really excel in the mid market range. We have enterprise customers as well, but, mid-market is really our sweet spot.
Love it. Love it. When did you actually join the team?
Yeah, so I joined ChurnZero in 2017. I came on board as the very first full time marketing hire, so it was very exciting. And yeah, we're, we've grown obviously grown since then and it's not just me. So, it's been, it's been a great, great time over the past few years.
Yeah. So you actually got to build out some of the main team, I'm sure, being the first marketer there. And it sounds like you kind of joined, were you at one of the prior companies with them as well?
I was actually, yeah. I worked at Vocus for a handful of years with both Marc and You Mon.
Oh, that's awesome. So coming in, you're comfortable, you know people already in the company and you're building out that department. What did you have to initially focus on when you're coming in? Was it just laying the foundation or was there something already set for you?
Yeah, so I'd say my focus was on a few things. So first it was main focus was really, like you said, laying an operational foundation to be able to track performance was really important. So in order for us to do that, we implemented a marketing automation platform. We went with HubSpot. I've used other ones at other companies. but we've been really happy with HubSpot so far. But doing that, really allowed us to set up workflows for our lead flow process, and to just to be able to track campaign performance, and have attribution reporting, which is very important. I'd say the second thing that I focused on was really kick starting their content. So that meant from everything from getting the sales team collateral and case studies that they needed to be able to move prospects along that sales funnel. I also really focused heavily on not just, sales content, but lead gen content. So I'd say that one of the main things that I'm really proud of is the growth of the ChurnZero blog and the newsletter since I started two years ago.
Yeah. I mean, those are some pretty big initiatives, you had a lot to do. Obviously there was a great product that had already kind of been proven, I'm guessing by the time you came in and kind of setting up that acquisition and traffic model there. I think one of the things you guys did in content that's been so amazing is a playbook you made called Churn Monsters. Right? That was such a cool idea. I think that was something in B2B that really stood out to me. Something that I found online. It didn't even know it was from ChurnZero, but it was just like such a great concept. I shared it around my team. How have you guys gone about looking at content marketing? How have you tried to stand out in this way and coming up with cool ideas like Churn Monsters?
Yeah. So talking about the Churn Monster campaign, I mean, that's been such a fun thing to work on. And what we've seen is that when you, and how that came about was, when you look at customer churn, there's a lot of themes in terms of what could cause the customer to not renew. So we started to think through some of the most common term risks or in other words, churn monsters. For example, like a bad fit customer or a know-it-all customer, right? So, so far we've introduced 14 different churn monsters and we've worked with an illustrator to come up with these really fun and colorful, images of these, that depict these churn risks. And it was really something to try and stand out in the marketplace and kind of be like, Oh, what's that? You know, catch someone's eye and encourage them to want to, you know, dig in and see what that content is all about.
So aside from the monsters, we also put together descriptions of what each monster looks like, so you can identify it if you're coming across it in your customer base. Then then we also talk about different, like actual tactical tips for combating, those churn risks or churn monsters. And then other content pieces. We've taken it a step further and really dove in a little bit about how ChurnZero could help you beat those churn risks. But yeah, the churn monster campaign has been, amazing. And we've, we've started with an ebook and we've done a whole blog post series. We've actually had, churn monster trading cards made up, that we take to trade shows and people love it. So it's been a lot of fun.
My follow up question would simply be, when do you know that an initiative like that, a creative initiative has been successful and it's time to double down? You guys have 100% doubled down on churn monsters as you should have. It's great. Great initiative. Really clever idea. Obviously playing cards, great idea, something new, something unseen. Was there a specific KPI or result that you had to hit before you guys were like this is it, this is what we need to double down on?
Sure. So I mean, yeah, with any like bigger content piece, we definitely want to try and put some goals around it to exactly know if this has been successful or not. I'd say one of the main objectives for creating this churn monster campaign was really just education and branding. So education meaning people in the industry are really looking for advice and tips on how to do their job better and have their customers renew and not churn. Cause that everyone hates that. Right? So, you know, since the launch of the churn monster campaign, that education and branding piece, we've seen a significant increase in our web traffic just coming directly from that campaign. So I'd say that was one of the things we were tracking around that campaign. We also of course create content for lead generation purposes. So this churn monster campaign has kind of blown all of our other existing content marketing pieces out of the water, which is great and we hope to follow it up with some more interesting content down the road. But we've really seen high conversion rates on the churn monster playbook. And then I'd also say, that we've been tracking SEO along with this effort. So, since publishing the churn monster campaign, we've also seen an increase in our search position rankings for the keyword customer churn, which is, you know, used a lot in that piece and we have that build out in the pillar content piece. So yeah, I'd say those are the kind of the main areas that we were tracking along with this campaign and we've seen success in.
Any tips or for the rest of us in B2B trying to find that amazing kind of breakthrough creative strategy that you guys did so well?
Ah, that's a good question. So I'd say might is they're like, look and see what's out in the industry. You know, what are people talking about? And then try and think of what are some gaps, you know, that people, some things that maybe people aren't talking about or maybe just a different like spin on it or something to make it more interesting and standout. So I'd, I'd say first just start and look what's out there and kind of come up with what is missing.
Yeah, no, that's a really good point. You definitely have to find like where is there open opportunity and then really put your creative hat on. I love that. Now you mentioned before that you guys are marketing mostly to mid market B2B SaaS companies. You're really working with a customer success role, right? That's primarily the person who's in the buying seat.
Oh yes, yes. So I'd say that yes, customer success departments are definitely our target market. So we're talking to mostly customer success directors or customer success VPs. Also in organizations a new role that is becoming part of the C suite is the chief customer officer. So we're talking to those folks a lot. Sometimes in organizations are still mostly driven by a sales model, so customer success or something similar could still roll up to an account management or sales executive. So we tie in tie in those folks as well.
Got it. Yeah. I have not heard that chief customer officer, that's really cool role, but what does the evolution look like as far as the evolution of customer success? Is something new coming out? Like you said, it's coming out of sales. It's kind of like customer support and sales being conjoined together really with that focus on making sure customer utilization is high, activization goes well, and of course increasing retention, reducing churn, I should say. But how is this kind of unfolded in the marketplace and is there's a success marker that you're looking for that defines strong customer success leadership?
Yeah, so I'd say a customer success is really becoming an important role in companies. You know, for a long time to be a successful business and successful SaaS business, you had to have these, exceptional sales teams that really knew how to go out and, sell these big deals. And, you had to have exceptional marketing teams to help build that growth for the sales team. But today, companies can no longer just take their customers for granted, because it's really costly to lose a customer, especially after everything you've put into sales and marketing. So, you know, at ChurnZero, and I think we're seeing this across the industry, we believe that customer success is really this new growth engine. And although it's newer, it's definitely here to stay. And, it's really what is going to make businesses stand apart if they put that focus on the customer and their success. And in fact I'd say over the past two years, LinkedIn has, they published this report, of the 10 most promising jobs for that year and customer success manager has been on the top of that list for the past few years. And I, I'm looking forward to seeing what they publish for 2020, but I expect the trend to continue next year as well.
Oh that's fantastic. That's awesome. It's great to be kind of on that cutting edge of a new position cause you guys are pretty much defining a lot of the thought leadership, a lot of the great content behind the scenes for customer success. And I think you guys have done a really great job of that with an offline event series that you guys do a road show series that you guys run called Red Yellow Green, which I think stands for that customer health score that you guys have inside of ChurnZero. But I guess when you guys came up with this initiative and it's experiment, let's do an offline event. Let's do something interesting. What were the goals that you were going after? Were you looking for direct ROI? Were you looking to go after your thought leadership? Were you looking at the marketplace and just saying customer success is new, we need to just build relationships and kind of build this from the ground up.
Yeah. So that event series RYG. So just to add a little bit more clarification, it stands for Red, Yellow, Green as you said that it's talking about customer health scores, and really taking like a customer that might be in the red or the yellow and turning them into your best customers. So to your point that we've been talking about of customer success kind of being like an earlier practice, and a newer discipline for people, we found that people, as I said before, really hungry for content, but they're also really hungry just to get out there and learn from one another. So we just decided to give them the opportunity with this event series. And our goal with these events, is to, was to go to different cities, and get about 15 to 20 customer success leaders. So directors and above, together for a happy hour where we discuss, three to four topics depending on how much time we have.
And these topics are not around ChurnZero, but rather industry driven topics that customer success leaders really care about. And so they come to these events to, you know, trade notes and talk shop and we host them in an effort to really help grow this community. And we have seen really great results. We've gotten loads of positive feedback from attendees on the quality of the events and really thanking us for giving them opportunity to meet people, and you know, kind of learn, share lessons learned and kind of help them drive their customer success strategy within their own companies. But we've also seen some great results in terms of just ROI, I'd say, you know, from aside from building the community, this is at the heart of it, really a field marketing and sales event. Right. So an angle of it is to help drive sales pipeline, you know, through these interactions and getting to know us, although we aren't talking about ChurnZero at these events, it's really just, you know, getting our, sales reps in front of folks, and be a true field sales marketing event.
So, you know, for these type of investments, we might look for a simple payback out of, excuse me, a simple payback out of pocket for an investment like this. We've really seen two times the return, but these events, which has been incredible. Yeah, and I'd say, so we, we hosted 12 of these RYG events this year and that's exactly why we're looking to double down on it in 2020 and we're aiming to have 24. And we've really, over time, kind of perfected the process and it's really kind of almost become these turnkey events. I mean, of course there's logistics that are involved in any event, but, you know, we're, we're excited for 2020 and to get out to many more cities.
Yeah, that's a fantastic initiative. It's both of these are great initiatives that you've done really in this kind of unfolding space. You've done really well. Obviously there's probably been failed campaigns as well, but these are two outstanding campaigns that you've done with the event series. And there's a lot to unpack here and I have lots of different questions, but I want to start off with kind of just been like your thought process. What's working right now in customer success? You said you go around each event about four different topics, a lot to learn for the different attendees that are there. You guys may present, they may be presenting some of the major lessons that you're learning that's working right now in customer SaaS, things that we as SaaS businesses, and the listeners of this show being SaaS companies, what are things that we can do right now to implement in the customer success field?
Yeah, so I'd say one of the topics that's been brought up a lot recently is this idea of customer success operations. So if you think of like marketing or sales ops that we're probably a lot more familiar with, it's very similar to that. And I'd say it's really exciting to see customer success coming into their own and kind of the evolution of the team becoming more strategic, putting together playbooks around their data, processes and systems. And so I, I kind of see, we've seen and talked to folks about that happening in terms of kind of growing out customer success operations and not just, you know, focusing on just making customers not churn, but making it more strategic than that. It's really been great to see that happening in the industry.
Any other major things going on?
At ChurnZero? Yeah. I mean, we are, you know, we're going to be out at all of those big events in 2020. We're also planning our own conference, industry conference that is not just a user's conference. So, we will be announcing that soon, which is going to be amazing. So those are some great things.
Well, for both RYG and that upcoming event, which sounds super interesting, let's talk about promotional strategies. What are you guys doing to promote, get attendees? How are you getting in front of these amazing directors of customer success and these higher level customer success thought leadership members?
Sure. So, outside of just marketing to our own database for this, of these events, we've, also turn to LinkedIn since it's such an amazing, has such amazing filtering capabilities on their app platform that lends itself really perfectly to a campaign like this. Right. So, we're able to create an audience of customer success leaders based off of their job title, which is important for this event, also around a certain geographic location, you know, so the Metro area around the city we're gonna be in, which is perfect. And then also filter down to, you know, our target of B2B SaaS companies so we can all, come together, at this event. So yeah, I mean it's been mostly our database, but then also we've, been utilizing LinkedIn, which has been great.
Any specific like ad copy you've seen working really well? Obviously there's a lot of events that go on in the SaaS space, especially in B2B. Have you seen specific messaging or call outs working really well?
That's a good question. So we like to share pictures of previous events to give people an idea of what they're coming, what they can, what they have in store if they attend to the event. We also have in our surveys that we send out to folks, we get attendee feedback, which also have some great quotes in there. So some, you know, almost testimonials of, you know, that they would attend this type of event again and please come back. And those types of things really, that other people have attended these events found value in them. So I think that's just kind of the social proof people might be looking for when they're deciding to, go to a work event, you know, after, after work.
Right, exactly. You kind of have to have that, like leading with excitement, something that's not going to be mundane or boring. You just want people to be able to come and join. Know they're going to learn something and have fun at the same time. It's just so hard or now in B2B to break through that noise and get in front of the right people. But kind of looking back again what you've learned from these events, you mentioned you're getting about a two times ROI, which is fantastic. So at these events, maybe you want to talk a little bit more about what that sales process looks like. How are you actually maximizing some of that return? Are you, you have a follow up post event process that you're doing? Is it just having great networkers at the event and just building relationships slowly over time? And are these some of the lessons that you're going to bring into that big industry event that you run?
Awesome. Yeah, that's a great question. So I'd say that, we have put some processes around the event itself. You know, I said that, we don't talk about ChurnZero, we don't at these events, people don't want to come and hear about a platform that they may or may not even use. That's not interesting in any way. Right. So, we aren't talking about ChurnZero at the event, but of course it's an opportunity to kind of, you know, see what we're all about in, you know talk to our customers. So that's usually great for any prospect that might be considering to buy a customer success tool. Then we also do set up sales cadences around, these events. So I would say that is pre event and post event. So pre event, we set up a series of emails to encourage people to RSVP for the event.
Also, we, try and get our sales, so this, our sales team is traveling to these cities, what we aim to get in person meetings around their travel. So not just that person coming to the happy hour event, but really having a face to face meeting in their office if that's possible, surrounding the events. So we use our sales cadences for that. And then also for post event, kind of continuing that conversation, our account executive team follows up, continues that conversation and you know, hopefully that would eventually lead to a sales opportunity.
Yeah, I love that. So really just building that relationship. I can't believe you guys fly your sales team on. That's fantastic. That's such a great idea. So kind of building that relationship, face value, getting in front of them, not talking about the product at the event itself, but building those relationships and following it up afterwards and then just going down the pipeline. That's fantastic. And what about lessons learned? Have you looked back over the past, I don't know, 12 of these events this year and were like, man, we should've done this better or we could do this better next year when we double down and go to 24 shows. Any things that really stand out to you as far as major wins that you're going to be able to implement?
There's been a lot of small things I'd say, you know, so I mean, adjusting the event, time to give people, you know, time to leave work and get there in the week. That was one, you know, important lesson learned. You know, making it a time that people can get to. And, and then I'd say we've also, another small thing just giving people the opportunity to go around and introduce themselves and, and talk a little bit briefly about what their role is at their company so we can all come together at the event and kind of have an understanding of, you know, when someone's asking you a question or someone is giving their advice on something that we kind of understand a little bit more of what their experience and background is. And I think has been really helpful in having it not just be like these one off kind of questions or things, but more conversational, for the whole group.
Well, I think that's a great, that's a big win. I love that. It's almost more like a mastermind type setting where everyone's sharing knowledge and giving into kind of the, the community feel of the event rather than just being at a one to many type of speaking session. Right?
Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah, that's great. So it goes back to what you were saying before, which is creating community. I think that's what you've really done a good job of here. And kind of these micro events, creating a bigger macro community in a marketplace to customer success kind of marketplace that's being built out. How vital do you think it is or why did you guys feel that community was so vital to build into? Do you think it's something that other SaaS companies and other marketing teams should be trying to build out?
I'm going to say I think it's so important and I think it's probably exactly why you started this podcast, right? We're all struggling with the same things. So let's connect and learn from one another. I think that's really important. I also think communities have been around SaaS companies have, been really helpful to lead us to where we are today, how we've all, you know, kind of banded together and elevated the customer. Because I think what we also all do have in common hopefully is that we have happy and successful customers. So with that being the end goal for all of our companies, no matter what industry or niche you might be in, that we can all have some common ground to discuss on how to get there. So I think, yeah, I think communities are really important and, important to invest in, especially in your specific industry.
Absolutely right. And I think when we kind of built it out similar to how you guys did, we said, who is our target customer? Who would we like to rally around? And what are some of the common ground items that we can talk about? And even if we're not necessarily the experts, how can we find that people that are and create the community around that? And you guys have done something very similar here, kind of creating this customer success community with the thought leaders being the thought leaders themselves. And, that's really fantastic. And for these events as you kind of grow them and run them. You mentioned a couple of KPIs, but I just want to, you know, for anyone listening who's thinking about doing offline events, give, give some smart insight. What kind of KPIs are you guys looking at now? Is it, you know, standard things, registrations, attendance percentage, a number of, you know, possible leads or is that something bigger or different?
Yeah, so I mean for the events of course we're, we're keeping track of our registration numbers and attendance numbers for those events so we can plan accordingly. Just for everything in terms of expenses, staff to attend these events, those are important for us. But then also it's, as I said, it's ultimately a field sales event. So it is important for us to be tracking that opportunity creation. And ultimately hopefully one deals and new customers to join our ChurnZero family. But then I guess outside of events and other KPIs and we track all of our paid and inbound marketing efforts. sSo we're looking at our session traffic and ultimately tracking goal conversions, whether that's a newsletter subscription or a content download or you know, hopefully the Holy grail a demo request. But you know, we're also looking at our average CPC and cost per lead and just our conversion rates on all of our campaigns.
Yeah. That multi-touch traffic acquisition KPIs are always difficult to kind of break down. What tool are you guys using to kind of look at the multichannel attribution?
We use HubSpot as our marketing automation platform and then that also is integrated into our Salesforce, which we do a lot of reporting out of.
Nice. That's awesome. Well that sounds fantastic. A lot of good initiatives. And you mentioned you have an upcoming, industry event that you guys are gonna run, which is going to be fantastic I'm sure with all the lessons you guys have learned along the way, but wrapping up 2019, looking towards 2020, any other challenges or new opportunities or things you're excited about from a marketing point of view?
I guess I'm just heads down in Q4 right now. Which I think challenges and opportunities just around the timing itself. You know, wanting to have opportunities created earlier in the quarter. But also tremendous opportunity, you know, for usually SaaS companies all, all across the board, that is a busy time for us. So, excited to have this one close this year out strong.
Yeah, absolutely. It definitely is a tough time because you have everyone preparing to go on vacation. Engineering is slowing down, so you have less product opportunities and a lot of initiatives that you still want to knock out. So it definitely becomes a little bit hectic at the end of the year, but you guys do have a lot of things to be excited about. It sounds like a lot of great initiatives have been working out well and you're gonna be doubling down on them in 2020. So we're excited for you. And, what I want to do now is switch over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. You ready to get started?
Awesome. Let's do this. We're gonna do great. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?
So I think, I would go back to one of the points I talked about earlier is finding those gaps. So I'd say within your organization, if you're coming on board, really look at what can you personally add value for that company? What are your strong skillsets? What can you do to get them kind of going and then also look within the industry and see where those gaps are. What do you have to offer that's special and that can help you stand out.
I love that you guys have executed on that perfectly. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
I'd say being data-driven, so it's easier to do that with things like paid advertising where you can track conversions all the way through the funnel. And a lot of times it's harder to do that with events. You know, where things aren't being tracked in exactly the same automated way that other campaigns are, but I think it's really important to prove your contribution and all of your marketing efforts. So I'd say getting the data.
Yeah, absolutely. Being able to look back and see trends over time or find trends that mean something very, very vital. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?
Yeah, so we're a HubSpot customer and I really love what they do in terms of their content and their training and all of their resources. Like there are so many of them and whenever their weekly newsletter comes out, I am all over that thing. So, I'd suggest that as a resource, they touch on all things, marketing, sales and customer success in a really kind of easy to understand way. And I also think they do a great job with their marketing. So I, I'd recommend checking out HubSpot resources.
Yeah, they're fantastic. Definitely an admirable leader in the SaaS space, doing some great stuff with content marketing and really spot on marketing ideas. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?
Let's see, I probably don't want to admit it, but I'd say Salesforce. It's like if you're trying to level set with something, with sales, if it's not in Salesforce is almost as if it didn't happen. So I'd say I can't live without Salesforce.
That's awesome. That's hilarious. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?
Yeah, again, I, I've really look up to HubSpot is a great example there. I mean, their marketers doing great marketing, so I love following them and what they're doing. I think we also at ChurnZero get really inspired by our own customers and their awesome stories that they share. So, we, we look to put those out all the time on our website and really highlight our customers and their success.
That's a really great point. Yeah, really great idea. And I guess the more you get involved in those customer success stories and you're involved in their businesses, the more you have an idea of how to serve them. So that's fantastic. But I just want to say, Cori, thank you so much for joining me today on the SaaS Breakthrough podcast. Thanks to ChurnZero for jumping on with me. It was fantastic to talk. We went through a lot of great topics. You guys are doing some really cool things over there, but again, thank you for your time.
Awesome. Thank you. I really enjoyed it.
Awesome. We'll talk to you very soon.
Thank you. Bye.
Thank you so much for tuning in to another amazing episode of the SaaS Breakthrough podcast. Big thank you and a big shout out to Cori Pierce and the entire ChurnZero team for coming on and sharing so much knowledge, especially in a very busy Q4. (...)