In-Ear Insights Predictive Analytics and Reducing Churn

In-Ear Insights: Predictive Analytics and Reducing Churn

In this week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss predictive analytics and applying it to reducing churn throughout the customer journey. Learn what types of predictive analytics apply, how generative AI fits in the mix, and steps you can take to reduce churn.

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In-Ear Insights: Predictive Analytics and Reducing Churn

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:01

In this week’s in In-Ear Insights, let’s talk about reducing churn.

How do we reduce churn using things like predictive analytics and generative AI.

So to set the stage we should probably talk about what churn is churn is essentially when you lose customers faster than you can gain them.

So if you were a B2B company, you have subscribers, for example, with with Trust Insights, if you people were subscribed to our generative AI course, and it would happen if more people stopped being customers than we were able to acquire them.

If you’re a company like Agorapulse, it’s the number of monthly recurring revenues as customers you have in retail.

It’s how fast those customers churn, right? How fast do you lose customers? So Katie, when you think about churn as an executives, particularly a financial stakeholder, what is top of mind for you, obviously, you know, less is better.

But how do you think about attacking this problem? Oh,

Katie Robbert 0:56

it’s complicated, really? Well, because first, I mean, first and foremost, you have to recognize that it’s happening.

And a reduction in revenue is usually a good indicator.

But that’s not always apparent, because sometimes the churn happens in such a way that, you know, there’s like a lag between what you see in the numbers and the churn actually happening.

And so that’s where I like to pay attention to, I keep an eye on both top of funnel and bottom of funnel, because I feel like as the top of funnel, so that’s your awareness, that’s people coming to your website, for the first time, people may be checking out your product for the first time.

That’s, to me a really good indicator of if your overall churn bottom of funnel is going to go up or down.

And so if your top of funnel starts to reduce, then you can expect that trickle down effect for the bottom of the funnel.

So I like to pay attention to not only the financials, but also what’s happening digitally on our website, or our subscribers, are we getting less subscribers to our newsletter than we were before.

Because those are people that’s your engagement part of the funnel, that’s your middle of the funnel, people who are like, Yeah, I want to stick around and understand what you’re doing.

I want to learn a little bit more.

And so it really is paying attention to the customer journey, the buyers journey.

So if, if you want to keep more customers, you I personally like to look at all of the stages of the customer journey, because I feel like that’s very telling.

And then if you want to have repeat customers or people who stick around a long time, repeat buyers, then you can start to look at the owners journey.

So you have your ownership, your loyalty, your vandalism.

So I guess that’s my longer winded way of saying that when I think about customer churn, I look at more than just revenue.

I feel like there’s a lot of other indicators that can give you the signal that like, Hey, you’re going to start losing customers, or your ability to keep people in the pipeline is about to go down.

Christopher Penn 3:06

You said something really important that I want to underscore churn occurs at every stage of the customer journey, right? So awareness churn, for example, you would be looking at something like the percentage or total absolute numbers of returning users to your website, right? If people aren’t coming back to your website, you’re not doing you’re not retaining them, right consideration.

people subscribe to inbox insights, the Trust Insights newsletter, are we losing subscribers? And if we are losing subscribers, how fast are we losing them? And are we losing the wrong ones? Are we losing people who are valuable, like, you know, some some spam bot that subscribes? Well, if that goes away, that’s fine.

But someone who’s say the CMO of a fortune 1000 Okay, that’s a person we want to have subscribed and If we lose them, that’s bad under evaluation.

So this would be simple things like are we losing deals? Right? We do we have people who are repeat customers in our in our pipeline, and we have repeat opportunities and those opportunities are they going down and people coming back to us less like we’re chatting with a very old friend, who’s now at a new company, oh, that person hasn’t churned.

They may have gone from company to company, but they’re continuing to come back to us.

So that’s, that’s a positive.

And so when we talk about predictive analytics, and we talk about generative AI within this context of churn, I think it’s really important to say, yeah, there’s data at every single one of these stages in the customer journey.

And that means you can use things like predictive analytics to forecast the probability of churn in each of these stages.

Katie Robbert 4:35

That’s actually the very first talk I ever gave on stage was essentially using the predictive forecast through every stage of the customer journey.

That was my debut talk.

So it always holds a special place in my heart, because I do feel strongly that Predictive analytics is such a powerful tool.

It’s such a powerful tool source of information for you to really understand what’s going on.

And I think where people get it wrong is that it’s too much of a broad stroke, versus drilling it down into these individual phases, where it can be very actionable, very telling, and very measurable.

So if I started, if I started to see as an example, if our revenue started to tank, you know, and I really couldn’t understand why I would start to go through every single phase of the customer journey to figure out what’s not working, where are we losing people, because you can say, Sure, we’re losing customers, but very rarely, especially in B2B, to customers just show up out of the blue, and skip from zero to purchase, you know, they have to go through those phases to understand who you are, to figure out if you’re better than the competitors, you know, do you have the right price points? Do they have the right authority, like, there’s a lot of things that happened between, I just found out about you, and now I’m going to buy something.

So I think that it’s worth understanding your customer journey, in addition to using tools like predictive forecasting, to, you know, strengthen them.

So, yeah, I think if we started to see huge churn in our customers, if we started to see revenue drop, I would immediately turn to our customer journey.


Christopher Penn 6:22

what would prevent you, other than just the time to do it? What would prevent you from doing that analysis now of the higher stages in the funnel that are on that buyers journey sides to avert that from happening in the first place? Well,

Katie Robbert 6:35

that’s exactly it time.

But no, there’s nothing preventing me from doing that, if you know, so we keep a very simple spreadsheet so that I can sort of eyeball things I do a deep analysis that mirrors the our customer journey, awareness, consideration, evaluation, and twice a month, I pull those numbers and just say, did things look like they’re moving in the right direction? Have they plateaued? Or are they dropping? And so I don’t do a predictive forecast.

But I do keep an eye on each stage of the customer journey throughout the month, just to sort of make sure now, if I did start to see something dropped drastically, that’s when I would say, Alright, I need to refocus and prioritize this particular metric, this particular action, what’s going on? And that’s when I would pull in, you know, a predictive forecast to say, what do I know? Because I have, what now six years worth of data on all of those phases that I’ve been collecting.

So I could very easily say, alright, this is the data, what can I expect? Is this normal? Is this seasonal? Or is this an anomaly and or something troubling.

Christopher Penn 7:47

And there’s two types of predictive forecasts here.

One is time series, which is what you’re talking about what’s likely to happen in the next week, month, year, etc.

The other one is type of forecasts that we would call like a variable importance forecast.

So what that means is, you would take a look at the people who have churned, let’s say, we’ll use a newsletter as an example.

Let’s say you’ve got subscribers to the newsletter, and you’ve got some basic data about them.

And you have a bucket here, the people who have unsubscribed.

And then here’s the people in the bucket people who’ve remained subscribed and maybe you want to look at things like you know, are we losing people who have been subscribed for a while, using regression, you would essentially say, Okay, we know, subscribe, unsubscribe? What do the people who are unsubscribed have in common? And is it different than that? What people who remain subscribed? Because if you, for example, started writing a change to your newsletter, to go from marketing analytics to generative AI? Are the people who unsubscribe that they like a lot.

That doesn’t apply to me anymore.

So I’m out.

Right? So that’s true of the second form predictive analytics would be using that variable importance to say, what is what did these people have in common that have churned and is something that we care about, in in the Discord communities that help moderate and run? One of the things that we look at and that Discord provides data on is length of subscription in the community? Right? So if someone joins the community, and they leave Seven hours later, oh, well, right.

But when you start seeing people who leave who have been there for a year, 18 months, like, okay, something’s wrong with the community, your community health is, is declining, because you’re seeing longtime subscribers departing and that’s bad.

So that’s the second example of predictive analytics, where you want to look at what are the people who are leaving have in common and this is something that you care about.

Katie Robbert 9:35

What’s interesting is, there’s so we don’t know enough about these people.

We’re sort of making assumptions based on a little bit of data that we have to say this is why they’re leaving.

So where does generative AI sort of come in to help support this whole initiative because you can run a predictive forecast without using generative AI that’s really just machine learning and stuff.

Test sticks.

So how could I use something like generative AI to help me understand better why people are leaving or unsubscribing, or whatever they’re doing, basically not sticking around with me.

Christopher Penn 10:15

So you’d use it in two ways.

First, you probably use it to write the code to do the predictive forecasting to begin with, right? So because a lot of folks may not necessarily have access to some of the more expensive tools to do predictive analytics, but if you have access to the paid versions of ChatGPT, or Gemini, or whatever, and you have access to someone who has at least some basic subject matter expertise in like reading and writing Python, the tools can help you build that code to run it yourself.

And so that solves that particular problem for for a group of folks.

The second thing is, once you run a predictive forecast, one of the things that it will tell you is your sort of your P value, AKA your your margin of error, like how reliable is this forecast, because a lot of times you may run a forecast, particularly time series, forecasting, your P value may be like, you know, point seven or like I can’t rely on this, it’s not statistically significant, the forecast has too much error.

When that happens.

It means that the data you do have is not good enough, there’s not enough data to draw a sensible conclusion.

So you would take your dataset, and your analysis to generative AI would feed it to the model of your choice and say, based on this data, I got this p value, which likely means I don’t have a statistically significant result.

What other data should I be trying to collect that might improve this statistical relevance? Right? What is there? One more question? I could be asking on the intake form for people subscribing to my newsletter? Or is there a kind of get people to to go from my YouTube channel to my to a Discord? Would that information be useful for a company like Trust Insights? Do things like job title and company matter? Right? And if so, do we need things like company size? Maybe there’s a certain group of people that yeah, they’re their company size, they they work at a company where they don’t see the relevance of our content or our services, because their company is just too small.

And that would be a useful piece of information to know.

But one of the problems we have as both marketers and and data folks is, is that time, we don’t have time to sit down and deeply think through this.

So we can go to a generative model and say, help me think through this.

What am I missing? What’s the blind spot that’s creating this forecast that is not statistically significant? And how give me some ideas for fixing it?

Katie Robbert 12:41

Well, I think that there’s this easy for me to say the statistics side of it.

But there’s also just understanding the audience.

So we went through an extensive exercise last week, we actually did this live on the live stream last week, which you can catch all the episodes at trust

And we actually walked through putting together an ideal customer profile.

And I don’t know that you need to put together an ideal customer profile when trying to figure out why people are leaving, but you can use the same kind of exercise to figure out who these people are.

So that way you like, does it matter? To your point, Chris, you know, is it a spam bot? Is it you know, a very small company who they find our stuff valuable, but they’ll never be able to afford it? Or are we losing our mid to enterprise size companies who aligned with our ideal customer profiles, because I like to know, the data points.

But I also want to know who these people are, and kind of what makes them tick.

And so I feel like using generative AI, to expedite your analysis of the people that you’re losing, from your customer base from your subscriber list your audience, your community, is going to be incredibly helpful.

And that’s where generative AI becomes a really powerful tool, because it can do it faster than you can manually.

So yeah, I could go through all of the people who have unsubscribed one by one, take a look at their LinkedIn profiles take a look at their activity with the company.

But that’s going to take me a really long time.

So to your point, the thing that we lack is time.

And so you can build out a process where you can take this information week over week or once a month, or however and say, this is the data from my CRM based on their activity.

This is the, you know, LinkedIn profiles of who’s left this is how long they stayed with us have all that data and have generative I help you understand who these people are, so that you can get a better sense of the type of person who’s sticking around who’s leaving.

But then also like, maybe try to understand a little bit of like what you did to make them leave because that’s a big part of the equation is, typically people leave because they’re not interested in you.

So you need to figure out what you’re doing.

So you could also start to put in, hey, here’s all of my past five newsletters, you know, what’s different? What’s changed? You know, Chris, you have a very simple metric in your newsletter of how did I do good, bad, indifferent? You know, is that data telling our people or are enough people telling you, hey, this was a good issue, or this was a bad issue, or I don’t really care enough to, you know, give you ever thought either way.

And that’s a lot of really informative information that can tell you, you know, why people are sticking around.

So there’s a lot of different data points that are that can tell you why you’re losing people and generative AI can help you put that together into a complete narrative to say, Okay, now I understand it.

I say that, because you’ve been in this position, Chris, I’ve been in this position where you see the data point, you see it very clearly.

But you have to articulate it to someone who does not get it.

So you need to be able to put that narrative together and justify, I need additional budget, or I need more time, or it’s not my fault people are leaving, or it is my fault.

But here’s what we’re going to do about it.

And that story is just as important as understanding the data.


Christopher Penn 16:26

You know, to to your point, this is a look at the last six months worth of newsletters, look at this week’s newsletter.

That is the highest scoring newsletter in the last six months.

Why? What made it different? What’s different than than the previous four? Which were okay, but not great.

The thing that thing that made it different? Was this Get the hell out of it? No, it was it was a bigger picture strategic piece rather than a tactical, hey, here’s how to do this thing.

People appreciate how to do this thing.

But there’s to your point about knowing the customer, knowing the audience, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and go okay, well, here’s kind of what the big picture is.

I don’t know that you can make, you know, big picture stuff 100% of the time.

But certainly, the the results from looking at which issues and what the topic of each issue is does help.

So from a a churn, perspective, reducing churn, if the scores were going in the wrong direction on a persistent basis, like okay, yeah, we’re gonna start seeing churn because people just don’t see the value.

And this is a good early warning indicator, it’s a useful piece of data, that yeah, you’re gonna have churn if people don’t see the value in what you’re what you’re delivering.

So that’s a key part of predictive analytics, when it comes to using it to prevent churn is not just modeling the churn number itself, but the precursors to churn that will tell you like, yeah, people aren’t into people not picking up what you’re putting down.

Katie Robbert 18:00

Well, and so that strikes me as an opportunity to look at this data, overlaid with the topics.

And so you can say, when I write about this topic, I’m likely to lose more people.

And you may be okay with that, depending on what the topic is, and you know, that kind of thing.

But that’s an incredibly helpful data point, you know, to bring to your executives to bring to your cmo to say, we need to stop tripling down on this particular topic.

This is why we’re losing people.

And they might say, but everybody really wants to know about, you know, my own personal thoughts.

So when I’m sitting at my $500 billion yacht, how I made my money, and you know, my personal story, and you can say, Yeah, but every time like, you know, every time they write about that you lose, but you’ll have the data to back it up to say, but this is what’s happening.

You it strikes me, though, you know, so what you’re saying is the the strategic thought leadership piece is what read Hi.

And, you know, I feel like, No, you can’t do the strategic pieces all the time.

But what you can do is follow the hero hub help a content framework, where you’re primarily giving out, here’s my helpful content, and then you’re planning out once a month, once a quarter, here’s the Hero Piece, here’s the strategy.

Then you have the hub pieces, which is, you know, here’s my thoughts, here’s what’s going on, here’s the information, and then you’re helpful content.

Here’s how you do the thing.

And so if you are, you know, spreading those out and understanding the pattern of when people want those things, then you can plan your content calendar around.

Okay, now I know you know, it’s the 15th of the month.

It’s time for another big thought leadership piece because that’s what’s going to draw new subscribers in and that’s why people are going to rate the highest.

Christopher Penn 19:58

Yep, there is that the other thing thing you can do.

And this is a perfect application for generative AI is to take a framework that you know works with the type of content you create, and apply that framework to your content to see a what you’re missing.

And be if it if it changes those precursor points of data.

So for example, if you were to you to be reading or writing and you just applied to the Wi Fi framework, right, so here’s the five fi framework to this random collection of notes that I made, that I want to talk about.

One of the other things, and this is why I need to do some experimentation on my own newsletter.

It was a different topic than usual.

But it was also a different framework than usual.

And I applied to my newsletter to because I had a whole bunch of I was looking at a Saturday morning.

That is because I tend to draft my notes Friday night for what I think I want to talk about.

And it was a hot mess.

So I’m like, Okay, let’s put this into, I put it into Tamsin Webster’s red thread framework.

And it’s it just helped me reorder the notes into something like that made logical sense.

And now I want to say, Okay, well, what if I take a more tactical piece of content, something less big picture, and I apply the same framework to it? Will I get similar results? That will then tell me, is it the framework that gets me the highest scores? Or is it the topic that gets me the highest scores? Thanks.

So there’s, there’s a lot of ways to slice and dice the data.

Again, this is if you’re using predictive analytics, to forecast out and to identify the precursor data that indicates possible churn problems, you can now start to build an action plan to say, Okay, I know, churn is going in the wrong direction.

Can I adjust topic? I just tone? Can I tell you what are the levers that you have access to throughout that customer journey.

Katie Robbert 21:43

And I think that it’s such an underutilized tactic.

So predictive analytics, it’s not a new tactic.

It’s not, you know, a bright, shiny object, it shouldn’t be.

But for a lot of companies it is because it’s not something that’s used often enough.

And it could be that, you know, they don’t have access to the tools.

But now with generative AI, it can help you write the code.

So it should be theoretically a little bit more accessible.

But it’s such an underutilized, so powerful.

It’s one of my favorite techniques, to really, because you know, me, I love a plan.

I love a framework.

I love a plan.

I love something measurable, I love for lack of a better term, the predictability of knowing what’s going to happen.

Because to me, it’s sort of like, okay, I feel I feel whether or not I do I feel like I have a little bit more control over the situation.

And a predictive forecast, I feel like gives marketers that little bit of control over what we’re doing.

We’re planning so we’re not just every week just winging it, like, Oh, what do we want to do? What do we think people want crap? You know, my KPIs are dropping, what am I going to do? just wing it.

This gives you a measurable plan that you can adjust, and say, Alright, I’m moving in the right direction, I’m moving in the wrong direction.

Let me rerun the forecast with new data.

And let me go ahead and adjust my plan.

So that it’s more thoughtful so that it’s more tailored to my audience specifically, so that it’s something that I can put in front of the executives and say, This is what we’re going to do.

This is what we’re doing.

This is what we have done.

There’s no guesswork about it.

Like it’s already there.

We’re basically handing you a silver platter, like, here’s everything.

And if you don’t have the resources to do it, you know, give us a shout, we’ll help you.

Christopher Penn 23:34


And there’s a variety of ways we can do this.

Here’s the other thing, if you ask you positively just don’t have the time, the skill, the access to resources to do predictive analytics, you can at the very least to do basic remediation.

So we’ve talked about this, we talked about this last week’s podcast episode, using generative AI and just a conversation, no, no data, you can say, hey, here’s what information I know about my company about the services we offer.

About the type of companies we have as clients helped me build an ideal customer profile.

So you have your ideal customer profile, you build a generative AI, and then go to go to your your website, go to any of the content you have and say okay, well, here’s this piece of content.

Here’s my customer profile.

What am I missing? Right? What stuff? What questions Have I not answered? What topics have I not covered on my podcast? So even if you don’t have access to and you’re and you can’t make the time to build predictive analytics capabilities for time series forecasting, you can at the very least plan for Okay, well, here’s these pages we know are important.

Can we at least address information helpful information on these pages for this customer profile? Or even go into tool like Google Trends, right basic basic time series data and say when are people searching for my industry or my topic or even something as simple as when are people not going to be in the office because they’re searching for Outlook out of office.

When you do that, you will know okay here, you know, on the week of July 4 Every year yeah, we’re, we’re not going to reach a whole bunch of people with our email, the people we do reach are going to be unhappy because they’re not on vacation.

So what kind of content? Can we plan ahead for just using that basic knowledge? Predictive analytics does better with data, it works better with data.

But if you don’t have the data, you at least have some common data points.

And some companies you can have a conversation with with generative AI to come up with that plan.

But yeah, if you want help with this, you go AI slash AI services.

Any final thoughts? Katie, don’t

Katie Robbert 25:39

sleep on predictive analytics.

It should and could be your best, you know, most powerful tool in your toolbox.

Christopher Penn 25:45


I think we’re gonna have a new case study up on the website relatively soon on an example of predictive analytics.

So we’ll we’ll put that in the newsletter.

If you’ve been using predictive analytics or you’re thinking about using predictive analytics and you want to talk about the experience pop on over to our free slack group, go to AI slash analytics from Marcus where you have over 3000 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day.

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Thanks for tuning in.

I will talk to you next time.

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