How to maneuver today’s world of churn

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

We live in a world of churn today. And we might as well get used to it and make it work for ourselves and our businesses. Because if we don’t understand the realities of churn, it can be quite stressful.

OH NO. Another person unsubscribed or unfollowed. That doesn’t feel good. See. Ha.

So what does churn mean? Churn means that every year or every month or whatever the timeframe might be, a certain percentage of our customers turns over.

The reasons can range far and could include customers not needing a product any longer, moving or they simply forgot about having a specific need.

We lose some and we gain some, and hopefully the net is an increase. Life’s a numbers game.

Some examples of where we see churn:

  • Customer base
  • Employees
  • Friends – maybe acquaintances, rather
  • Social media audiences
  • Website audiences
  • Email lists
  • Etc.

People come and go today. And that’s OK, because hardly anything is a lifetime commitment anymore. In some areas, that’s harder for the powers that be to understand. For example in employment, human resource executives sometimes talk about job hoppers, but maybe they’re just moving to a better opportunity or one that’s a closer fit to their long-term goals. Or the culture was hell. Who really expects anyone to stay at one job for decades anymore?

In the nonprofit world, they see donor churn. I’ve donated for a number of years now, but the exact nonprofit changes from year to year, and sometimes I stick with one for a couple years and then switch back to another. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to make my community better, but it means that I am really focusing my efforts and that effort can change. To organizations or businesses, that often looks like churn and can be interpreted as a problem. And it can be if there’s a net decrease.

And sometimes consumers just forget about an organization. Their attention was focused on something else. For example, I used to buy a lot of suits and I still have around 10 suits in my wardrobe. But I buy a lot fewer suits now because I wear them a lot less than I used to, so they last longer. To my tailor, that can look like churn. In reality it’s just a reflection of a change in need and circumstances for me. It’s me, not you. Ha.

Churn is especially out there on social media. People follow and unfollow all the time. Take Twitter for example. I lose a few hundred followers every week, but I also gain a few hundred followers every week. The net outcome typically means I gained some per week.

Same on my email list. It turns over about 3% over a year’s time.

I even notice churn when I speak at conferences. People come and go. Some conferences even encourage people to leave and go to another session when there are multiple sessions at the same time if the topic isn’t 100 percent of interest to them. At a talk in Barcelona in November 2016, I mentioned this. I said that you can see that it’s standing room only, but people are coming and going. So a percentage of the audience is actually churning as I’m speaking.

So how do you deal with churn?

  1. Don’t take it personally. This can be hard at first.
  2. Don’t even assume that you’re doing something wrong. It might just be the wrong audience segment.
  3. Do try to figure out a way to have a net increase. Sometimes that’s possible by connecting with more people than the ones you are losing. That’s especially true on social media.
  4. Understand that it’s the reality of life.
  5. Adjust as necessary, but don’t let the loud and visible minority rule the roost.

Churn isn’t all bad necessarily because it actually rids our audiences of the audience members who are not currently interested in what we have to offer. So once they leave, we are making sure to not annoy them with our content and offerings. It’s life. Not everyone loves us.

Of course, the trick is to get those audience members back at the right time when they actually need whatever it is we are offering.

Here’s to all of us remembering that churn is the reality of life and to figuring out how we make it work for ourselves without taking every wave of churn personally.

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