Looping The Feedback

I am struck by how sometimes in startup world we miss the obvious.

Suppose you are a startup founder with a subscription element of some type to your future unicorn business. Being an analytical person, you check to see how many total subscribers/customers you have. About nine (or fifty) times a day.

You undoubtedly want to know, “Why did you subscribe to my website/product/genius?”

You check, double check, re-check everything. You focus group the customer acquisition side and you ascertain the “cost to acquire” a customer. Right?

As will undoubtedly happen, someone eventually does the unthinkable: they UNSUBSCRIBE.

You mourn their loss for a second — admit, there is pain involved — and return to focusing on the building size — the growth — of your subscription/customer base.

Along comes some analytical wizard and says, “We should calculate our “stickiness,” no?”

You fold that calculation into your analytics and watch it. Now, you are measuring your rate of mortality, but not the why.

You are missing the most important thing:

Why did that customer UNSUBSCRIBE?

I am not talking about the typical “opt out” kind of email “unsubscribe” here. I am talking about understanding in depth and detail why you lost a customer.

This is where you have to engage with someone who has made a vote against you. Why did they do it?

Each business is different, so I will not try to fashion or suggest how you will do this. You were sufficiently brilliant to figure out how to attract them, now use your brain to find a way to engage such that you glean the answer to the following: “It must have been something I did or said. My perfume? My price? What was it?”

I am not suggesting that you should abandon your focus on acquiring customers, on costing what it takes to acquire a customer, on calculating your stickiness (it’s OK to call it “churn”), but I am suggesting that it is vitally important to figure out


someone who you lured, hooked, landed, loved has now decided to throw you overboard.

I am an American Rainbow Trout. I eat dry flies, nymphs, streamers, but sometimes I spit the bit. I am a free market trout.

Pro tip: The strategy to regain “lost customers” is one of the things that separates the unicorns from the rest of the herd. Topic for another day. It is often easier to regain lost business — when there is a specific, discrete, reversible reason why you lost the business — than it is to gain a new customer.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car? Why do you love me? Why did you leave me?