Blog Startup Journey

How We Grew Our Business by Picking Up Scraps (And Stopped Leaving Customers on the Table)

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You’re probably leaking customers at the margins of your business. Here’s how to stop that.

“So why didn’t you sign up?”

I was a couple days into a week of nonstop customer development, talking to as many prospects, customers and former customers as I could.

It’s an annual ritual that I started a couple of years ago, not as a way to sell, but as a way to learn as much as I could about what people thought about Groove.

Each year that I do it, I get massive insights into what we’re doing well, what we’re doing not-so-well, and what opportunities we’re completely missing out on.

This particular conversation was with a non-customer.

In fact, it was with someone who had never even signed up for a free trial.

But he had been reading our blog—and was subscribed to our email list⁠—for over a year.

And his business, a 15-person B2B software company, was the perfect fit for a product like Groove.

So I asked him: what had kept him from signing up for a free trial?

His answer echoed a sentiment that I had heard a few times over the past two days, and would hear several times again by the end of the week.

It was so simple, and so seemingly silly, that it hit me like a slap in the face: “you guys stopped asking me.”

We had stopped asking him to sign up for Groove.

Sure, our automated email drip for blog subscribers contains an email asking the reader to sign up.

But what if, for whatever reason, the timing isn’t perfect that day?

What if they’re having a busy day and miss the email? What if they see it, but file it away to deal with “later”? What if they’re just not ready yet?

We were looking at our email campaign as a road that led to a single shot at converting the subscriber.

But what about all of the subscribers that we missed?

What about the “scraps” that got left behind after that conversion attempt?

That week, we implemented a simple tactic to address this. It took only a couple of minutes to do, and it would solve the problem for us forever.

And in seeing how well it worked, it got me thinking about all of the other ways in which we often fail to “pick up the scraps”: grab the low-hanging fruit that can win us customers at the margins.

Today, I’ll share the tactic that helped us address the “you stopped asking us” issue, along with four other ways that we’ve been able to “pick up the scraps” to stop leaving paying customers on the table along our journey as a business.

5 Ways We Stopped Leaving Customers on the Table

These shouldn’t be the focus of your marketing plan. The key is to look for things that take little to no time to implement, but that can deliver paying customers.

1) A simple “P.S.” at the bottom of every email we send

Every week, we send at least two emails to our blog mailing lists.

One shares that week’s Journey to $500K blog post, and the other shares that week’s Customer Support Blog post.

To see if we could get past the “you stopped asking us” issue, we added a simple “P.S.” line at the bottom of every single blog email that we send that reminds the subscriber what Groove is, and offers a free trial.

While it doesn’t convert at an impressively high rate (usually around .05%), that’s a handful of new trial users every single week that we were leaving on the table before, so I consider this to be a big win.

Takeaway: Don’t let something as trivial as forgetting to ask be what keeps your subscribers from becoming customers. Ask, ask, ask, and keep asking. Don’t be annoying about it (note that it’s the secondary call-to-action in these emails), but don’t let your subscribers forget what you do for a living.

2) Automated winback emails

Another mistake we were making was abandoning the users who abandoned Groove.

After our onboarding email sequence, if the user didn’t convert, they’d stop hearing from us. As we learned in talking to some of those users, including quite a few who ended up becoming customers later on, we were leaving customers on the table.

We heard, more than a few times, sentiments like “I liked Groove, we just weren’t ready for it.”

Just because Groove wasn’t right for a customer when they signed up, doesn’t mean that we’ll never be right for them. So we began testing winback emails at 7, 21 and 90 days after a user didn’t convert.

The 90-day email has netted us several hundred new users that wouldn’t be Groove customers right now otherwise.

Takeaway: Not every customer quits because they dislike your product. There could very well come a time in the near future that you’re both perfect for each other, but you’ll never know unless you reach out to them.

3) Co-Marketing with the fringes of your market

As a general rule, we don’t do discounts.

And when people ask us—which happens nearly daily now—to offer a special deal to their readers or customers, we almost always say no.

That’s because their markets almost always mirror ours, or overlap heavily with ours, and offering a discount through a business that’s already prominent in our market would cheapen Groove to the customers we’re trying to reach directly.

Why would anyone buy Groove at full price if they know that they can get it cheaper through one of our well-known partners?

The exception here—and this surprises many people that I share this with—is when we get asked for a special offer for verticals and submarkets that are at the fringes of our market.

That is, tiny markets that we’d probably never market to directly, and that may never find us through our primary marketing channels.

If it’s possible that they could get value out of Groove, and that they could be good customers, but that we don’t think we’d ever reach them ourselves, then we’ll usually agree to offer an extended trial.

The two caveats are that the partner must be trusted, influential and have a large-enough audience that our offer would matter, and that the offer gets posted in a place where our larger primary market is unlikely to stumble upon it.

Takeaway: Prominent discounting can cheapen your brand and lower what your market expects to pay for your product, but strategic discounting at the fringes of your market can help entice customers who otherwise would have never found you.

4) Second chance subject lines

If you send an email, and your open rate is 30%, that means that 30% of your list opened your email, right?

Of course. But it also means something that many marketers miss: it means that 70% of your list never saw the inside of your email.

When we tried this tactic, shared by Noah Kagan (founder of SumoMe), to get more mileage from the emails that you send, we were blown away by the results:

Step 1. Take the SAME email you sent and CHANGE the subject line to something new

Step 2. Email it out a week later JUST TO YOUR NON-OPENS

It’s really simple, and really effective.

Here’s how Noah’s email results looked from his initial email:

And here’s how they looked for the re-titled and re-sent email:

That’s 30%+ more opens than if he hadn’t repackaged the original email. We’ve tested the same strategy and gotten results ranging from 5% to 40% more opens per email.

Takeaway: Just because someone hasn’t opened your email, that doesn’t mean they might not be interested in what’s inside. Try to compel them with a different subject line to see if you can convince them to open your email and extract the value inside.

5) Collecting key insights with a single email

This one is less about picking up “customer” scraps, and more about picking up “insight” scraps that would otherwise go un-shared.

I’m talking about the welcome email that, as many regular readers know, every new Groove user receives.

The insights we’ve gotten from the responses to the small question in that email have been game-changing.

With this question, we’ve been able to transform our messaging based on what we learned is most important to new customers, and we’ve been able to build deeper relationships with those customers by helping them with whatever unique goals or challenges drove them to sign up.

Takeaway: Customers aren’t the only thing that most businesses leave on the table. Game-changing insights and pieces of customer feedback are easy to collect with simple automated emails.

How to Apply This to Your Business

Picking up scraps isn’t a strategy that will double your business.

It shouldn’t be your primary focus.

But if it works for you as well as it has worked for us, it can help you put real cash in your bank account for very little work.

Almost all of us are leaving things on the table. Most of it is by choice (and that’s a good thing), but much of it is simply because we’re simply not thinking about the super-low-effort things we can do to pick those scraps up at the margins.

I hope that this post has given you some ideas to apply this principle to your own business.

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From “aha” to “oh shit”, we’re sharing everything on our journey to $10M in annual revenue. We’re learning a lot and so will you.

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About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

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