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Head of CRM

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Acquisition versus retention: Striking the right balance

Dedicated to helping innovative brands catalyse growth, we welcomed Phil to the team in June 2021 as our highly motivated Head of CRM. His marketing experience spans B2B and B2C companies across a range of verticals, and he’s now putting the insights he’s gained over the years to excellent use servicing our fintech clients here at Growth Gorilla.

His case study tackles a key CRM question: how to recruit new customers while at the same time retaining existing ones. Tasked with this challenge while working at online financial investment service Interactive Investor, here he shares advice for striking the right balance.

The challenge:

Back in 2018, before joining Growth Gorilla, Phil was tasked with reactivating a huge user inactive base at an online financial investment company, which was no mean feat, considering only 22% of users were actively placing trades.

It’s a common problem. Fintechs often put a huge emphasis on acquisition, and understandably so, as demonstrating a healthy subscription list is often key to securing that all-important investment for your product or platform.

But what’s the value of a large user base if the majority are yet to use your app or interact with your site? And what happens to existing users when all your time and effort is spent on signing up new customers? As Phil acknowledges, there’ll always come a stage in a fintech’s expansion where they need to keep hold of what they have.

The solution:

“It’s so important for fintechs to deploy a range of strategies – from acquisition to retention and reactivation – and to avoid overlooking one customer journey in favour of another,” says Phil, who engineered the following response to the challenge:

1. Fire-fighting: advocating for cross-departmental communication, reviewing the existing retention strategy and launching a reactivation email campaign.

2. Future-proofing: refreshing the early-life customer journey.

As Phil acknowledges: “A two-part solution was essential: retention and reactivation efforts had to be in place, but we also needed to look at the journey from the very start. My approach was to rectify the problem, and then take steps to ensure the situation – a huge inactive user base – never arose again.

The result:

By auditing and improving the early-life customer journey, the company’s active user base grew from 22% to 35%. “We jumped 13% in the space of a few weeks because of this behind-the-scenes work,” says Phil. “After that, the onboarding process was smoother and really started to flow. By the time I left, the new activation rate was 42%. In addition, the reactivation rates of a previously disengaged base stood at around 30% to 35%.”

Key takeaways:

Here are the lessons Phil learnt along the way, so read on to find out how you can engage users and keep them coming back for more, even when they appear to have to have lost interest:

1. Clean your data whenever the opportunity arises

“Not everyone’s marketable,” says Phil. “I joined when GDPR was just coming into force and, because 40% of the company’s database hadn’t agreed to be contacted, we couldn’t do anything with them. It became clear the company had missed an opportunity to clean their data. For me, GDPR was a benefit rather than a constraint, because it presented the opportunity to send a one-off email and ask people if they wanted to stay in contact.”

When it comes to checking in with an inactive base that can be marketed to, Phil recommends keeping things simple. Use plain text and share a simple message that navigates people to the site – for example – you could alert them to new products or account updates and encourage them to log in to see what they’ve missed. The intention is to get them back into the loop.

2. Stop problems in their tracks

Are you doing everything you can to keep users engaged and prevent them from becoming inactive? To avoid having to reactivate users, now’s the time to reevaluate your welcome and onboarding email series. As the result of conversations with the customer service and product teams, in which he discovered the biggest barriers preventing people staying active once they’d signed up, Phil mapped out the early-life customer journey in three stages – creating emails that:

Thanked them for signing up and shared account information Targeted them to deposit funds Targeted them to trade

“If they dropped off at any stage, we’d quickly be able to identify the problem and target them in a different way,” says Phil.

3. Put yourself in the customer’s position

Creating a positive user experience (UX) has never been more important, and it was while reevaluating the onboarding process that Phil really focused on streamlining the early-life customer journey. “We defined our active users as someone who became a new customer and then went on to make the trade within the first 30 days. This stood at 22% when I started, which prompted me to ask the question – what’s going on with the 78%?

“We found there was a lag time of between 15 to 30 days before money was deposited, so I spoke with the transfer team about smoothing out the process and we sharpened up the process – otherwise, what’s the point in sending an email to users encouraging them to trade when they can’t because there’s no cash in their account?”

A focus on UX also led Phil to place an emphasis on education: “When putting together campaigns, I made sure that the answers to the questions that were driving users to customer service were contained in the content. So we sent out how-to guides and videos intended to hold their hand.”

4. Increase interest through personalisation

When it comes to reactivating existing users, ask yourself: what would I like to receive? “We had some really cool integrations on the website showing the rise and fall of trades,” says Phil. “So I spoke with our product team and we managed to include the functionality of a live table of stocks going up or down in our emails.

These personalised, performance-based emails were very relevant – and when an inactive user received one, it acted like a trigger. “They’d see their stocks were doing well and buy more, or conversely they’d look to offload poorly performing stocks. Through this initiative, we quickly reactivated around 30% to 35% of the base.

Remember, it’s not all about marketing – operational and transactional emails are just as important, so seek to retain users with industry updates and content that’s targeted to their interests. “One way of getting to know our users better is to send out surveys. We ask people why they stopped trading: is it a confidence thing, is it a platform issue? Having established a trend, you can deal with the problem,” says Phil.

5. Dig into data to reveal audience segments and customer insights

What are your customers thinking? When you understand your audience’s behaviour, it doesn’t have to be a mystery. For Phil, a moment of inspiration came when he realised that users were being defined as inactive if they’d only made one trade that year.

“But the data revealed people were doing other things – logging into account, engaging with our emails and so on. It became clear that some users only traded at certain times, such as tax-year end, but we were classifying them as inactive. That’s why it’s important to understand your audience’s behaviour so you can segment users into sub-categories and target them accordingly. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and fintechs must avoid falling into the trap of only seeing value in a customer because they’re trading.”

6. Keeping customers engaged is a collective effort

A lot of work goes into sending an email, but all too often, marketing teams fail to draw on the expertise and insights of other departments. “You have access to some really specialist knowledge in terms of finance and technology, and it’s important to get everyone’s input and everyone’s buy-in. When I started, customer relationship management was always used to assist the marketing strategy. I like to think that, by the time I left, it defined the marketing strategy.

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