How to reduce customer churn with webinars

Main illustration: Kelsey Wroten

Helping your customers see the full value of your product is key to ensuring their loyalty, and webinars are one of the most efficient ways to foster that loyalty.

Over a long enough timeframe most customers churn. And most companies die. It’s tough out there. This lack of traction with new signups isn’t because your product has no value. Well, it could be. But, it’s more likely because your customers just don’t see the value of your product.

For your product to survive, you need to activate your new signups, by getting them to take the actions that will enable them to see value in what you’re selling. At Intercom that means things like setting their first message live. Activation webinars are great for encouraging customers to take these important steps.

Customers who attend our webinars are over 6x more likely to activate than those who don’t. Not only that, those customers who register but don’t attend are more likely to activate than those who don’t register at all. And even those who are invited, but don’t register, activate at higher rates than customers who aren’t invited.

Activation rates
Here’s the activation rates for people who were invited but didn’t attend, registered but didn’t attend, and attended our Educate webinar.

Outside of those who attend, why do these other groups activate? We have a couple of theories:

  • Webinar invites serve as prompts/reminders to take action with our product.
  • Sending the webinar recording to registrants later is a strong activation driver, with a long tail of impact.

We’re conscious that there might be an element of self-selection bias going on here. This is the idea that the customers who are more likely to activate on their own are also more likely to come to a webinar. But the fact that simply inviting customers to a webinar (and thus reminding them about your features) is enough to lift activation rates reinforces the notion that activation webinars are definitely impactful and worth your time to set up.

Here’s how we’ve approached our activation webinars so they have the biggest impact on reducing churn.

What are your activation steps?

The key to getting this right is to first know what the key actions are for your product. These are the actions if a customer takes, you know they’ll start to see value in your product, and thus stick around. These are your activation steps, which you should build your webinar program around.

As an example, let’s imagine a ride sharing app, where all customers who complete two trips in the first 30 days after signup are 20% more likely be retained in month two, compared to the customers who take just one trip or less. In this case the activation step is “orders 2 rides before day 30”.

“Being aware of the importance of these steps directly influences our product education strategy”

With a dating app, the activation steps might be to 1) answer all profile questions and 2) upload their photo. With a project management app it might be to 1) create a project, and 2) share it with their team. Hopefully you’ll know this stuff about your product already, or at least have a good idea. If you don’t, you can find out.

Create webinars that address your activation steps

With Intercom, our activation steps are things like setting auto-messages live in our Engage product, or inserting articles into conversations for Articles. Being aware of the importance of these steps directly influences our product education strategy. In other words, we create content all about taking these steps, and prioritize sharing it with the folks who haven’t activated yet.

Automating customer engagement

We created a webinar that focused on auto messages. It covers everything from what kind of common messages have a big impact to how you can use custom data attributes to ensure the messages are laser targeted.

The goal of the webinar is to get attendees to turn one auto message on. And that’s how we look at success – have attendees got a live auto message at 2 weeks and 8 weeks after attending?

“Scaling your support with Articles”

When we launched Articles, it was a product category we didn’t have before, so we hosted a webinar that went even deeper. It covered everything about using the product – from writing help content to inserting that content in conversations with customers.

The internal goal we set for attendees is that they would either have their articles viewed 20 times or would insert three articles in conversations. After both two and eight weeks, we saw significant uplift for people who were invited, register and attend.

Invite new customers at the right time

Once you know your activation criteria, you can use that to drive attendance at your webinar. For the dating app, this might be everyone everyone who has created a profile, but has not yet added their photo.

“Don’t limit your invite list just to the customers who haven’t activated yet”

We follow this pattern of “has done x, has not done y” all the time when inviting customers to activation webinars. It’s the key to prioritizing the right customers. For example, “has uploaded their photo, has not completed their profile”. These are the people who’ve shown some level of commitment (i.e., uploaded a photo) but have yet to activate (i.e., complete their profile). They’re far easier and likely to activate than those who haven’t done either.

You’ll stay targeted and relevant if you invite the folks who’ve shown some level of intent, but haven’t gotten over the line.

Invite your recently activated customers too

Don’t limit your invite list just to the customers who haven’t activated yet. You should consider widening the net to customers who have already taken those key steps.

But they’re already active, I hear you say. Correct, but how many are going to stay active? That depends on your churn rate, obviously. People who activate still churn – at lower rates admittedly. But even so, if a quarter of your current customers were going to be gone in four months time, wouldn’t you invite them to a webinar to keep them around?

Obviously, you don’t want to invite your entire active customer base to your webinar. So consider limiting invites to those only recently active, or who are showing weakness in other ways, e.g., if they haven’t logged in for a while, or if they’ve only barely met the activation criteria.

Your content is probably relevant for these folks too. And if not, as you build out your library of webinars, consider creating a second, more “advanced” webinar for them. It’s hard to hit the sweet spot for everyone with a single webinar.

Targeted webinars work

There’s a critical point in time just before and after activation where you want to share best practice with your customers. Webinars are an excellent way to do that but don’t underestimate the time and effort needed to create good quality content.

You can see a high return on investment, particularly if you record your webinars and make them available on a self-serve basis to customers. Once you’ve built up a selection of recorded webinars, you can then use filters in Intercom to automatically send invites to people as they start to match the criteria, so that you continue to see the benefits long after the live event.

Used in this way, webinars are more than just product education tools – deployed at the right time, they are a powerful method to ensure your customers engage with and get full value out of your product, rather than drift away.

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