This weekend, Kelly, Thomas, and I had brunch with some of the very smart guys at Shoeboxed. Much of the conversation centered about best practices for measuring customer retention, as all great brunch conversations do. Which lead to some interesting ideas around tracking churn versus tracking froth.
Delineating between churn and froth makes it easier to more accurately pinpoint and address the reasons behind lost customers. Churn represents customers that cancel their subscription 3 months (or more) after signing up. Froth represents customers that cancel their subscription within 3 months of signing up. These are simple definitions, there are many other ways to define the metrics.
A high churn rate more likely indicates a product problem. Churned customers bought into the value prop and stuck around, but didn't get long term value from your product. This might suggest that certain features might be lacking or that the scope of your product is too broad.
A high froth rate more likely indicates a marketing problem or, to a lesser extent, an on-boarding problem. Your marketing programs might be generating leads outside of your sweet spot. Or your sales team may not be properly qualifying opportunities. Or your services programs might be under-resourced such that new customers don't get the proper resources/training to ensure that they properly use your product from the outset.
Both metrics are important and inform different strategic decisions for SaaS companies. Identifying the characteristics of churny and frothy customers and pro-actively addressing the issues will pay off in the long term.