713: Keep Your Customers: How to Stop Churn and Grow Your Business | Ali Cudby

Podcast Cover Image: Keep Your Customers: How to Stop Churn and Grow Your Business Featuring Ali Cudby
Podcast Cover Image: Keep Your Customers: How to Stop Churn and Grow Your Business Featuring Ali Cudby

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Are you struggling to keep customers engaged and loyal? The answer might surprise you!

Join us on the Conquer Local Podcast as we welcome Ali Cudby, CEO of Alignmint Growth Strategies. Ali’s on a mission to transform businesses through intentional customer experiences, and her proven methods, outlined in her #1 bestseller, “Keep Your Customers,” have helped countless companies achieve unstoppable growth.

Tune in to discover Ali’s secrets and her practical MINT Method for building customer loyalty that fuels success! 

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Keep Your Customers: How to Stop Churn and Grow Your Business


Jeff Tomlin: Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast! Our show features successful sales leaders, marketers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who will inspire you with their success stories. Each episode is packed with practical strategies, as our guests share their secrets to achieving their dreams. Listen in to learn the highlights of their remarkable accomplishments and get tips to revamp, rework, and reimagine your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, a marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur, the Conquer Local Podcast is your ultimate guide to dominating your local market. Tune in now to take your business to the next level.

I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Ali Cudby.

Ali is the CEO of Alignmint Growth Strategies, a catalyst for business transformation through deliberate customer experiences. 

With over 20 years of expertise, she pioneers superior interactions to fuel growth. Her #1 bestselling book, “Keep Your Customers,” offers fresh insights from real-world scenarios and CEO-led case studies, presenting her proven MINT Method for customer loyalty. 

From corporate planning at The New York Times to strategic marketing at Golf Digest, Ali’s journey peaked in founding Alignmint in 2014. As a Purdue University Entrepreneurship and Innovation instructor, she mentors future leaders. Ali’s podcast appearances showcase her expertise in customer experience and growth strategies, embodying her commitment to elevating businesses.

Get ready Conquerors for Ali Cudby coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.

Focus on Retention for Customer Growth

Jeff Tomlin: Ali, I want to say, hey, a big welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast. How are you doing today?

Ali Cudby: I’m great. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast.

Jeff Tomlin: Hey, by the way, I’m an outdoorsy guy and I am very, very envious of your background and your settings, so cheers to that.

Ali Cudby: Thank you. Thank you. It’s a pretty cool cabin to work from.

Jeff Tomlin: Let’s just jump into it here. Driving growth and thinking about customer centricity is so important for any type of business and it’s typically, growth is at the forefront of everybody’s thinking. You talk about intentional customer experiences, and I thought you could maybe kick us off with a story about that, help us understand what you mean when you talk about intentional customer experiences and maybe a story of how… one example of how you drove growth or a business that you worked with drove growth thinking this way?

Ali Cudby: Sure. So when I think about intentional customer experiences, I really think about the fact that your post-sales environment is critical for your long-term customer value. And if you sell tons and tons of customers into your front-end, but you have a broken back-end, then you’re not going to retain those customers, and the time, energy, effort, and money that you spent to win those customers doesn’t mean much if you don’t keep those customers. And that’s especially true in a lot of technology companies that don’t even see profitability from their customers until year two, year three, or more. So those renewals are critical, but they’re really critical for every company, right? If you’re going to spend the money to get a customer, you want to be able to keep the customer. And that’s how you keep the flywheel going. If every new customer is filling the seat of somebody who just churned out, then all you’re doing is working really hard to stay in place. But if every new customer is filling a new seat, then you’re retaining all the revenue from the customers that didn’t churn. You’re winning the revenue from the customers that are new, and then the longer they stay, the more that all continues to grow. In order to do that, you need to be really thoughtful as a company about how you’re going to deliver your customer experience. You want to make sure that that is clearly articulated and shared within the company so that everybody’s on the same page. You don’t want to just hire good customer-facing people and hope they have good instincts because that’s not how you grow a company. So when I talk about intentional customer experience, that’s really where I’m coming from, is that clear and consistent approach, cross-functionally, to the customer experience. And I was working with a technology company and they had gone through a lot of different customer success teams. They’d had a lot of internal churn. And so customers were frustrated and honestly, so were the employees of the company because it felt like every time they were having a conversation with a customer, it was a fire drill, and the fire drills got so predictably bad… the unpredictable fire drills got so predictably bad that they weren’t really even having business review meetings or strategic touch point meetings with their customers anymore.

So one of the things that I did right away was say, “Okay, great, let’s just have a reset. Let’s have a positive, strategic, thoughtful relationship-building meeting with every single customer and use that as an opportunity to plant our flag and change the conversation going forward. You can’t undo what’s happened. You can’t make their frustration go away, and this meeting isn’t magic beans, but at least we can start here and then follow through with our intentions and our processes and alignment.”

Map Customer Journey for Loyalty

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, okay. That makes a lot of sense. Boy, there’s so much to unpack on this topic, and we only have a short amount of time together here. So you talk about you’ve got a mint method and a four-step process to facilitate this type of thinking. Maybe you can walk through one of those anyways, and help us understand how you start working through this process?

Ali Cudby: Sure. So I’ll talk about the third step in the mint method, which is N, navigating the customer journey. And this is so critically important because when we think about the customer journey, what we want to do is break down what the customer is experiencing from their perspective as they go through that customer experience with you. So I start that journey from the point even before the kickoff, really from the point that the customer says yes and sets their intention to buy. And then thinking through it all from the dual perspectives of what’s going on at the company and what is it that we need to do internally in order to deliver this great customer experience, and what’s going on at the customer. So looking at all of those different things. Thinking about the technology involved, thinking about how we’re going to recognize and celebrate what happens along the way, and focusing on each one of these key moments in time or, what I call, key inflection points. So when you look at your customer’s experience, what are the points where your interaction can either build loyalty or block loyalty, and focus there.

Align Teams for Customer Experience

Jeff Tomlin: Oh, okay, that makes a lot of sense. And I can see how that can really help align cross-functional teams. Maybe through your vast experience, tell me about some of the challenges that you see when companies are trying to align cross-functional teams toward the customer experience. There’s a quote that I heard, that I think about and reiterate to my team all the time, is that your customers will never be happier than your employees or your team members. And a lot of that breaks down, that happiness when they’re doing the fire drill all the time or they’re not aligned with each other. So maybe talk a little bit about some of the challenges that you’ve seen in trying to get teams aligned.

Ali Cudby: Yeah. I think that the biggest challenge when you’re trying to get teams aligned is having that clear message from the top. In a lot of companies, they tend to look at the post-sale customer-facing teams, whether it’s customer support or customer service or customer success, whatever you call it. They tend to look at them as being cost centers, and it’s very hard for a cost centre department to drive change inside of an organization. And I, A, think that that’s a really poor way of evaluating your post-sales teams because they are so critically aligned to the upselling that you get to get, the retention that you get to get, and like I said, with that flywheel, if you don’t have your post-sale experiences nailed down, then it’s hard to get that flywheel moving because it’s hard to just have growth if people are churning out. So rethinking the post-sale teams as being so critically important to revenue generation. So once you have that shift in mindset, thinking about what are all of the different ways that our customer’s experience is impacted, and that’s where you start to see that it has to be cross-functional. If marketing is making promises that don’t show up in the product or in the experience. If sales is making promises that don’t show up in the product or the experience, if the product itself isn’t aligned to what was sold or what the expectations are. But even things like IT, which doesn’t see itself as a customer-facing department for the most part, or billing. Any single time you have a moment where a customer isn’t happy with their experience, it’s going to impact their thinking when it comes to renewal. And so as you’re going through this journey mapping, but really, as you’re thinking about the customer experience in general, you can’t just think about it in this sort of narrow way of, “Oh, this is our customer success team.” You really need to open the gaze and look at all of the different departments that are impacting a customer’s experience. And that’s why I talk about my work as being customer experience versus customer success, because customer success is a department, it is one step in the process. And even customer success as a department is changing a lot, and that’s a story for another day, but if you think about it as a department, you’re really going to have a narrow perspective, and the customer’s experience is a wide perspective.

Focus on Customer Experience for Retention

Jeff Tomlin: I’m going to run the risk of opening up a rabbit hole here and going down it, but I have to ask you, from what you’re talking about, it sounds like if I asked you who owns retention, you’d probably say everybody does or a lot of people do. But is there a primary team that owns retention or a couple of teams that primarily own retention in your mind, or is it everybody’s job?

Ali Cudby: I mean, it’s everybody’s job, but that’s a cop-out. The buck has to stop with somebody. And so, it ultimately comes down to the tension between customer success and sales, and are you going to put a number on customer success? And I was just in a conversation about this the other day. I understand the orientation toward not giving customer success a number and really making them the stewards of the relationship, but the reality is, they’re the ones who are in the conversations with the customers. And when you give them the right tools and you give them a path to success in their job, the customer success teams are sort of uniquely positioned to be able to sell by serving. They’re the ones that know what the customer is going through and what aspects of your products and services will be beneficial to them. And so it becomes a natural part of the conversation to have the customer success team taking on, maybe not renewals completely, but cross-sells and up-sells. And so it is a conversation that gets a lot of debate. I tend to land in having customer success, giving customer success a number, but focusing it on the up-sells and cross-sells generally more than renewals, but it also depends from company to company.

Define Customer Focus with One Phrase

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, yeah, I like that. I like that. You’ve got a book, Keeping Your Customers. Love the focus on the title. And so maybe share with us one takeaway from that book, what’s one thing that businesses could do, maybe the most important thing to increase retention right now?

Ali Cudby: Yeah, sure. So we’ve talked about this cross-functionality and we’ve talked about this intentionality when it comes to the customer’s experience. And one of the best ways that companies can jump into that is by developing, what I call, a bullseye. And that’s why there’s a bullseye on the cover of the book. So the bullseye is really an articulation of what the company stands for when it comes to their customers. Most companies, they create their mission and their vision and their values, and that’s great. I’m not dunking on that. They generally are about the company though. So it’s really helpful to take a step back and say, “Okay, we have our mission and vision and values and that’s about us, but who do we want to be when it comes to the customer?” And there’s a case study in the book, I tell the story of a company called ClusterTruck. I always have to be very careful about how I pronounce the name of that company. And so ClusterTruck is a… it’s a ghost kitchen restaurant, so that means that it’s a restaurant that you can only get their food delivered. And when they opened the restaurant, the CEO gave this mantra to the kitchen, and the mantra was, “Don’t ship maybes.” And what he meant by that was, if a meal comes down the line and for whatever reason it’s just not awesome, then don’t send it out. Just throw it away, remake the meal, don’t ship maybes. And don’t ship maybes became something that the entire company really latched onto as this way of thinking about who they were as a company when it came to their customer, and it sort of came into lots of different parts of the company. So if you were sitting in a seat and you needed to hire somebody, and the interviewee was sitting there and you really, really needed to make the hire because you desperately needed a warm body, the question is, is this person a maybe? Don’t ship maybes. And over time, this idea of don’t ship maybes became so embedded into the DNA of ClusterTruck. And so, if you were in a tricky customer situation and you just didn’t know what to do, you always had that to fall back on. Like what’s my maybe here? Let’s not ship a maybe. And eventually it became so embedded into ClusterTruck that the CEO, Chris Baggott, actually got “Don’t ship maybes” tattooed onto his body. And that ability to capture your articulation of the customer experience in one easy phrase is the bullseye. It is the mantra that you want to be able to give your team so that when they’re in that situation, they can fall back on your mantra, that you have your articulation. You can’t have don’t ship maybes, that’s ClusterTruck’s. But what is the mantra for you and for your company’s customer experience?

Playbooks for Consistent Customer Touchpoints

Jeff Tomlin: When you think this way, does that bullseye sort of become your brand promise?

Ali Cudby: It’s a little bit different. I mean, because it’s really focused, I think that they end up playing together. They have to play together. They have to be aligned. But it’s not your brand promise. I think your brand promise covers a lot more territory. It’s really this narrow articulation of, who do we want to be for our customers?

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I like that. I want to ask you quickly about processes, because when you’re thinking about the customer journey, most companies, the customers, there’s a lot of touch points across the organization. So maybe talk a little bit about what sort of processes can be implemented to help teams align across all these different touch points that the customers often have with them?

Ali Cudby: Sure. So we are talking about the mint method, and the M is all about creating your mantra. And we talked about navigating your customer journey as the end. The processes are really the T. How do you transform your outcomes using playbooks? And playbooks are the single source of truth for how you’re going to navigate each one of those key inflection points that we talked about. So a playbook might be for something like your kickoff or it may be for something like your QBR, but it can also be for something like, “Okay, our key account person just left,” and we know that key account change is one of the biggest predictors of customer churn. And so we want to have a play for that so that when that moment happens, we can react quickly. And so what a playbook does is, it is a cross-functional articulation of what everybody is supposed to do in their running the play of that key inflection point. So if it’s kickoff, then that can be everything from sales, and what do we need sales to put into your customer database so that the CS team has everything that they need to know, so that when they’re sitting in the kickoff meeting, they’re not asking the questions that sales has already asked and had answered? What is it that the technical support team needs to be able to know and do? And so you really have this department-by-department way of having everyone sort of follow the bouncing ball and know what to do. And I take those down to the level of creating email templates so that people can sort of copy and paste and personalize and have something to react to. And again, it’s that consistency so that there’s a company way of doing things. And it’s a phenomenal teaching methodology for when you have new people come on board because they can follow the play, they can see the philosophy behind it, and they know exactly what their path to success looks like.

Consistent Delivery is the Best Customer Experience

Jeff Tomlin: Boy, I love the idea of playbooks, Ali, because when you’re thinking about scalable and repeatable processes and how important they are to have a scalable organization where you can bring people on and you can grow, how important are those to have in place? Boy, you are a world of knowledge, and I could talk forever on this topic with you, but if you’ve got one takeaway that you want to leave people with, what would that takeaway be today?

Ali Cudby: I think the takeaway is really to think about how to be consistent in delivering your customer experience. It’s not the sexiest takeaway in the world, but it is the thing that makes all the difference.

AlignMint Helps Retain Customers

Jeff Tomlin: Ali, I want to thank you very much for joining us in the Conquer Local Podcast. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. If people wanted to continue the conversation, and get ahold of you, how do they reach out to you?

Ali Cudby: Yeah, so you can find me at my website, which is alignmintforgrowth.com, and it’s spelled align, and then mint, like the plant, forgrowth.com. And there’s a whole reason about why, and we can talk about that another time. So alignmintforgrowth.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, either personally or under the company. And if you come to LinkedIn and find me, and I hope that you do, please let me know that you found me here on a podcast so that I know to accept your connection request. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting inundated with salesy stuff, which is a bummer. So just let me know and I would love to accept that connection request. And you can find my book, Keep Your Customers, wherever books are sold.

Jeff Tomlin: I love the name Alignmint for Growth, and I love the name of your book too, Keep Your Customers. Ali, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Thanks again so much for joining us on the podcast. I wish you the best.

Ali Cudby: Thank you, and likewise. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Jeff Tomlin: And hopefully we can do this again in the near future and you can check in with us.

Ali Cudby: Definitely.


Jeff Tomlin: I’m all over that cabin vibe that Ali had going on. I should have kept my plaid for this episode.

The first learning I got out of that talk is align your teams around the customer journey. A positive customer experience is critical for long-term success. Break down the customer journey and identify key touchpoints where different teams such as marketing, sales, and customer success can contribute.  Then ensure all teams are working together with a clear and shared message to deliver a seamless and positive experience for the customer all the way along their journey.

The second takeaway is to rethink the role of post-sales teams. Don’t view post-sales teams such as customer success as a cost centre.  They play a vital role in revenue generation through upsells, renewals, and building customer loyalty.  Empower them to “sell by serving” by leveraging their customer knowledge to have natural conversations about additional products or services that they can take advantage of.

If you’ve enjoyed Ali Cudby’s episode discussing Customer Centricity revisit some of the older episodes from the archives – check out Episode 705: Driving Business Success through Digital Evolution with Jen Swanson or Episode 640: Boosting Consultancy Success: Strategies for Navigating Today’s Business Dynamics with Chris Knudsen

Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin. Get out there and be awesome!

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