Businesses define “lost customers” in different ways. To some, these are customers or businesses that once purchased their goods or services, then stopped for any number of reasons (bad quality, inferior service, pricing issues, etc.). To others, the term refers to individuals or companies that, while no longer representing active sales, might be enticed to return under the right circumstances.
If your business adheres to the latter definition, this means you’ll willing to consider strategies to regain the trust of former customers. Fortunately, there are many ways to achieve this objective, and using marketing as a key resource might be the right tool for your business.
Here are tips on how to use marketing to re-engage with so-called “lost” customers:
Find out what went wrong. Knowing why a customer no longer buys your products or services is a good place to start. Assuming your database contains the email addresses and/or phone numbers of former customers, put together a brief email survey that includes something like the following:
- Please tell us in your own words why you chose to no longer do business with us.
- What can we do differently that would encourage you to take another look?
- Would you like to learn more about how our offerings have changed since you left?
Some ex-customers will be delighted that you reached out to them and will let you know in detail why they left. Others will be more reluctant to respond. That’s why it’s a good idea to offer all survey participants a compelling reason to answer—a free download of a recent white paper, for example, or a discount on their next purchase.
Invite them to guide your business. Many companies have customer advisory boards or councils that help with product development, entry into new markets, “partnering strategies, merger and acquisition targets, marketing initiatives, branding and messaging,” notes B2B consultant Eyal Danon. The goal of such councils, he adds, is to “capture these actionable business recommendations, prioritise them and act on those that make the most sense for the business.”
Why not invite a former customer to participate in your board or council? These individuals might be flattered by this invitation and enthusiastically agree to take part. They might also have valuable insights and suggestions to offer. And—because you reached out in the first place—they might regain your legions of loyal customers.
Highlight product upgrades—and special offers—in your marketing materials. Ex-customers who take part in your survey or otherwise show interest in your products should receive customised marketing materials in return. Take what you’ve learned from the survey and craft a new message that highlights how your product or service has changed (for the better, of course) and how the customer will benefit from these improvements. As noted earlier, think about a special promotion that includes a one-time discount, as a way of “welcoming back” these former customers. Any personalised touch will carry more weight than more generic marketing efforts.
Promote a new commitment to customer service. You may already boast an exemplary culture of customer service within your organisation. Or ex-customers may have “checked out” because they found your service lacking. In any case, when you reach out to these individuals, emphasise your commitment both to service and to communications. Promise to regularly solicit their feedback on the quality of your customer service but, more importantly, implement changes that demonstrate that commitment.
Better communications can stem the exodus of other customers. “By communicating effectively with customers you get the hints that there’s trouble with the customer relationship,” notes Yahoo! Small Business. “You can catch customer dissatisfaction and fix it before it leads to outright customer loss.”