“Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Harvard Business Review
The above quote, from Harvard Business Review, is a great incentive to work on your customer retention strategies. But what happens when you’ve already lost them?
Never fear, that list of lapsed customers offers a great opportunity. Having bought from you once, you can assume they still need your products or services. So that makes them a pretty well-qualified bunch of leads, doesn’t it? You just need to convince them to give you another chance!
Step 1: Identify those lapsed customers.
When you’re looking to win back lapsed customers, you’ve got to find them first.
When you’re planning a strategy of contacting old customers, your approach will depend on the type of service you offer.
If customers are tied in to a contract or monthly payments, you can identify them easily at the point they cancel and may wish to contact them then.
Whereas if customers tend to make regular one-off purchases you will need to decide what length of time should pass before you treat them as ‘lost’.
Once you’ve determined reasonable timescales, your CRM or sales management system should be able to assist you in running reports to establish which customers your teams should contact.
Don’t forget, prioritizing higher value customers should give you a better return.
Step 2: Ask why they left.
When you’re looking at how to win back old customers one of the most important things is to understand why they left in the first place.
And how can you know that? Ask them! They probably won’t even tell you the reason unless you ask.
Research by the Direct Selling Educational Foundation showed that for every customer who bothers to complain about something there are 26 that won’t. That’s potentially 26 lapsed customers for whom you have no idea of why they went.
Contacting old customers and asking this important question can result in two outcomes (both of which are positive):
- You can address these customers’ problems and encourage them to come back to you.
- You can make sure the same problem doesn’t impact other customers in the future.
Step 3: Winning back lost customers.
So, you’ve established who they are, and you understand what went wrong.
Now we’ll look at how to win back old customers:
Advertise what’s changed
If you’ve made process or product changes as a result of the feedback you received in step two, make sure you let people know. Make it clear on your website and share articles via your email newsletter or blog.
Send a re-engagement email
Win back lapsed customers with a simple email.
Something along the lines of, “we’ve noticed we haven’t seen you for a while…Here’s a little incentive to tempt you back”.
Offering a discount on their next order can sometimes be all it takes to turn a lapsed customer back into an active buyer. Setting up an automated email to send to buyers who you’ve not seen for a period of time can be appropriate to bring back customers to many types of businesses.
Will face-to-face contact win back lapsed customers?
If your product or service is high value, it may be worth investing in personal visits when you’re looking at how to get old customers back.
By apologizing for any issues and working together to find a resolution you may well be able to bring back customers into the fold. Or at the very least you can repair the relationship and limit any negative reviews you might receive.
Stick around for the long haul
Sometimes contacting old customers is not enough.
Maybe they’re not actually in a position to buy, and this is the time for a great content marketing strategy.
Get yourself in their inbox regularly, adding value with useful, relevant content, and when they are ready to buy, you’ll be front of mind having already built up a good relationship.
Bring back customers with regular reminders
If yours is a product that needs replenishing frequently, why not send out reminders within a reasonable time frame after purchase?
Making it easier (and quicker!) for customers to re-buy from you, rather than defecting to a competitor, maybe all that’s needed when it comes to winning back lost customers.
Remember, when you’re looking to increase the number of customers on your books, go back and have a look at the ones you haven’t seen for a while. The question of how to win back lost customers is a lot more cost-effective than the one of where to find new ones.
Do you need help to identify lapsed customers? By using sales-i’s powerful software you’ll be able to track them down in no time.