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How to Win Back Lost Customers

April 24th 2022

Most businesses focus the bulk of their marketing efforts on attracting new customers, when their resources would be better spent on trying to win back previous customers. That’s because you actually have a better chance of winning back a lost customer than you do of converting a new prospect. 

Research by Marketing Metrics found your odds of converting a prospect to a customer are 5-20%, while the odds of convincing a former customer to buy from you again are 20-40%. And, of those customers who are wooed back, their customer lifetime value doubles. That is, they can become among your most profitable buyers.

In many cases, the reason the customer stopped buying from you in the first place are factors you, as the business owner, can control and correct. Some of the biggest reasons customers become former customers are rude staff members, an unresolved problem, and uninformed staff members, says customer service strategist Adam Toporek

The good news is that all of those reasons can be addressed and corrected. That is, you have control, and you can turn things around.

So, how do you go about convincing customers to give your business another shot?

Ask why they left

Of course, the first step in winning back lost customers is finding out what drove them away. Unless you’ve been conducting regular market research, or have already inquired, it’s time to explore why customers are not returning.

You can do that in a number of ways, depending upon whether you have their contact information:

  • Pick up the phone and call or text them
  • Email them
  • Send out a survey by mail
  • Email out a survey link (SurveyMonkey is cheap and easy to use)
  • Conduct a poll on Facebook of local residents

You may hear that there was, in fact, a problem, such as that you never had their favorite product in stock, or your turnaround time was too slow. And you may also hear that your customers’ needs changed, such as if they bought a new car and didn’t need your dealership’s services, or decided to become a Silver Sister and gave up hair color. Ask around to see if there is anything you can do.

Give them a reason to come back

Even if you don’t know exactly why they haven’t bought from you lately, you can still send out an incentive of some kind to invite them back. There are a number of potential approaches, including:

  • Advertising an open house event to get people to stop by
  • Offering a discount or special promotion to the general public
  • Sending out direct mail coupons or offers to people on your mailing list
  • Emailing a special offer to your customer base

What, exactly, you offer is up to you, but make it substantial enough to be enticing to almost everyone. For example, if you own a restaurant, how about a buy-one-get-one-free meal deal? If you’re a consultant, how about a free 30-minute consultation?

Pursue publicity

Perhaps the reason some customers haven’t returned is that they simply haven’t thought about your business. If their need is only occasional, such as with website redesigns, interior painting projects, or professional photography, you may not be top-of-mind.

The solution, of course, is to change that. The most cost-effective way to raise your company’s visibility is through publicity. Some of the best ways to do this are:

  • To scour national publicity opportunities to see where you might be a source (Helpareporter and Qwoted are two free platforms)
  • To reach out to a local newspaper reporter with positive news about your company
  • To send out a tip sheet related to your business to relevant media
  • To offer to write an article for your local newspaper or magazine on a topic related to your business, but not about it

You can also hire a local public relations firm to help identify opportunities to get your company’s name in front of your target market.

Invest in a customer database

Once you’ve reconnected with past customers, even if they don’t buy from you again immediately, keep better track of your interactions and their purchases by leveraging technology. 

A simple customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you identify your best customers, as well as those who haven’t been in recently. That kind of information can help you proactively reach out and reconnect before a customer fades into the distance and onto another provider.

The fact is, if a customer had a need for your product or service at one point in the recent past, odds are good they still have that need. Your challenge is to convince them to let you try to meet their needs once again. If you’re successful, those customers are likely to become your most profitable and most loyal.

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