8 Effective Ways Your Small Business Can Wow and Win Back Lost Customers

Your customers are your business’s most valuable resource.

And, though we wish we could hold onto every customer forever, the truth is that customers move on.

Some no longer need your service, others move to a competitor, or they are distracted by something else.

The constant media bombardment that goes hand in hand with our modern digital age makes it harder than ever to capture customers’ attention, let alone long-term loyalty.

In fact, businesses expect to lose customers. There’s even a term for measuring that loss – churn rate.

But, just because something is expected doesn’t mean that it’s good.

And, for obvious reasons, your business should aim to minimize the number of customers who disengage.

If you’re starting a business, this is particularly important. As you write your business plan, consider ways you can reduce churn.

Sometimes, it takes just a little effort to prevent customers from leaving when something goes wrong.

Don’t take my word for this. It’s 5-25 times less expensive¬†to maintain relationships with current customers than to acquire new customers.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop seeking new customers.

But, it does mean that you should evaluate how much time your business spends trying to get new customers vs. building stronger relationships with the ones it already has.

Or had.

This might seem obvious, but past customers were once active customers.

What if you could resurrect those customers who have “ghosted” your business? What if you could rebuild those relationships and reclaim that revenue?

You could grow your business and spend less doing so.

And, the truth is that you can re-engage with lost customers. But only if you put in the effort.

Here are 8 effective techniques you can use to revive customers your business lost.

Start by defining your disengaged customers

Before you can formulate a plan to re-engage customers, you need to know what a disengaged customer looks like.

To define what a disengaged customer looks like in your business, consider both customer activity and timeline.

What sort of activity does an active customer exhibit? Is it enough to open an e-letter? Or does the customer have to periodically make a purchase?

Define what behaviors your business considers active.

Next, ask how long it’s been since the customer last interacted with your business. Also, consider how frequently you expect an active customer to interact with your business.

Set a timeframe for an active customer. Any customer who falls outside of that timeframe should then be considered disengaged.

For instance, if I expect my customers to make a purchase roughly once every 3 months, and 6 months have gone by, and I haven’t heard from them… they’re now on my disengaged list.

It’s possible that your customers will fall into different groups (these are called “cohorts”). Let me illustrate with a few examples.

Crowdspring has helped tens of thousands of the world’s best entrepreneurs, small businesses, agencies, and big Brands with naming businesses and products and logo design, among other creative services.

Typically, a business will use the name and logo for a long time, so it would make little sense for us to consider clients that purchase naming or logo design services as lost customers after only 6 months. We put clients who post only a naming or logo project into one cohort.

On the other hand, crowdspring also has many clients who purchase other creative services.

Take packaging design or product design, for example.

Companies that create new products will often create successive new products, and each new product will need product packaging and package graphics. Some of our clients regularly create new products and packaging, and we do consider them “lost” if they don’t post another similar project within 6 months.

Therefore, we put clients who post mostly product packaging, product design, or package graphics projects into a different cohort from our naming and logo clients.

Keep a running disengaged or “ghost” customer list (or lists!) so that you can track your churn rate and know who to reach out to when you launch your re-engagement efforts.

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Offer an alternative

If a customer has gone silent – no purchases, no email opens, no anything – it’s probably safe to assume that whatever you’ve offered hasn’t quite hit the target for this customer.

So, offer an alternative.

But be strategic.

If you’ve already lost touch with a customer, you’re not going to endear yourself to them if you reach out with an offer that is equally off-base.

If your email subscriber has gone dead, consider offering a more limited form of contact that still offers valuable content.

This could mean a more streamlined email schedule or digest format, a subscription to your blog, an ebook download, or even simply asking them to follow you on Facebook instead of via email.

If a customer has stopped purchasing your products or using your service, consider offering an alternative product or service that might better meet their needs.

You won’t hit the mark with everyone – that’s an impossible goal. But, if you’re smart about assessing why you’re losing customers’ interest, you’re bound to find some success.

Request feedback

Not everyone responds to a break-up the same way.

Some folks go on a drinking binge, while others may watch a sappy rom-com or read self-help books.

But, everyone tends to wonder, “Why???”

“Why?” is a valuable question.

The answer to “Why?” can help guide you to a better relationship next time – or strengthen your business.

So, when a customer breaks up with your business, take the time to ask why.

There are a number of benefits to asking for feedback:

  1. Requesting feedback shows your customer that you actually care about where you went wrong with them.
  2. Asking for feedback shows that you are invested in doing better in the future.
  3. Collecting feedback gives you a pool of customer data that can help your business make wiser choices.

Showing your customers that you actually care about them and that you’re willing to learn and improve builds stronger customer relationships. And, stronger relationships pave the way for customers to return if they should ever need your product or service again.

Pro tips

Here are a few suggestions for executing a feedback campaign like a pro…

  • Make it easy to provide feedback by linking directly to a survey with a clear call-to-action.
  • Keep your survey short and direct.
  • Always provide an open field for participants to include any unique info that isn’t covered elsewhere.
  • Offer an incentive for completing the survey – a coupon or reward of some kind. This increases the odds that they will complete the survey and makes them feel good about having done it.

Reward customer loyalty

If you want to revive a relationship with a customer who has moved on, it helps to show them that their loyalty is not only appreciated but also valued through a reward.

Enter the loyalty program.

Marketing guru, Joanna Lord points out:

One of the best ways to engage a customer after they have cancelled is to give them another reason to engage with your brand other than their subscription or membership. Inviting them to join a loyalty program or to participate in a loyalty campaign gives them a new way to benefit from your brand.

Rewarding customers for their patronage increases the range of offerings¬†your business can provide its customers. You provide a fantastic product or service – that’s great! Now, you can also offer loyalty benefits as well.

Loyalty programs can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. This means that they can be scaled to work for nearly any business.

At the simple end of the spectrum is the humble punch card. (Ex. The 10th punch will get you coffee for free!)

You can also offer consistent loyalty discounts for frequent shoppers, a point system that earns buyers a discount over time,  freebies, or exclusive content and special offers.

There are so many options for how to execute a loyalty program! Just remember to make choices for your program that complement your business model and will provide real value to your customer.

Make it personal

The old saying goes, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

But, the truth is that if you want to build lasting relationships with customers, you have to make it personal.

Customers are more likely to invest in your business if you invest in them.

This isn’t just hearsay; it’s based on elementary principles of psychology.

In a previous article, 7 Marketing Psychology Tips to Improve Your Business Marketing, we discussed the law of reciprocity:

Reciprocity is the idea that we want to do nice things in return when people do nice things for us. Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, tells us that even the simplest gesture can trigger our desire to reciprocate.

In other words, investing the time and effort to show your customer you care about them personally increases the likelihood that they will invest time and effort in your business.

So how does this translate into actual practice?

Here are a few ideas you can implement:

  • Make sure to use your customer’s name – in email, text, or social media communication.
  • Observe your customer’s birthday (if you have reason to know it). You may want to offer them a free gift or a discount. But, at the very least, wish them a happy birthday!
  • If you interact with customers in person, show an interest in their life. Ask thoughtful questions and inquire about their family’s well-being.

Showing sincere personal interest in a client or customer who has ghosted your business gives them a powerful motivation to come back.

Share something new

When I go shopping with my husband, we rarely leave the store without a product we don’t need that’s labeled “NEW!”

This isn’t surprising since “new” has been found to be one of the most powerful words in marketing. In fact, if you google “powerful marketing words,” you’ll see “new” appear on nearly every list.

Our human brains are wired to identify things, put them in categories, and then pay less attention to them. Once something becomes familiar, it tends to fade into the background.

But, “NEW!” cuts through the white noise of familiarity and tells your brain to pay attention.

So, if you want to re-engage with a customer long gone, approach with something shiny and new to wake them up and build excitement.

This could be a new product, a new website, a new blog… Maybe even a new study, infographic, or e-book.

Just remember that while novelty might open the door, substance will encourage them to walk through it.

A new item that offers your disengaged customer real value is likely to entice them back. So, make sure that whatever new item you offer is actually relevant to your customer.

Offer a “win-back” incentive

One of the most tried and true methods for winning back a lost customer is the “win-back” incentive. Joanna Lord explains,

This involves sending your recently cancelled customer an email inviting them to try the product again at a discounted price or for another incentive.

And people love discounts.

So, this tactic may work… for a time.

If your customer left as a negotiating ploy for a lower price… Or simply got distracted and wandered off, the win-back incentive may be just the ticket to reeling them back in.

But, Lord also¬†reminds us that customers who re-engage due to a low price point are usually the least loyal customer group. And, it’s likely you’ll be saying goodbye again as soon as they’ve taken advantage of your discounted offer.

So, if your customer left because there was a larger issue at play, a win-back incentive may serve only as a final hurrah unless you remedy the initial problem.

While discounts and promotional offers can encourage customers to come back, you’re more likely to retain those customers if you pair your offer with another of the techniques we’ve discussed.

Get in some face time

Let’s face it – it’s harder to say “no” to someone in person than in an email or on a phone call.

So, create opportunities to spend real face time with your customers. You’ll find that this is the easiest way to create real connections with people. And your customers are, after all, people.

If it’s appropriate to your business, consider inviting lost clients or customers to lunch to catch up.

Or, host an exclusive customer event to thank your customers for their patronage.¬† You’ll also get to know them better and hopefully remind them why they wanted to do business with you in the first place.

Sales strategist and best-selling author Marc Wayshak recommends doing this twice a year – so you never lose touch with a customer for longer than 6 months at a time.

If you do choose to host a customer appreciation event, make sure to invite current active customers as well as those who have ghosted you.

You’ll strengthen bonds with the clients who have stuck by you. And, those happy customers are likely to act as ambassadors for your business as they interact with the more disengaged guests.

It’s a win/win.

Suscitat mortuos

Raising the “dead” is no small task.

But, if you arm yourself with information and a plan, you’re far more likely to succeed.

So, start creating your customer ghost list now.

And ask yourself which of these techniques your small business will employ to resurrect your lost customers:

  1. Define what customer disengagement looks like for your business.
  2. Offer a relevant alternative to entice ghost customers back into the loop.
  3. Request feedback from lost customers to show you care and learn from your missteps.
  4. Create a customer loyalty program to incentivize old customers to continue doing business with you.
  5. Strengthen relationships with past customers by showing personal interest.
  6. Capture ghost customers’ attention with a novel new product or service.
  7. Offer a win-back incentive to encourage lost customers to return.
  8. Interact with disengaged customers face to face to rebuild rapport and loyalty.

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