This is the second marketing tip in a series based on
Marketing Tip 2 – Contact Your Old, Lost, Lapsed Customers
You need to see your old, lost and lapsed customers as a potential source of profitable opportunities (assuming that you didn’t part on really bad terms).
I talk about what is a customer in my article…
There are only three reasons why customers stop buying:
- They have out-grown your products or moved away out of your area.
- They had a disappointing experience and were upset with how you treated them. This opened the door for a competitor to sneak in. It may have looked like a price-based switch to you but deep down, poor service or a feeling that you didn’t care was probably the real cause.
- Something broke your former customer’s routine and they lost the habit of buying from you.
Lost Customers Who Have Deliberately Stopped Buying
This first kind of old customer may not be an obvious source for extra business but they could be a great source of referrals.
Remember, they were very happy with your service but they stopped buying because they no longer had a need for what you sell. That doesn’t stop them knowing other people who do want and need your services.
Marketing guru Jay Abraham has a concept called the moving parade. You have to recognise that people’s needs for products and services switch on and off over time. If you hear a customer stop buying or perhaps never start buying by saying “No I don’t need your services now”, remember they are not saying “No not ever”.
Suppose you sell telemarketing services to service professionals and one of your consultants stops buying for the simple reason that he has taken on a very big project. He doesn’t need any more leads so he stops buying telemarketing from you.
The big contract will come to an end in six months, one year or two years time and he will need more clients. At that stage the consultant has a choice – come back to you or look for someone new.
Don’t you think that he’s more likely to stay loyal if you have kept in contact and shown that you are interested in his well-being?
Lost Customers Who Have Been Dissatisfied With Your Service
The second reason people stop buying from you is because they are unhappy with your service.
This may be due to a misunderstanding, an unfortunate incident that was out of your control or you may not even recognise that you have fallen below their unspoken expectations.
You are unlikely to hear anything but you don’t want to let an unhappy customer stay an unhappy customer.
First they are likely to tell far too many people.
Unfortunately people are more likely to complain to friends and colleagues than to tell you that the problem exists and give you a chance to correct it.
This can make these dissatisfied customers very difficult to identify unless you keep a very close eye on who is buying and who has stopped. When you have identified that someone has stopped buying, contact them. Show them that you care enough to find out why.
There is a surprising benefit to having a customer with a service problem although I don’t recommend that you deliberately create issues for people to complain about.
When a customer has a service problem, you have the chance to show the quality of your guarantee and your commitment to excellent customer service.
Done well you can turn a problem into a major benefit that creates excellent goodwill with the customer.
To a prospective customer, your guarantee is a set of nice sounding words but, apart from providing some pre-purchase reassurance, they don’t mean much until you have to use them.
When something goes wrong and you try to take up the guarantee, you really find out what the company is like.
A problem solved can turn your customer into a raving fan and advocate. Your word and guarantee have been proven in practice. There is a good chance that you will get their business back and they may even recommend you widely to their circle of associates.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way.
By recognising any issues, apologising and offering to make amends the you can turn a bad situation into a neutral position where the customer is no longer badmouthing you to anyone who will listen.
In situations where you lost the business to a competitor when the customer thought your service was OK but not exceptional, you might find that there is little loyalty to the new supplier. Often promises are broken and the customer might want an excuse to come back to buying from you.
Lapsed Customers Who Get Out Of The Habit of Buying From You
These customers still have a want or need for your product or service and they don’t have an issue with over the quality of what they’ve been getting.
Something broke the habit of buying from you.
It might be illness or a family problem. Either they couldn’t buy or their priorities changed suddenly.
Perhaps they’ve moved house or job slightly or perhaps you relocated. Perhaps the council closed the car park they normally used. Your business isn’t as convenient. They no longer walk or drive past it.
You need to at least try to get them to buy again.
It’s flattering to receive a postcard that says something like “We haven’t seen you for 3 months and you’ve been missed. Here is a voucher worth 25% discount off your next purchase.”
Even better, a phone call might make the reconnection even more personal because you’re ringing to make sure that they don’t have a problem and need some help.
Ideally you need to get the lapsed customer back into the habit of buying from you before they develop much loyalty to their new supplier.
Selling To Old Customers
Most business owners focus on always chasing new customers that the opportunity of selling again to old customers is overlooked.
It can be a bit embarrassing if you’ve left it a long time to make contact and you might hear things that don’t sound good. In my opinion, however bad, it is better to know about any customer relationship problem because it gives you a chance to put it and stop the same thing happening with other customers.
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