Not every customer or client who stops doing business with your small business does so because of a bad experience. In fact, according to business consultant Jay Abraham in Reactivate Old Clients, “half of your inactive customers stopped for no good reason.” Customer attrition can be the result of a change or interruption in your customer’s life or business practices that had nothing to do with a lack of satisfaction with your offerings, Abraham says.
Since clients and customers stop doing business with you for any number of reasons, some even with the intention of reestablishing ties at some point; take the bull by the horns and get back in touch. Even if your outreach doesn’t result in business right away, by keeping in touch with inactive customers, you regain mind share and position your small business for potential opportunities down the road. Also feedback from inactive customers about your small business can be useful in future dealings with them as well as with other customers and prospects.
Before you reach out, do your homework to find out what the client or customer is up to these days. Go online and check social media sites to see what they have been posting or what is being said about them regarding expansion, partnerships, customer acquisitions and new offerings. (Google Alerts is a good way to get updates from news sources, websites and blogs about companies you want to track.) You want to be sure what you propose is appropriate at this point in time. You may find that management has changed. Your outreach to a former contact may be a request for an introduction to the new decision makers.
When you are ready to get back in touch with an inactive customer, you can send off an email or pick up the phone to re-establish contact. Here are some other ways to rekindle the relationship:
Pass on useful information: One way to get back in front of your inactive customers is to send them a news article, market report, or a link to a podcast or video your small business has created. Use the information as a way to suggest a meeting or call to talk about how your small business can help them during their time of change.
Send an update on a product or service: You can email or send a text with a brief note about a new business offering that you think would be of interest. Unlike a marketing e-mail or text message, make the communication more personal and/or directly related to changes at the company.
Extend an invite to an event: If you are holding an event or webinar for your small business, extend an invitation to your inactive customer or client. If you are going to be on an industry panel at a local business event, and you know the topic would be of interest, let them know. If there’s a fee for attendance, offer to provide a complimentary ticket.
Celebrate an occasion: Send a note acknowledging a birthday or a job anniversary. Also it’s easy nowadays to send e-cards on various holidays, such as July 4th or Thanksgiving, in addition to the New Year. Use the occasion to ask about setting up a time to talk or get together for a lunch or coffee to find out how things are going.
While there are a number of ways you can reach out to an inactive customer or client, the key is to take the step. If you had a great relationship before, there’s a good chance of rekindling it when the time is right.