It is not rocket science, but despite the logic of it costing significantly less in time and effort to retain a lead or customer, either with the potential of buying from you (if they haven’t already) or giving you more business through repeat buying, the majority of business do this very badly.

They buy and then gone… forever!

In this post we are focusing on that person who has bought from you before and we are assuming you have something else to sell, be it another holiday, another loan application, teeth whitening, an upgrade or new product or service.

Let’s tell it as it is…

If they don’t come back (and assuming they are still breathing), it is usually for one of three reasons:

  1. Your service or product sucked and you damaged the relationship on quality (sort this out!)
  2. You have not invested the time in nurturing the relationship, so you are NOT automatically the first person they would call when they want something you have to offer (so easy!)
  3. You have battered them into oblivion and they have run to the hills after your “buy, buy, buy”, message every time you communicate with them (DON’T.…simple!).

Here are our top 7 ways to make sure you optimise this revenue gold mine at a fraction of the acquisition cost of chasing a new lead.

1. Make sure you have any customers on a list that you can use to re-engage and retain.

The number 1 error in retail (or for that matter in most industries) is a failure to capture customer details properly to allow you to continue that relationship.

There are a multitude of methods, e.g. surveys, competitions, etc., to achieve this, at minimal cost and effort even for your “walk-in” customers… even if they don’t buy on that visit.

If you have a “book” of clients; are enquiries on there too or is it just the ones who have bought or taken up a service.

Finally of course they all need to be somewhere that makes communication easy. There are a plethora of software options that allow you to create a database that has all of the automation, one click and analytics way beyond the standard, low functional CRM that many businesses use. See Aweber, Mailchimp, etc.

And while we are at it, search those old excel sheets, receipts, webinar or event attendee lists or even scrappy bits of paper you have lying around, get them on your list too.

If you only have addresses or phone numbers rather than email, this is OK. It simply means your re-engagement will have to be through another medium (at which point you make sure you find a way to get fuller information).

Finally, make things easier for the future. Develop systems that will make it easy to collect data in the future.

2. Create a re-engagement series of communications that offer value NOT try to sell

The best way to do this is:

  1. Acknowledge that it has been some time.
  2. State: That this is NOT about buying again, rather it is about giving someone like them something valuable that may help if you have “x” problem or challenge.
  3. What it is (more later below).
  4. Why this would be of benefit to them.
  5. What other value you are going to offer in the future.

OK so the “What it is“ can be a number of things e.g.

  1. An eBook
  2. Free Video series
  3. A physical gift

Finally, if you have multiple products or services you should segment your ex-customers and consider the above for EACH segment. What may be of value to one group may not be to another.

3. Offer a physical gift

Think three key aims with this:

  1. It has to be perceived as valuable to your customer to make their world easier, better or safer.
  2. There should be some branding.
  3. It should have some “keepability” factor that means it is kept so there is a continual reminder of your business. If it doesn’t then it and you will be forgotten.

For more on ‘keepability’ see out previous post by clicking here.


4. Find out What Your past customers think…all you have to do is ask! 

The reality is simple:

  1. If people are to feel valued (state that it is!) then they feel their opinion is listened to.
  2. If people feel listened to, they are more likely to like you and feel you really care about their well-being rather than just to sell to them.
  3. If people like you, they are more likely to buy from you.

The solution…run a survey. Not a fluffy satisfaction survey but one that really asks the questions about what their problems are, and what they expect, want or need.

The ABSOLUTE key to this is closing the circle. If you ask for feedback from the group, give the group feedback from the survey results AND what you are going to do next to meet what the survey has told you.

There is nothing wrong with combining this with “2” above, i.e. offer your free gift as a reward for survey completion.

This can be online if you have email addresses or over the phone if you haven’t, or want to make that personal connection (resist the temptation to try to sell on this call if you do get on the phone unless of course they ask to buy).

5. If they do re-enage…Don’t overload from the get go

Bear in mind that perhaps your list may have never or very infrequently been used in the past after that initial sale or inquiry. Moving from that to an email a day is unlikely to do much but push them away again, even if your content is great.

Think beyond email too. Add videos, NO-SELL webinar sessions and ask them to connect across different social media channels. Consider setting up an interest “invite only” group in LinkedIn or Facebook, this sure has something to offer.

Pre-warn your newly engaged, potential repeat buyer, what to expect and stagger any acceleration in connection. e.g. start with an email fortnightly, then increase weekly or twice weekly later.

6. Make sure your communications remain relevant

Again, we go back to list segmentation. The advantages of this is that if you remain relevant then you are far less likely to be unsubscribed (if you continue to send things through which have no relevance) and much more likely to be read if you are perceived as someone who has something frequently of interest to them.

You will get an opportunity to segment effectively if you run a survey (providing of course you ask the right questions), and of course from any previous product or services they have bought.

Another tactic you can use is when you do send an email to multiple segmented lists, send a follow email to those who have opened it (again see email software to be able to do this).

7. Plan it all out

OK so it’s great to get started but once you are committing to optimising leads and customers to become repeat buyers, then having an on-going plan is crucial to keep you on track and of course it is more likely to happen if it is planned rather than simply an idea.

To summarise

The sad truth is that too many businesses we speak to are focusing the majority of their effort and money chasing new leads, rather than harvesting the potential of previous customers or those who have already connected with the business.

The simple steps mentioned above can have a huge influence on your business because as per the title, the relationship that you can build for a lifetime of repeated sales can exponentially increase revenue.

The opportunity is there for you to take now. Be sure your competitors will and if you don’t where do you think your cold ex-customers are more likely to go?

People will not stay with you unless you give them a reason to. It really is that simple.

Mike Smith

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