By: Angie Mansfield
It may sound a bit cliché, but the adage is still true: It's far cheaper to keep an existing client than it is to gain a new one.
Your past clients already know about your business, and they know what the purchasing experience is like with you, and generally you will have less customer education.
But how do you go about getting more sales from them?
Decide Who to Contact
Some of your previous customers may be better than others. Take the time to periodically (every month or every quarter) to go through your old client files and rate them according to how valuable their business is to you.
Your rating criteria could include how much business that client did with you, whether or not they paid promptly...and how big their PITB (Pain in the Behind) factor was.
A few of your old clients may need to remain in the past, but for those that brought you a lot of business and were easy to work with, you should plan to get back in touch.
Plan Your Contact Strategy
Once you've rated your old clients by value to your business, it's time to decide how you'll contact each one.
You may decide to go with email or direct mail for a few of them, but the ones you really want to bring back should receive a phone call. You may even visit some of your best former clients in person.
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Don't just treat former clients as prospects. Contact just to say "hello" and catch up with them will show them that you care about more than just their money.
By the same token, make sure that your direct mail and email campaigns are able to differentiate customers who've purchased from you several times, from those who have just made their first purchases. This is important so your older customers aren't still receiving first-time buyer discounts, and won't feel like just another client.
Fix Problems that Drove Them Away
Sometimes customers don't just drift away from you. A bad service experience (or a series of them) can drive them away -- or worse, prompt them to tell their friends and family to stop doing business with you.
If you've made a bad business blunder that sent customers running to your competition, it's time for some serious damage control.
First, you need to fix the problem that drove clients away in the first place.
If your customer service was bad, or you had a product that you had to recall due to a safety issue, your number one goal should be to fix the problem. Improve employee training, hire new staff, implement a new process. Just make sure the problem doesn't happen again.
Once you have fixed the problem, you need to get the word out that you have improved. Being open about past mistakes and what you have done to prevent them in the future can go a long way toward winning back unhappy clients.
Finally, find a way to identify former clients when they do try your product or service again, to make sure they get stellar service from you this time around. Follow up with them to make sure their experience was better and make sure they are happy with their purchase.
Winning back former clients and turning them into recurring customers takes some work and planning, but if you go about it the right way, the effort will be more than worth it.
About the Author: Freelance blogger Angie Mansfield covers a variety of subjects for small business owners. From business growth to marketing to ripoff report advice, her work will give you tips to keep your business running smoothly.