It’s often more cost effective doing business with existing customers than looking for new ones. Reigniting a business relationship with a lapsed or inactive customer might just require a phone call or email, whereas new accounts can take much longer to gain.

Every business, small or large, will lose customers over time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this can’t be prevented like when a customer has had a change in requirements or financial circumstances. But other times you will be able to take action for example, if they simply forget about your business or if they had a bad experience.

Analysis of inactive customer database

If you have a customer database or records of some sort then you will be able to find out exactly which customers have become inactive. Draw up a list of customers who you think are particularly good targets – perhaps they’ve bought from you on more than one occasion?

Before contacting lapsed customers, try to discover internally why they stopped buying from you in the first place. If possible speak to the account handler and examine their last purchases.

Targeting dormant customers

The next step is to approach your inactive customers:

Reintroduce your company by way of a letter, e-mail or direct mail (it is advisable to familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act before commencing your campaign)

Follow up with a telephone call giving the name of their new contact at your company

Re-kindle the relationship, and ask why they have not dealt with your company recently

The direct contact of a telephone call will be the most effective in discovering the reason for the lapsed business and redeveloping it. Plan the telephone call and make your questions succinct and relevant. Above all, listen to their answers and be prepared to take action on constructive criticism, responding quickly by informing them of the measures taken to rectify the situation.

Rebuilding relationships with customers

Plan a direct mail/telemarketing strategy which will provide sustainable and regular contact with them (but not overwhelm or annoy them)

Send them your new product list and consider giving them an introductory discount on their next purchase

Keep your company name in front of them as much as possible through newsletters, stickers, pens and e-mail messages

Plan ahead

Reactivating inactive customers takes time, so spread out your calls and aim to contact only a small number each week, giving you the time to develop the appropriate relationship with the customer.