My spam folder is littered with emails from businesses I don’t currently patronize. Some of them—like my favorite nail salon in a town I no longer live in—have been replaced with new local spots, so any offer they send me goes ignored, no matter how attractive it is. (Unless it comes with a free plane ticket, of course.)
I’d gotten out of the habit of patronizing other businesses during the pandemic’s fluctuation, like my nearby yoga studio that’s now welcoming customers back with revamped safety protocols and class-package specials. And for other businesses still, a bad customer service experience—like repeated delivery errors from the local market that just can’t seem to get my order right—means I’m no longer interested in giving them a fourth, fifth, or sixth chance.
If you’re the owner of this salon, studio, or market, however, you might not know why I’ve filtered your emails to spam and stopped crossing your threshold or using your app—or whether my decision is just for now or forever.
A customer can go dormant for 3 main reasons:
Are you facing a roster of inactive or under-active clients or customers? Read more to learn how to bring some of these customers back into the fold, how to find out which customers probably aren’t worth pursuing, and when to say goodbye to others for good.
There are new customers out there—so why bother trying to win back your dormant ones? Put simply: they’re more valuable than new customers.
A study conducted by Marketing Metrics and analyzed by American Express found that small businesses have “a 60–70% chance of successfully selling again to a current customer, a 20–40% chance of winning back an ex-customer, and a 5–20% chance of turning a prospect into a customer.”
The best marketing strategy takes into account all 3 of these customer categories, of course, but the data shows that ex-customers are 2–4 times more likely to shop with you than a newbie. Make sure you’re not overlooking this key demographic with these 3 tips to entice them back to your doorstep or website.
The inactive customers at the center of your recruitment strategy should be those who still need your offerings, but may have forgotten what you offer.
To reach them, come up with a few different ways to put yourself back on a customer’s radar. These could include simple reach-outs via email (beware the spam folder, though!) or a social media campaign highlighting your latest and greatest promotions.
When my local yoga studio launched a targeted Instagram campaign advertising a BOGO class package for the summer, I jumped at the chance to return—and I’d never have known about it if they hadn’t proactively let me know what they were offering.
As a millennial woman, I grew up on Clinique skincare. Anyone my age who did the same knows all about their free-gift-with-purchase phenomenon, where a certain spend means a new makeup case and travel-size favorites to fill it with. It’s a promotion that exists across the beauty-product spectrum (I now take ample advantage of it at Sephora), and a strategy that you can leverage to recruit ex-customers back.
Send your dormant customers valuable content or a free product you can assume they’ll need because you haven’t seen them—like a treatment mask to clear their pores before they come in for a facial or a bonus box of printer paper for your B2B office client. For content, how about some free recipes that include your business’s homemade pasta or an exclusive how-to tutorial on repotting houseplants that would look beautiful in your home-goods store’s new planters?
Consumers love an insider opportunity—and especially if they’re free or low-cost for your business to offer, so should you. Let your inactive customers know that you have a special offering just for them, and you just might draw them back into your cohort of shoppers.
For example, if you’re a boutique vintage clothing store, you could offer your 6-month-dormant clients an exclusive spring trunk show. A bike shop could schedule an in-person maintenance workshop for folks dusting off their wheels for the new season—and who haven’t shopped for gear since last summer. For e-commerce sites, a WELCOMEBACK discount email code solely for customers who haven’t shopped with you in 2022 could entice them back to—and through— your checkout.
What about the other 2 groups of customers—those who either no longer need what you offer or who’ve had a bad experience with your business? The first step is figuring out which type of customer they are and proceeding accordingly.
Chris Cristoff at Forbes recommends utilizing a survey to get to the bottom of this issue. “You can easily find out why customers are leaving by sending an exit survey to email subscribers. When someone goes a specific period of time without completing an order, or cancels their membership, send a short survey with targeted questions. You could ask them what your company could do to get them to stay.”
This survey could include a few key questions, including:
Based on their response—or lack thereof—you can weed out the no-longer-interested (no reply) from the frustrated or satisfied, based on how they rate your services or products. For those who express interest in returning, it’s time to utilize the 3 strategies above.
For those customers who report a negative experience, it’s all about customer service. Thankfully, Lendio’s got a guide all about solving this tricky, nuanced problem. If it seems like a customer is still reachable, use every reasonable tool at your disposal to recruit them back to your business.
If not—like my ongoing market-delivery-fail—it’s time to let them go, address the issue at hand if relevant, and put your money and energy to work helping other customers.