New Business from Old Clients

As hard as companies work to solicit and serve customers, it's surprising how little most businesses do to stay in touch with those they once served so well. Many seem to have the attitude that once a job is done, it's done; once a product is sold, it's sold, and the relationship with the customer is over.

That's short-term thinking. Former customers are the best source for future sales, even in businesses where customers make purchases only every few years. Satisfied customers talk to others, so they're an important referral source. It costs 2 to 40 times as much to acquire a customer as it does to keep one. So once you've got one, don't lose them.

It's best if you develop an ongoing customer communication program. But don't wait for that if you need money in the cash register now.

To get started on a contact program:

  • Make a list. Take a few hours to compile a list of all former customers or clients -- go back at least five years. But don't stop there. Add anyone who has been -- or might be -- a source of referrals: industry colleagues, suppliers, friends, even some relatives.
  • Select contact methods. Phone calls are a simple, personal, and effective way to touch base, and it's harder for someone to ignore your phone call than it is an email or a letter. Of course, calling takes time, so you may want to limit that to only your most likely prospects. E-mail can also be effective if you make your email personal rather than seeming like spam. The key is to be as personal as possible.
  • Figure out what to say. You don't need a specific reason to contact a former customer. You can tell them the truth, "it's been a while since we've talked, and I'm just touching base. I wanted to see how you've been and if there's anything I can do for you." You'll probably get more sales, however, if you make a specific offer, especially with a significant discount. One caution: if you haven't been in contact with someone for a long time, find out what's going on with them before making a sales pitch; their situation may have changed considerably. With referral sources and other contacts, tell them you're touching base to see how they're doing and to see if they know of anyone who might need your products or services.
  • Determine how ambitious you want to be. Two Web site designers each wanted to generate some new business and decided to get in touch with old contacts. Jennifer phoned one former client. Mark sent out a mass e-mail to over 8,000 names, and got some angry anti-spam responses as well as a few inquiries. I suspect you'll find a happy medium between these two extremes.

From: RhondaWorks | April 2002 By: Rhonda Abrams

Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Organizer, Wear Clean Underwear, and The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies.


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