How to Win Back Lost Customers and Keep Them

Incentives, campaigns and personalized solutions can help your business win back customers.
Meredith Wood
By Meredith Wood 
Edited by Christine Aebischer

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MORE LIKE THISSmall Business

A challenge for any small-business owner is not only attracting new clients, but also keeping their existing customer base engaged. Retaining customers is typically more cost-effective than finding new ones, and the bulk of most businesses' sales come from existing customers. It's inevitable that some customers will stop transacting with your business — known as churn — which is why a solid business marketing strategy will plan for how to win them back.

Not every customer can be won back, but data can help you determine where to invest your time and resources. Knowing which products or services each customer bought in the past, how often they transacted with your business, whether they had any issues or complaints and if or how they were resolved can all help you determine customer win-back opportunities. Leveraging marketing tools, such as customer relationship management software and email marketing software, can help you track and organize this data and create your win-back strategy. Here are some customer win-back ideas to consider.

Offer incentives

One of the most common ways for companies to win back customers is through special offers that motivate them to return. The goal is to make the customer feel like they’re getting too good of a deal to turn down.

One way to do this is to offer them a discount for a future purchase, or a reduced rate on their subscription. Another option is to offer your customers a free upgrade to a higher package or higher-end product or service.

Similar to upgrades, bundling is another type of incentive a business could offer. This adds additional services or products for the price of what they were paying before.

When using an incentive to win back customers, leverage time sensitivity, exclusivity and personalization to make the offer even more compelling. Customers are more likely to take you up on an offer if it’s only for a limited time and only for them. You can use personalization to offer them what they’ll enjoy most based on customer data, or time your offer around something like their birthday.

Launch a campaign

If you’ve received significant customer feedback around a common theme, and decide to make a company-wide change based on that feedback, you may benefit from a win-back PR campaign. Examples of changes that may qualify for a broader campaign are formula or recipe changes, a change in sourcing materials or a complete overhaul of your pricing structure. You can then reach out to previous customers — whether through email, text marketing, phone calls or ads — to communicate these updates and encourage their return business.

Remind them of your benefits

For users who haven’t purchased or engaged with your business in a while, sometimes a reminder about what your business has to offer is all that's needed to spur them to action. Maybe it’s your commitment to fair trade practices, or your always-free one-day shipping, but listing out what the customer stands to gain can be helpful in winning them back.

You can also use this strategy to update inactive customers on new benefits. Are you launching a new, more convenient app-based shopping experience? Perfect time to let those old customers know you have something new to offer.

Get personal

Some situations need a highly personal touch. For companies that work closely with clients, sending a generic discount email likely won't be enough to win back their business. Instead, figure out exactly what made them leave. Have an open conversation where you ask for their honest feedback — if they haven’t already given it to you — and then listen for both what they’re upset about and the root of the problem. Next, personally deal with it. Customizing a solution for them will help them continue to feel confident in your services.

Know when to break it off

If you’ve employed several customer win-back strategies to no avail, it may be time to let some customers go. It may seem harmless to leave them on email lists, for example, but their lack of engagement can wind up hurting your business.

Maintaining a high open and click-through rate will help you avoid being picked up by spam filters and make sure your messages are going to the people who do want to read them. Plus, it’s easier to manage and segment your contact list the smaller it is.

A version of this article originally appeared on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.