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June 22, 2009 / jasonpinto

The Ex-Lover Pile

When I was a teenager, I had a friend who (ahem) had a tough time letting go of old relationships. He would move on from them – but for whatever reason, he held on to every remaining evidence of his old flings. He had shoeboxes filled with letters, pictures, and gifts.

In today’s economy, lord knows that we all have our share of former customers. Companies are certainly looking to cut expenses – unfortunately, that sometimes means they can no longer afford our product or service. There are also other reasons why a customer might leave us.

Well, how do we treat those people when it comes to our marketing efforts?

Do we get a thrill from removing them from our list?

If so, we may be throwing a very valuable opportunity out the window. I’m sure we all agree that customer retention is very important. Why? Well, primarily because it’s cheaper to keep a customer than it is to find a new one.

Well, I believe that it’s cheaper to win a former customer back rather than finding a new one.

Rather than removing these people from your marketing list, I think you should instead move them to a different list. They need to be treated a bit differently, but they should still receive information from you (unless they opt out, of course).

When it comes to marketing to a former customer, you need to consider the details of the “break-up”. 

Did they leave because of financial reasons? Well, send them material on how your new enhancements can save them money, or increase revenue. 

Did they leave because of a poor experience with your company? If so, then market your company in a very positive light. Highlight testimonials related to success you’ve had with other customers. But don’t be afraid to address the areas that they thought were lacking. Perhaps you need to mention that your product is easier to use than ever before. Or you now have an enhanced customer support system.

Did the competition steal them away? You may not always know this. A customer may not tell you that they are leaving you for another product or service. But, you may find out in some cases.  If you do, I don’t think that you should send them a letter that points out all the flaws in your competition. But, use the knowledge you have  about your competitor to highlight the features and benefits you can offer, that you just know your competition just doesn’t have.

Of course, there is a time and place to truly get rid of the materials in the show-box labeled “Ex’es”. But don’t rush that time. Do not delete the person from your records the moment they cancel their account with you. You may want to – you might feel bitter at that moment, and the Delete key could offer some temporary satisfaction.

In the long run, you will have the opportunity to win some of your customers back. When they’re ready to jump, will they remember you?

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