The Lazarus Effect: Bringing Old Customers Back to Life

by Mark Henricks

Most business owners know that marketing efforts should focus on existing customers, because those are the people most likely to buy again. Not as many realize that the next-best prospects are former customers who made at least one purchase, but haven't returned in a while. Like the biblical character of Lazarus, who reawakens four days after dying, these lapsed customers can be revived to become active buyers once again.

Dave Kerpen, CEO of New York City-based social media marketing software company Likeable Local, is one of those who appreciates the Lazarus-like way ex-customers can return to life — and knows how to help make it happen.

Provide Value

“Former customers are among your best future customers," says Kerpen. To begin with, he says, they already know your business and your offerings. Another important reason is you know more about them and their needs than brand-new prospects. That lets you tailor a marketing message that provides real value.

Offering valuable information like how-to tips, inspirational messages or even just entertainment is critical for marketing messages in social media, email or traditional media such as direct mail.

“You want to always lead with valuable content," Kerpen says. “Don't send anything to anyone if you can't answer affirmatively to the question: Is this providing value to the end recipient?"

Invite Them Back

Once you've gotten their attention with a value-packed message, consider asking: Why haven't you patronized us lately? If there's a problem, you want to know about it so it can be fixed. If there's not a problem, a gentle nudge may be enough to generate a new order.

Next, you may want to remind them why they liked you before. Note that you haven't heard from them in a while, and suggest that your offerings remain attractive. All that's missing is their return.

Offer Them an Incentive to Return

Finally, offer a deal. A freebie, discount or other special offer extended to former or inactive customers is often just what they need to get back into your active file. However, it doesn't have to be an offer that costs you revenue. You could instead notify them about a new or upcoming product or service you think would address their needs. This is especially appropriate if the new offering might remedy whatever caused them to stop patronizing you.

That has been Kerpen's recent experience. At one point, he lost a number of customers who needed more customizable features than they could get from Likeable Local's original social media marketing software. So when Kerpen came out recently with Likeable Pro, which offers more customization, that was reason to contact former clients with a value-oriented message and include information about the new release.

“We emailed all our old customers and gave them some interesting data about Facebook's changes, and reminded them that we've just launched Likeable Pro for those that want more than our previous product provided," Kerpen says. “We've already turned a couple of those into current customers — at twice the revenue, by the way."

Not every former customer can become a Lazarus, coming back to life as an active buyer after disappearing for a while. But it's often easier to craft an effective appeal to a customer you already know. And because they already know you as well, chances are if they do return to the fold, they'll be ready to buy as much as before, if not more.

About This Author

Mark Henricks

Mark Henricks is a freelance journalist covering business, entrepreneurship, technology, personal finance, health and fitness  for leading publications.


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