Deciding if you should market to past clients is a challenge. There are many factors that go into the decision, yet with some confidence we can continue to market to them.
Why Market to Past Clients?
The why of this is pretty simple it’s the same reason you would market to any client: there is a need, and they can use your services to fill that need.
In the case of past clients, you have to explore a deeper understanding of if your services will truly fit, because one of the main factors in professional services is trust. If you’ve lost trust with your client, it might be a difficult journey to restore that trust.
Yet past clients have a unique perspective on your business and services. You have an ability to target your marketing very clearly, and get direct in conversations dealing with issues, challenges, or enhancements that might reflect how your products have changed. This might be welcome news to a past client.
This also includes clients that don’t always buy your services, so you might have a huge lag between purchases. If the gap in purchases is simply a lag, I would not consider them a past client, but a client. This article is focused most on clients who have made a decision to move on for one reason or another.
When Can You Market To Past Clients?
The first question you need to ask yourself is: how did it end?
The answer to this question will determine if you should market to the client. In these situations, there are usually three reasons that client relationships end:
- You might have ended the relationship, and in that case, you should not market to them, because you’ve stated that you are no longer interest in working with them.
- They ended, and it was your fault. Was it a failure of quality, relationship, or something that caused a rift and basically lost trust between your company and the client? In these cases, it’s possible to restore that relationship, but it will require time. We all need forgiveness, but some people process forgiveness in different ways, and that takes time.
- They ended, and it was them. If it was a break in service because of budget, fit, or some reason other than a failure on your part, then you have an open window to offer your services and continue to market to this client.
How To Market To Past Clients
Marketing to past clients requires sensitivity. The number one thing you have to embrace is that there is hurt or disappointment in the relationship, and you have to tread lightly.
Because of this reason, we do not recommend that you use a traditional approach to marketing automation, or an impersonal mode of communication in your initial messages. Email personalization is key to the messaging required for dealing with these sensitive issues.
The goal here is to restore the listening ears of the client to your messaging. In a situation of disappointment or difficulty, the first reaction is to want to create distance from the offender and offended. The goal of any initial campaign is to restore a listening ear to your messages.
A Good Message Sequence for a past Client If It’s Your Fault
- The first message is a message of acknowledgment. This is where you have to acknowledge your mistakes, issues, or oversights in the relationship. It should be very personalized. This might have been done, but it should come from someone with authority in the company. The simple message is to say what you’ve done, apologize, and talk about what has happened to fix the issue going forward.
- The second message can be a bit more marketing focused, and can even be a blog post, but it should be very specific to the needs of the client. At this point, they are still looking to create distance, and if they have not unsubscribed to your emails, they will soon. So keeping the message very relevant is important.
- Third, you’ll want to follow up again with a personal message that includes another small acknowledgement, but focuses on “being there” for them in the future if they need you. This can be simple and direct, just establishing that they are open to the idea of you being there and that you continue to pursue them. Stay humble and be in a position of service.
A quick note. There might be a feeling of wanting to offer a discount or free service to “win” them back. Equate this to the boyfriend who brings flowers after he was dumped. It’s a lost battle. The key is to regroup and stand firm on your value. Discounting or other tactics such as these show desperation and should be avoided. If you are going to have to fire staff, or take action that will have a larger impact to your business, you’re likely having this conversation in person, not over email.
Lastly, you can start including them in your existing marketing drip or a newsletter campaign that contains your best thought leadership. Once they have reached this point they are receptive, and that is the goal. Once a past client becomes receptive, the campaign has run its course and hit its goal.
Winning Back Past Clients
The path to winning back clients is a long and focused one, so do not take it lightly. It involves real concern and care for your relationship, and it mandates that you own the mistakes in the journey. It will involve some selfless moments, require lots of humility, and take plenty of patience. But if you want to market to past clients, it can be done. And it’s worthwhile.
If you are interested in having a deeper conversation around this marketing approach, or any other marketing challenge that your company faces, we have a free marketing consultation that allows you to speak with one of our strategists for free. No risk to you, only reward.