How do you win back a former client?

How do you win back a former client?

If you ask a direct marketer, a cataloger for instance, the answer would come back pretty quickly: “Tell them you want them back.

That’s not exactly a novel approach, but in the right hands, it can work. Think about some of the times you’ve been a major customer for one business or another and for some reason simply stopped buying from them.

How many even knew you’d left? And, if any did, how many wrote or called to tell you they want you back?

This may sound obvious but before you can win back former clients, you have to know they’re former clients. You would be amazed at how many companies don’t know or don’t care. Why not?

Usually it’s because companies are in permanent acquisition mode, as in acquisition of new customers. That’s the glamor end of marketing. The issues that get ignored are time and cost:

New customer acquisition: Lots of time & high cost.

Win back a former client: Much less time & much lower cost.

Under normal circumstances, trying to get lapsed customers to return to the fold is a no-brainer. It’s low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked and all you have to do is … pick it.

These are people who already know you (and, just as important, you already know them). They’ve already bought insurance from you. Now it’s up to you to begin the relationship all over again.

An internationally known expert on the subject, Andrea Nierenberg has written many books and spoken at conferences all over the world about building relationships. In her “Million Dollar Networking”, she stressed “Continue to talk to them (lapsed clients), with short messages over time: direct mail, invitations to interesting (and useful) information on your website, emails, etc. Court them again!

You might also ask former clients why they stopped doing business with you. It can’t hurt to ask them to fill out a survey or to explain their decision in a short paragraph. You’ll then reward them a worthwhile gift. Believe it or not, this works, especially if your letters and emails read as if they’d come from a human being as opposed to a faceless corporation.

Here are a few tips on bringing your lost clients back into the fold:

  1. Try to stay in touch with all of your clients all year long, then watch your (customer file) database for defectors. When you spot one, act fast.
  2. In the case of specialty insurance, mention the benefits of it again. For instance, cyber insurance is vital but still new so consider sending those clients a roundup of cyber theft disasters.
  3. Unless it’s from “corporate”, a personal letter from you should appear to come from an actual person. Your signature should be in blue ink and, ideally, just above a handwritten P.S.
  4. If you’re emailing, make the subject line interesting, and include their name in it, if possible. It will be noticed and opened.
  5. A phone call is always the best way to open a conversation, and these days we rarely receive them from our trusted vendors. So call everyone up one morning, one at a time of course, and find out how they’re doing and if they’re interested in another product they might need.
  6. Remember holidays, send cards and birthday wishes to people. So few businesses do that today, you’ll be remembered for this nice gesture.
  7. Send a gift, a nice pen, a personalized memo pad, or something bulky in an envelope. A gift is always remembered and don’t use your logo on it, just have a note enclosed.

The most important aspect of all this is that acquiring new clients is an expensive and time-consuming process. Bringing lost clients back is not.

Good luck.

P.S. Try new things, simple things: send cards and letters with live stamps. Invite people to local luncheons or conferences for small business owners. Etc. etc.

What’s really crucial to the future of small business?

What’s really crucial to the future of small business?

Jim Blasingame knows. He talks about it every day on his radio show which is dedicated to Small Business.

And he knows what he’s talking about, partly because he interviews, or just chats with, all kinds of successful entrepreneurs. I know Jim quite well because I’ve enjoyed being a guest on his show many times.

That’s why I was excited to get his new book The Age of the Customer. The subhead Prepare for the moment of relevance is a great 6-word summary of the book. I plan on rereading it more slowly this weekend.


My first reading was a little hurried. When I got the book, first thing I did was scan the table of contents, flip to page 197 “Blasingame’s Laws” and read the laws.

Along the way to page 197, I noticed dozens and dozens of little shadow boxes embedded in the text. They all had the same headline: “THIS WILL BE ON THE TEST” followed by short gems of wisdom, such as The definition of home has changed, and One of the most effective sales behaviors is as old as selling: the Call Back.

The whole book is about something you already know. Selling has changed. The seller was once in charge of information, now the buyer is.

It’s The Age of the Customer.

So What?

That’s actually a normal reaction. I think Ron Johnson must have said something like that as he was driving J.C. Penney into the ground. So what?

Jim Blasingame tells you so what. He also tells you why and how. He might tell you things you don’t want to know, such as you need a mobile app. But once you read the why, you’ll get a mobile app.

Don’t understand why you need to be relevant? Oh, you will and you’ll catch up in a hurry.

The Age of the Customer is clearly a work in progress. Jim doesn’t have the final word here (nobody does) but he does have the latest word and, more important, he has the relevance (make sure you read that chapter twice). If you run a small business, he has the relevance you need right now. Trust me on this.

The shaded boxes made everything he wrote about come alive for me, because I’ve been in similar predicaments. There’s one case where a woman has checked into a hotel, and had forgotten to make a reservation at a restaurant for her to meet with her clients the following day. It was late at night and she took out her laptop, and found her favorite restaurant had a listing, but no website, the second restaurant had a website with a phone number, but it was after hours…so no good to her. The third one had a website and she could book a reservation for the next day, which she did.

The Age of the Customer drives home the importance of all the things you need to make the customer happy in today’s marketplace.

There are just over 200 pages in The Age of the Customer and 26 chapters plus 8 other sections such as laws, index, and an interesting foreword from Steve Forbes, Chairman of Forbes Media.

I’m already waiting for the next edition. Most of the chapters will grow over time.

This is a book for the ages, and hopefully it will give you some great pointers on how to bring your business into today’s world!

Good luck and let me know how it’s working for you.

 

A Business Decision: To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

A Business Decision: To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

Twitter’s not for everybody and certainly not for every business. For one thing it takes patience.

Quickly, what is Twitter? It’s a surprisingly powerful microblogging site, a free service you have to register to use, that allows you to send out short messages (tweets). Theoretically, tweets have to be 140 characters or fewer but there are ways around that. Attachment links, for example, can lead to an encyclopedia or a movie and anything in between.

It’s easy to use the basic service but using it well can be tricky. You have to know what you’re doing. I suggest that you read a book like Twitter for Dummies even if you’ve been tweeting for a while.

People hear about you in different ways and your audience of followers grows, slowly at first. I have about 22,000 followers personally but it’s taken me years. Oddly, I unfollow a lot of people and that keeps my numbers down because good form in Twitter is to “follow back”. I’ll put up with losing followers because, to me, Quality trumps Quantity.Something like 555,000,000 people around the world, 140,000,000 in the US, are registered Twitter users. About half of them are active or semi-active. You don’t have access to individuals in this vast unless they choose to “follow” you.

Audience quality is crucial in business tweeting

At the office, we tweet for several clients and the issue is never quantity, although some clients think it is. One of our Twitter clients is a large international hotel chain. We have about 5,000 followers for them but every one is a client or a potential client. Quality.

The benefits can surprise you. For example, a guest was mad about something in a Arizona hotel and tweeted about it. We saw the complaint and called the hotel to tell them and, ta da, complaint resolved.

American Airlines understands this instinctively. I’d been one of their frequent fliers for ages and then ran into a hideous situation in Chicago. I tweeted about it, and in no time, AA called and made the problem go away. Now I’m happy with them again.

Generally, Twitter develops business. Using the hotel example, we tweet about special events, special offers, news like a restaurant opening, new experiences at the hotel spas around the world. Almost as important are the links to more information, advice, and so on. It’s simple, fast, lovely and very inexpensive.

Our mission might be to develop business (new business and retention and growth of current business), but our strategy is relationships – generating real life friendships with the people who matter most.

I’ve done that personally and it really surprised me.

Several years ago I wrote in my Joy of Direct Marketing Blog about a Twitter friend from up north who let me know he going to be passing through Fort Lauderdale and could we have lunch? Sure! It was delightful to meet @theflaggagency in person: I Tweet Therefore I Am

I once had a problem with my Comcast connection at home. I tweeted about it and quickly heard from the great and wonderful @FrankEliason , then head of social media for Comcast. He got the problem fixed pronto and I raved about him.

Then he went to Citigroup. A few months later, I ran a one day seminar for Citigroup’s marketing people in Queens, so I emailed Frank, and we met in person. Here we are. Can you tell I was delighted?

Just off the top of my head, great friends I met on Twitter include @tlmaurer (she’s in decorating), @PaulBobnak in Pennsylvania (runs Who’s Mailing What), @relevance, the Twitter handle of the great Ted Vinzani of Milwaukee and New Jersey’s @ErnieSchell who drove to the Philadelphia Airport for lunch one day while I was waiting for a flight home. Here we are together.

The people I mention here are all business tweeters, but they’ve all become friends. How do you make that happen?

  • The same way you do in life. You make a connection to something they’re saying, or where they are from, or what they do.
  • You give them something of interest (an article) or an idea to show you’re paying attention to their tweets.
  • If they say something good, you retweet it (it is a compliment).
  • If they Retweet something you said, you thank them.

Be a human, be informative, helpful, funny, personable, humble. You’ll have champions of your business for life. Quality. Let me know how Twitter’s working for you, or comment below. Click here for my FREE Twitter Tips. Good luck!

My Mailbox Is Crammed With Catalogs!

My Mailbox Is Crammed With Catalogs!

How can this be? Everyone says direct mail is finished.

The stack you see here is just two days’ worth and it’s just catalogs. There’s almost as much classic direct mail and postcards.

Is it the season? Maybe, a bit, but it’s been going on all year. And it’s not as if I don’t shop online. I do and when the merchandise arrives, there’s almost always a printed catalog along with it.

Catalogs cost money, a lot of money. Are these companies insane? I doubt it very much.

As you can see, I tend to let catalogs reach a sort of critical mass before I pay much attention to them. Then I arrange them in piles:
Pile One is my favorites. I’m pretty sure they’ll have something I want to buy for someone.
Pile Two
is catalogs I don’t know really well, or at all, but they look potentially interesting. Pile Three is usually doomed to recycling, most often because I’m not even in the target audience and, at this time of year, neither is anyone I buy gifts for.

This year, one catalog caught my eye
It’s called Solutions. Its tagline reads, “products that make life easier”. Well, I’m all for that, so I opened it and saw these cork people.
Not sure how they make life easier but Emilian (who works with us) thinks they’re “quite quirky these corkers.” Check them out:

My favorite is always Hammacher Schlemmer’s catalog
I just love the covers even though I usually have no idea what the product is. In this case, it looked like a toy Batmobile but it’s not. It’s the real thing, the authentic 1966 (Adam West TV Show) model and it can be yours for a mere
$200,000.00.

Hammacher Schlemmer always has something I really want in its catalog. This year I am hoping someone will give me The Neck Firming Stimulator. It is $149.95 and I hope it works!

Part of the fun of catalogs is the thousands of products you’d never ever see in a store. And if you’re in the business, it’s a kick reading the great copy. I do wonder why more of these companies don’t make a great offer on the cover. We know that works.

Jackson & Perkins offers lovely holiday plants and trees in their catalog and I often buy things from them for our clients. Their cover offer this year is “50 Gifts Under $50.Inside on the Order Form is a list of everyone I bought a J&P gift for last year along with the copy I included on the gift cards. Quick and easy. Great idea!
• The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store catalog cover has one small box with their offer: 10% OFF your purchase. It’s okay, but not compelling unless you love their items, which I do!
• Spanx Catalog has an offer in tiny print: Free Shipping and Returns. I guess that works for them, because they must get a lot of returns.

So, as I look through the dozens of catalogs I get, I think that:
1. Catalogs are great when they’re targeted correctly. If I haven’t ordered anything in a few years, it might be a good idea to write, even email, asking if I want to stop getting your catalogs.
2. The Cover might be the perfect spot to highlight your Offer which can get people inside browsing your pages and to open it, and encourage them to buy.
3. If a lot of catalogs have the same offer you do, maybe you can work on a new and better offer.
4. Test multiple purchases. If you buy three items from this catalog, you can get [whatever] FREE.
5. Speaking of FREE, I didn’t see it anywhere, but we know that it works. It can be a Free calendar with purchase, a Free gift, Buy One, Get One Free.
6. Test the inside front cover for your one to one letter to your prospects or customers. Over the years, we’ve always seen it lift response.

Let me know about your favorite catalog too, and please write in the Comments section below. Thank you!

A Busman’s Holiday, Yay!

A Busman’s Holiday, Yay!

When I was little and we went on a vacation to Florida, my Mom called the trip a Busman’s Holiday.

I asked what that meant and she said it’s “ … like a bus driver who goes on a bus tour for his vacation.” I laughed. Florida was that kind of holiday for us, because we lived in Long Beach, Long Island, right near the ocean too. I think Mom would have preferred a cruise or maybe Paris.

Busman’s Holiday popped into my mind this week as I signed up, and paid!, to attend a conference in New York City. In a way it’s both a holiday and sort of a homecoming because I was brought up in New York and lived there until I moved to south Florida 9 years ago.

And it’s a Busman’s Holiday , because when I go to conferences it’s usually to speak. I’ve done that several hundred times and I think this is the first time I’ve ever gone to a conference just to listen.

The conference is sponsored by BtoB Magazine and called Digital Edge Live. Apparently it was a big hit in San Francisco and now it’s coming to the 7th Avenue Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan on October 23rd.

I’m looking forward to just sitting in the audience and learning.

I decided to tweet over to the speakers: Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) and Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) and Rishi Dave (@RishiPDave) to tell them I was coming up to hear them speak. My friend Andrea Nierenberg (@ANierenberg) will go with me and we’re both hoping to pick up one great idea, Andrea for her publishing and speaking and I for the exciting launch of DearDaisyMae.com.

That’s a website for my Maltese/Poodle, Daisy Mae, to answer questions from animals and their owners – sort of the Dear Abby of Dog-dom.

1.      This is an opportunity to learn some great new digital marketing strategies

2.      Meet some people that I’ve only tweeted with in the past

3.      Take my own advice that I wrote about in Forbes a while back: The Power of Passion.

I’ll let you know how it all works out once I get back to sunny Florida, shedding my sweaters along the way!

 

Gratitude: Good for the Soul

Gratitude: Good for the Soul

Chicken Card

You might remember the amazing “chickens” Christmas card my friend Donald Sexauer designed for our office a couple of years back. Or maybe the painting of our office building. He’s always doing stuff like that.

 

He’s a retired teacher and every year he grows more creative – and generous. A few months ago, while he was cooking what would be a great dinner, I strolled through is garden, taking iPhone photos of some of his extraordinary flowers, especially the orchids. I emailed him the shots and more or less forgot about them.

Until my birthday

Flowers

Donald came over with a beautifully- wrapped birthday present: 8 miniature works of art on canvas. They were all expressionist paintings, each a version of one of the flower photos I’d emailed him.

 

How to frame them? Amazon to the rescue. In no time, I found the perfect multiframe. It arrived in a large box and, alas, one of the glass “windows” was broken. I emailed the company (because the e-address was on the packing slip) and told them I’d send it back. They said to keep it and a new one was on the way. It arrived three days later. The company, Adorama, has a friend for life. I do Adore them, and have already referred them to friends in New York who buy frames.

I’m grateful to Donald for making me such a beautiful gift. I love it. And I’m grateful to Adorama for replacing the frame so quickly and without any problem. And now I’m telling the world. Gratitude feels good.

Fie on FOMO

Fie on FOMO

I was having coffee with a new acquaintance down the street last week and realized our conversation was a little disjointed. Then I saw she was texting under the table while she was telling me about her job hunting adventures. Idly, I wondered what couldn’t wait.

You see things like that a lot these days. And it’s not just rude stuff. It’s dangerous, too, like texting while driving. Has the electronic revolution turned on us?

Not too long ago, electronic messaging of various kinds was a valuable tool. Now it seems to be more of a demanding taskmaster. So many of us are just too busy with our iPads, iPhones, messages and email to stay connected to real life. Or even common sense. Last week I was posting on Facebook and I realized I was responding to a man I don’t even know.

Why?

Maybe there’s another branch to the problem. Chatting, in person, with a friend the other day, I was startled when she told me she’d gone to a dinner for the Humane Society. I know she doesn’t really like animals, so I asked why she went. “Well, I might meet a new man, a new business prospect … and maybe I was supposed to be there”.

Maybe we think we have to be everywhere these days, in touch with all the latest news, grasping at every straw of an opportunity, meeting everyone we need to meet and all it has to happen right away. It might make us feel very productive, but what we’re really doing is disconnecting from the people and things we really value.

Last week I was so busy tweeting, posting, and writing articles that I forgot a good friend’s birthday, and that never happened before.

The condition even has an acronym – FOMO – and I don’t know if it can be cured. FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out.  We frantically attend events we don’t care about, send out dozens of happy birthday messages on Facebook, and respond to hundreds of tweets from people we barely know.

Maybe you can give it a try with me? Lets try Paring On Down. Here are some ways to do it.

  1. Slim down your calendar. See what you’re doing that can be eliminated. Do you want to attend another association lunch? If not, cancel it. If you have ten telephone meetings, maybe half can be done by email.
  2. Spend less time on Social Media. If you are on Facebook on Twitter, decide to allot certain hours each day to them. Maybe after work for an hour, or before work, but not checking them all day long.
  3. Develop a strategy to receive fewer emails. I unsubscribe to newsletters, promotions and LinkedIn groups each week. Figure out a way to delete emails from all your electronic devices.
  4. Don’t use texting like email. Texting, for me, is almost an immediate response mechanism for a timely meeting. I feel compelled to answer texts, and they draw my attention away from work.

I figure if you take the Challenge with me, we might free up a few hours a day. Imagine what we can do with that time. I can finish the book I’m writing. I can clean out my closet. Take the art course I’ve been considering, and probably write more blog posts here and on Forbes.com.

What will you do with the extra time? Please let me know and comment below. We can do this together. We’ll be the POD People.