Have you ever experienced the pain of losing a client? Most of us have, often through no fault of our own. The former client is happy with your service but is simply looking for a cheaper deal, or has allegiances elsewhere (the boss’s nephew’s best friend runs an IT company…).
These things see them move business away from you for emotional rather than rational reasons.
While it can be painful to lose a client in this way, how you react will dictate whether you burn a bridge with the client, or leave the door open for them to return to you in the future.
I’ve written before about the difference between responding and reacting. Throwing a tantrum when your client chooses to leave will definitely do you no favours – however gratifying it may feel at the time.
In this article, I want to talk about the process of leaving the door open for any former clients to return to you, and why it is so important to your business to do so.
Former Clients will Forget You
I have heard that 40% of former clients will forget who you are within six months. That means that if a business prematurely ends its relationship with the IT company who took over from you, when they come to look for another new supplier almost half won’t remember you.
I have also heard stories from Managed Service Providers (MSPs) time and time again that when they stayed in touch with a lapsed client, that client eventually returned to them.
It makes sense to stay in touch with lapsed clients — however hurtful it feels when they first “dump” you.
So what are the best ways to stay in touch?
Let Former Clients Know You’re Thinking of Them
The easiest way to stay in touch with former clients is to occasionally contact them to let them know you haven’t forgotten them.
When I ran a Managed Service Provider (MSP) business, I kept my Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool up to date with former clients by labelling them as prospective clients. I also set a reminder to stay in regular touch with them.
While it can be difficult to know how much contact is too much, I typically reached out to former clients with a telephone call or e-mail every couple of months.
What you say when getting in touch with a former client is important. If you telephone or e-mail to say “How’s it going with the new IT company?” then you’ll come across as shallow, only interested in winning back the business.
Also, consider this – even if things aren’t going well with the new IT company, how many business owners like to admit they are wrong? Would you, in their shoes? It’s much more likely they’ll simply avoid your question.
Even if they decide to move to another IT provider, it won’t be you. That would be an admission of failure on their part.
Instead of enquiring about their new relationship, try forwarding an interesting blog post to them. Why not post them a magazine article with a short note, “I saw this, and thought you’d find it interesting”.
Doing so allows you to stay at the forefront of the former client’s mind. But in a supportive rather than “take me back!” way.
A regular (at least monthly) email newsletter can help you stay in touch with former clients in a non-intrusive way. The newsletter must provide value to the reader, to ensure it’s important enough to open and read.
It should be sent to the right people within a business. Typically, that means a decision maker or an influencer – the MD or Office Manager.
I can’t tell you the number of times my own IT company won business thanks to an e-mail newsletter and being in the “right place at the right time”.
The email newsletter goes out and the former client sees it just as they are considering moving their IT support to a new home. You receive a ‘phone call. “I’m glad you got in touch! I’ve been meaning to speak with you.”
Such a conversation is often as good as a referral – the client knows and trusts you above anyone else they will speak to.
Be the Connector
The other way of keeping in touch is by continuing to refer other businesses and connections across to your former client. Nothing tells the lapsed client more that there’s genuinely no hard feelings between you than referring a potential client.
Even the occasional introduction between your former client and someone they’ve yet to meet who works in the same industry sends a positive message.
If you attend business networking events, then how about inviting your former client to attend? They’ll appreciate you thinking of them.
It’s often painful to lose a client. We can choose to react badly, let our emotions guide us and throw a tantrum, or we can respond graciously.
How we react to this painful situation can dictate whether that client will ever consider working with us again.
Stay in touch with former clients through the occasional telephone call or letter. Send an e-mail newsletter, or make introductions and connections that are of value to them.
These are all excellent ways of staying front and centre of your former client’s mind. And you never know when they might be ready to return to working with you.
Now I want to hear from you. Have you ever lost a client, who has then decided to work with you again in the future? I’d be interested to hear your stories! Leave a comment below or get in touch to continue the conversation.
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