Have you ever experienced the pain of losing a client? Most of us have, often through no fault of our own. The 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…) that 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, and suffice to say, 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 lapsed client to return to you, and why it is so important to your business to do so.
Clients will forget you
I have heard stated the statistic that 40% of lapsed 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, then when they come to look for another new supplier almost half won’t remember you or reconsider 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?
I saw this and thought of you
When I ran a Managed Service Provider (MSP) business, I kept my Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool up to date with lapsed 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 contact, I typically reached out to the lapsed client with a telephone call or e-mail every couple of months.
What you say when getting in touch with a lapsed 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 and even if they decide to move to another IT provider, it won’t be you because 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 send them a magazine article through the post 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 lapsed clients mind but in a supportive rather than “take me back!” way.
A regular (I’d suggest that you should be sending one at least monthly) email newsletter can help you stay in touch with lapsed clients in a non-intrusive way. The newsletter must provide value to the reader, to ensure it’s important enough to open and read, and 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, the lapsed client sees it just as they are considering moving their IT support to a new home, and 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 lapsed client. Nothing tells the lapsed client more that there are genuinely no hard feelings between you than the referral of a potential client for them.
Even the occasional introduction between your former client and someone they’ve yet to meet who works in the same industry as them can send a positive message.
If you attend business networking events, then how about inviting your lapsed 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.
Staying in touch with lapsed clients, through the occasional telephone call or letter, e-mail newsletter, or through introductions and connections that are of value to them can all be an excellent way of staying front and centre of your former clients 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.