Should you disregard or include ex-customers in your marketing plans?

The previous post ‘How many customers do you have? Really.’ identified 8 distinct groups of customers based their current status. Two of these groups that rarely receive as much attention as they should are:

  • Customers don’t exist – the customer company doesn’t exist for various reasons.
  • Customers not using – customers that don’t use your product/service/solution.
Why should you pay attention to, and spend marketing resources on ex-customers? Because, firstly you can learn valuable insights and secondly there is potential revenue from your ex-customers. Most companies tend to disregard ex-customers because they view them as a lost cause and it’s too unpleasant or difficult to communicate or deal with ex-customers. But they’re missing out on a significant opportunity to improve their business by learning from ex-customers. And there is still potential revenue to harvest.

Customers that no longer exist – nothing you can do about customer companies that shut down, go out of business, merge, get acquired or cease to exist for whatever reason. However, there were people inside those companies that used your product, maybe even liked your product. These people have moved on to other companies, they know about your product/service/solution, you probably have their names in your database. Find out where they are now and reconnect. Someone with a positive previous experience with your product/service/solution can be a valuable contact to market and sell into the company where they currently work.

Customers that have stopped using your product/service/solution – this can happen for a variety of reasons including dissatisfaction, new management preferences, a competitive product/service/solution that better meets their needs or many other reasons. Losing customers is painful and costly and has a direct impact on Lifetime Customer Value (LCV). The customers you have lost can provide valuable insights to prevent losing more customers by applying those lessons for improving or correcting whatever caused them to defect. Proactively taking action based on empirical research and analysis from these ex-customers can greatly improve retention and loyalty for current customers.

“The Customers you lose hold the information you need to succeed.” – Frederick F. Reichheld

Just as most companies do a win/loss analysis on current sales deals, you need a continuing Customer Defection Analysis program to gather information from ex-customers for business and marketing plans:
  • The first step is to categorize the reason for defection – let the information from ex-customers guide you to the right categories rather than preconceived internal opinions.
  • Identify the underlying causes in the ex-customers’ context, that led to the defection. Look for commonalities and trends to determine appropriate corrective action to avoid or minimize future defections.
  • Get information about when they stopped using your product, what they’re using now, whether they’ll make the same decision again, etc.
  • Determine what other useful and relevant information to gather for the Customer Defection Analysis based on your specific business/ product/service/solution circumstances.
  • Identify possible revenue opportunities with these ex-customers:
    • Can you provide paid services to help them migrate from your system to their replacement system? I know this sticks in one’s craw, but getting someone from your company into the ex-customer environment to provide services can yield significant insights in addition to the services revenues.
    • Can you sell them something that is either complementary to their new system or addresses a completely different functional area of the business?
    • Put them on the contact list for appropriate marketing programs to stay in touch and consider your business/product/service/solution for future needs.
  • Although gathering information from ex-customers may seem difficult, most people are usually willing to share the reasons for the decisions. Don’t be defensive, argumentative, judgmental or try to rectify the past – just listen and learn.
  • Being understanding, supportive and helpful during this information gathering process can put your business in a more favorable position for possible business opportunities with ex-customers.
Are you currently disregarding or including ex-customers in your marketing plans? Has this article given you food for thought to reconsider your practices in this area? Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC. http://marketing.infocat.com

1 comments:

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Margaret

http://businesseshome.net