One of the on-boarding activities that we do with all new clients is to take a look back at their business for the past five years. And one of the things we inevitably see – and our clients seem to have forgotten – is the large number of former or lapsed clients. [Or maybe they remember, but just don’t like to be reminded of it.]
What’s really interesting about these former clients is that they stay former. That is, it’s extremely rare to see any of them come back into the ‘current client’ category.
I think this happens for three reasons…
- Ego. By trying to reconnect with these former clients were reminding ourselves that we failed… not an outcome we want to keep reliving.
- Concession. We give up. We tried and we lost… and another firm won. It happens… so, we’re moving on.
- Forgetfulness. We simply forget to stay in touch. We get busy with new clients and new projects and before long, the former clients are gone from our memory.
I understand why this happens, but I think most firms are missing a key element here… just because a client is gone doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. In fact, I would strongly suggest you include reconnecting with former clients as a key growth strategy moving forward, for two reasons…
- The hard work with your former clients has already been done… you’ve already gotten them to know you, to like you and to trust you. And you’ve even gotten them to spend money with you. Most likely, you dropped the stay-in-touch ball. So, pick it back up, reach out, reconnect and rekindle. The worst that can happen is that they say, “No!”… which means you’ll be no worse off than you are right now. But, more likely, they’ll be genuinely glad to hear from you and happy to have a whatcha-been-up-to conversation. If they agree to do that, don’t blow the opportunity! Don’t use this as a selling opportunity but, instead, as a relationship-building opportunity. The selling can come later.
- The other reason to stay in touch with former clients is because they move around and where they end up might be a new opportunity for you. Here’s a true story about us… seven years ago, we did some work for a sole practitioner in our industry. Good work, good relationship and we stayed in touch a little over the years through email, social media and running into each other at conferences. Fast forward to today… and that nice lady took a job with a large firm in our industry. The CEO happened to ask her if she knew of any marketing consultants in our industry and she referred us to the CEO. And last week, that large firm signed a long-term contract with us.
Don’t give up on former clients. In fact, be proactive about communicating with them. About simply staying in touch. You never know when another opportunity to work with them will come along or when your relationship with them will take you in the new direction and toward new opportunities.
Good luck and good selling.