Remember Me?

Are you letting customers slip away? Here's how to get back in their good graces.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

How many times have you driven down a familiar street but never really noticed what was on it? Then that fateful day arrives when your car breaks down, and you have to walk several blocks to get help or return home. All of a sudden, you really see the shops, offices, homes and other buildings on the street. They were there all along, but you never noticed them.

Sometimes drumming up business can be like walking down that street. The prospects were there all along--you just never saw them.

Making the most of unidentified or forgotten leads (UFLs) is easy. It involves two major steps that can yield countless benefits: cultivation and reactivation.

Fertile Ground

Cultivating UFLs means setting the stage (i.e., preparing the ground) to go after your target market. Gather data about current and former customers by asking yourself and your current customers these questions:

  • Where do most of my clients/customers come from?
  • What are they like?
  • Why do my customers buy this product or service?
  • Why do they buy from me?
  • What needs does my business satisfy for them?
  • When do they buy?
  • Who is involved in the buying decision?
  • What influences the decision?
  • What lifestyle, age group, home location, income, etc., predominates?

Survey your current customers through direct mail or phone calls. Offer them a special gift or coupon in exchange for their help.

By going through this process, you'll start to create your "ideal customer profile." Those who fit the profile are the ones you need to reactivate in a systematic and energetic way.

In addition to gathering data, remember that networking is also an important element in the cultivation process. Just make sure you spend your networking time wisely, know what your real needs are and who can help fulfill those needs, and primarily target the people who fit your ideal customer profile.

Back Into the Fold

A friend of mine who runs a dry cleaning business started going through one of his file cabinets not too long ago. In it, he found paperwork with more than 2,000 names of people who had used his services over the past nine years but no longer did. His "dead customer" list was gradually growing, and he hadn't even realized it.

He decided to reactivate as many of these customers as possible. He and some of his employees put together a list of these lost customers and began making phone calls. They wanted to learn why these people had stopped using their services. In addition to the "why did you stop" question, they also found out as much as possible about who these people were, what kinds of cleaning needs they had, and where they lived and worked.

They asked these former customers to reconsider doing business with them. They mentioned the fact that they had a reliable pickup and delivery service and a host of other features that were either free or reasonably priced. Plus, they sent them a coupon worth $10 off their next cleaning order that had to be used within 30 days.

To make a long story short, they increased their business by about 22 percent by simply asking former customers to return. Without lowering their prices, they increased their business because they stressed the value they give their customers and demonstrated attention to detail. They were determined, motivated and sincere in their desire to "win 'em back."

It's important to keep current customers happy and contact them regularly. But don't overlook the ones who've slipped away or who've never materialized. Take a little time to cultivate and reactivate, and those UFLs just may return as loyal customers.

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