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5 Highly Successful Tactics for Winning Back Lost Customers

Posted by Grant Robertson-Adams | Dec 3, 2021

We live in a world where you can become a customer of a business with the click of a button. Customers can come quick and they can come fast, but that also means that they can leave just as quickly. Many businesses invest in extensive customer retention programs to try and keep their customers buying from them over an extended period of time, but what happens when that customer leaves. They become a lost customer. It’d be wrong, however, to think that that’s it. That they’re gone forever. Because they aren’t. With a little bit of effort, they can be won back.

You might be wondering what’s the point? If they’re gone, then surely the smart money is spent on getting new customers in? Right? Well, Strategic WinBack has done a lot of the math for you. And it turns out that, in fact, it is well worth your while to try and win those customers back. In fact, WinBack found that, “On average, 26% of past customers return with a strategic … program” and that, “Lifetime Customer Value doubles for returning customers.” Metrics not to be dismissed.

What is a winback campaign?

A winback campaign is defined by its name. It’s a campaign where you aim to win back customers who have become lost customers. They might be people who have canceled, let their subscription lapse, or have stopped being your customer for one reason or another. The aim is to specifically target these customers (or past customers) with specific messaging and information with the sole intention of winning back their business.

During the process you’ll likely find that your past customers divide themselves into 3 different camps:

  • Negative response or unresponsive customers: These customers are genuinely no longer interested in have not been won back.
  • Interested customers: Customers who might be interested but haven’t come back to buying from you yet.
  • Won back customers: Customers who have seen your campaign and decided to come back to your services.

There are a number of different ways that you might run the campaign, you might run retargeting adverts, you could run a winback email campaign or you might even give customers a call. Whichever way you choose, there is certainly money out there that can be brought back to your business. In fact, chances are that during your campaign you’ll be successful, most businesses will find that they have a 60-70% chance of winning back their old customers. As we know, marketing to brand new customers is an expensive process, whereas retaining, and winning back customers is far cheaper.

How to Win Back Lost Customers

So, winning back old customers is; likely to happen, increases their overall lifetime value, and is easier and more cost-effective than trying to win new ones. Seems like a campaign worth running. Here’s how you can go about starting the process of winning back lost customers:

Target those Most Likely to Return

This might seem obvious, but it is definitely worth applying some customer segmentation tactics to your lost customers. Break the whole down into some smaller groups and begin to gauge an understanding of which groups are more likely to come back to you versus those which likely won’t.

You can segment these customers in a variety of ways. You might look at customers who:

  • Had a previously generated a high level of monthly recurring revenue (subscribed at the highest tier)
  • Had a high level of interaction with your brand, either through customer support or social media
  • Were active in your referral marketing campaigns
  • Cited cost as their main reason for leaving rather than poor service
  • Had previously complained but also had their complaints resolved

The types of customers listed above are ones that are worthwhile pursuing, they either were great customers who generated you lots of income (therefore are worth making the effort for) or have issues that you might be able to resolve.

Whilst you’re segmenting your customers, you’ll likely find that there are segments of customers who you might decide against attempting to win back. They might be customers who complained and didn’t have their complaints resolved satisfactorily, they might have been difficult customers, they might have been customers who generated very little revenue.

However you decide to segment your customers, doing so will enable you to run a far more effective, targeted, and, ultimately, successful winback campaign.

Use Different Offers for Different Churn Reasons

Customers will leave. That’s a fact of business. But they won’t all leave for the same reason. We refer to the rate of customers leaving as the churn rate. The customer churn reason will vary from customer to customer and it is important that, once they are segmented by reason (see above), you tailor your messaging accordingly.

It can be tempting to create a one size fits all style of winback campaign, but this simply won’t be that effective. Offering a discount voucher to tempt back one type of customer might work incredibly well, but it won’t necessarily work for another.

The best way to approach this is to consider the overall goal of the campaign and work backward from that. Your goals for the campaign could be; that you want more sales and revenue or that you want customers to try a new product or feature (one that might address the pain point that caused them to leave).

Once you’ve ascertained what your overall goal is, consider what action you’ll need the customer to take so that the goal can be achieved. Are you going to try and get the customer to simply resubscribe, place an order, reactivate their account, or redownload your app? 

Then, finally, once you know your overall goal and how you’re going to achieve it through customer action, apply your understanding of why the customer left. By placing all of this information together you’ll begin to understand which offers will work best.

Certain customers are more likely to return than others. If you’ve got customers who left simply because they felt undervalued and faced poor customer service, then chances are that your bridges are burnt. Whereas customers who left because of factors like price, understanding the product properly, or missing features, they’re far more likely to be won back.

Automate Your Emails

Automation is a marketer’s dream. To be in a position where you can win back customers in your sleep, it’s a great position to be in. The trick is to invest in the right software sets to help you along the way. There are, thankfully, a number of software tools out there that allow exactly that. Tools such as GrowSurf, allow you to segment your customers, create dedicated email creatives and then automate the sending of the offers.

Why automate? Automation massively increases your productivity and opportunities. You can set automation rules such as sending an email X days after customer subscription lapses for Y reason.

You’re also able to automate whole flows from email clicks. This is especially useful if you’re incentivizing customer return with rewards. Let’s say that you’re offering a reward of a $50 voucher for returning customers. You’ll want to make sure that, when the customer achieves it, they are promptly sent the reward. Referral software tools automate this process for you.

Measure Results and Optimize

Any good marketing campaign has clearly measurable results. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign be clear on the metrics that you’re going to measure from the start. Set benchmarks and then track them as you’re moving forward. These metrics should give a clear indication of success and campaign stability.

The key to the success of the campaign is to react to the metrics quickly and then adapt. If something isn’t looking right, dig into what might be the cause and alter the campaign. Changing things on the fly leads to a far more successful campaign, than waiting for it to conclude.

The metric at the core of a winback campaign will be your reactivation %. This metric lets you know how many customers that you’ve reached out to have come back to being paid customers. It’s your headline figure. But don’t be afraid to get more granular. If you’re sending emails, you want to be checking open and interaction rates, for example.

Send out campaigns, evaluate their impact, test different versions (copy, content, images, even subject lines) and see how the numbers change, evaluate again and optimize.

Align with Your Customer Lifecycle Strategy

Every customer has a specific customer lifecycle that they’ll be (knowingly or unknowingly) following. This lifecycle can be predicted by looking at large datasets and doing so will allow you to act preemptively rather than having to react after the event. In an ideal world, this will allow you to have a functioning customer retention strategy to keep customers on board for as long as possible. That said, if you’re seeing a regular drop-off in customers around specific events or time periods, then you can have a winback campaign ready to go, even better if it starts automatically!

5 Winback Email Campaign Examples

The “Hi there” winback email

This might seem an unlikely candidate in winback emails, but the opening hello email can help win customers back. Making sense? This email is for customers who have signed up using their email but haven’t taken the plunge and decided to go ahead and purchase, they fall into the lost customer category as they were right there, then they weren’t. A simple, hello email aims to complete 4 important tasks:

  • It reminds the customer why they picked your business
  • It shows them just how great the product they chose is
  • It adds a nice bit of personalization to their customer journey
  • It keeps your business in the front of their mind.

The best hello emails keep things simple and have a very easy to complete call to action. They shouldn’t be flooded with incentives and offers, keep things relaxed and let the customer know you’re there.

The incentive winback email

So simply saying hello wasn’t enough. It won’t work for everyone. The next set of customers need a little helping hand across the line, and that helping hand is going to be in the form of an incentive. These emails include a clear offer, that is easy to complete, and a simple call to action. In fact, this email might be combined with your hello email above. Many eCommerce companies combine the two as an incentive to sign up to a mailing list, in fact, the majority of customers sign up to mailing lists with the sole intention of getting a discount code.

The very best incentive winback emails will be personalized to the individual customer, they might include details of the particular product the customer was considering.

It should also be noted that incentive winback emails work brilliantly for customers who have let their subscriptions lapse. Offering them a discount if they resubscribe can lead to a hugely positive uptick in returning customers, especially if they left because of price.

The feedback email

In an ideal world, you’ll be asking customers for their feedback on a regular basis through the likes of customer satisfaction surveys. If customers have left your services, there’s still an opportunity to ask for feedback in a “How can we improve?” kind of way. For some customers, seeing your intention to understand how they feel can be enough for them to return, others will want to share feedback, interact, and see if you can do anything about their feedback.

Even if the customers don’t return, it provides an excellent opportunity for you to change things so that future customers in a similar situation don’t leave.

The closing the loop email

These emails aim to put the onus on the customer by saying that you’ve come to the end of the road (having not heard from them in some time or they haven’t subscribed in a while) and that you’re planning to remove them from your database. That is unless they say otherwise. By saying that you plan on removing them in X days time, they might be prompted to reach out and ask you to hold on. This is especially true if they’ve simply forgotten that you existed or weren’t in the right place to purchase previously. Plus it scratches that FOMO itch.

The unsubscribe email

You’ve gone and done it, and this is the last email you’ll be sending the customer. This is your last-ditch effort to grab their attention. The idea is the same premise as the email above but with a final sense of urgency. You can leverage some emotion in this email by saying you’re sorry to see them go and that you would love to keep interacting with them.

This email should be linked to your unsubscribe button too and sent automatically, just ensure that it is personalized. An impersonal unsubscribe email will have the opposite effect that you’re going for.

Key Takeaways

Winback campaigns can have a huge impact on your business, both in customer happiness and revenue generated. It’s all too easy to focus on winning new customers month after month but considering lost customers can make for a happier business all round.

  • Segment your customers so that you can tailor your message
  • Automate as much as possible to increase the effectiveness of the campaign
  • Measure your results, adapt accordingly and then optimize

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