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How do you win back a former client

If you ask a direct marketer, a cataloger for instance, the answer would come back pretty quickly: “Tell them you want them back.

That’s not exactly a novel approach, but in the right hands, it can work. Think about some of the times you’ve been a major customer for one business or another and for some reason simply stopped buying from them.

How many even knew you’d left? And, if any did, how many wrote or called to tell you they want you back?

This may sound obvious but before you can win back former clients, you have to know they’re former clients. You would be amazed at how many companies don’t know or don’t care. Why not?

Usually it’s because companies are in permanent acquisition mode, as in acquisition of new customers. That’s the glamor end of marketing. The issues that get ignored are time and cost:

New customer acquisition: Lots of time & high cost.

Win back a former client: Much less time & much lower cost.

Under normal circumstances, trying to get lapsed customers to return to the fold is a no-brainer. It’s low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked and all you have to do is … pick it.

These are people who already know you (and, just as important, you already know them). They’ve already bought insurance from you. Now it’s up to you to begin the relationship all over again.

An internationally known expert on the subject, Andrea Nierenberg has written many books and spoken at conferences all over the world about building relationships. In her “Million Dollar Networking”, she stressed “Continue to talk to them (lapsed clients), with short messages over time: direct mail, invitations to interesting (and useful) information on your website, emails, etc. Court them again!

You might also ask former clients why they stopped doing business with you. It can’t hurt to ask them to fill out a survey or to explain their decision in a short paragraph. You’ll then reward them a worthwhile gift. Believe it or not, this works, especially if your letters and emails read as if they’d come from a human being as opposed to a faceless corporation.

Here are a few tips on bringing your lost clients back into the fold:

  1. Try to stay in touch with all of your clients all year long, then watch your (customer file) database for defectors. When you spot one, act fast.
  2. In the case of specialty insurance, mention the benefits of it again. For instance, cyber insurance is vital but still new so consider sending those clients a roundup of cyber theft disasters.
  3. Unless it’s from “corporate”, a personal letter from you should appear to come from an actual person. Your signature should be in blue ink and, ideally, just above a handwritten P.S.
  4. If you’re emailing, make the subject line interesting, and include their name in it, if possible. It will be noticed and opened.
  5. A phone call is always the best way to open a conversation, and these days we rarely receive them from our trusted vendors. So call everyone up one morning, one at a time of course, and find out how they’re doing and if they’re interested in another product they might need.
  6. Remember holidays, send cards and birthday wishes to people. So few businesses do that today, you’ll be remembered for this nice gesture.
  7. Send a gift, a nice pen, a personalized memo pad, or something bulky in an envelope. A gift is always remembered and don’t use your logo on it, just have a note enclosed.


The most important aspect of all this is that acquiring new clients is an expensive and time-consuming process. Bringing lost clients back is not.

Good luck.

P.S. Try new things, simple things: send cards and letters with live stamps. Invite people to local luncheons or conferences for small business owners. Etc. etc.


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