Published March 14, 2023
Re-engaging inactive or churned clients is a vital part of client service.
Having already shown an interest in your brand and products, past clients are a perfect target for future business. While some may not need products like yours anymore, many will still have potential. To spark their interest, you need to enter a process of re-engagement.
In this article, we’ll look at the forms of re-engagement, why this approach matters, and five key tactics for re-engaging clients:
With an understanding of the re-engagement process and a selection of tools to tackle it, you’ll be in a strong position to improve your approach to these clients.
Not every client journey is the same. How the journey looks for your company will determine which segments you’re targeting and how you think about client re-engagement.
When you re-engage a client, you may be trying to:
Why is it important to re-engage inactive clients?
It’s tempting to become focused on new clients. There’s a thrill to chasing down leads and adding to your list. As human begins, we’re hardwired to find satisfaction in novelty, and often chase new opportunities at the expense of maintaining what we have. When it comes to clients, people sometimes rationalise this behaviour by saying that a new client is as valuable as an old one, but that isn’t true.
For all of these reasons, companies should invest time and resources in re-engaging existing clients, as well as working on new client acquisition plans. Make your client re-engagement strategy a fundamental part of your business, integrated into your client engagement policy. Give client service teams the time and incentives to contact old clients.
But just contacting old clients out of the blue won’t lead to successful re-engagement. So what are the tactics you should use to bring them back?
Before you start to re-engage clients, it’s crucial to understand what’s happening. A client engagement review, examining client behaviour data and analysing engagement patterns, will lay the groundwork for a better approach.
Quantitative data on your clients and their behaviour is the ideal place to start. At this point, you’re trying to understand the big picture, and that’s something numbers are good for. Break down the patterns of disengagement by whatever metrics you have: client demographics, how long they’ve been with you, what products they use, how often they get in contact. Identify segments of your client base who are more likely to disengage or to re-engage. Map out the client journey to see where they’re most likely to drop off.
Once you’re done with the numbers, have a look at your client communication records to see if they can shed any light on why people disengage. Client Intelligence platforms such as Kaizan can provide insight on client sentiment just before the client churned. Emails and call transcripts from around the time that clients left can give you insight into what’s behind the patterns you see.
Use the data to create client segments for your re-engagement efforts. You might identify groups at risk of disengaging, ones you most want to keep on board, or those who have left but are likely to re-engage. You might even find some best practice client engagement examples, where a call or a message kept them from leaving.
That information will be foundational to your client re-engagement strategy, but before you act on it, you need one more source of information.
As part of your data analysis, extract a list of previously active clients who have become disengaged. That list can be dispiriting to see, but recognising the problem is an important step towards solving it, and this part of the problem will help you understand the issues better.
Those former clients, are the one group who best understand why they left. If they’re willing to talk to you, they can be a valuable resource. If you make it easy enough then some of them will share their opinions.
Using the list that you’ve built, send your inactive clients a survey, asking why they haven’t been active and what specifically would make them more engaged. You won’t get responses from all of them, probably not even the majority, but the responses you do get will be helpful.
There are some important issues to consider when constructing a survey like this, and the first is consent. If a former client has said that they don’t want to hear from you or has asked to be removed from your mailing lists, then you shouldn’t contact them. Ideally, your client management system will flag this up, but if it doesn’t, then keep an eye out for these cases during data analysis.
Next, you should carefully craft the questions. For a survey like this, there’s a difficult balance. On the one hand, you’ll get the most useful responses from open-ended questions, as these will give you more information and avoid simply validating your existing assumptions. On the other hand, open text answers take longer to write, so calling on former clients to provide them is a big ask. Closed, multiple choice questions that can be quickly answered are more likely to get responses.
The solution to this is to combine both kinds of questions. Use multiple choice, yes/no, and other limited questions to make the survey easy to answer, but add space where people can add more details. With luck and careful phrasing, you’ll get a good mixture of broad data and fresh insights.
Likely reasons for clients disengaging, which you should make space for in your survey, include:
The results of this survey should tell you not only why clients are leaving but what’s most likely to win them back. This will shape the rest of the work, including the content of client re-engagement emails. Specific feedback might even go into your client engagement plan, as examples of problems to watch for.
Once you understand the reasons why clients have become inactive, you can get into the meat of the client re-engagement strategy: targeted messages.
These business updates can go out via newsletters, calls, or meetings, depending upon the resources you have and the importance of individual clients, but emails are normally the most effective route. Client re-engagement emails are the simplest way to reach a large number of people and can be easily personalised to suit the recipients. Make sure that the content is relevant to those specific clients, rather than bombarding everyone with generic messages.
While it’s tempting to focus on the reason the client left, that’s the past, and rehashing it will only help if there’s a specific problem to fix. Instead, focus on showing clients how new products or services could benefit their specific organisations. Use the information you have about these clients to target the messages at them and to give them a good reason to return.
You can also try some more broadly targeted emails, if you’ve found patterns to address. For example, your data analysis might show that many clients from a specific industry left because your software lacked a key feature. If you’ve now introduced that feature, you could contact all the disengaged clients, letting them know that you now have the software they need.
You won’t have the information to craft targeted messages for all of your disengaged clients, but you can reach out to the rest using a different type of client re-engagement email.
At some point, your inactive clients saw value in your product. Many will still see it as valuable, but think that on balance it’s not worth paying the current price point. A surprising number of these can be brought back just by shifting that balance a little.
Try offering a special promotion to these clients. This might mean a discounted price for a period of time or bundling in new features. When you contact them about this, remind them why they used your services before and the value they received, to prime their interest for the offer.
This promotional approach isn’t the most sophisticated client re-engagement strategy. The chances of success are lower, but so is the effort, meaning that you should get a decent return on your efforts. If you’ve ever unsubscribed from a streaming service, then you’ve seen the emails that follow for months after, tempting you back. Media giants wouldn’t use the strategy if it didn’t work.
One further step you can take to re-engage clients is to show the value your company provides, not just through its products but through the support it gives and the community around it. The way to do this is to create a client community.
A community can be valuable for your whole client engagement strategy. It creates a deeper web of connections, binding clients to you and to each other. The value and validation this brings will make them less likely to leave and give disengaged clients a reason to return.
Some organisations build communities around their own forums and support pages, where they have more control, but this is less helpful for re-engagement. You want your community to exist in a space disengaged clients can stumble into, that will remind them of your value and encourage them to re-engage. Social media is ideal for this, as people can easily slide from other conversations into yours. By posting valuable content, responding to messages, and encouraging your followers to interact with each other, you can spread your presence and increase the likelihood of attracting past clients.
As a foundation for this, create a hub of resources and value-added services that help your clients. Useful resources give people more reason to share what you’re saying and to spend time in your online spaces.
Don’t think of the community as something self-contained, but as a way for your influence to spread into the world and for people to hear about you.
It’s easy to see disengaged clients as a lost cause, when in reality, they’re an ideal target market. You have products that are of value to them. You have information about what makes them tick. You have contact details and, in most cases, permission to communicate.
Through careful analysis and gathering extra data, you can get a good idea of what your disengaged clients want. Through the power of targeted messages, relevant promotions, and a strong community hub, you can win them back.