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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

Lost Customers? Here’s How to Win ’em Back

Last week, FEI sales leader Zoot taught young salesman Ganymede how to fight prospect loyalty to an existing provider by establishing FEI as the number two choice. This week, Zoot gives his apprentice another valuable sales lesson: How to win back lost customers. Remember, fire = print.

Zoot was leaving FEI headquarters late one night when he noticed Ganymede, still in his office burning the midnight oil. (Literally. He had an oil-fueled torch at his desk).

“Great work today,” Zoot told the young gun. “Now go home and get some rest!”

“I can’t!” Ganymede replied anxiously. “I’m haunted by the ghosts of FEI’s lost customers.”

Zoot approached Ganymede’s O-puter and saw he was looking over an O-sales database. Highlighted in an ugly red font were the names of several of Ganymede’s former customers.

“These are my ‘lost causes,’” Ganymede explained. “I’ll never do business with any of these companies again. I know it!”

“How do you know?” Zoot asked, wishing the rookie was a bit more optimistic.

“I haven’t connected with anyone on this list in months,” Ganymede lamented. “Some left because of a blown deadline, some because of poor customer service, some simply for a lower price. I just wish they’d give FEI another chance. But they won’t!”

“Don’t be so sure,” Zoot said. “Our company has changed since the last time you worked with these customers. It’s time to contact your ‘lost causes’ and show them why they should give FEI another shot.”

Ganymede looked helplessly at his screen. “How? I don’t even know where to begin.” Then he snapped his fingers and exclaimed, “I know! Why don’t I offer these customers reduced pricing? That’s a surefire way to get them back. Plus, price is probably why many of them left in the first place.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Zoot cautioned. “Let me explain this in terms a youngster like you can relate to. Ever had an ex-girlfriend you tried to win back?”

“Of course,” Ganymede said.

“Say you look her up and discover she’s now dating some big-shot banker who works in the Sicily district,” Zoot continued. “He buys her chariots, gold-embroidered togas—you name it. What’s your strategy? Do you try to win her back by outspending the banker?”

Ganymede considered his response before answering. “No. For one, I can’t outspend a Sicily banker. More importantly, I don’t want her to come back to me just because I buy her a bunch of nice things. I’d prefer she take me back because she realizes I have what she’s looking for in a suitor.”

“Bingo,” Zoot said. “Now, apply this same concept to contacting old customers. The fact is, you’re right: some of your customers probably left us for Pyro’s crazy low pricing. Even those who didn’t, the first thing they say when you contact them may be: ‘Sure, I’ll do business with you again. If you can beat the price I’m getting now.’ Of course, playing the low-pricing game makes you no better than the suitor who wins a woman’s heart using his wallet instead of his personality.”

“Plus, price may be the reason they left, but there’s no guarantee that offering them lower prices will make them stay again,” Ganymede added, grasping the master’s point.

“Exactly,” Zoot said. “You’re more likely to win these customers back by telling or reminding them of the value FEI provides—creative fire solutions that will improve their quality of life or their businesses’ bottom lines. And you’re more likely to win their loyalty by demonstrating this consistently.”

“What a helpful metaphor,” Ganymede observed. “And you made me think of something. Could you excuse me a moment? I need to call a girl.”

FIRE! Point
As painful as it may be, running through your “lost causes” file and getting back in touch with former customers can bear fruit in the form of renewed customer relationships. When reconnecting with these old customers, avoid offering “low prices” to win them back.

Even though price may be why these customers left, there’s no guarantee that lower prices will bring them back. Instead, focus on how your printing company can help your lost customer win more business. That’s more compelling than a 20-percent discount.

FIRE! in Action: Travelocity Gets Personal and Succeeds with Winback Campaign
In 2011, the online travel agency identified customers who had booked travel in 2009, but not in 2010, and targeted them with a personalized winback e-mail campaign that offered a “valued customer” discount. The campaign generated more than twice the revenue of its previous winback campaigns.

Next week: Zoot and Ganymede discuss another way to win back customers who have left.

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