I often work with small and medium-sized companies that have been on the market for decades and that have a customer database with several hundred names – the result of their many years in business; most, however, are dormant clients. That is, customers who have bought in the past but no longer do: they used to buythey changed buyers and no longer deal with usthey told us that we were too expensive … etc. In most cases, however, no one bothers to see if any of these customers can be “awakened”.

Some of them probably don’t even exist anymore, but nobody in the company seems to have the time – or the patience – to go and check if any customers are still open and if they can be interested in our products given that, in the meantime, many things may have changed: the buyers, the market, the suppliers, etc.

Here are some brief tips to carry out this “client awakening” activity:

  • Newsletter: this direct marketing tool is certainly abused today, especially in B2C. However, I am convinced that a few newsletters a year – well done and with interesting content – are a useful way to keep all our customers (new and old) informed of what is going on in our company: a new product line, a new machine, a collaboration with the university, 50 year business anniversary, etc.
  • Christmas greetings: if sent in a personalized and non-standard way (instead of one-mail-for-all in blind carbon copy (bcc)) they are very useful. It is obvious that sending them one by one, with the right word for each one, takes time. But business is, by definition, an investment of time! You just need to organize yours properly: I start writing them in October, I save them in draft form and then send them all a few days before Christmas (as I’m doing these days).
  • LinkedIn: it is increasingly popular and many of our old contacts may be found here. Ask them to connect – again, with a personalized message!
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management): this tool can also help us organize customer relationship activities. It is almost always possible to integrate it with e-mails, LinkedIn and newsletters. Thus, it becomes a nice dashboard; to avoid the risk of losing some sheep from your flock.

All these activities – to which I have dedicated only a few lines, but which could be discussed in even more detail – obviously applies for both: keeping existing contacts active (and preventing someone from falling dormant over time), and to re-activate dormant clients.

A new year is about to begin and commercial activity becomes increasingly important because the markets are characterized by growing hyper-competition. I suggest, then, to those who hold this role in the company to try to awaken dormant customers, because it is an activity that requires less investment but can give more immediate results compared to going in search of new customers … which must be done anyway!

I talk about these issues in my book: Exporting in 7 Steps