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The case for customer reactivation

As marketing advances, most professionals are well aware by now of the importance of retention and reactivation in optimizing the value of the customer base. The facts are clear: we know that it costs far less to reactivate a dormant customer than to acquire an entirely new one; we know that recent activity is a powerful indicator of customer lifetime value; and we know that investments in retention marketing deliver the highest ROI of any strategy.

But some marketers may still be missing out of some of today’s best practices in reactivation marketing. Let’s review the strategies that are most effective in stimulating a renewed relationship with your dormant customers, and reducing customer defection and churn.

Reactivation marketing applies to all kind of product and services categories, from consumer to business markets. The tactics and tools have been developed and refined to a fine art in the area of subscriptions and replenishment types of marketing. Let us learn from these trailblazers.

If you need backup to justify your investment in customer reactivation, here are some useful stats:

Reactivation can be viewed as a subset of retention marketing. If a customer has stopped interacting with you, this is very likely an early indicator of upcoming customer loss, or defection. So it’s essential to identify the signals early, and set up intervention activity to prevent the customer from moving further away.

Before you can plan your best intervention tactics, you need to develop answers to several key questions:

  1. How should you determine the definition of inactivity in your business? For many, the end result of inactivity is known as “churn.” The churn rate is derived from dividing the number of customers lost in the period by the number of customers you had at the beginning of the period. But the path to purchase differs with each business. Buying a new car is very different from replenishing your supply of moisturizer. This means identifying the interim metrics that you need to keep an eye on. A car dealer may look at oil changes as an indicator of engagement. A department store will look at the such indicators as product purchase frequency and timing, with interim metrics like email open and click-through rates.
  2. What are the reasons for customer dormancy? It may be that your customers had a problem with your product or service. In which case, you must strive to fix the problem. It may be that they no longer have a need. In which case, you need to determine whether there’s another way to serve them profitably. Or it may be that they have left for a competitor. In which case, you must institute a win-back effort. There are many possible reasons. A quick survey by email or phone will help you identify them. Each will likely require a different strategic approach.
  3. Is the customer worth reactivating? Some customers simply cannot be served profitably. For them, it may be a better strategy to let go, instead of investing more in re-engagement. Thus, an assessment of projected customer value will help you determine the appropriate amount of reactivation investment, if any.
  4. How will you know success when you see it? For many companies, reactivation is measured by conversion to repurchase. A useful metric is the win-back rate, calculated as the number of reactivated customers divided by the number of inactives at the beginning of the period. For your business, the success metric may be something different. The point is to identify the most appropriate metric in advance, and track the results of your reactivation program over time.

This article is excerpted from the white paper “How to Reactivate Dormant Customers.” Get your own copy here.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for both consumer and business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is a guest blogger at AdAge, HBR.org, and Target Marketing Magazine. Her newest book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results. She is also the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM. She studied marketing management at Harvard Business School, and holds an MBA from Columbia University. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

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