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How to Approach an Old Customer

by Ian Linton, studioD

Old customers, also known as lapsed customers, are companies or individuals that no longer buy from you. By winning back those customers, you can increase revenue without incurring the time and cost of acquiring new customers. You must invest in sales and marketing to revive old customers, but the cost is likely to be less than the price of a campaign to win new business.


Before you approach an old customer, gather the relevant data so that you can plan your strategy. Check your sales records to identify the products the customer bought in the past. The records will also indicate how frequently the customer bought from you. Ask your sales or customer service team if they are aware of any problems that might have caused the customer to stop dealing with your company. If you know that the customer is now buying from a competitor, compare your product specifications and price with the competitor’s offering.


To re-establish the relationship with a lost customer, contact him or his company by phone or e-mail. First, check the customer’s contact details. In a business, the person responsible for purchasing may have changed and the new contact may not be aware of your company. Ask the customer if he or his company is still using the product you supplied in the past. By supplying details of the customer’s preferences, you can demonstrate in a positive way that you have a relationship with the customer. Using a phrase such as “we notice that you no longer buy from us” is a negative approach that highlights a breakdown in the previous relationship, according to the customer experience website CustomerThink.


When you have re-established contact, take the opportunity to update the customer on developments that may encourage him to reconsider your company. If your research indicates that competitors offered a product that was superior in performance when the customer stopped buying from you, tell him how you have developed the product or introduced a new product that now meets his requirements. If late delivery was a problem, explain how you have increased your manufacturing capacity and introduced more frequent deliveries.


If the customer shows an interest in reviving the relationship, offering an incentive may encourage him to place an order. An introductory discount on the first order, for example, can lead to a quick sale. Inviting an old customer to an event, such as a conference or exhibition, provides an opportunity to build a face-to-face relationship that may make it easier to sell in the future.

About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, Ian Linton has been a professional writer since 1990. His articles on marketing, technology and distance running have appeared in magazines such as “Marketing” and “Runner's World.” Linton has also authored more than 20 published books and is a copywriter for global companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics from Bristol University.

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