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Taking Your Loyal Customers with You
If you are planning to leave your joint venture, you will also want your customers back when you start a new company. Thoughts of getting back your hard earned customers are not illegal but taking away the documents/data containing your clients' information will definitely drag you into legal problems. This is because, even though these customers were brought in by you, they are still customers of your ex-partnership.
In this article, I am sharing the lessons I learned while trying to woo back my customers when I left my training center – a partnership firm. When I decided to leave the partnership, people supporting me suggested that I should not leave any trace of information about the clients. Accordingly, I removed all the contact information of the clients without informing my partner. Within two days, I received a legal notice for stealing confidential data. Not only that, my ex-partner also filed an FIR against me. I realized the mistake, called up the ex-partner, and settled the matter by sending back the papers. In this case, the partner was kind enough to let me off without dragging me to courts. Others may not be so considerate.
Lesson: While trying to win back your customers, DO NOT EVER keep any confidential data pertaining to your ex-company.
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Tips on How to Win Customers Back
This is not Stealing: As long as you are with the joint venture, you can always access the contact details and use them. If you have decided to start your own separate company and are willing to win back customers, make a copy of the contact details and upload it to your email or anything else – before you formally leave the joint venture. This is where I missed out. I had a chance to xerox the documents before returning them to the ex-partner but it did not occur to me to do so. Do use caution though, and make sure you are not violating any privacy laws when gathering this information.
Take out a Formal Ad: The first thing I did was to take out an ad saying "I have left XYZ and that I won’t be responsible for any transactions of XYZ." The ad concluded with the full address of my new office and phone numbers. Not only did it bring many of the clients back, it also helped in promotion of the new company thereby bringing in new customers.
The above method is legal. You are not stealing customers. They themselves are coming to you. Your ex-partners can't do anything except keep a watch on their decreasing customer base!
Send an Email or Letter: Fortunately, my ex-company used hotmail for communications. I dug out all the mails to find email IDs of some clients. Then I sent an individual mail to each. The mail did not speak anything about the ex-venture. Instead, it focused on the new firm and how the clients would benefit using services from the new firm. It ended with a few lines on how I enjoyed working for them and would like to continue doing so, in a better way.
In case you collected physical addresses, get some brochures printed (you will need them for advertising anyway) – explaining the services of the new firm and how it offers an edge over others. Spare some time to write individually addressed letters so that the customers feel they are important. I won't suggest using BCC to send a common mail or using the same lines for printed copies.
You can save time using the labels feature in MS Excel for emails and physical letters respectively. Make sure you are putting up the correct label (address) and a return, stamped envelope for each customer. Including a stamped, return envelope compels the customer to reply.
Visit the Clients: I did not have physical address of my ex-clients so I never used this method. But you can use this method if you have the telephone number and/or physical address. Based upon the importance of clients, you can personally meet the client or can have your rep visit them. However, call them and take an appointment before visiting.
This is not the end of ideas for getting back your customers. You will get more ideas as you think over the possibilities. Consider the pros and cons for each idea on getting your customers back. If you wish to share or discuss any idea for getting customers back, please use our comments section.
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