No matter how great your business is, some level of  customer churn is inevitable. There are dozens of reasons customers might leave, from competitors offering lower prices, to buyers just forgetting about your brand.

These customers represent a massive value opportunity. Not only is it significantly cheaper to retain an existing patron than win a new one, these returning buyers on average  spend 33 percent more than a new customer.

There are many strategies you can utilize on a day-to-day basis to market to your more devoted patrons such as special "frequent flier" deals for returning customers. However, sometimes you just need to steal a page from the last 15 minutes of every romantic comedy and pull out a grand gesture to remind your customers what they loved about your business in the first place. These four marketing stunts can get customers back in the door and engaging with your brand again.

Giveaways

Giveaways may not be the most creative stunt out there, but they work. Just ask Ben and Jerry's who had their 36th annual Free Cone Day in April and brought in nearly one million people to its stores. Everyone loves free stuff, so giveaways can be a great way to get lapsed customers back in the door.

The key is to make an event out of your giveaway. Many companies offer free trials or samples to attract new customers, but that's a totally different category. These giveaway events should generally only be offered for a very limited time and designed to create as much buzz as possible.

Get Your Customers Involved

Are your customers not excited by your current product offerings? Give them a chance to design your new products for you. For its 40th anniversary in Germany, McDonald's held a promotion where people could design their own burger online. The campaign ended up reaching 25 percent of all Internet users in the country.

This strategy doesn't just work for food. I recently wrote about how ProductHunt, the popular company discovery platform, redesigned its home page with the help of actual community members. CEO Ryan Hoover brought community in on the process, sharing early mockups and incorporating member feedback. 

Offering customers the chance to play a role in designing new products makes them feel valued, addresses issues they had in the past and gives you valuable data about what your customers really want.

Play A Prank

Everyone's seen the April Fools pranks that brands trot out each year on April 1st. These pranks range from genuinely funny to completely groan-worthy, but what you might not realize is that they get attention and often flat-out work.

A content marketing company called Brand Builder Solutions played an April Fools prank on people in its email list by saying they were now in the business of direct mailing campaigns and late night infomercials. These emails saw a 300 percent increase in clickthrough rate compared to its normal marketing emails.

It doesn't have to even be on April Fools. Funny and surprising jokes can grab the attention of customers that haven't opened one of your emails in months.

Get Nostalgic

A customer who has only purchased from you once has a 27 percent chance of returning, while a customer who has purchased from you three times has a 54 percent chance of returning. 

Want to remind customers what's great about your business? Try going back to the beginning. Showcasing your roots, either through offering throwback products or even, as Hatchbuck suggests, rolling back your prices to what they were on your first day of business, can be a fun stunt that gets old customers excited about your business.

You can even combine this one with the prank idea. Last April Fool's, Microsoft unveiled its MS-DOS Mobile, a fake version of its 1981 operating system for Lumia smartphones. The promotion was funny and eye catching while simultaneously reminding customers of Microsoft's long history and experience.

Your lapsed customers presumably were fans of your business at one point. Try bringing them back to that time and reminding them of all the great things you have to offer.

Published on: Dec 7, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.