By Steve Fretzin
As a legal business development coach I’m often asked, “Where should lawyers start when looking to focus on client development?” Inevitably, the broken record in me responds by sharing the importance of a written plan. As you may know, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. One of the most instrumental parts of a good business development plan is identifying the low-hanging fruit. If time is money, it always makes more sense to invest your time in activities with people who already know, like and trust you. For the purposes of this article, I want to share a few key points on HOW to spend your time with your past and existing clients. This is the low-hanging fruit that you may have been tiptoeing around for years.
Here’s a statistic for you: It’s six to ten times more effort, time and money to secure a new client than to keep the ones you already have. That being said, most lawyers don’t have a clue about what true client loyalty means and how it can help to grow an existing book of business. Here are five things that are guaranteed to keep your clients loyal to you AND drive more business your way.
FRETZIN Tip #1: Create a client loyalty plan.
Just like I mentioned earlier with a business development plan, have an actual plan for keeping in touch and adding value for your clients. This is not rocket science. Simply get a list of your clients and rate them A, B or C. The As are your top clients, the Bs are in the middle, and the Cs are on the low end. Then, come up with ways to meet with, add value for and build relationships with these clients. From a time management perspective, I’d suggest spending more time with the As than the Cs. Once you have this list in front of you, the other tips here will be very helpful.
FRETZIN Tip #2: It’s all about face time.
You’ve heard the saying “Out of sight, out of mind?” Well, it’s true, and it really hurts your ability to build client loyalty (not to mention new business). Most lawyers fail at emailing, calling and actually visiting their clients enough. The funny thing is that when they do these things, business just seems to come their way, right? So, let’s stop winging it and start making an effort. Or, better yet, develop a schedule dedicated to getting in front of your clients.
While lunch and drinks may be the current trend, I’d highly recommend visiting them in their offices, warehouses and plants. Just walking through and asking questions may open up new matters that wouldn’t have happened otherwise—and they’ll appreciate that you took the time to get to know their business firsthand.
FRETZIN Tip #3: Invite them to stuff.
While some clients won’t take you up on an offer, it’s nice that you offered at all. They know you are thinking of them and have their best interests at heart. The clients that do take you up on your offer will be forever grateful. A few examples of things to offer may include:
- For them to be on an expert panel that you are facilitating;
- To be interviewed on a podcast or for an article; or
- To attend a networking event where you can introduce them around.
This is something that will separate you from their other “vendors” and create a tighter relationship in the process.
FRETZIN Tip #4: Be their consigliere.
I know, you’re not in the movie The Godfather, but you are looking to be indispensable. One of the best ways to be super-sticky with your clients is to become their “go-to” person for their business. Not just the legal stuff you do for them, either; I mean their whole business. My father, Larry the Lawyer, was very good at this. So much so, one of his clients requested he perform the eulogy at his client’s funeral. True story!
Here are a few ways to add value and build that trusted advisor status:
Ask A LOT of questions. Always be curious about everything going on with their business and find ways to help.
Try to make good strategic connections or even bring business in for them. Put two and two together. If you’re working with a GC and she needs an AGC, ask around and try to find that placement for her.
Do presentations for their team to share new legal insights or preventative measures.
Engaging them in this manner will open new doors within your existing relationship. It’s very hard to leave lawyers who are this committed to their client’s success.
The goal of true client loyalty is three-fold by following my advice. First, you will cement the relationship far beyond where it is currently. Second, you will become their friend and trusted advisor for the long haul. Lastly, it will open opportunities for them to share you with their own friends. This is where the low-hanging fruit comes in. There’s NO EASIER business to obtain than from your clients who love you. In many cases, they will ask, “How can I help you?” Just offer your thanks and walk them through who you’d like to meet. Following a plan like this isn’t just better, it benefits all parties involved. There’s also less time involved in these tactics than going out and meeting a bunch of strangers at a networking event or conference, for example, and then hoping something comes of it.
If this seems overwhelming, try to take action on just one or two of my suggestions to see how they fly. I know you and your client will be happy you did. For more information or advice from me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.fretzin.com.
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