If you are serious about retaining existing clients, you need to read this.

Here’s a novel thought. If you are doing any sort of marketing, the clients you are chasing are probably the clients of another law firm. Now, flip that around. If you are chasing other lawyers’ clients, how many lawyers are chasing your clients?

Just have a look at the number of marketers who are chasing lawyers for their business. They’ll support the marketing on your website, on Google, on Facebook, LinkedIn and across other social media platforms, all geared to attract new clients. Just Google “law firm marketing” or “marketing for law firms” and you’ll find a plethora of businesses looking to help you win business from other lawyers’ clients!

That’s great. All law firms need to win business from new clients. But that means other lawyers are winning business from your clients. Why? It’s because you can’t be bothered keeping in touch with your existing clients! Ask yourself, honestly, what are you doing to nurture your existing clients? What are you doing to win business from them – from their family, from their friends? If the answer is “nothing” then you need to have a good, hard think about this.

Before we go on, don’t think it’s enough to believe you did such a good job that clients will automatically think about you the next time they need a lawyer. Yes, they know you deal with, say, a house sale and purchase. But do they know you can prepare their Will and Power of Attorney, deal with the estate of a relative or manage an accident claim they might have. Remember too, some of those individual clients will own a business. They probably have absolutely no idea about the commercial or corporate services you provide – because you’ve never told them!

Retaining existing clients is essential

Don’t miss out on opportunities for new business generated from your existing clients. Let’s put this “I did such a good job the last time” thinking to the test. You take the fee and say sayonara to the client. You don’t do anything else. There’s no follow up of any description. Nothing, Nowt!

Months pass, maybe years pass and one day you receive a mandate from another solicitor asking for the client’s file. It could just as easily ask for the client’s Will or Power of Attorney. Remember, this is the client that you did “such a good job for” the last time – and that he or she would undoubtedly be back!

And it’s at that point you realise that you’ve lost a client.

That client will probably never come back. How do you feel? And here’s the irony – these are the ones you find out about! You’re losing clients every day and you don’t even know!

Let’s look at the benefits of retaining existing clients

Let’s look at what might happen in the life of a “typical” client. What you maybe don’t realise is that this client has had a need for a range of legal services during the years they weren’t in touch with you. They Googled the services they were looking for because they couldn’t remember your name or your firm’s name. Because you didn’t have your firm’s name in front of this client on a regular basis, they forgot who you were. Because you didn’t let your client know about the range of services your firm provides, even if they remembered your name, they didn’t know you provided that particular service. As an aside, they might have Googled some services you provide but if you didn’t optimise your website for Search, unless they searched for you by name, they wouldn’t find your website listed.

You also didn’t know that this client might have referred members of their family to you. They might have referred some friends or workmates to you. But they didn’t because they either forgot about you or didn’t know you provide a wide range of the kind of services they, their friends, workmates and family just might need!

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you care?

20% of your Wills clients are no longer where you think they are!

Myself and a colleague, David Ballard (another former solicitor), managed some Will reviews for my clients – we managed the process – the solicitors did the legal work. A really interesting statistic was that 20% of the people we sent letters to had “gone away”. Now, being “Wills clients” it’s likely:

  • that they owned property that the solicitors who held the Will didn’t get to sell;
  • It’s likely that they bought a property that the solicitors holding the Will didn’t get to buy;
  • Also, when they die, the solicitor holding the Will, probably won’t get the executry or the associated estate agency and sale work for the house that will inevitably go with it!

You do the sums – what would that work be worth to you. Can you afford to give up that amount of fee income? It runs into the millions!

You see, the problem was that these firms had no idea where these clients were. They simply hadn’t kept in touch with them.

How do you market your services to focus on retaining existing clients?

There are a number of ways you can do this. You can opt for traditional marketing practices or take advantage of digital marketing options.

If we look at traditional marketing practices, one of the main methods of keeping in touch with existing clients is through direct mail – or mailshots. You have the clients’ names and addresses in your practice management system and it takes very little time to run off a mailshot. You decide what it is you want to say and whether to include a brochure. Then you send your mailshot to clients with your brochure describing your services.

Why not run a Wills review campaign. It’s a great “excuse” to write to clients. It always generates business for the firm. However, the main problem with that is that the focus is always on Wills and says nothing about the other services your firm provides. It’s also massively time consuming!!

You might think about a leaflet drop to your clients. Using the tools available on, say, the Royal Mail website. You can upload your client list with your leaflet or brochure. They will then print and deliver your leaflet or brochure to your clients.

However, there are many problems with traditional direct mail marketing. It is time consuming and expensive. Also, it is not something you would do month after month after month!

There is an alternative that you MUST consider.

Digital marketing with email newsletters

A sensible, cheaper and effective alternative to direct mail is digital marketing. Email marketing is one of the most effect means of keeping in touch with clients. It allows you to communicate with thousands of clients almost instantaneously. That means you can contact all of your clients (for whom you have an email address) and get your name in front of them every month. No kidding!

Here at Client Communications, we manage email Newsletters (eNewsletters) for clients with subscriber lists as low as 1,000 to nearly 14,000 and everything in between. Can you imagine getting your firm’s name in front of that many clients every single month? Amazing! But all completely and utterly possible!

This is a simple solution to a perennial problem. Lawyers aren’t like accountants. Accountants have an excuse to contact clients every year – the client needs their accounts done to submit to HMRC. Lawyers don’t have that excuse. That’s why lawyers don’t have recurring business from clients – because clients are not compelled to use them every year!

However, don’t be reactive, be proactive!

If you let your clients know what you can do and what issues might affect them and you do this on a regular basis, then sod’s law says that you’ll win new business from those clients, their friends, their extended family members and their workmates. Why? Because you’ve bothered to keep in touch.

So, what do you need to do about retaining existing clients?

If you’ve reached this point, you should get some kind of “gold star”. Congratulations! There is, however, a serious message in all of this. Retaining existing clients should be right up there as one of the key elements of your strategic marketing plan (you do have one of those, don’t you?). If you’re not trying to keep your existing clients, your business will probably depend solely on new business from new people you don’t know – probably cheap, uncertain and, almost certainly, expensive to win! If you have arrangements with “introducers”, what do they make out of it? Do you view each of your new client introductions as a “one-off” fee hit? If you do, is it profitable?

We’ve gone over this before, but if you’re not operating on a “lifetime value basis” for every client you represent, then you need to work out the precise profit each client generates – and then accept you might never see that client again. Is the “one-off” fee worth it? It’s your business, only you can tell.

Please don’t ignore your existing clients

My whole premise in this article is about retaining existing clients and generating fees as a result of that relationship. You might not want to do that! It’s your business and you need to decide where your priorities lie. If you are looking to build a business on firm foundations with return clients and client referrals – in addition to new clients – then what are you currently doing to look after your existing clients?

I understand the need for new clients and new contacts but please, please, don’t ignore your existing clients. They are your route to a secure, future revenue stream that would be foolish to ignore.

If you need help to develop a marketing strategy that includes winning business from existing clients, please get in touch. You can email me at brian@clientcommunications.co.uk or give me a call on 07855 838 395.

Author: Brian O’Neill

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