07716 871892 phil@harrhill.co.uk

The value of existing client retention is often overlooked. Many claim it costs from five to fifteen times more to secure a piece of business from a new client than from an existing one. Agreed, the research basis for these claims is dubious, but the benefits of repeat client engagement should be obvious.

You have done the initial hard work of overcoming objections and securing a piece of work. During that work, you have built a relationship.

When/if an existing client needs legal services in future surely their first reaction should be to contact the lawyer they worked with previously. Unless that is, you didn’t perform well the last time around (nothing will help you!), or you put roadblocks in their way.

People buy from people and (in general) they are lazy. When building a client retention process, use those traits to your advantage.

A Client Retention Process

You know who your existing clients are. They should be happy for you to communicate with them. You should know what information they need and if you don’t, you can engage and receive reasonable feedback. You need a mechanism to secure that performance feedback and (most importantly) take action based on the results.

Retention Strategy

Delivering random communications is likely to be a waste of resources. You need to decide what action you would like past clients to take. You cannot control if or when that action will take place, that will be driven by events in the client’s life. But you can build awareness that you should be the firm of choice when the time comes.

Content

Content is the fuel for your existing client retention process. It should have a significantly higher chance of engagement than prospect focussed content.

The biggest problem with any content marketing process is how to deliver to your desired audience. That should not be an issue with existing clients.

Ongoing Client Contact

You will need an efficient contact relationship management (CRM) system. Ideally, a system that integrates with existing systems to avoid double entry of data. Content in all its forms (online and offline) will be dripped out to clients. You will need a system to control the process.

Systems save work and ensure events happen to plan but (again) people deal with people. At some point, there has to be a personal engagement. Don’t let systems get in the way of that engagement.

Events

Events including seminars and socials are an important existing client retention tool. It makes past clients feel valued, it keeps them engaged (with people rather than machines). It helps build community. It makes the past client feel important. It triggers demand for services that otherwise the firm may miss.

Existing Client Community

Related to events is community. There is little doubt building and maintaining a community is difficult, but if it can be achieved, the potential client retention benefits are significant.

The difficulty is ensuring the community delivers consistent value and community moderation. There are no easy answers, but (in our humble opinion) the future of marketing is community. Monitor the developments in the marketplace. There is lots of activity, but nobody has all the answers. Yet!

The Close

All the above will be a complete waste if, when the time comes for the existing client to re-engage, they are not dealt with appropriately.

Their first engagement is likely to be a tentative question. They need a quick and professional response. Ideally, that response should come from the lawyer they dealt with previously. That is not always possible, but if not, the response must remain fast, professional and efficient.

The response could be, it is work the law firm does not undertake, in which case have a well-understood referral process in place. Ideally, a lawyer in the firm will specialise in the required area. If so, once the initial tentative enquiry is dealt with, they should be ready to rapidly follow up to understand more and (hopefully) close.

If this professional engagement and follow-up process is not in place, do not bother with all that comes before. You will simply waste your time and money. Worse still, you will change a positive existing client impression of the firm to a negative one. The power of negative Word of Mouth should not be underestimated.

Existing client retention is often ignored, and that is a mistake. Even if the firm has all the business it needs, make every effort to engage past clients. Every market is driven by events no single law firm can control. What happens if the market turns? Remember also that existing clients are your best salespeople.

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