Thought Leadership Resources

#112 Why helping your firm keep existing clients should be your #1 priority

80 percent of our company’s business comes from existing clients.”

I heard this recently from a senior member of the marketing team at one of my biggest and longest-duration clients (18 years!!!!). That proportion is true for my firm, and I expect it’s like that for your firm too.

This means that for marketers, “success” looks like putting a lot of priority on supporting that all-important legacy business. I think that this includes three priorities:
  1. Remind existing clients that your firm exists
  2. Fight off competitors’ attempts to take away existing work
  3. Expand your firm’s share of wallet within existing clients (which includes serving the needs of new people within those clients, and moving the client to higher-value services).

So let’s go through each of these, and see how you can help make the right things happen (and go on earning your paycheck :)).

Remind existing clients about your firm

Many marketing textbooks say that the purpose is “to build top-of-mind awareness” within one’s market. Sorry, that’s just not gonna happen. Your clients’ top-of-mind focus should be on serving their customers. If your firm really is top of mind, it’s probably because some project you’re doing is getting messed up.

But you do want to stay familiar enough in your client’s mind, that they’ll think of your firm next time they have a need. It might be a recurring need, like the task of carrying out a radon test on their indoor air, or the need to do an archaeological investigation every time they start a new building. Or maybe something a bit more one-off.

But in any case, you want them to say, “Let’s bring back that guy we used last time – I’ve just read one of his blog posts – and here’s his contact information at the bottom of that post.”

You don’t want them to say, “Hey, remember that woman who spoke at the conference last month? I’ve connected with her on LinkedIn – I’ll reach out and see what her firm can do.”

How can marketers make it more likely that the 1st Scenario will unfold? One way is reminding the client that your firm exists. And this isn’t just through constant repetitions of your firm’s name, as in the brand logos flashed on the big screen at a sporting event. That adds no value at all, and it just annoys the client.

You want your firm to be associated with helpfulness and understanding of the issues their organization is facing. By the way, you can learn more about “newsjacking,” in Post #83, and how this can help you develop content showing your ability to meet your clients’ most urgent needs.

Do this through regularly presented, useful content, provided in a way that your client prefers. The still-best way to do this is through regular emails, backed by social media and a presence on your firm’s website. While video is a great way to present some ideas, text on a screen is still the best way to convey complex ideas.

Generally, it’s called a blog, although that seems to be associated with the phrases “waste of space” and “I never signed up for this” in the minds of many people in business.

So, make your blog relevant. Start developing your editorial calendar by focusing not on what your firm wants to sell, but what your ideal clients want to buy – the solutions to the issues they’re facing.



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Fight off the competition

Your competitors may be able to get a foot in the door if they can convince your client that they have a better offer – either that they’re cheaper, or that they provide benefits your firm can’t match.

So, you need virtual ammunition to help your firm fight off those incursions.

I’ve talked elsewhere about the value of “How-to-work-with” content. One recent example involved an engineering firm in the Buffalo NY area. This is a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business, which is an official category in the USA. As such, this firm can help contractors meet requirements in government contracts that are set aside to provide work for firms that are veteran-owned, minority-owned or women-owned. The article I ghosted for them talked about how contractors can get good results working with these “set-aside” firms.

You can read more about the value of how-to-work-with content in a video here.

This type of content is great for building trust, and that is the biggest reason a client will continue to do business with an existing firm, even if a competitor offers a lower fee.

Expand your firm’s share of wallet

Your third priority in helping your firm retain its 80% of revenue lies in expanding the range of services that existing clients buy from your firm.

Many businesses have legacy, commodity services such as environmental assessments, air-quality assessments or materials testing. The client may not be aware that the firm offers other services that they would find valuable, or need those services.

Many firms would want to generate content that says, “We provide XX service now, and here are our qualifications in that area.” This doesn’t help much, if the client has no reason to trust your firm’s ability in the new area, or isn’t aware that it might need or benefit from those services.

Improve this situation through content that talks, not about those services, but about the forces that are causing a need for those services.

For example, one of my clients helps to manage the smelly, nausea-inducing process of re-covering flat roofs. This is a huge issue if the building is currently being used – office workers, industrial workers, patients in a hospital, students in a school – whoever they are. It’s worse when the work is being done during the day, so that the smell gets sucked into the intake vents and circulated throughout the building.

The smell of tar and asphalt can cause a deluge of complaints, absenteeism, and lowered work productivity. The contractors themselves are focused on getting the work done and on to the next job, and don’t care much about reducing the smell. So, my client developed some best practices for minimizing that impact. These included ventilating the building with outside air as much as possible through the night. When the roofing crew and the building occupants arrived in the morning, my client would close the intakes and the building would hold its breath, so to speak, so that asphalt-laden air stayed out of the building.

This is an example of an additional service that the client might not have been aware it needed. But a blog post or other content describing the issue, and why it matters – with some mention of the firm’s ability to help solve the issue – would go a long way towards improving the firm’s share-of-wallet with that client.

So there you have it. Content that shows your firm to be aware of the issues facing its clients, and offering solutions to those issues, can help you keep existing business.

I’ve talked elsewhere (in Post #110) about the need for getting your firm’s ideas into media already trusted by your firm’s ideal clients. This is a good way to fill the top of your funnel, with the added extra of also reaching your existing clients – particularly if you publicize that published article in your emailings and social media. But content that is delivered to your client – whether that’s through an e-mail blog, a YouTube or Vimeo channel, Twitter feed, LinkedIn or Facebook – is a great way of retaining existing clients.

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Carl Friesen

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