10 Tips to Gain New Business from Current Clients
Existing clients are a rich but often overlooked source of business for law firms. Mary Vandenack, founding and managing partner of Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC in Omaha, Neb., explored this topic in a recent edition of Law Practice Magazine.
A satisfied client, she says, usually prefers to receive legal services from the same source rather than to start a search for a new lawyer. For lawyers, obtaining work from current clients is generally easier, less costly and less time consuming than finding new business. Plus, satisfied clients are good sources of referrals.
Vandenack offers these 10 tips to help you get new business from existing clients.
- Tell clients about new laws and regulations. New laws and regulations that may affect your existing clients can create work opportunities. You can offer value to your clients by informing them about the changes and how the changes will affect them. Consider a targeted, personalized mailing to clients you have determined are most likely to be affected by the new law. For example, perhaps you focus on significant changes to the tax laws come Jan. 1, 2013. Add a personal letter for the mailing to each client advising them of actions they should consider taking. For an even more personal approach, call the client and then follow up with written materials the client can read at his or her convenience. All of these actions help clients see that you are looking out for them.
- Build a database that helps identify client needs. Rather than combing through hundreds of files to identify clients for a targeted mailing, consider instead building databases that identify work you have already done that can form the basis of future notifications.Create a file for each client containing project summaries. Simplify the process by creating a standard form that your paralegal or assistant can complete. Once you begin saving project summaries, a review of just one client file can help identify other legal needs the client may have as well as projects that need updating due to changes in the law.
Send targeted mailings in small batches in the beginning. If the mailing is successful, your call volume may be more than you anticipated and your ability to respond quickly may be affected. How many clients can you respond to if they called? The first few mailings should go to no more than this number of clients.
- Create a client-focused blog. Provide timely and useful information on topics that matter to your clients. Make your blog a valuable resource by including links in your posts to reference sources and tools that will be particularly helpful to your targeted clients.A blog that is useful to clients should be limited in scope, well organized and a quick, easy read. Cover a limited number of practice areas and divide topics into searchable categories named to ensure that clients can easily find the information they’re seeking.
Once you have built your blog, let clients know about it. Send a notification and encourage subscriptions. Then let client requests drive the blog’s content. Ask clients what topics they’re like to read more about and make sure to cover them.
Limit the length of posts to no more than two short paragraphs. If the topic requires more information, prepare a longer article for your website and provide a link to the article in a blog post. Write blog posts in active, simple language. Avoid law review-style posts with long-winded phrases. Give clear examples of how legal changes may affect your clients or their businesses.
- Know your clients. Because most lawyers are pressed for time, meeting socially with clients on a regular basis is not easy. Still, it’s important to find ways to stay connected with them.When you have new clients, visit them. If it’s a business client, schedule a meeting at their site and request a tour. Don’t charge for the visit. Ask a lot of questions.
Stay informed about the business of your clients. Read the publications that your clients read. While reading, try to identify legal issues on the cutting edge of the client’s industry. Discuss these issues with the client and ask for his or her input, which will help you spot problems as they arise.
- Notice your clients. Offer congratulations on good news, such as awards. Send notes and newspaper clippings about achievements by the client’s children. Save a copy in your file so you can remind the client about the success years later.Send thank-you notes. Handwritten notes are better than email. Your thoughtfulness will be noticed, especially when everyone else is sending emails.
- Let your clients know all that you do. Find ways to let clients know your full range of services as well as the services offered by other members of the firm. Regularly update your website profile and profiles on social networking sites. Profiles often fail to reflect current practice area strengths. (But do check your jurisdiction’s advertising rules regarding the use of the terms “expert” or “specialist.”)
- Introduce clients to other lawyers at your firm. Your association with competent partners and associates reflects well on you. As you introduce your client to associates, let them know the capabilities of those individuals.
- Take good care of your clients. Always provide top-quality work, but stay in regular contact, too, especially if you are behind in delivering something you have promised the client. Focus on what the client needs. Listen carefully.Bring up the cost of any project before the client does and before you start working on it.
Be open about projected costs. It isn’t usually the fee itself that causes problems, but the fear of not knowing it in advance and the shock when the invoice comes.
- Patronize your clients’ businesses when possible. Using your client as a vendor for your law firm is an easy way to stay connected. Not only will you be supporting your clients, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the issues they face with their customers.
- Help clients become referral sources. When you are looking to take on more business, let your current clients know. When your clients do refer new business, be sure to express your appreciation. Send a thank-you note. Make a phone call. Take the client to dinner or a ball game. People tend to keep doing the things that they know are appreciated.
Law Practice Magazine is a publication of the Law Practice Management Section.