Treat Your Existing Law Firm Clients Like Gold

Most lawyers get the vast majority of their new business from existing and past clients. These clients can be a source of new business both by sending new matters and by sending referrals.

Successful rainmakers know this and treat their current and former clients like the crown jewels of their practices. They recognize that existing clients are the most important people in their marketing mix.

Yet sometimes lawyers focus their marketing efforts on cultivating new relationships with people they have never done business with before. They ask these "strangers" to lunch. They invite them to their firm seminars. They call and e-mail. Meanwhile, their most valuable assets, their existing clients, are being neglected. It's easy to take your best clients for granted, just like it's easy to neglect your best friend.

I was reminded of this recently while working with a new client. We began our work by looking at her list of clients, past and present. My client said, "We don't need to focus on this list; my clients are already a steady source of business. I know if they have a matter, they will send it to me."

Nothing could be further from the truth. A study found that the #1 reason that clients leave their professional service providers is "perceived indifference."

To avoid the perception of indifference, successful rainmakers nurture their relationships with clients even when they are not doing work for them.

Here are some ways to nurture your existing client relationships:

  1. Provide outstanding, not just good, service.
  2. Stay in touch on a regular basis.
  3. Ask for feedback about how you are doing, and act on the feedback you receive.
  4. Celebrate their success. Send a gift recognizing a promotion. Send a handwritten note with any article that gets written about them. Ask your librarian to keep an eye out for articles about them or their companies. On a personal level, host a wedding or baby shower.
  5. Host a client appreciation event.
  6. Take them out to lunch to thank them for their business.
  7. Make them look good to their bosses or clients.
  8. Be responsive (as they, not you, define responsiveness). Ask them what they would like in terms of your responsiveness.
  9. Listen, really listen, to what they have to say. No multitasking while talking to a client.
  10. Provide advice off the meter.
  11. Learn about their businesses. Read their websites, and ask about their companies, their products, and their challenges.
  12. Keep them informed about the status of their matters.
  13. Support their favorite charities with your time or money.
  14. Help them. One of my clients sponsored her client for an organization that required a referral from an existing member.
  15. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and make a point of remedying it.

By making your clients the focus of your marketing efforts, instead of devoting most of your time to "strangers," you'll find marketing more enjoyable and more rewarding.

Your clients are the crown jewels of your practice. Schedule time this week to recognize that and treat them accordingly.