Every spring, I buy a gorgeous $50 hanging planter for my front porch. Vibrant purples and pinks, full and lush–you know the kind. In May, this planter gets all the TLC I can give it: daily waterings, slow-release fertilizer, fresh potting soil. The works.
And then, June comes.
Frankly, I’m just over this planter and it’s quickly-fading flowers. I can’t be bothered to spend 10 minutes watering it every night. And fertilizer? Forget it.
And then, July hits.
My planter, invariably, looks like this —>. So I go back to the nursery and spend another $50 on a new planter, and repeat the process over again. DUMB!
Losing existing clients can lead to expensive re-acquisition costs
Does this process sound familiar? You pay to acquire new clients, whether it’s directly through advertising or indirectly through time spent developing and rewarding referral sources, just to neglect those clients several months or years after they sign on. Maybe they make it through the neglect and remain a client, but likely they don’t. It’s expensive, it’s repetitive, and worst of all, it’s slowing your accounting firm’s growth.
How can you avoid “killing” the clients you already have?
It does require resources to keep the clients you have, but its far cheaper to retain clients than acquire new ones. Be attentive, and spend the time and energy necessary to nurture those relationships once new clients sign on. A robust client relationship management (CRM) tool helps, but even small firms with informal tools can manage these small gestures, ones that go a long way to ensuring an existing client stays a happy and healthy member of your book of business:
- Remember milestones. Yes, a personal note when a child graduates is nice, but even better is a communication touchpoint that says you want to make sure Mom and Dad know about the available tax credits if they’re funding college expenses, or the legal pitfalls of co-signing on a newly adult child’s mortgage. Sharing relatable expertise shows you’re an important advocate for them, one who is paying attention to their lives.
- Offer opportunities for value-added education. You’re the expert, and no doubt changing legislation or economic factors within your expertise area will affect your clients’ lives. Can you organize a private client event to help educate them about the changes and feel more secure in your ability to help them face the new landscape?
- Thank them for referrals. Clients like to feel appreciated (don’t we all?), so a simple note that reflects your gratitude can make him feel like he’s an important part of your firm, and highly valued by your team.
Nurturing a client takes many forms, but neglecting one is simple: just ignore him or her. You can be sure, like my hanging plant in June, that client will be gone soon, and you’ll be left with the cost of acquiring a new one. It’s expensive, so don’t kill it!
About Kelly O'Donnell
Kelly O’Donnell is the CEO & Founder of O’Donnell IMC and creator of the Small Firms, Big Marketing communityfor busy CPAs at solo-, small and mid-size firms who want to grow their practice through efficient, feasible marketing and business development strategies and tactics.
For 18 years, Kelly O'Donnell has managed the marketing, communications and business development functions for professional service firms in accounting, law, private equity, investment banking, and financial services and wealth management. Her interest in new media and marketing techniques extends to the opportunities professional service firms can find using video and social media to communicate expertise and extend referral source networks. She currently advises accounting firms around the country, including CPA leadership and business development training focused on new client acquisition, client service and cross-selling, client retention strategies, and practical networking etiquette; Kelly is also now accepting up to five new clients for custom strategic marketing plan creation.
Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in marketing and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University. She’s a member of the Association for Accounting Marketing, Legal Marketing Association, and the National Venture Capital Association’s Strategic Communicators Group.