How to grow your business without losing clients

Karen Holden shares her experience in moving with the times while keeping existing customers happy.

When you first set up a business you aim for satisfied paying clients of all varieties. As you become more successful though you tend to recognise those clients that you want to focus your efforts on, but do you change or do your clients? Do you or they stay loyal?

When I set up my business, I had a suitcase of files and a handful of clients so I needed to really sell myself and my business to drum up trade. Within 18 months of launching, the recession hit and people had less money; so less to spend on legal fees. Funnily enough though this really drove my business forward as people didn’t want to pay the larger firm fees and having tried us, even after the recession moved past, these clients had no reason to leave.

But as we grew our situation changed. As we won more work we needed to take on additional staff (sometimes with expertise in highly specialised areas) and our own costs grew. We had to question whether we could afford to take on projects at such a low cost. However, my view has always been if you go on a journey with a client from the start not only will you have an incredibly strong personal bond with them, but all sorts of opportunities will come out of it.

To give an example, one client who had several businesses came to us for advice over his divorce due to our competitive rates. After this was completed he asked us to work on some commercial work. After that he transferred all his commercial work to us (he had been using a much larger firm) as he saw cost-saving, more personal friendly service and yet the quality of the legal services were as good as the larger firms. So we maintained our friendly personal approach and as such secured a larger more established business as a result.

Of course you can only really go on a journey with a client if you make sure you can diversify your own business. There are many different aspects of law for example and if we only were able to provide family law solutions then we would have to pass on a huge amount of work.

You have to be able to adapt and change as you grow.  For example, one small start-up client was given a large investment and so our start-up advice quickly turned to specialist IP advice. We then had to get him investment ready and instruct a USA Attorney to launch him in New York. As such our more general advice now needed to become very specialist so we took on specialist lawyers to handle technology law and IP to ensure we could continue to service our clients are they grew and needed more specific advice.

Over the last few years we have also seen clients needing to understand funding options and so we started attending workshops and seminars and then hosting our own to fill in this lack of knowledge. As such we became focused on specific areas of the market and developed far more specialist advice.

So, you don’t necessarily need to put up your costs and price clients out – but you must make sure if you are going to take clients on at a lower rate you have the resource to provide them with a complete 360 solution – that way they will get maximum benefit and you will also reap the rewards of their success.

But all that said as your business grows you can’t afford to work for free. As you grow so do your expenses so you need to adapt by reducing the level of credit extended to clients and getting more focused on accounts and budgets. We did this by juggling a more targeted marketing approach whilst raising our fees for specialist advice maintaining our competitiveness in the market place. So luckily, we are flexible enough to listen to our clients and the market and adapt and react quickly.

One client who couldn’t afford our fees convinced us to take a gamble on him, so we did all his commercial work, payable on investment. We couldn’t afford this but took the gamble and now they have offices here and abroad, numerous staff and we are proudly the only law firm they will use. We didn’t change our outlook or love of the job and it proved to be beneficial, but each client is different and the market changes daily so we have to keep one step ahead of the game.

Throughout all this, our start-up culture has always remained the same. Yes, our business has grown alongside our clients and we have changed and offer more services, have more lawyers and better premises. But fundamentally, we continue to offer competitive fixed fees; we are a friendly approachable team that gets to know their clients personally; we still think very much outside of the box and adapt quickly to client needs.

Regardless how big or successful our clients become, they always remain part of our community.

Karen Holden is an award-winning solicitor and founder of A City Law Firm.

Making the most of networking and exploiting customers contacts

Business coach Alan Adams explains the value of capturing good-quality data and reveals why he wished he’d made his clients feel loved at the start of his career.

As a business coach it’s often assumed that we know it all and that we have the answer to every business conundrum. And yet I hate to break it to you, but we don’t.

Many of my most valuable lessons have been learnt the hard way, through hands-on experience – and none more so than the value of good-quality data as a new business tool.

I first got into business nine years ago and spent a lot of time, energy and money attending networking events and mixing with business types. No one told me just how valuable these contacts could be and so I walked away each and every time without capturing any details – never sure if our paths would cross again.

It took me a few years to realise what a waste that was and so now I always make sure I get someone’s phone number and email address if nothing else. Just because they have no need for your product or service now, doesn’t mean they won’t in three months, one year or three years time. And they may make a great supplier, or else you never know who they know or where they may go next.

Believe me when I say that having good quality, pre-qualified data from people you’ve actually met and spoken with is absolutely worth its weight in gold. Stay in touch with them gently, perhaps send a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter, the occasional email with offers or promotions, or else a link to your blog with advice and guidance about something of interest to them.

Always, always, have a clear unsubscribe button for those who really aren’t interested though, and for the others make sure you include links to your social media profiles and website so that they can get to know you and your business a little better.

Almost worse than not capturing the information though, is failing to ask for business or ask for referrals when you are in front of clients and prospects and that was the second mistake I made in the early days. As with many things in life, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Sure, happy clients are great, and if you’re lucky they’ll tell other people about how awesome you are and the value of working with you. But what if they don’t? Even if they’re absolutely over the moon with your service or product, they may simply not think to pass your details on.

More lessons from entrepreneurs:

I waited about three years too long to actually ask if they knew anyone who might be interested in support from me. A huge fail on my part as I don’t doubt that I could have grown my business much faster with the kind of great-quality leads which come from the most educated advocates of them all – past and present clients. Nowadays I make sure that I regularly ask each and every client if they know of anyone that might benefit from me getting in touch. I don’t overtly incentivise this as it can actually lessen the quality of the referral details passed, but I do always pass on my thanks appropriately.

When I started in business I assumed that if I did what I promised, every client would be a happy client, but I’ve since learned that around 68 per cent of lost business is simply down to perceived indifference.

Your client thinks that you don’t care whether they shop with you or not. Whether they use your service or one down the road. And so they do go to your competitor. And yet there are a whole host of ways in which you can keep their business. Firstly, and most simply, ask them if they’re happy. Ask them if there’s anything more than you can do to make their lives easier, their experience more positive, or your service better? Listen to what they say and then implement it. Other little things like using their name in communications, staying in touch, remembering personal details like their birthdays or their preferences, all go a long way to making your client feel like they really do matter to you.

I only wish that I’d learnt these three lessons earlier on in my business life. They made – and continue to make – a massive difference to me, and I can only guess at the impact they would have had when my business was younger and smaller.

Karen Holden

Karen Holden

Karen Holden is the founder of A City Law Firm (ACLF) – an award-winning, go-to law firm for entrepreneurs, start-ups, high-net-worth individuals and larger corporate brands. ACLF also have one of the...

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