Getting more business from your existing clients is perhaps the most basic of all professional services marketing strategies. Yet when it comes to repeat business, many firms stumble.
At a recent marketing conference, I asked folks if they had the experience of a seemingly satisfied client go to one of their competitors for a service that they offered. Almost everyone raised their hand.
Why do so many firms stumble in their pursuit of repeat business? What can be done about it?
The Realities of Repeat Business
Let’s start with the basics. Most of your clients probably want to do more with you. In fact, our recently published research on professional services clients and the firms that serve them shows that 79% of clients want to get more services from their existing provider. As Figure 1 shows, most providers actually underestimate the demand for additional services. That’s the first challenge.
But there is a second, even greater challenge.
Most of your clients are unaware of all the services you provide. Figure 2 shows that slightly over half of clients (52.4%) feel that they are aware of the range of services you provide. Less then 20% of service providers agree. Unfortunately, the service providers are probably more accurate.
When we ask clients what services they wished their current provider would offer we find that over 80% of the time their current provider already offers the desired service.
That’s right. Your current clients want more services from you. They are happy with your firm. The problem is they do not realize that you already offer the services they are looking for. So much for repeat business.
It would be very easy to blame this all on your client. After all, you explained the full range of services that your firm provides. And they are right there on your website for anyone to see. Why don’t they just ask you if they want another service?
Sorry, none of those work. Your clients are human (we hope) so they forget things. They are probably busy people with a lot on their mind. Expecting them to remember what your firm does and apply it to their situation is expecting too much. They will not necessarily even think to ask if you can help.
It is not your client’s job to understand your services and how they apply to their needs. That is your job.
So how do you do that job better?
A 4-Step Approach to Increase Repeat Business
Step 1. Have a dedicated relationship manager.
Many firms already have a role dedicated to managing the client relationship. But be careful. If the person who is supposed to manage the relationship is also responsible for project management, you are headed for trouble. Why?
It is incredibly difficult to do both. One role is focused on current activity. The goal is to complete the project on time and on budget. The other is dedicated to finding new opportunities and maintaining the relationship.
When these roles come into conflict, as they inevitably will, the outcome is preordained. Managing the current project will always win. The opportunity to develop repeat business will be lost.
But the relationship manager cannot do it alone. She will not have the same level of understanding of the client’s organization as the project manager does. What to do?
Step 2. Incorporate a formal review of business issues into your project plans.
Make this review a formal part of your approach. Present it to the client as a benefit. “As a part of this project, we will review your situation every month to determine if we see any threats or opportunities you should be aware of.”
Most clients are all too happy to have you help them keep on top of emerging issues. Why wouldn’t they be? It helps them.
And if you have committed to the client and put it in your plan, it will likely get done. After all, it is just part of the project.
This approach has the benefit of involving those with the greatest day-to-day contact with the client. They are in a great position to identify emerging needs or issues. And if they know they are responsible for regularly reporting them, they will likely be more vigilant.
Step 3. Identify opportunities where your firm might help.
If you conduct your regularly scheduled reviews (typically monthly or quarterly), you will likely uncover a number of issues. Clients will be able to address some of these issues on their own. No problem there.
Others may require a referral to another professional. Again, no problem. You are being incredibly helpful and gaining your client’s trust.
But many issues will fall within your firm’s ability to help. These are the ones where you can develop an approach, pull together past case studies, and estimate what it might take to solve the issue. These are your best repeat business opportunities.
Step 4. Review issues and suggested approaches with your client.
The final step is to review these issues and your suggested approaches with your client. These are often done as part of regularly scheduled review meetings.
This turns the typical project review meeting where the client reviews your firm’s performance into much more of a collaborative problem solving session. You are working together to prevent or solve important issues.
Notice how this process changes the dynamic of the situation. You are no longer relying on the client to identify an issue, research a solution, remember that your firm offers a relevant service, and then contact you to prepare an estimate. When you think about it that way, it is a wonder that you get any repeat business at all!
Now this approach to increasing repeat business will not fit all situations. Some projects simply do not lend themselves to periodic reviews. But it can be adapted. Reviews can be more or less frequent and can be done by other roles.
Also, be careful. Don’t make the reviews self-serving or “sales oriented” in tone or substance. The key to making it work is to make sure that your client benefits from your review. If they do, you will too.
For more on expanding your relationships with your clients check out the free download of our latest book Inside the Buyers Brain.