Practice professionals have relationship-based businesses that lend themselves to internal growth strategies.
Internal business development strategies focus on retaining clients and building deeper knowledge and engagement, cultivating referrals, and broadening services. Yet, many practice professionals focus more on sales and marketing to acquire new prospects than they do on developing business opportunities with the clients they already have.
In an article I developed in collaboration with Ticoon Technologies, the following eight strategies were applied to financial advisors. These same strategies can also be used by a wide range of business professionals who want to grow their practice – including advisors, accountants, lawyers, consultants, etc.
1. Really know your client.
The better you know your client and understand their true needs and motivations, the better you can serve them. This is both a challenge to get to know your clients better as human beings, yet also an imperative to pay more attention to organizing and harnessing the massive amount of data that exists within your business about your clients and their habits. Every professional practice needs some kind of customer relationship management strategy including software and processes for managing clients.
2. Understand the lifetime value of your client.
Smart businesses realize that it’s more cost-effective to retain clients than it is to find new ones. The lifetime value of a client is a concept that applies very well to practice professional businesses because of the important role that trust plays at the front end of the relationship. Once the initial trust hurdle is crossed and if that trust is nurtured and maintained over time, then your clients will bring you a continuous stream of new opportunities as their needs grow and evolve.
3. Pay attention to relevance in communications.
Client communication may be the single most important factor in retaining and growing your business internally. Technology is rapidly changing how and where we communicate and increasing the control clients have over what they receive. Communications are more conversational then ever before and relevance trumps everything in conversations. You need to focus on what your client is interested in and how they want you to communicate it to them. Then you need to deliver on your side of the conversation.
Nothing is simple anymore. Clients have multiple advisors, consultants and service providers – more choices that ever before. Yet, simplicity is still a virtue for many people and any way you can manage complexity and/or coordinate among service providers is added value for your clients. Plus, stepping up and playing the quarterback role puts you squarely in a position to influence the plays that are called.
5. Get personal.
You’re in a relationship business. Your clients have chosen to work with you because they know you, they like you and they trust you. So, get to know them, like them and trust them too. And their families. And their friends. Getting to know your clients personally helps you understand them and support them in achieving their goals. And you will be the person they refer when others in their network need your help.
6. Engage your clients online.
The majority of your clients are online and that’s only going to increase over time. They’re getting their news online and being entertained online. If you’re not sharing relevant news or a good laugh or something inspiring with them online, you can be sure of one thing: someone else is. Engage your clients in online social networks and stop pretending you can’t afford the time. You can’t afford not to make the time.
7. Demonstrate value.
Long gone are the days when we worked for one employer for 30 years, let alone stay with one service provider or practice professional. And technology is changing so quickly that with each passing year there are alternative digital ways to get traditional services. So, demonstrate value for your clients, day in and day out. Remind them regularly why they should want to continue to do business with you – with YOU and not with someone or something else. Never, ever take your clients for granted.
8. Provide full service.
You already have a stable of clients whose trust you’ve earned. As your business matures, there are many growth opportunities that can come from broadening the range of services your offer. If you know your clients and are paying close attention both to what they are telling you in conversations and what the data surrounding their habits are telling you, it will be revealed exactly how to expand your service offering and grow your practice.