Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Five Phases of Client Relationships

August 2008

The Five Phases of Client Relationships


A smart business recognizes that every client relationship can—and should—go through five distinct phases. One of the keys to success in business is being mindful of these phases and creating an appropriate process for each phase of those relationships. This is particularly true for each of us as we work to weave Legacy Building into our business. We must recognize each one of these phases and consciously determine whether and how we will utilize Legacy Building in each phase of our relationship with each client.

With each client relationship, there exists the potential of five distinct phases. Here are The Five Phases of Client RelationshipsTM:
  • Client Attraction
  • Client Engagement
  • Client Service
  • Client Retention
  • Multigenerational Client Engagement

To maximize value, a business must develop and refine a unique process for each separate phase. Sadly, not every business fully develops each phase of each relationship, and as a result, significant revenue and other value are lost for the business. In addition, when the business is not sufficiently mindful of each distinct phase, the workers in the business are likely to be unclear about how to develop each client relationship to its greatest potential.

The purpose of this brief article is not to fully explore all the possibilities of applying this concept to our respective businesses. That would probably require a rather large book. Instead, it is to call to your attention that these five phases do exist, and that Legacy Building can play a role in each one. At this stage of your development, given the limits of your time and resources, it may not be feasible to create unique Legacy Builder components in your processes in each phase. You need to identify where the low-hanging fruit can be found in your client work, and, for the present, devote your time and resources to that phase. Over time, Legacy Building will become a consistent and significant element in each phase of your business for those clients who find it valuable. But unless you pick your spots in the early going, you will spread your resources too thin, and you will become frustrated at your lack of progress.

Let me be more specific by using an example of an estate planning attorney who is a passionate, dedicated member of the Legacy Builder Network. Based on the training she received at the Legacy Builder Retreat and the further development of her skills and tools, there are many, many ways she might weave Legacy Building into her practice.

First, she might use Legacy Building in her marketing, that is, in the Client Attraction Phase of her business. This could be through presentations to groups, clubs, and even in her own workshops. This could be through creating great referral relationships by helping her referral sources with their personal legacy building (such as doing Priceless Conversation interviews with the CPAs and financial advisors who send her business.) This could also be through writing articles for local papers and other publications about Legacy Building. This could be through using the Meaning of Success interview to come in contact with successful people in her community. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Second, she could use Legacy Building to transform prospects into clients, that is, in the Client Engagement Phase of her business. For example, she might conduct the Meaning of Money conversation with prospects to help deepen the relationship between them and motivate them to hire her as their estate planner. She might ask select prospects to watch the Lighthouse DVD in her conference room before they meet with her, to help them understand that she has a different perspective of what quality planning looks like. She might use the Legacy Circle in her initial engagement meeting to discover what each client is most interested in. She might use stories in that meeting to demonstrate what an impact Legacy Building planning can have on children and grandchildren. Again, there is any number of possibilities.

Third, she could use Legacy Building as part of her core business, that is, in the Client Service Phase of her business. She could ask clients to bring a brown paper bag, or pictures and heirlooms, to her design session. She could use a “Priceless Objects, Important Stories” worksheet in place of a standard “Personal Property Memorandum.” She could include an “Our Kids” interview as part of her standard package for each couple with children under 18, or an “Our Values” interview as part of her process for all grandparents. Her “Big Red Book” binder of estate planning documents could include special tabs and sections about Legacy Building issues. Once more, there are tons of options.

Fourth, she could use Legacy Building to add spice and zest to her ongoing client membership or maintenance program, that is, the Client Retention Phase of her business. Her clients would probably enjoy watching the Lighthouse DVD at the annual client meeting, or sharing the “My House” activity there. Her clients would greatly appreciate being able to complete a new Priceless Conversation each year, to be added to their ever-growing “Legacy Library.” Her clients would cherish “The Treasure Chest Game” (a.k.a. Tapping into Your Wisdom) as a special gift for an important birthday or anniversary. Certain of her clients would find huge value in using the “Book of Life” to review their life and prepare an oral or written story of their life. She would likely find dozens of other ways to enliven her services to her existing clients.

Fifth, she could use Legacy Building to draw business from family members of her clients, that is, in the Multigenerational Client Engagement Phase of her business. Her clients probably couldn’t stop talking to their parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren about her amazing ability to incorporate the most important human elements into her planning, not just the money. Her clients’ relatives would hear her voice and see her address on all the Priceless Conversations interviews she had conducted with them. Her clients would include her in family meetings to explain the planning she had done for them. Some of her clients would even insist that she do planning for their children and grandchildren, so that the younger generations’ planning would be integrated with the older generation’s plans. In a myriad of ways, her business would grow (both for herself and her successor) from her Legacy Building work with her clients.

Yet, while she can see that Legacy Building can dramatically transform virtually every aspect of her work with clients, she is smart enough to know that, given her available time and resources, she cannot tweak that many moving parts all at once. She has to decide where she will achieve the greatest results right away and start there. Once she has that part up and running, she can shift her focus to other phases and other applications. She knows that, like the launch of the Space Shuttle, getting off the launch pad is the hardest and most energy-consuming part of any journey and that future progress will be much easier because of her momentum. Ultimately, she wants to change all her client relationships to include Legacy Building in every phase. But for now, she knows to focus on first things first.

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