The New Client Conundrum

My colleague at Ovation, Ian Else, and I have been having a debate. We’d like your input.

The discussion centres around how many new client enquiries we want. I argue for a high quality of referral, typically from professional introducer or existing client. Each month, in a perfect world, I’d like to get 3 new enquiries, which results in 3 new clients.

Ian argues for an increase in enquiries from any source, just fill up that hopper. As a result we might get 10 new enquiries, which would result in 4 new clients. More new clients than my method.

But more time wasted on enquiries that do not become clients (says I).

But more new clients (says Ian). That’s all that matters. And those that don’t become clients might do so in the future. And those enquiries that do become clients will stay for the long term and continue to generate income for many years to come, whereas the wasted time is a one off.

Well (says I), one good new client meeting could lead to one new client. One good new introducer meeting could lead to 20 new clients.

We’ve done some research to help answer the conundrum. It seems we spend an average of 3 hours 40 minutes for each new enquiry. This includes those we speak to on the telephone (average 47 minutes), those we meet with and can help but aren’t right for us as ongoing retainer clients (average 3 hours 40 minutes) and those we do sign up (a further 6 hours). If we have to see 6 extra people to get that one extra sign up, that is 22 hours a month which could be spent on chargeable time, or networking to generate more of the right quality of enquiries and get the average up to 4 out of 4.

(By the way, if you think 3 hours 40 minutes sounds like a lot, that’s what we thought too. We do log all time for all staff using a variety of work codes, however, so we know it’s true. It includes everything, including chasing, meetings, telephone calls, and so on. The management information I get from our timetracker system is simply wonderful. So either we spend more time helping people who don’t become clients than you, or you spend more time on it than you realise).

Now, the answer this to debate will inform the marketing approach. I have always favoured referral marketing. If an enquiry comes from an accountant, say, they are already pre-vetted. They aren’t checking out three firms. I don’t need to justify our experience and knowledge, etc, and they are coming because they have a need we can help with. Innumerable times clients have said “If Dave says you’re the best, then I believe you’re the best.”

If we wanted, however, to generate as many enquiries as possible then our approach to marketing would be very different. Facebook ads, SEO, pay per click (do read Phil Bray’s excellent article on this subject by the way). Anything, basically, to get those enquiries up to 10 per month.

Both approaches take time. However, the referral marketing method seems to have 56 hours more time at its disposal.

So, which would you rather have? 3 enquiries leading to 3 clients, or 10 enquiries leading to 4 clients?

Your thoughts please.