At a recent training session for MBL on “Managing and developing a private client practice”, delegates identified the following four key insights and asked for a summary of the issues discussed:

1. Analyse the source of work

Avoid data-free marketing. Before you start work on setting objectives and developing strategies to grow your private client practice, you need to do some analysis and research to understand the current situation. A key element of this is learning where the work comes from at present.

Much of the workshop focused on the best way to generate new work – Existing clients or new clients? Gaining referrals from established or new referrers? Generating contacts through the web site and on-line interaction or through face-to-face networking?

So a starting point has to be where the best quality work is coming from at the moment. Most firms have accounting systems that require you to enter details about the source of the work. Most firms find that this information is rarely provided by lawyers and support staff.

So. The key actions are:

  1. Decide what information you need to capture
  2. Adapt your systems so that they prompt for, verify, record and report on that information
  3. Educate and motivate your people to provide that information

What information do you need to capture? Some firms simply have a code that breaks down sources as follows:

  • Direct (through the web site)
  • Indirect (e.g. through a third party recommendation)

But what happens if they are an existing client? Most firms’ systems will simply accept “Existing client”, but in reality there was probably something in your client communications or Key Account Management (KAM) programmes that prompted that action and instruction. These other details need to be captured.

Other firms will offer a drop-down list that provides further options such as:

  • Web site enquiry
  • Email alert response
  • Subscription to a newsletter
  • Walk in off the street
  • Attended a seminar
  • Responded to an advert

Many CRM systems will allow you to record and track responses and leads generated by specific campaigns (an integrated series of marketing and sales activities) or events. So you can analyse the number of enquiries and leads generated for a specific campaign or event.

When it comes to being referred by a third party things start to get more complicated. Some firms’ systems will be happy to accept:

  • Referred by an existing client
  • Referred by a solicitor
  • Referred by an accountant

But when this happens, you need the system to prompt for more details – the name of the individual (in case they move from one firm to another) and the name of the organisation and even the specific office or department of that organisation if it is a large one.

You also need to capture the date and the nature and value of the work. This more complex data is needed so that you can support your referrer management systems (see, for example,

On-line systems can be rather clever. They use cookies to track when particular users visit your web site, what they look at and when they return (sophisticated marketing organisations use this information for remarketing – where you see then start seeing on-line adverts in different places relating to your browsing history). But many firms do not have sophisticated systems like these.

There’s always a trade-off between having comprehensive information and the ease of use issues requiring you to keep it simple so that people don’t get frustrated.

More sophisticated marketers and business developers will be aware of the challenges of attribution – especially if you use integrated marketing and sales campaigns. Let me explain this simply. If a client met one of your people at an external conference, then downloaded some material from your web site, then checked you out on social media and was then recommended to you by a local firm of accountants – what is the source of that work? In this case, there are a variety of different factors that prompted the enquiry and the subsequent sale. I’ll leave you to ponder this one – as many leading marketing experts do. But remember, it’s better to have some data than no data!

2. Set objectives

Marketing and business development activity is many private client teams is often ad-hoc, reactive, disjointed or only undertaken when there is a lack of client work to do. Thus promoting the feast and famine cycle.

Sometimes there is a lot of activity on a number of different fronts. But it isn’t co-ordinated and no-one really knows what is working.

So. A starting point has to be to do some analysis and to set some objectives.

The objectives will probably start with the desired level of fee income and profits. But there may also be goals around the mix of work from existing and new clients, about the volume and value of cases and about the promotion of specific services or areas of expertise within particular markets or client groups. See guidance on stepping stone objectives

By being clear about what you want to achieve not only makes it easier to measure progress and results but it also directs your decisions about which marketing, selling and relationship management activities to adopt to achieve the objectives most effectively.

And with objectives and strategies agreed for the team overall, it is easier to see where and how each individual in the private client team can focus their strengths and contribute to the overall team effort.

3, Identify the target market with a mind map

One of the tools that was most appreciated was the brainstorming and mind-mapping to identify the markets, segments and clients you are trying to reach and the channels you are using to reach them.

In this technique, you write the name of the target market in the centre and then brainstorm all the attributes, differences, channels and interests of that target market. Once you start doing this, you realise that what you thought was a target market is, in effect, a collection of different markets. You realise that your target is too broad. So you choose a particular segment or niche in the market map and start the process again.

Many firms have some vague notion of which clients they are trying to target – for example, “high net worth” people (see This technique helps people drill down to find the real market, segment or niche.

4. Promote cross-selling with internal communication campaigns

Internal communications and internal marketing are often neglected when considering cross-selling.

In private client teams, there is usually a significant amount of work coming from other departments whether from the corporate and commercial teams who are working with directors or from the family teams who are dealing with relationship breakdown.

But cross-selling is not a trivial exercise (see . At the session we talked about lots of different ideas to improve cross-selling (for example:

However, the delegates found it most helpful to consider a specific aim (what particular clients do we want others to refer to us and for what particular service?) and develop a focused internal communications campaign. An example included nominating a month where one topic was communicated internally through emails and intranet content, lunch time internal briefings, a referral competition, targeted communications that could be emailed to clients by other partners, packaged presentations and even short videos.

Future presentations of this course are listed here: