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posted: 10/7/2013 5:30 AM

How much do clients actually know about your business?

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There's business you're likely not getting, probably because you don't know your clients as well as you think you do.

Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, you may be missing out on business because your clients don't know as much about your firm and its capabilities as you think they do.

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If either statement fits, you may want to chat with Lee Eisenstaedt. Founding partner of L. Harris Partners LLC, Minneapolis, the Chicago-based Eisenstaedt has developed an online survey that helps professional services firms -- primarily CPAs, lawyers and bankers -- determine how they are viewed by their clients.

The results can be surprising.

"Forty percent of the typical service firm's clients are using multiple providers to get their jobs done," Eisenstaedt says. Why? "Clients don't know all the services their provider offers."

While that indicates you might bump up marketing to current clients, the good news is that additional revenue seems to be available, simply waiting at the client to be captured.

"We've found there is 10-15 percent untapped gross revenue in the typical service firm's current client base," Eisenstaedt says. "Very few clients view a (provider) firm as unique, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for providers to differentiate their firm from others."

Another interesting result: The L. Harris surveys indicate that most clients would recommend their professional services provider, but rarely does someone at the provider firm ask.

That result showed up at Porte Brown LLC, an Elk Grove Village-headquartered CPA and financial advisory firm. Survey results indicate Porte Brown has "a huge chunk - 90 percent - of clients who would adamantly refer us," says Pam Metzger, director of marketing. "But," she adds, "we're not asking."

When we talked late last month, Porte Brown had not had its management meeting to delve into the L. Harris survey results, and both Metzger and Managing Partner Bruce Jones were somewhat hesitant to discuss details.

Still, Jones says, "The candidness of the responses we got was refreshing. We asked direct questions and got good answers."

Although what Porte Brown does with the answers is yet to be determined, Eisenstaedt, if asked, might well suggest a 3x3x3 approach to business clients.

A multipronged strategy, 3x3x3 centers on selling more services to existing clients -- and at the same time building some protection against client departures.

"(Service providers) should be selling at least three services to each client," Eisenstaedt says. If a client drops one service, the provider still has presence with the other two.

Following the same strategic path, Eisenstaedt says a provider firm should have at least three senior-level contacts at each client. If, for example, a client's CFO is the service provider's only contact and she leaves, the provider could be hurting. However, the CFO's departure is less likely to be damaging if the service provider has additional high-level client contacts.

Similarly, the services firm should have at least three senior staff with contact responsibilities at each client.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com 2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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