[IMGCAP(1)]In the relationship world, the dating process is typically a special experience. When you’re dating, you take your potential future partner out to nice dinners, buy them special gifts, surprise them, are tuned in to their feelings, and are usually working to earn their love and respect. Then…you get married. Complacency quickly sets in—and many of these things fall off!

It’s no different than many of our client relationships. We date and pursue them heavily until we get “married” to them and then we lose the romance. Becoming complacent with clients is a risky venture. Why? Because your competitors are working hard every day to “get a date” with your best clients! Once you’ve lost the romance, the door is open for your competitors to date your client and your relationship can become vulnerable quickly. And, before you know it, the client divorces you!

Because the competition for clients is so intense right now (your competitors are working extra hard to get a date with your “A” clients) even though you may be married to your clients, you also still need to date them. Here are a few great ways to remind your clients that you are still interested in their love and respect.

“Get in good” with clients’ friends and family (build more and stronger relationships)

Work to build many relationship ties with several members of management, ownership, boards and committees, as well as key advisory relationships with attorneys, financiers and other external influencers. Make sure that not only partners, but also managers, and even seniors, get in on this game. The more connections you can create with your client, and on more levels, the better the chances you can defend against a competitor finding a way to open the door.

Have a monthly date night (ensure regular contact)

Do something proactive for your client every month. This can be business-centric, or social. Whether it’s taking your client out to lunch or for a cocktail, sending them an article that would be of interest to them, dropping off a dozen golf balls at the beginning of the golf season, giving them tickets to a baseball game, sending flowers on their anniversary, or inviting them to sit with you at a charitable or business event. At the end of the day, it’s probably more important to focus on the frequency rather than the activity.

Seek regular feedback (formally measure their satisfaction)

Ensure that you’re doing a great job. Have one of your partners (not you) or your marketing director interview the client face-to-face once a year about their level of satisfaction with your firm. Ask them how they would rate your service, timeliness and responsiveness on a scale of 1 to 4. Ask them open-ended questions about the people that work on their account. Seek feedback on ways you can improve and do better, as well as make sure they don’t have any unmet needs. Often, its small changes in the way you serve your client that can make a big difference in the relationship.

Remember, as in both marriage and dating, a relationship needs ongoing nurturing to stay strong. You need to feed your relationships, or they may become vulnerable to outside influences. There are many fellas out there that would probably enjoy a date with my wife, but it’s my responsibility to make sure I do things to ward off complacency, show interest in her, and keep her interested in me. Do the same with your clients and they will reward you with a long and profitable relationship impervious to your competitors’ requests for dates.

Art Kuesel, director of practice growth and marketing consulting services for Koltin Consulting Group, helps CPA firms across the country hone and maximize their growth plans, build effective marketing and sales efforts, coach partners and managers to greater success and add revenue to the top line. Koltin Consulting serves CPA, law and financial advisory firms with strategic growth, M&A services, executive recruiting and management consulting services. Art can be reached at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.