The most important question you can ask a new client


How many new clients did you get last month?

If you don’t know the number, either you didn’t get any new clients or you’re not keeping track.

You need to keep track.

You also need to keep track of where they came from. Who referred them? Which keyword did they use to find your website? Which ad did they click on?

You need to know how every new client made his or her way to your doorstep. That’s why the most important question you can ask a new client is: “How did you hear about us?”

You need to know so you know what’s working. Are your ads pulling or are you throwing your money away? Which ad is working better? Are you getting clients through your efforts on social media or are you wasting your time? Which social media platform is working better? Which posts?

John Wanamaker, who owned department stores in the early part of the twentieth century and spent a fortune on advertising, once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Department stores do “brand advertising”. They don’t usually track response. Although they can do focus groups and track coupons, they don’t know with any degree of accuracy if what they are doing is working. You won’t have that problem if you ask, “How did you hear about us?”

Don’t just ask new clients, however, ask everyone. If they call your office, if they contact you through email, if they show up at your door, ask them.

In my office, our new client intake form had a space to record the name of the person who referred the new client. We kept track, so we knew who to thank. It also allowed us to bring up the subject of referrals with the new client.

We had a form next to the phone to record the name of the referring person or the phone book or other ad that prompted them to call. We tracked them after the call, to see if they became a client. In this way, we learned which of our ads generated new business and which ones didn’t. (Some brought a lot of calls but not a lot of clients.)

Today, there are other options for measuring response to ads and traffic to our web sites. But nothing beats asking, “How did you hear about us?”

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