Take inventory of your marketing to save time, save money, and improve results


Taking inventory of your marketing can help you gain clarity about where you are and make it easier to get to where you want to go.

Here’s how to do it:

Pick a period of time in the past. Six or 12 months will do. Write down how many new clients you took in during that period, who they are, and the amount of income those clients have or will generate for you.

So far, so good.

Next, look at the names of each of those new clients and write down where they came from. You need to know whether they were referrals (including self-referrals, aka repeat clients), or they came from some other source.

You can break this down any way that makes sense for your practice, but I suggest something like the following:

  1. Referrals from clients (including self-referrals)
  2. Referrals from professionals, others; networking
  3. Online (Blogging, SEO, social media, webinars, articles, etc.)
  4. Paid advertising (PPC, direct mail, display, radio, directory, ezine, banners, self-hosted seminars, etc.; if you do a lot of adverting, you should break this up into different categories)
  5. Other (Public speaking, publicity, writing (i.e., trade pubs), etc.)

Okay, now you know where the business is coming from. What now?

Here are my thoughts on how you can use this information:

  • Most of your clients should come from referrals. If they don’t, ask yourself why and what you can do about it
  • If you’re not getting business from some of your marketing activities, or they are too expensive relative to the business they bring you, consider eliminating those activities.  For example, if blogging and social media take up a lot of your time but you’re not getting the clients from it, why do it? Use that time for something that is producing.
  • There will be some cross-over or ambiguities. For example, blogging may not be producing a lot of traffic, inquiries, and new clients for you but it still has value as authoritative content you can show to prospects who come to you via referrals, or to add value for your clients.
  • If something is working for you, do more of it. You can find more time for networking, for example, by reducing or eliminating some or all of the time you spend on (whatever is not working). If advertising in trade publications regularly brings in new clients, increase your media buys in trade publications.
  • Before you cut anything, consider the “back end”. For example, you may be breaking even on advertising (or even losing money) but if you are able to get referrals from the new clients that are produced by that advertising, you’re still earning a profit.
  • If you aren’t in the habit of recording where your clients come from, you need to start. Instruct whoever answers the phone to ask everyone, “Where did you hear about us?” and add a line to your new client intake form.
  • Track these numbers going forward so that you can periodically take inventory and see where you are.

A friend of mine says, “You have to inspect what you expect”. He also says, “You have to slow down to speed up.” Take his advice. Once or twice a year, shut off the phones and email and take inventory. It will help you save time, save money, and improve your results.


Would you ever sue your own client for fees owed?


I was asked that in an email this morning and it’s a great question. How would you answer it?

I never sued a client for fees. I don’t think I would, but “would you ever?” covers a lot of territory. I suppose it’s possible. But unlikely, at least for me. Bad Karma. Better to focus on getting new clients and especially, better paying clients.

If I considered it, I would think about things like

  • How much was owed and for how long
  • Who the client is (corporate or individual, long-time client or first time client)
  • Why aren’t they paying? Are they dissatisfied with something? Having financial difficulties?
  • What is their attitude? Contrite? Jerk? Are they ignoring me or willing to talk about it?
  • Are they willing to pay anything?
  • Could I collect if I won?

I’d also think about what I might lose if I did sue. Maybe if I cut them some slack they would pay me when they could. Maybe they’ll feel guilty and send some referrals. And maybe they will solve their immediate cash flow problem and become long-time, good paying clients.

One thing is sure, if you ever do sue a client, you can be pretty sure they will never hire you again (although it does happen) or send you any referrals.

Of course the best thing to do is avoid getting into this position. Get paid in advance or at least get big retainers, auto-bill their credit card, and never let the balance get too big (i.e., bill monthly).

At the end of the day, there will always be uncollected fees. As long as it’s a small percentage of gross receipts, I consider it an acceptable cost of doing business. If it’s not a small percentage, I know I’m doing something wrong.