Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 13.

Retaining your best clients is critical to sustaining your practice in an environment of increasing competition.

“Typically, your best clients are your most profitable clients,” says Nadira Lawrence-Selan, marketing and communications consultant with Hathleigh Consulting in Woodbridge, Ont. “And it would be painful to lose them.

But these clients are the targets of your competitors, she adds, so you are in a vulnerable position should they become dissatisfied with you for any reason.

“You will have to go beyond the basics to serve them and reinforce the relationship,” says Michael Edwards, regional branch representative with Pinnacle Wealth Brokers in Halifax. This extra effort will probably add to your costs, which is offset by the higher revenue you earn from these top clients.

Here are five keys to retaining your best clients:

> Identify your best clients

Determine which clients are your top clients using criteria such as profitability and loyalty, as well as identifying those who place the highest value on what you offer.

In most cases, you will have had a long-term relationship with these clients, Edwards says.

Adds Lawrence-Selan: “You cannot hope to treat all clients alike and still expect to have a list of ‘best’ clients.”

> Find out what’s important to your clients
Lawrence-Selan suggests that you ask your best clients what’s important to them. Find out why they have stayed with you, what they value most about what you offer, how you can improve upon what you do, and what more you can do for them.

If you have ever lost clients you liked working to another advisor, try to figure out why they left, says Lawrence-Selan. This information should help you figure out what it will take to retain the top clients you have now.

> Create a retention strategy
Develop a strategy to help you retain your best clients, says Lawrence-Selan. This could mean more frequent face time, invitations to special events or easier access to you or your team. “You want to be their personal CFO,” she says.

Adds Edwards: “You should try to be the best original source of information for them.”

As far as possible try to anticipate your top clients’ unspoken needs, Lawrence-Selan says, which can be determined through more frequent conversations with them. You may find that you have to customize your strategy for certain clients because not all clients will have the same needs.

> Create expectations
Let your best clients know what you plan to do for them. By doing so you will be creating high expectations, so be sure to deliver on your promises.

Let your clients know that you value their business, Lawrence-Selan says.

“You want to be responsive to their needs,” Edwards adds.

> Measure your progress
Solicit feedback from your best clients periodically to ensure that they are happy. In addition, says Lawrence-Selan, monitor how well your retention strategy is working by tracking retention and defection rates over a defined period.

“If your rate of retention is higher, then you can safely say your strategy is working,” she says.

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