Keep in touch

  • Author : John Harper
  • Date : April 2012
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Harper TEP is a part-time lecturer, delivering face-to-face courses for the STEP International Diploma examinations all around the world

Just because what we offer may be termed ‘professional services’, it does not follow for one minute that we have to be shy about marketing them to potential end-users. In fact, I would say it is more relevant, indeed vital, to direct your energies to the intermediaries: the lawyers, accountants and wealth managers who will lead you to your new clients.

I could name 20 offshore trust jurisdictions without drawing breath (and there are a few more as well). If each one has an average of, say, 100 licensed trust companies, that means when you are trying to win new clients there may be about 2,000 competitors out there hustling for the same work. Fortunately, in my experience, the majority are not doing that. OK, they have websites and may be high on the list when you Google ‘ABC jurisdiction trust services’. But, referring back to the intermediaries who actually bring you the business, I would bet only a few find their service providers this way. In my experience, it is all about personal relationships.

Imagine you are an onshore private client lawyer. A potential client worth, say, USD200 million comes to see you. An offshore structure is required. Choosing a trustee somewhere in the world based on beautifully crafted words on a website, when you know nothing else about the organisation or its people, would be like using the Yellow Pages to find a heart surgeon. Would you really put your hard-earned professional reputation on the line by recommending someone you have never met on the sole grounds that their website looks impressive?

There are really only two things you can do to attract business. The first, and probably the most important (though often overlooked as a marketing operation), is to provide a consistently first-class service to your existing clients. However many there are, they are your best ambassadors, and furthermore you don’t even have to pay them a commission. High-net-worth individuals tend to hunt in packs and often are part of a very large network in their chosen field. As such, they are in contact with others who have (or perhaps need) an offshore structure. You can just hear the cocktail party conversation. A to B: ‘I’ve just had a flaming row with my trust guys in ABC island. They have messed up for the third time this year.’ B to A: ‘Listen, I have used XYZ for years. They are first class. I’ll let you have their details when I get back to my office.’

One company’s gain is another’s loss – it is as easy as that. Dissatisfied clients rarely give you much of a warning, if any. You just wake up one morning and they are gone. Such an occurrence is extremely sad, particularly because (as a wise old marketing expert once told me) it’s ten times easier to lose a client than to win a new one.

‘Choosing a trustee based on words on a website would be like using the Yellow Pages to find a heart surgeon’

Something I often did before a marketing trip was make arrangements to meet any existing clients who were in the same geographical area. Whenever I arrived, and particularly when I mentioned they were not being charged a bean for the visit, judging from their usual reaction, you could be forgiven for thinking that I had given them the crown jewels.

The other source of new business requires someone from your organisation to travel and get to see those onshore intermediaries who may, or may not, have given you valuable business in the past. If they hear nothing untoward from those they introduced to you once upon a time, they may give you more business when the opportunity next arises.

However, never forget that they have many visits each month from people just like you, and who may also provide a faultless service. So, if you stop calling on them, they might erroneously begin to think you have more business than you need. They may just say to themselves: ‘Well, I would normally have sent this work to Bill at Great Trust Company, but it must be years since I heard from him, so I’ll give John a chance this time as he came to see me only yesterday.’


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