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The Importance of Bread and Butter Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • Working with a large pool of small clients can reduce the risk associated with losing any one client.
  • The downside is the difficulty of giving many small clients enough attention.
  • Determining the best client size mix is an art.

Would you believe I have a custom tailor?

I buy a new suit or jacket every six months. I am not a big client, but I do regular business.

He described me one time as a “bread and butter client.” My wife and I know several people in the landscape design business.

One of them mentioned: “The $50,000 jobs are the bread and butter business we fit in between the really big jobs.” What is a bread and butter client? Why are they important?

Bread and butter clients are the opposite of “whales” in the financial services business.

Everyone who prospects hopes to get “a whale,” that big relationship that makes their year and their career.

Bread and butter clients are those loyal folks who do good business on a steady basis. They are great for many reasons.

1. They like doing business with you.

If they do regular business, they must have a reason. They like you.

People do business with people they like.

2. Relationships are long-term.

They keep buying and buying.

It is not a onetime occurrence where you invest an inheritance or a retirement plan rollover once and that’s it.

3. Accounts grow over time.

This makes sense.

They gradually become bigger and bigger because they are adding money on a regular basis and consolidating other accounts with you.

4. They talk about you.

They are your ambassadors. They tell their friends.

When my tailor turns up in our part of the world, we bring friends together at our house and introduce them to my tailor.

Bread and better clients tell your story.

5. They are not demanding.

They don’t make unreasonable requests, call you late at night or need transactions done on New Year’s Eve.

6. They are not obsessed by price.

Years ago, I learned if you don’t press a person on price, they actually give you pretty good pricing.

I will say: “Your price is fair.  Is it possible to do a little better? I will understand if you can’t.” When you are polite to a person who is often beat up on pricing, the price you get is often excellent.

7. Losing a client isn’t the end of the world.

If you have one big client, if they disappear for some reason, your business is torpedoed.

If you have many clients of about the same size, losing one doesn’t affect your year that much.

8. They are invested in your success.

You are providing great service to them.  Your client knows you care about them personally.

They want to help you to grow your business.

You can ask for referrals and introductions, expecting a positive reception.

The Mix

You can make the case it is good to have fewer, larger accounts instead of many small accounts.

There is danger at either extreme. If you have only one (big) account, you have a problem if they leave. If you have 10,000 small accounts, you can’t give them all personalized attention.

Having a manageable number of relationships that do consistent business is a good approach.

You determine the number that works for you.

(Image: M.studio/Adobe Stock)