As a marketing speaker and marketing coach, I often work with clients who are seasoned entrepreneurs. They've been doing great work for good clients for years - sometimes decades.
And in the technology world, they call these longtime clients who are using your longtime services "legacy" clients.
Here's the problem - legacy clients can hold your business back.
You need to learn how to let go so you can grow. In this post, we'll explore how to do that. But first, here's the bottom line on the problem:
Legacy clients want to keep using your legacy services.
These are services, products and programs that you really don't want to sell any more. Because you don't want to DO them anymore. Regardless of the money.
Yes, let me repeat that - REGARDLESS of the money. (The fact that they may be generating a lot of revenue but very little profit is a topic for another day. For now, think about that and see if it's true for YOU.)
An interesting paradox
Most business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals get all excited about ADDING new products, services and programs to their business. They do so with great relish, enthusiasm, and fanfare.
Here's the problem - you can't keep adding. It doesn't make sense.
If you're a coach, consultant, speaker, or professional services provider, having two different investable opportunities might be good - having three might be better - having five may be challenging - and having seven may be disastrous.
How to let go so you can grow
When you realize that your business has grown in too many directions with too many ways people can use your services - yet not enough focus, clarity, momentum, or profits for YOU - then it's time to LET GO.
Time to cut back. Lose some branches. Prune the tree back so it can grow healthy again - and straight in the direction you want it to.
Naturally, you can't go "cold turkey" (although really, you can - more on that in a minute...)
So here is a stepwise plan to help you get rid of parts of your business that are holding you back so you can make room for the new, profit-rich, and on-strategy offerings that reflect the current focus of your business, your desired client base, and the revenue targets you want to hit.
1. Let your internal team know that your legacy services and programs are no longer accepting new clients. This will hold YOU accountable for not selling any more of them, no matter how tempting it may be. The first person you need to convince that you're not in that business any more is YOU.
2. STOP selling, marketing and talking about your legacy services. Don't take them completely off your website or marketing materials yet, but if they are featured prominently, make them less so.
3. Put your NEW offerings front and center in everything you do. Lead every marketing and sales conversation toward your new services and investable opportunities. Talk about them with your referral partners, influencers, advocates, business friends, past clients, and new prospects.
4. For current clients, use the "Switch or Stop" technique. As legacy clients finish their programs - or at a natural stopping point (for accountants, the end of the quarter - or for consultants, the end of a project milestone for example), bring up the subject of transitioning your client from the old service model to the new. Put a deadline on the calendar for making a decision to "switch or stop." Make it OK for them to stop and not feel bad or awkward. And don't leave them in the lurch - always have a referral in your pocket for someone else they can use if they want to continue with a service similar to the one you are discontinuing.
5. Take advantage of natural attrition as you ramp up. As an example, you might gradually go from 10 legacy clients down to 7, then eventually 4, then the last 1 or 2. All the while, your main job is to fill your client roster with NEW clients using your NEW services. If you time this right (always the tricky part!) you'll get more new clients before the old ones transition out. This is one of the more uncomfortable phases of the process because you'll feel like you're trying to ride 2 horses at once. And you'll be torn with second guessing yourself that "maybe these old services aren't so bad after all..." Don't listen to that voice. It's the voice of fear and scarcity. Block it out.
6. Rip off the Band-Aid. Once you've made the transition as smooth as you possibly can - both for yourself and for as many of your legacy clients as possible, it's time to rip off the Band-Aid in one quick, if somewhat painful, move. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your remaining clients and make it clear that:
a. You value their trust and friendship.
b. You appreciate their long-standing business over the years.
c. It's time to switch to your new model or you'll help them find another resource.
d. They can always call you for friendly advice, insights and recommendations and you remain in their service because you care about their success.
That's the very best that you can do - and it's what a trusted advisor does.
This is nothing short of the roadmap to the future success of your business.
And you can't get there if you're stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.
Look up ahead - the sun is rising over the horizon of your new (ad)venture. Focus forward, hit the gas, and let's GOOOOO!!!
What do YOU think? Please use the COMMENTS area below to share your advice, insights and recommendations on this topic and join the conversation...