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  • Ruth Napier

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?*

Updated: May 30, 2023

The last few weeks have seen the combination of showers, sunshine and warmer days translate into a horticultural acceleration of new growth, blossom,

flowers and the inevitable weeds.

Sometimes when talking to lawyers about client relationships, I use gardening as a metaphor. I was fascinated as a child with how plants grew and flourished with the right care.

With the RHS Show at Chelsea taking place next week, it's a great excuse to share some of my approach to marketing and business development strategy, and its horticultural parallels.

PART 1: Laying the groundwork

Whether working with an existing firm or a brand new start-up many of the considerations at the outset are the same. Interestingly, the top questions that are important to think about when coming up with a strategy and plan for your firm’s business development and client relationships, mirror those a garden designer might look at.

Garden Design

BD & Client Relationships


Assess your plot and its potential

Which way does it face?

What is the soil like?

Is it flat, sloping, steep?

Key features you like?

Existing planting and landscaping: suitability, zones.

Need for screening? Problem areas?

Borrowed views?

What does your ideal garden include and what functions does it need to fulfil? A play area, fruit and veg, a place to sit or relax, a party area, another room, kitchen, office...

Lighting, power, water: what do you need?

Assess your firm and its potential

What practice areas are you well regarded for: what do you want to grow/maintain/defend?

What is the profile of your current client base – numbers, practices, profitability, longevity?

Who are your ideal clients?

Why do they come to you?

What is their journey to becoming a client: what works well, less well and why, what are the gaps? (New businesses: What would an ideal journey look like?)

How many clients and of what type do you need/want?


Outside factors

What will change in the wider landscape around you?

What impact will climate change have?

Outside factors

What is changing (Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Legal) that might change the type, mix of or demand by clients?



What gardens inspire you the most? What elements can you use in your own plot?


Which competitors do you want to emulate or outperform?



How much time do you want to spend on gardening? Are you aiming for low, medium or high maintenance?


How much time do you want to spend on BD? As little as possible – Average - As much as is needed


Other factors

What else is important to you? Biodiversity, scent, wildlife-friendly, colours, accessibility

Other factors

What do you want to be known for? Consider: firm purpose, values, client value proposition


Knowledge, skills and tools

What do you need to learn?

Which tools and techniques do you need to employ?

Specialist providers/experts?

Knowledge, skills and tools

What do you or your people need to learn?

Which tools and techniques do you need? Are your CRM and data fit for purpose?

What incentives do you need to improve BD?


​Resources and budget

What assistance can you draw on? What is your budget?

Resources and budget

What time, resources, budget is available?

The answers to these will inform how you take your project forward and formulate your client relationship and key account management strategy.

Check out part 2 in this series: A Gardener’s Guide to Client Relationship Types

*English nursery rhyme

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