The Lemon: A humble citrus fruit or deadly marketing tool?

How owner managers can act to do more with existing clients.

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Sharon Kennedy
Published: 27 Apr 2017 Updated: 13 Jun 2022

I’m delighted to share with you one of the Business Growth Programme’s (BGP) phrases – lemon squeezing! Anyone who has been through the programme will know that this is one of our tools for helping owner managers unleash potential growth from their existing clients. So how do we do it?

Lemon On Tree

Firstly, let’s talk about lemons! We all buy them. We all use them – or do we? I don’t know about you, but I often need half a lemon for a recipe. I take the lemon, cut it, and put the other half in the fridge. And around a week later, I notice it lurking there at the back, looking a bit sorry for itself, and I put it in the bin. I have not got the juice out of my other half lemon. So the question we ask owner managers is this: have you forgotten to squeeze your lemons?

Most of us running businesses spend a huge amount of time winning work. We pour time and resources into meetings, proposal writing, and setting up new clients. And then we go and do the same again. What we can forget is that we need to go back to existing clients and see if they have another project, another piece of work that they may need some help with. This type of work is much less heroic than winning a new customer, but generally speaking it is a lot easier, as we have got a relationship of trust going, have proven our capabilities and may even be considered part of the furniture. This is obvious of course, when you think about it, but you may be surprised to hear that a lot of companies forget to ask their customers for more work.

When people come on the BGP it is usual for them to cover multiple times the cost of the programme from learning how to effectively focus on this one activity. So why haven’t they done it before?

In my experience of working with owner managers, this can be partly about the people who deliver the projects and work. They are often at the next level down in the organisation and they see their role as ‘doing the job’. They feel embarrassed in asking for work, and don’t see it as part of their remit. So how do you get round this?

Sometimes simply explaining what is required and how to do it (including role play) can get people on board. Sometimes it needs to be explicitly set as an objective either in terms of outcomes (work won) or simply asking the question (how much information have you found out). Embedding the answers to these questions in weekly team meetings helps companies to maximise lemon squeezing as a process. This in turn feeds your knowledge about the immediate opportunity, and gets asking customers for new work into the cultural DNA of your business. Now that is a powerful type of fruit indeed!

If you are interested in attending the Business Growth Programme, please contact Sharon Kennedy on 01234758122 or

By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.


This article was previously published on Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.