5 proven ways to win more clients for your accounting firm
Acquiring more clients is a top priority for 41% of the accounting firms that took part in our recent Accountants Benchmarking Survey.
But what are the best ways to do that in an increasingly competitive market?
See below for 5 tried and trusted methods for making your firm more attractive in the marketplace and bringing in the new clients you need.
1. Target your ideal client
80% of your results will come from the top 20% of your client base, according the the Pareto Principle – so it’s important to target the most valuable long-term clients.
“We go through a whole conversation asking people about their business to see if we’re a good fit for each other. So making sure they’re the right client will be a key question as we consolidate and grow. Our website is all about Xero and working online, so the wrong clients don’t generally come to us because that’s not how they want to work.”
To effectively target those ideal clients:
- Define your niche and specialisms – outline the industries, sectors and business types that the firm is aiming to service, and build your offerings around these niches.
- Refine and select your software and services – think about the types of software and value-add services you’ll aim to provide, whether it’s basic accounting through FreeAgent or high-level FD-type advice based around a customised Xero system.
- Profile and target the most valuable prospects – target your website, marketing, sales and lead generation activity at businesses that fit your long-term client strategy.
2. Invest in effective digital marketing
Modern digital marketing offers a measurable return on investment (ROI), providing productive and cost-efficient ways to target your niche audiences. Your marketing is there to reinforce your brand as a firm, put your services and expertise into context, and put a face to the people in your team. Richard Suswain at Tyrrell and Company says:
“In terms of marketing, the key things are to make sure you do a good job, give clients the best advice and make sure you’re meeting their expectations. If you do that, those clients tell other people and recommend you. And prospects will then search for you online and will look at your website, content marketing, social accounts and your overall online presence.”
To make your digital marketing work harder:
- Update your online presence – build a website for the firm that's clear, well-designed, responsive on mobile devices and appeals directly to your target ideal client.
- Invest in content marketing – write blogs, produce helpful guides and create content that provides helpful, practical advice to both existing and new clients.
- Raise the profile of your team – use social media marketing to demonstrate your expertise and raise awareness of your brand as a team of expert trusted advisers.
3. Focus on referrals from existing clients
Referrals from existing clients give business owners confidence in the firm, which can make them easier to convert. But you will need to do some work to set the right foundations for winning them over.
As Stuart Budd, Commercial Director at FD Works, outlines, if you deliver the right level of client service then you will also increase the number of quality referrals from your existing clients:
“Of the many new clients we’ve acquired over the last 12 months, all but two have come via recommendations from our existing clients. This reinforces the need to provide a wider range of services and deliver excellent client service.”
To make referrals work for you:
- Keep existing clients happy – it may seem obvious, but you need to keep your clients well serviced and create clients who are true advocates of the firm.
- Offer the right mix of services – update your firm-wide offerings, and ensure you’re providing the services, packages and price points that will appeal to referred clients.
- Incentivise client referrals – create a client referral system where existing customers are rewards for bringing in new business – offer a free project, or a reduction in their fee.
4. Use tech to improve your value to clients
Modern business owners are highly tech-savvy and they want their accountant to share the same technological mindset.
With solid software foundations, you can offer potential clients a more valuable service – making your firm a more obvious choice over a more traditional firm. Sharon Pocock explains:
“Automating things definitely frees up time, so we can do a lot more with less staff. We’re definitely doing more hands-on stuff with clients, whether it’s fixing their previous Xero numbers, working on specific projects or providing advisory and growth support. Your compliance becomes quite quick and efficient, and then you can focus on advisory work.”
To win over those tech-savvy prospects:
- Automate the low-level tasks – use in-app automation to automate bookkeeping, payment and debtor tracking, and reduce the workload for your clients and your team.
- Improve accessibility and communication – give your clients cloud access to their numbers on the move, and make it easier to ask questions and interact with your people.
- Increase the value of your advice – use smart reporting tools to enhance your analysis of client’s numbers, improve forecasting and give more insightful advice and support.
5. Hire the right people
Technology may be providing the foundations for much of the accounting work in 2018, but attracting your ideal clients comes down to building a firm with the right people and talent.
The skillset of your ideal hire has changed, with the focus now more on interpersonal skills, relationship-building and technological awareness. For Anoop Rehal, Director at BDO UK LLP, this is key in delivering the cloud proposition:
“The priority is people. One thing we’re struggling with, and I think there’s not enough in the market, is good quality talent. And that doesn’t mean that they have to be very technically astute, we just want people with the right attitude. We have automation and those efficiencies, but what we need to deliver that is the right people.”
To build up the right team of people:
- Define the key roles needed for growth – decide which roles will support your cloud strategy, and build up a team of software specialists, relationship managers and finance professionals who can help deliver this offering to your clients.
- Look for personality and attitude – in interviews, measure candidates on their social interactions and how you feel they’ll relate to your clients.
- Get your brand out there in the market – use your digital marketing and social channels to get your name out there as a firm that new hires will aspire to work for.