I recently offered some help by way of comments in response to an accountant’s query in an online forum. Most of my observations and advice are of more general application so I am sharing them here too.
The questioner has been in practice for 3 years and is struggling to build up his client base. He has already lost a number of those he picked up in year one. His question was headed: How do I compete? He has identified 127 other accountants within a 5 mile radius of his home and wants to know if he can ever expect to get onto page one of Google.
Here’s my reply:
Reading your original post and your comments I suggest there are a number of issues to address:
Prospects vs suspects
You think you are good with clients but you seem to struggle with converting prospects into clients. I wonder if they are all even prospects. Some may be simply ‘suspects’ – for example those who you say are not ready with their business model. Is the service such people require different to what you’re offering? Maybe they need help building their business model?
Can you distinguish suspects from prospects? The latter are not just people who want an accountant but people you have found out enough about to know that you could provide what they want/need and that you can provide those services.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about ensuring your website appears high up the search results when people search for the services you are offering. You’re right. It will be hard to compete with 127 other local accountants all offering the same thing to the same people.
There are typically two types of people who search online for an accountant:
A) Those who just want an accountant (be it their first one or to switch from a bad one)
B) Those who want an accountant who specialises in helping people just like them
It sounds like you’re hoping to be found in (A) regardless of who is looking. While there will be fewer people searching for a specialist accountant, more of them are likely to be pay good fees and you will face less competition.
Do you have the confidence and skills to ‘close’ a prospect – ie: to help them to want to engage you as their accountant? This demands both conversational skills and the right paperwork at the right time.
Ah yes, this is what you suggest may be the biggest issue. You may be right. But equally if you can distinguish yourself, your service and your approach from the others you can build a sustainable and profitable practice.
Again, there are 2 issues:
a) Are there enough prospective clients in the area? (Almost certainly ‘yes’ – tho you may need to wait for their current accountant to mess up before they will move to someone new – you!)
b) Can you position yourself as the accountant enough of them should aspire to be serviced by? Having a half decent website (or better) and high ranking on Google is only part of the story and not a crucial one either.
This is always referenced as the ‘best’ source of new clients for accountants. I am aware however, that many who claim this are not looking to build up their practice quickly. They are happy winning a few new clients each year to replace the few they lose each year.
Establishing a sustainable referrals strategy is absolutely worthwhile. Again though it’s easist if your clients, friends and associates can say something distinct, when referring you. Something more than simply that you’re an accountant (just like all the others).
Happy to discuss this further. I love helping accountants who want to STAND OUT and become more successful without spending a fortune on marketing and branding. By all means book a call here: www.calendly.com/bookmarklee/phone