Did you attend networking events before the lockdown? I know loads of accountants don’t like the concept. Others do it reluctantly and some actually enjoy it.  The same is true for those online networking events that have replaced face to face events during the lockdown.

In my experience you probably have one of four reasons for networking:

  1. To find new clients
  2. To build business relationships and hope that your contacts will need your services in the future;
  3. To hope that you will be remembered, referred and recommended as and when any of your contacts is asked if they know someone like you;
  4. To ensure that you can be found when someone needs your services.

Some people network for other reasons too of course. But the four I have listed tend to be the 4 main reasons I hear from accountants and tax advisers.

One thing you learn pretty quickly when you start networking is that it’s really hard for accountants to find a new clients at networking events. Quite simply no one goes to a networking event in the hope of finding a new accountant.

And this can be quite frustrating if that was why you forced yourself to attend an event with a bunch of strangers. I was luckier than most as I developed that skill during my teenage years. I started talking to strangers regularly before, during and after the children’s parties where I was the magical entertainer!

Later when I was in practice and started attending professional networking events I know that I was attempting to build long-term relationships.  This is because I worked in accountancy firms where the focus was on winning new clients who would then stay with the firm for years. It was much the same when I worked in tax practices at the start of this century(!)  As I was promoting the benefits of a long-term relationship I spent time building business relationships.

I didn’t get it all right though. Back when I was in practice I don’t think I fully appreciated the benefits of good structured conversations like those I teach as part of the 4 suits approach.

And I probably relied a little too heavily on my magic tricks to ensure I was remembered by those people I met.  It was years later when I realised that being remembered as likeable and magical is not enough when you want to secure leads and clients as a tax adviser!  This is just one small part of my advice now when helping accountants and tax advisers to focus on the 3 Rs – Being better Remembered, Referred and Recommended.

This brings us to the other key point of this blog post.

How you can win what may be more like the ‘transactional’ work that lawyers do. A lot of tax advice is like this. Indeed tax is one of few areas of the law you can practice without needing to qualify as a lawyer.

This is partly why advertising has its place for tax services. Sadly most such advertising is, of necessity, of the ‘spray and pray’ variety. And it’s typically quite expensive too in terms of the ‘cost of acquisition’ for a new client.  The cost of acquisition tends to fall if you can afford a targetted, focused and sustained advertising campaign – but this tends to require a hefty investment too.

I am seeing an increasing number of accountants and tax advisers attempting to market themselves on Linkedin and on other online platforms. Such approaches are free from a financial cost but take a lot of time and effort before they really pay off and generate business. I have written plenty on this blog about the myths and misconceptions surrounding social media and Linkedin. This is why so many accountants and tax advisers struggle to generate business through these media.

There is another option of course. One with a low cost of acquisition, that requires no ongoing time and effort and which only generates leads from people who need your expertise.  I’m thinking of the Tax Advice Network website.  Maybe now is the time to register so that you can be found when people in your area are looking for help with their tax issues, challenges and problems.  Or you can continue doing what you’ve always done and hope that things will get better. Except that ‘hope’ is never much good as a business strategy.