During our first mentoring conversation a mature accountant told me how they had been struggling to replace clients who had retired, died or gone bust. The practice was well established and he had never previously needed to spend much time or effort on marketing or promotion.
He had done the basics. He had a website and over the years this seemed to be enough. Most of his new clients came from recommendations and to date this had been fine. He lost the odd client and he won the odd client. That had always been the cycle.
Recently though he had noticed that new clients were resistant to paying the same fees as those he was losing. His annual recurring fees were falling and despite trying to follow the advice he found online he wasn’t getting the results he wanted. And he was cynical about much of the generic advice he heard from marketing, website, SEO and social media experts. Apparently my reputation for direct, common sense, independent advice made me worth listening to. Or, at least talking with!
To be fair, this accountant was doubtful I could help him but he seemed to change his mind after our initial conversation. It seemed no one had previously asked him some key questions that made him think about what he really wanted as regards new clients.
After listening to him describe what he wanted, what he’d tried and what work he enjoyed doing, here’s the bare bones of what I said – as it may help you too:
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. [More here]
The sooner you learn to distinguish suspects and prospects the more you can ensure you only spend time with genuine prospects. And, even better, only with those prospects most likely to willingly pay you for doing more than simply preparing and filing accounts and tax returns.
Website and profile messages
Your website isn’t helping you attract the clients and work you really want. You don’t need to spend a lot to sort this out and you definitely do not need to pay a monthly fee regular updates that won’t help you either. [More here]
One quick win would be to update your Linkedin profile so that it works for you rather than against you – and regardless of whether you intend to be active on this online business networking site. [More here]
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about ensuring your website appears high up the search results when people search for the services you are offering. Your website then needs to persuade those people that you are a better fit that any of the other accountants’ websites they visit.
Being top of Google (even if it were possible) is not going stop people comparing you with other accountants. And, it will always be hard to compete with other local accountants apparently offering the same thing to the same people.
There are typically two types of people who search online for an accountant:
- Those who just want an accountant (be it their first one or to switch from a bad one)
- Those who want an accountant who specialises in helping people just like them
Most accountants make the mistake of hoping to be found alongside all of the other general accountants around, 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 for specialist advice and you will face less competition if you aim to be found here.
And do remember that most people searching online are looking for someone local – regardless of how capable you might feel you are of servicing clients across the UK.
What work do you want to be doing?
There is no law that says you have to focus on preparing and filing tax returns. Given your extensive business experience and understanding, perhaps you should focus on promoting how your clients benefit from this. Ands, in so doing, seek to attract more clients willing to pay for advice that goes beyond traditional compliance work? [More here]
‘Completing the sale’
Do you have the confidence and skills to ‘complete the sale’ with prospects? – ie: to help them to want to engage YOU as their accountant?
This demands both structured conversational skills and presenting them with the right paperwork at the right time.
How good are you at 1-2-1 pitching and at pricing your services so as to secure the work you want for the fees you want (and so that clients feel they are getting a good deal)?
This is what you assume 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 attract more profitable clients.
Again, there are 2 issues:
- 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!)
- 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.
These are typically referenced as the ‘best’ source of new clients for accountants.
You should be 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 easiest 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). [More here]
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