Ask ten accountants how they secure most of their new clients and at least eight will say referrals and recommendations. Sometimes this is because they have a good flow of new clients and/or have actively cultivated and encouraged such mentions among clients and contacts. Mostly though it is because they don’t actually secure many new clients each month; and those they do win did come through referrals and recommendations.
If this describes what happens in your practice, I would encourage you to consider whether it is safe to rely on this process continuing into the future.
In some of my talks, I reference the 3 Rs of business development, that is, doing what you can to be better Remembered, Referred and Recommended. And NOT simply ASSUMING this will happen because you’re a nice person and do a good job. I’m sorry, but that is rarely enough!
Years ago someone looking for a new client might ask around their friends or look up local accountants in the Yellow Pages. People still ask friends but there are also far more resources available now and prospects will often form a view of any recommendation or search results when they check out your website or online activity.
The Impact of Your Website
Plenty of accountants have very basic, ‘me too’ websites that are quite simplistic and uninspiring.
If you are getting as many new client referrals as you can handle then the state of your website may not matter. What none of us knows, of course, is how many GREAT referrals we lose because our website puts them off – or simply doesn’t adequately engage them and confirm what they had been told when they were referred or recommended to us.
Perhaps the biggest mistake I see on many accountants’ websites is a failure to identify the person or people who run the firm. And these are often the same people who typically complain that they don’t get as many decent leads through their website as they would wish.
Taking this a stage further, how easy do you make it for visitors to contact you in the way that they want to do so? Not everyone is willing to complete an online form. Some will want to email (a person, not a generic ‘info@’ address) or to phone.
Harnessing Online Influence
Beyond your website is the question of whether you have an effective online presence on those platforms where you could be influencing people who may be prospective clients or in a position to refer you to your ideal prospective clients.
Being active in discussion forums on Facebook, on other social media platforms or on LinkedIn means you sharing useful information and insights for your target audience. Done well, this can work for you; done badly, it can work against you. Simply posting Facebook-style updates on LinkedIn may engage your friends and associates, but does it help you to reach and positively influence prospective clients?
The Power of Online Impressions
Inevitably, we form a view and maybe judge people by reference to what we read online. When you have not met or even spoken with someone, it is human nature to build up a picture and to decide who you take seriously, who you are prepared to help, and whose views you will spend less time considering.
Optimising Your LinkedIn Profile
Another example of where I see accountants missing out is when their LinkedIn profile doesn’t contain up-to-date contact information. When these same people suggest that LinkedIn doesn’t work for them, I’m not surprised. It’s much like being disappointed by a fast car because you have never learned to use the gears to get the most from it.
Those accountants who do not engage online where they could be seen by prospects might be working from the premise that it’s safer not to engage on social media at all. If you are not involved, you can’t say or do anything that will be off-putting in the eyes of prospective clients. Equally, however, you are not making it easy for them to find or choose you. And if other accountants ARE doing this…?
It is all too easy to assume, as some accountants do, that as long as you do a good job, all will be well and you will generate all of the recommendations and referrals you could want. Maybe that works when you have a long-established reputation and little client turnover.
More and more accountants are, however, keen to generate new clients through their website or online, typically ‘social media,’ activity. In which case, you will want to do so in ways that make it easier for prospective clients to choose YOU.
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