Many of the accountants who approach me start with variations on the same question:
How can I attract new clients? How can I grow my practice? What can I do to get more clients? I need more clients, what should I do?
I never know if it helps to know that they are not alone. It’s a common question and concern. And all such conversations end with me sharing what I’m told is useful and valuable advice.
Unlike some advisers I rarely offer advice however until I have found out something about the accountant, their firm, their services, their likes and dislikes and what they have tried previously.
The simple reason is that the best answer for one accountant may not be the best answer for someone else. And no one can realistically do EVERYTHING. You need to focus on what’s best for you.
Sadly I often have to explain that I cannot wave my magic wand to create new clients. There are NEVER any quick and simple solutions. There is rarely ONE thing they can do which will immediately lead to a flood of new clients.
There are no ‘guaranteed’ solutions that work for everyone. You will be both out of pocket and disappointed if you believe otherwise.
What to do?
The best starting point is always to clarify who would make a good client for you? And, at the same time to be clear why you would be a good accountant for such clients. You need to be more specific than simply to reference SMEs anywhere in the UK!
When you know who you want to target you also need to clarify why they should choose you to be their accountant. And who is the competition? It is never ‘all other accountants’. And it’s rarely even ‘all the local firms’. The more you know about your target clients, the more easily you can formulate messages that will help them want to choose you.
More prep work
I am assuming that you don’t ‘just’ want to pick up (more) low fee, ungrateful and problematic clients. In any event, you need to do more than simply announce you are open for business and hope that ideal clients will find you and agree to appoint you as their accountant.
On the plus side you don’t need to start blogging, paying for SEO work, social media campaigns or a flashy new website. At least there is little point in doing any of these things until and unless you have done enough preparatory work.
- You will need to raise awareness with your target audience of who YOU are and what value you can deliver as distinct from other accountants. You will get better results faster if your efforts here are targeted on the right people. Typically that will be specific to your local area or to a specific niche market place.
- You will need to be able to give your target audience the confidence that you can help with them with their specific issues, challenges or problems. This may mean playing a long game. It means referencing your past successes and experiences that are relevant to the people you are targeting.
- You will need to spend enough time with prospective clients to find out about their issues, challenges and problems. Only then can you quote fees that will seem good value for the service and solutions you will provide. Learning how to structure such conversations and meetings is key. If you can’t convert new business there’s no point in generating new prospects.
- You will also need to be able to discuss your fees with confidence so as to be able to ‘complete the sale’ with the prospects you WANT as clients. This is key as there’s little point in spending time with prospects only to find out later that they don’t feel you offer value for money.
- You will also need to develop systems and processes to bring the new clients on board and start providing the services they need in such a way that they tell other people about you too. You’ll have to work even harderI if you can’t keep new clients happy such that they want to stay with you and recommend you to family and friends.
Only now should you start thinking about spending time, effort and money on specific marketing tactics. If you do this without addressing the 5 stages above you may make the mistake of thinking that a specific tactic doesn’t work for you. You may be right. But the reason the tactic doesn’t work for you, could equally be because you didn’t do enough prep work.
This is often why attending business networking events doesn’t always work, why websites often seem to be a waste of money and social media just takes lots of time without providing any real short-term reward.
These are all tactics that work for SOME accountants. But simply copying them without understanding who they work for and why they work for them is going to be a waste of time and effort.
The most successful accountants have found what works best for them only after first doing their prep work and then experimenting before they decide where to focus their time, energy and money.
Three quick examples:
1 – One accountant I know has done very well using Facebook as a tool to reach her target audience. She wants to work with home-based hobbyists who are building their business from scratch and who she knows are active on Facebook. The same approach is unlikely to work for accountants targeting high growth tech businesses.
2 – Another accountant I know, in his twenties, is building his practice largely via Instagram – because the start-ups he is targeting are active there. Such an approach works as the platform is widely used by his target audience.
3 – A third one has followed my advice to use Linkedin to short-cut the business networking process when reaching out to the owners of growing commercial businesses. This approach would be less likely to succeed if the accountant was targeting the same type of people as in the above examples.
The best way for YOU to win more clients will depend, as I implied earlier, on your background, experiences, focus and approach.
Who can help you
There is at least one key difference between the way I work and the way so many marketing and social media consultants work.
I will start by helping you to clarify and focus your strategy. Accountants often then continue to seek my advice as they know they can trust me to be objective. I’m not trying to get them to buy my marketing support services, I’m not trying to persuade them to outsource their marketing effort to me and I’m certainly not offering to write blog posts or social media posts on their behalf.
My approach is to focus on what works without you having to spend a fortune – as this really isn’t necessary and is often not a cost-effective approach for sole practitioners.
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