Building a new accounting or bookkeeping firm or growing an existing brand is hard work. And driving new client growth is essential to your success. Especially when your time is precious. The best way to find new clients – or replace lost ones – is with a smart, proactive strategy.
Mix new channels and old rules to find new clients
The rules of marketing are changing fast. Potential clients can be found in more places than ever before. Some of the channels and techniques you used in the past may no longer work.
Think carefully about the best approach and remain focused. Here are ten steps to improve the length and quality of your client list.
1. Identify your target clients
Not all clients and prospects are created equal. You can probably put your existing clients in three groups: great, average and not-so-great.
Think about the factors that determine what a great client looks like to your firm:
- How easy are they to deal with?
- How much total revenue do they generate?
- Can you work quickly and effectively with them?
- How profitable are they?
- Do they bring positive exposure?
- Do they create connections to other great clients?
There may be other factors you need to consider. The important thing is that you understand what your ideal clients look like before you start chasing them. Sometimes there are trade-offs involved. It’s not always financial factors that put a prospect on the list. You might be moving into a new area of expertise. You may be prepared to work for less profitable clients while you’re building your reputation.
Or if your firm has a specialty, you may be able to charge a premium. Looking for new clients in the area you specialize in could be a natural and profitable direction for you.
2. Partner with other qualified and trusted professionals
Your clients may already use other firms for services you don’t offer, such as:
- legal representation
- investment advice
- recruiting needs
Even if these aren’t your firm’s areas of expertise, it’s important you play a role in helping them with referrals if you can.
Think about establishing or improving the business alliances you have with other trusted professionals. Good lawyers, investment advisors, technology consultants and recruiters can help serve your clients. And you may receive mutual referrals from them.
It may also pay to establish non-competitive relationships with other firms you trust. But make sure you’re not in direct competition. For example, a firm with strong company tax expertise may offer bilateral referrals with a firm that has substantial company advisory experience. Or if you’re changing your firm’s focus, you could partner with a less specialized general bookkeeping or payroll practice. They could take on the day-to-day functions as you begin to specialize in higher value services.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals
It’s hard to find a better salesperson than a satisfied client. Your clients don’t exist in an exclusive relationship with you. They interact with other businesses of all shapes and sizes. Their recommendation of your firm adds value to your reputation.
Don’t take a “wait and see” approach with referrals. Be proactive. Ask your best clients to spread the word about your firm. Remember to use professional networking services like LinkedIn for recommendations and endorsements. Put testimonials on your website. Some firms use a more structured referral rewards program. These provide existing clients with defined discounts or benefits as a result of a referral.
4. Upsell complementary services to your existing clients
You can often increase business by offering additional services to clients you already serve. If they use your competitors for services you also offer, explain why your firm can serve them better. But pick your moment and take your time. Set up a special meeting, presentation or workshop. Think about the most suitable forum.
And don’t just talk about your firm. What are the additional benefits you can offer to your client? These could be:
- cost or fee benefits
- improved productivity
- more accurate and reliable data
- better service
- smarter and more experienced people.
And if your clients are already well served? Look for opportunities to provide additional services to their partners, friends and colleagues.
5. Learn how to network more effectively
Networking events are vital if you learn how to make the most of them. Even in today’s digital age, in-person events are great opportunities to meet new prospects. It’s still hard to beat face-to-face interaction when done well. Networking events are even more effective for businesses who serve other businesses.
It’s important to be prepared before you attend networking events. Find out as much as possible about the other attendees before you go. It may be possible to get an attendee list in advance. Think about what would make your firm valuable to these potential clients. Make sure you meet key people and be sure to follow up afterwards.
6. Open doors by doing business with like-minded people
When you spend time with like-minded people, you’ll find casual opportunities to share stories and network. Non-traditional events, groups and activities provide great networking opportunities.
Do you participate in activities or hobbies that include business decision makers? You’ll already have a starting point for conversation. Whether you’re active in community projects, a cycling group, or a golf club, these interactions can become strong client relationships.
7. Look for businesses with the same approach to technology
Many businesses have moved to the cloud in the last few years. It’s not simply a fad or a buzzword. If your firm is comfortable with remote working, and if digital collaboration with clients is second nature, you’re already well placed to serve similar businesses.
Make the most of your love of technology by marketing your services to the right prospective clients. Invite them to tech and innovation conferences – ideally where you’ll also be. Send them links to new, relevant and interesting tech stories and clips. Share technology providers you rate such as:
- cloud providers
- IT security firms
- web design companies and agencies
- development and integration shops
- ISPs and hosting providers
- hardware resellers.
Don’t spam your clients endlessly. Less is more. An insightful link shows you understand their world.
8. Think strategically about cold calling and visits
Cold calling often has a bad reputation, but it can be very effective. It depends on your perspective, preparation and execution. The key to cold calling is to gain as much insight as you can into your potential client before your interaction. Know who you want to speak to, what their role is and what some of their needs are. And don’t forget to listen carefully. A natural conversation is more effective than a sales pitch.
Some firms use specialist salespeople to make calls to key decision makers at potential clients’ businesses. This can be extremely cost-effective. This method can be used to turn a list of unsorted prospects into cold, medium and warm leads. Once qualified, the warm prospects can then become leads for senior sellers in your firm.
9. Use speaking engagements and seminars to raise your profile
Think about the best conference or seminar you’ve ever been to. Who was the best speaker at that conference? Chances are you’ll never forget what you heard or saw. That’s an incredibly powerful tool.
There’s no reason why your firm can’t leave a lasting impression. You need to make sure you pick the leading conferences where the right people will be. And use your best speakers or presenters. Make sure the presentation is memorable. Use storytelling to communicate your ideas. A story well told is memorable, compelling and interesting.
10. Extend your reach with social media, blogs and content marketing
You have a rich store of valuable industry information and knowledge in your head. Now think about the collective intelligence of your firm. That’s an incredible amount of intellectual property that can be unlocked and shared with potential clients.
You can reap the benefits from this knowledge using your website, social media, blogs and other online content tools.
New clients aren’t hard to find when you genuinely understand their business
Selling your firm’s services and finding new clients isn’t just about solving problems. It’s about genuine insights, empathy and understanding. If you really understand a business, you can sell to them before they even know the problems they’re facing.
Use the steps above to find new and better clients and extract more value from your existing ones. Life at your firm will be more profitable and enjoyable.