6 Ways Accountants Can Win New Clients
By Tom Kelly, accountancy lead and account director, Modulr
Significant new business formation activity in 2020, alongside the likelihood of companies re-evaluating their operating models, means that there is a huge opportunity for accountants to pick up new clients.
While the accountancy market is competitive, firms can outsmart their peers by applying a multi-pronged approach to client acquisition. Cloud-based firms can win new clients across the whole country due to being able to offer a range of services delivered remotely, and creating and utilising online company assets gives firms unprecedented scope and reach for new client acquisition.
That said, a scattergun approach rarely works, and firms will need to focus their efforts on high-value sectors and services in which they have a particular specialism. This is likely to result in a higher number of sales conversions, which will be more profitable than a one size fits all approach.
1. Niche down your service offering
Niching down your offering to be sector-specific makes it easier to target clients who hit your sweet spot. Targeted sectors should be based on a combination of where firms already have expertise and success, as well as researching those likely to be most profitable based on the skills of staff and the range of technology tools used to service clients.
This strategy can be particularly effective if you articulate how the benefits of your technology are specifically applicable to target sectors. For example, showcasing how a specific EPOS tool (i.e. Square or Vend) can benefit the accounting processes of bricks and mortar retailers. This will allow firms to charge a premium for their services due to embedding these tools within their client delivery as opposed to merely reselling them without adding tangible value.
2. Show off your tech stack
Making technology a priority is a necessity in 2021. The speed of change is accelerating, particularly in the context of the pandemic.
To be agile and remain competitive, companies need to apply a continuous improvement mindset within their accounting and wider operational processes.
Despite its increasing adoption, there are still a considerable number of the UK’s 6 million companies who have not yet adopted cloud accounting software. Adoption will increase over time as the scope of Making Tax Digital (MTD) widens.
However, firms should get on the front foot now and show off the technology tools they use, such as receipt scanning, payments software and inventory management. Demonstrating the benefits of technology (i.e. real-time data to empower strategic decision making, collaboration opportunities, ease of meeting statutory deadlines) is an effective way of firms showing that they have their clients best interests at heart. This will also give business owners greater bandwidth to focus on running the parts of their companies they can add the most value to, or get the most enjoyment from.
3. Invest in your online presence
Ensure your firm has a robust digital footprint, both through a stand-alone website and also across social media, as well as visibility on business directories such as Google for Business and Facebook for Business.
The stronger your online presence, the greater chance your firm has of becoming stumbled upon by new clients.
Company websites should be regularly updated with content (related to the sector focus, as well as general updates on business and finance news), as this will help to build authority as well as be useful in its own right.
Being registered on online business directories empowers engagement, both through reviews and feedback, as well as boosting searchability.
4. Offer free consultations
Offering free 30-minute client consultations can be a compelling way to meet a high volume of potential clients, in a short space of time.
These are, in essence, sales conversations rebranded as marketing. Chats should be used to garner as much information as possible, to identify the advice and services that companies may benefit from.
Providing high-level insights into how owners can improve their businesses can create follow on opportunities for them to become full clients.
Greater propensity for virtual meetings means that conducting these meetings online is time-efficient, due to cutting out travelling time. Accountants are busy, by the nature of their work, but can create more time for new client meetings by outsourcing lower margin routine compliance work (such as VAT returns) to a third-party provider and/or increasing automation within internal processes, through greater technology adoption.
5. Power up your client referrals
Word of mouth referrals are one of the oldest but most effective ways to pick up new clients. A 2019 survey from Counting Up revealed that 79.7% of surveyed accountants listed client referrals as their most efficient method of picking up new clients.
Referrals tend to lead to high-quality clients, as they come from a trusted source, so are more likely to yield longer-term profitable engagements, rather than those short-term clients who don’t afford the opportunity to recoup the upfront investment of onboarding them.
While referrals often occur organically, accountants can be proactive and turbocharge the volume of warm introductions. This can be done through several methods, such as directly asking clients, creating a section on their website to send referrals and making company collateral (business cards and brochures) available for clients to hand out to their contacts.
Offering a percentage of gross fees (i.e. 5% over the first 12 months) to referrers can be a powerful way to incentivise them to introduce their most trusted business acquaintances.
6. Reach out to the local newspaper
While working in the cloud gives firms the ability to reach clients far and wide, servicing businesses in their local area can help them become a trusted member of the community and win clients on this basis.
Those who already have a portfolio of local clients should reach out to journalists from their local newspaper to offer them stories on how the regional business community is performing. This can help raise the profile of both accountants and their clients.
Accountants are experts in the economy so can also build up relationships with the local press by offering their opinion on politics (i.e. reaction to the annual budget) and local economic issues.
As there are a number of ways to pick up new clients, accountants should experiment with a few, and concentrate their efforts on those which work best. Those methods which prove to have the highest ROI should then be given further investment, in order to propel growth.
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