What we have been doing up to now has been essentially an internal process. We have examined the value chain and how to climb it. We have bundled and priced our services, and we have switched to a fixed price or value based pricing. These are all largely internal processes. Now we have to discuss how to market your practice, how to get out into the market place, and not only cement existing client relationships, but also how to entice and hold new clients.
Unfortunately, accountants, as mentioned in previous articles, are generally not good salesman. It’s time for that to change. To grow your business, you need to market it, you need to sell it and in this article, I am going to give you some pointers on how to do that. The great news is sales and marketing doesn’t have to be scary in fact done right you will see that it is enabling you to add value and help more customers than ever before.
Before we get into strategy, some points to consider:
Size Doesn’t Matter
All businesses, across all fields, can be divided into small, medium and large. A lot of the ideas I am going to talk about will seem out of the reach of most small business, as they require capital and resources to implement. Today it has never been easier for a small business to outsource some of these ideas, thereby negating the need to hire more permanent staff. No matter what the size of your practice is, most of these ideas can be implemented to some extent.
Change your Emphasis
Unfortunately, to many clients, accounting firms all seem very similar. The traditional view of accounting practices is the firm that processes your financials, makes sure your tax returns are completed and submitted on time, and then waits until next month/year to repeat the process. These firms are more concerned about the figures, than about the client who generates the figures. The key engines of growth is add move value than ever before and to be focused on the client outcomes not yours.
Think Smarter not Work Harder
You can grow your business by hiring more staff, renting extra offices, working nights and weekends… Or you can work smarter. Revenue can grow by working harder, obviously, and to implement some of these changes will certainly involve hard work, but the key is to attract A-list clients, with more specialised services, rather than more run-of-the-mill clients, who merely require the conventional, financial compliance and reporting functions.
5 Strategies to Market and Expand your Business
- The Ideal Client.
Examine your client base carefully and extract the characteristics of the ideal client. What is the size, industry and line of business? Then determine what the core products that you provide to this ideal client are. You are now in a position to determine what expanded services you would ideally like to offer. You would also be able to identify the not-so-ideal client, and to start spending less time on that client, without losing them completely. Start to strategize on how you are going to attract more of these ideal clients; and how you are going to train and motivate your staff to implement this new strategy.
- Don’t Forget the Clients you already have!
The A-List clients that you already have are vitally important to keep your existing revenue stream constant, and also to act as a very important source of referrals. You can augment this by offering discounts for quality referrals. By concentrating on these clients and what makes them happy and satisfied with your services, you are starting to identify your brand. What makes you distinctive from your competitors? Re-examine what your brand stands for (not your logo but your brand) your client software interfaces, such as blogs, newsletters and social media, to ascertain whether your branding has enough cache to attract in the market place. Is your message crisp and clear?
- Sales and Marketing Strategy
You need to build a sustainable way to get high quality leads into your business (marketing), understand the problem you are solving and explaining how you are going to solve it (Selling)
With any sales and marketing strategy you must be able to answer the following questions:
- Who is my ideal client?
- What problem do I solve for them (better than anyone else can),
- What is it worth to them to solve the problem
- Where are they and
- what is the best way to talk to them
This then leads to the tactics of marketing which will drive questions like
- How many consultations turn to clients
- How many qualified leads turn to consultations
- How many inquires turn to qualified leads
- What is the cost to acquire a client
- What is the cost to acquire a qualified lead
- What is the cost to acquire an inquiry
Ultimately you want to know how many inquires do you need to get and what your conversion rate is and what the cost of those leads are.
Referrals can be the lifeblood of your business, what are you doing to grow your 1,000 true fans? A true fan is someone that A true fan loves everything you do. Buys just about everything you sell – because you sell it. Tells everyone about you – even when some of the things you do aren’t quite special. Wants to be associated with you, stay in touch with you, hear from you – about everything you do.
To attract 1,000 true fans there is only one thing that you need to do, and that is to be remarkable. Seth Godin has summed up what this really means in his best-selling book “Purple Cow” explains it nicely.
“When I say remarkable, I mean just that… It’s worth talking about.“
By being remarkable and growing your fan base you will get referrals and create new fans which create new referrals which create new fans and so on and so on
The Well-Oiled Machine
There is absolutely no point in developing and implementing all these strategies if things are not running smoothly in your office. Alongside all this planning and strategizing, must go the development of your team and processes. You will have to consider fully automating your office and taking the leap to innovative technologies like cloud based accounting software very carefully. This will free your staff to concentrate more fully on servicing your existing clients and selling to prospective customers. Those tasks that cannot be automated must be delegated to junior staff.
It would also be very worth your while to implement some kind of customer relationship management system (CRM software). You need to effortlessly manage, automate, consolidate and report your sales, lead activity, servicing and marketing. An inordinate amount of time can be needlessly spent in management and planning meetings if you don’t have a system to co-ordinate ALL your staff in a combined effort to create the well-oiled machine. Not only will your clients be impressed, which will lead to more referrals and recommendations, be it will free up your time to concentrate on further growing your business.
Let’s recap and go over the relevant points again
What do you need to achieve the strategies we have discussed above?
Clients and Services
What is your ideal client and what services do you typically provide for them? What services can you offer to expand your value to your clients? Have you established a referral system with existing clients and other accounting and related services professionals? Do you have a client relationship management system to monitor all your leads, sales, etc.?
Is your staff able to implement your new strategies? If they aren’t, how are you going to train them to meet the new challenges? If you can’t train them, where and how are you going to attract new, suitably qualified staff? If you are a small concern, have you considered outsourcing and building alliances to offer the services, that you have identified, that your clients need, and that you are unable to provide by hiring highly paid, permanent staff?
What technological solutions have you got at your disposal to service your existing client’s needs? Have you considered adopting cloud-based technology to automate your processes and free up your staff to concentrate on the things that really count, like selling your services? Do you have a client relationship management system in place to track and monitor all your existing clients, and your communications with them, and to keep track of all the leads your new marketing strategy is generating? Have you considered using all the new social media technology out there, to attract new business, and communicate with your existing clients? How can you use technology to streamline measurement and reporting, so as to give your clients a more real-time analysis of their business?
Branding & Positioning
How do reach your ideal client? Does your branding do your business, and the services you provide, justice? Is it aimed at the right target market, and what methods and channels do you use to reach, and convince, these ideal clients that you are the one to do the job, efficiently, productively and cost effectively? Consider how to use your existing clients as a lucrative source of referrals.
Don’t become complacent! You should have a system of Key Performance Indicators that allows you and your staff to monitor, measure and assess the outcomes of your new strategy. You can’t go haphazardly into the future trying to guess whether you have reached the results you are trying to achieve. You must measure, assess and, if necessary, re-adjust your strategy as you go along to achieve the optimal results from your changes.
As we have seen, it is not enough to struggle through internal changes and create this new improved business. If you don’t get out there and let your clients and prospective clients know what you have achieved, and what you can now deliver.
Marketing is critical, and choosing the right strategy is even more critical. Thousands of dollars can be wasted in fruitless marketing efforts that achieve minimal results. Again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Marketing, like your personal development and the development of your business, is a never-ending activity, and the greatest danger is to become complacent. Constantly re-assess and re-adjust to maintain your edge in the marketplace, and I am convinced your practice will grow from strength to strength.
You’re great at what you do, and marketing may be the last thing on your mind, but without it, you can’t expect to take your business to the next level. If all this talk about marketing and growing your business leaves you thinking: “Who me? No way! I’m far too busy!” you need help.
What’s taking up so much of your time that you can’t think about boosting your revenue and growing your business? Are your priorities right, or are you struggling with deliverables that could be delegated or outsourced? Sometimes, it takes a third party to help you get perspective and break out of “I’ve always done it this way” moulds. If you don’t change the way you do business, the changing way that your clients get their accounting done is going to put you out of a job!
Is this an overstatement? Look around you. It isn’t