Practice barrier #10: acquiring new clients

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Client acquisition, business development, sales, new blood—whatever way you refer to it as, it will come to no surprise that acquiring new clients is identified as a common challenge for accounting firms.

But this barrier isn’t only about getting a large number of new clients for your staff to carry out billable work for, it’s also about getting the right clients.

In general, accounting practices have low client churn compared to other professional service industries. In fact, many accountants already have more clients than they have capacity for, and the low churn rate means their firm’s number of clients isn’t about to get smaller.

Even if this sounds familiar, client acquisition should still be an ongoing consideration for you. Because the majority of your clients stick with you for the long haul, your firm needs a client acquisition strategy that focuses on bringing in the very best clients possible—those that are the most profitable and the most enjoyable to work with.

How does it impact you?

Having the right number of clients and ensuring they are highly profitable and loyal is an irrefutable key to success for any accounting firm. In a perfect world, your clients will also be pleasant to deal with and provide you with interesting, fulfilling work. This isn’t only applicable to smaller practices: the need to always be ensuring you are working for the best clients possible is vital for firms of all sizes.

To take your firm to the next level you must always be seeking to improve your client base. Improving will have a different meaning from firm to firm. For some it might mean growing, for others, it could involve defining you ideal customer and trying to replicate them (even it means you have to transition some non-ideal clients).

What can you do about it?

Know your client inside & out
Before you look at gaining new clients, it pays to look at your current ones. Understanding the clients who you’ve done well with and why they separate from the rest why is vital. These are the clients you want more of—who would you clone if you could? Are they a specific size of business? Do they come from a particular industry?

Learn how they behave, where they go, what they want, what they read—the more you know the better. Understanding who your ideal client is means you can walk in their shoes, and walking in their shoes means you can surround yourself with others just like them.

Understanding your best clients means you can understand the clients you will target and go after in the future.

Harness the power of social media
Social media is a cost-effective way your firm can generate exposure, build an image attractive to your target clients, and interact directly with like-minded prospects. You don’t need to spend time publishing and monitoring content across every social media channel: think about what social outlets your clients are using—where they are, that’s where you should be.

With a well thought-out social media plan, you can target your audience and always be represented in the places they interact. Highlighting your brand and services in these places will help a prospect decide whether you are the right firm for them.

Social media is also an invaluable way to develop relationships and gain insights into what clients and prospects want—there are few better ways to get to know your clients. The personable approach that social media allows means you can learn about the challenges your clients are facing, and reinforce how you can assist them.

Implement a referral program
The most cost-effective client acquisition strategy involves those clients who you already know. Furthermore, gaining a new client through an ideal existing client makes it far more likely that your new client will also be ideal. Referrals are the bread and butter of client acquisition and the number one strategy you should be spending your time on.

If you do not already have a formal referral program in place at your firm, you need to change that today. It might be something as simple as making sure each staff member finishes a positive client meeting by asking, “Are you happy with the work we’ve provided, and if so, would you recommend us?”

Whatever the process is, make sure it is clearly communicated and constantly reinforced to your team.

Provide faultless client service
The referrals will only come if your existing clients are happy. Make it your mission to provide the most outstanding client service possible. You never know when going the extra mile for one client might have a snowball effect—continuing to reward you in countless ways down the track.

Know which clients are happy and which ones are not. And understand what is driving their satisfaction. Constantly challenge your team to correct the ones that are not promoters of your firm. Google My Business is one effective way of keeping tabs on your clients, and with a careful strategy, you can have some control of how you are reviewed.

Hire a Business Development Manager (BDM)
A growing trend for those firms that really want to go that extra step is to employ an in-house BDM. Selling does not come naturally to some accountants, and requiring your existing team to take on the role of winning new clients could be taking them away from what they enjoy most and are best at.

Having a full-time BDM will mean the necessary time and energy can be invested in growing your business, by someone with the appropriate skill-set. While it may seem an unnecessary cost, before you dismiss the idea, ask yourself how many ideal clients a BDM would need to bring in before they pay for themselves.

Ensuring you have the very best clients is one of the most important things your practice can do, so doesn’t it warrant having a full-time staff member looking after this?

If you are struggling to grow your firm, we challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas. If you do, we’d love to hear the progress and result. You can also reach out so one of our advisors can help you out.

Also, if your firm has implemented any other strategies to acquire new clients, we’d love to hear from you.

Whether it’s quality clients or a larger quantity of them, mastering client acquisition will be key to determine the success of your practice.

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