Hint: Start thinking like a new client.
By Hitendra Patil
Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant
Did you know 2020 is a leap year? You can leap into the new year to grow your practice.
Here are 20 ways to grow your practice this year:
1 – Get Google reviews from your clients
If you haven’t already done, get your free business listing on Google. Then ask your happy clients to post Google reviews. It is not necessary to have only 5-star reviews. Some recent studies showed that an average of 3.5 to 4.5 is more believable than a perfect 5-star average.
When your prospects search for the key-phrases that relate to the services you offer, if you have more reviews, your listing will show up on top of the search results. And because Google business listing is treated as a local business, you are competing for localized search result rankings, your listing will more easily reach the top few results shown.
2 – Start a Facebook group:
Pick a niche (industry or profession) that you serve. Maybe two or three niches. Create a Facebook group for each niche. Aim to attract businesses that operate in such niches. Start regularly – once a week – posting useful content on such Facebook groups. The content could be as simple as the answer you give to common questions your existing clients from such industries/professions ask you. IN Salem, Ind., for instance, CPA Steven Brewer now has clients in 19 States, almost all of them coming through a niche-specific Facebook group. And, he spent nothing on ads.
3 – Make your existing clients a hero, to get more referrals
Marketing legend Jay Abraham recommends that you draft a letter for your client to send out to his or her customers and vendors. The letter should state that your client has worked with you and has received exceptional service or received monetarily impactful insights from you. And your client is sponsoring an hour of your time, worth (fill in the blank) XX dollars, for a no-obligation business consulting session that his or her vendors or clients will receive from you. Get the letters printed, signed by your clients, and mailed by you at your own cost. This makes your client look like a hero for his or her vendors and customers. At the same time, it exponentially increases the possibility of you getting referrals. This is very nominal but a high ROI method. Please, do not use email. Send out physical letters.
4 – Get on the cloud
If you haven’t already done so, or if you and your clients are still partially on desktop software, it's time you get on the cloud, fully. Cloud-based software technology has rapidly progressed so much so that productivity and efficiency gains, driven by integration and automation, not only cover the subscription costs but help you earn much more per staff deployed.
5 – Enhance your clients' experiences: Use the phone more
Keep a target of speaking with each of your clients at least once a quarter. Use the phone more. Do not rely only on emails. In an increasingly digital world, human-to-human interactions have proven to increase customer satisfaction.
6 – Be on social media where your clients and prospects are
Conventional wisdom says hang out where your prospects do. In a digital world, you want to be there where your clients and prospects hang out online on social media. Direct messaging on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can get you faster responses from them. And it makes it easier for them to interact with you as more often than not, they will see a notification about your messages on their smartphones. Just keep the right balance of not sending out too many messages.
7 – Offer client accounting services
Nine out of 10 firms that participated in perhaps the largest CAS survey in the profession said CAS is important for their firm’s future. And with technological advances, it is much easier to offer CAS.
8 – Work on branding your firm as a business advisory firm
When did you last take a serious look at your website’s content? Your marketing materials? If your website shows mostly “what” you do (your services), it is time to explain “what happens because of your services” (the impact of your services). It is important to express how you can advise business owners and clients. Show a list of questions (not the answers, give the answers when they speak with you) that business owners should ask you.
9 – Do customer surveys
It is not so easy to “be in the customers’ shoes”. You will be surprised how you can gain immense insights from your customers – about how they perceive and experience your service and how they feel. Don’t guess, don’t assume, just ask them. It is easy to conduct customer surveys online (e.g. SurveyMonkey has a free version that allows you to collect 100 responses). Identify the most common positives and negatives that emerge from survey data to be able to improve your marketing and customer experience.
10 – Pitch your highest priced service first
Pricing, and how it is presented has a psychological impact. Pitch your highest priced service first, with details of what does the price include. This will become your “anchor price” All next options will become a comparison with this anchor. Then show the next lower-priced option, which obviously will have a lesser number/quantity of services. This method makes prospects aware of your services and also creates a sense of losing the benefit of some of the services when they pick a lower-priced option.
11 – Get video testimonials from your clients
Your client sharing positive experiences on video is far more trust-creating than just reading a text testimonial. Collect video testimonials. A simple smartphone recorded video is sufficient. Create a free Youtube channel for your firm and upload these videos to your channel. It's then easier to share such videos via social media, email and onto your website.
12 – Blog
Create a blog on your website. You can also publish your blog as your LinkedIn articles. Write content that is useful for your prospects and clients. From your several interactions, take the questions that prospects/clients ask and provide insights on why do such questions arise, what they are about and the brief answers to such questions. It is not difficult to create content regularly. Share that content.
13 – Write an epic post
One of the people well known for creating epic content posts is Neil Patel. Read Patel's post here that is self-explanatory on anyone can write an epic post.
14 – Partner with someone who sells to your clients and prospects
Your clients do not buy only from you. They buy from multiple service providers the services/products that you do not offer. Create strategic partnerships with such service and product providers to exchange possible referrals.
15 – Read at least one sales book each quarter
Not to belittle anyone and not meaning to be critical of anyone but many accountants themselves say they are not so good at selling. Fortunately, there are some great books out there on selling skills. Yes, “skills,” which can be developed with practice. Read some leading bestsellers, one book each quarter to slowly build up your selling skills.
16 – Follow a few influencers in the accounting profession
Most influencers have a great network of connections and followers in the profession. It makes them aware of several insights by the sheer magnitude of their reach. And most of them are influencers because they freely share such valuable insights. The easiest place to start to identify influencers you want to follow is Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. Follow them on social media, especially on LinkedIn.
17 – Follow a few influencers in the niches of your clients
It's not enough to follow influencers only in the accounting profession. Follow some of those who your clients follow in their industries or professions. They are influencers because what they share resonates with your clients and prospects. In other words, they are more in tune with your clients’ and prospect’s issues, aspirations, challenges, and opportunities. By following them, you will always have contemporary knowledge of the world of your clients and prospects
18 – Meticulously note down the exact words your clients/prospects use
In the accounting profession, especially for professional accountants, it is easy to fall prey to using accounting jargon. But those are not the words your clients and prospects normally use. Identify the words that your clients and prospects use. In every personal (or phone) interaction with them, meticulously note down the exact words they use. Once you start seeing the most common “lingo” used by them, include that lingo in your future interactions, your marketing, your content and so on.
19 – Competitor keywords ranking research
Be aware of what your competitors are saying to pitch their services. When it comes to your website, consider strengthening your search engine optimization strategies with tools such as Ubersuggest or other tools. It can be powerfully useful for you to know how you can express the impact of your services in ways that strongly resonate with your audience.
20 – Take control of your practice
Above all, take full control of your practice. If your clients dictate what technologies and tools to use for their accounting or other related work, you are not in control. You are a professional accountant. You decide what tools you should use. You are in control if you have great client relationships, which also means clients will trust your experience, expertise, and wisdom with which you decide what resources you use to provide them with the best possible services.