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How to get New clients

I had set up my own accountancy and tax practice about a year back but only been putting all my energies into the new business since September. To be honest despite my efforts on social networking, google advertising etc not had much joy in getting new clients. My speciality is helping international start ups in UK and overseas but not had a break through yet.  I do have thegeneric accountancy and tax services to offer as well.

I know it takes time for a business to grow but wondered if anyone had any tips to get new clients.  I work alone from home and do not intend to expand but just really want enough work to keep busy for 30 hours a week.

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The big three...

At the stage you are at, you need the shaving mirror client acceptance test.

 

That is, the only test a prospective client need pass to see if a shaving mirror held under their nose steams up after a minute or so!

 

There are three ways to get clients for a small start up accountancy practice. In order of value they are:

 

1) Telemarketing - You need someone to make between 200-500 calls per day per two to three days per week. This will give you around 4 appointments per week, of which you will convert 2 at an average value of £1000 each - That £100k pa

2) Mailshots - these are really a tool to improve the telemarketing. You need to send 2000-5000 pieces per month. Without the telemarketing this will bring you 10-20 enquiries of which you'll convert 3-4 at £1000 average fee, thats another £50k pa

3) Networking - this is a job in its own right. It will involve getting around every networking group you can find (or better still starting your own one) You will need to spend 10 hours a week on this. It will bring you £50k pa

 

So there's £200k growth pa.

 

Easy, isn't it?

 

Steve

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@ Steve

Steve I am in a similar position to the OP but I am aiming for less specialist client base, my initial plan is to get some bread and butter clients first to pay the bills and then work on the areas that i would class as my specialisims. So I guess I have got the shaving mirror approach right so far.

I am interested what you say about tele marketing as I have researched it for a while and looked at numerous posts on AWEB about it and on the balance of opinion it seems to be not that good an approach. It would seem its all down to the company you use, did you hit lucky first time around or did it take a few companies to get someone who worked well for you, also what sort of cost do you put into it to the return of 4 appointments per week.

With regard to mail shotting did you do this yourself or outsource it.

The networking side of things definatley works and that has been the most succesful area for me, although I dont know how much of it was down to good luck, as oppose good managment.

I met a friend of a friend who runs a employment agency who asked me to do her SA Tax return which I agreed to do for £100, she has now agreed to appoint me/recomend me to all the contractors they place as they all are self employed/work through umbrella set up, so potentially have first go at up to 1500 potential clients from a job I only took on as a favour to my mate. I also had similar break with another referral where job got me a further 12 clients.

@ the OP your specialisim is maybe too specialised and you are probably competing against the big boys who are maybe better equipped in the market place to attract such international business.

I would go more for Steves advice and concentrate on your local market doing a better and more pro active service than the accountant down the street.

 

 

 

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@steve...well easy

if you have a spare £30k (or probably more) in your marketing budget to get you started.... 

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@ justsotax

Absolutely.

In fact, it'll cost you about 50p per £1 of GRF plus you'll need working capital - about another 50p in the £1.

But this is half the price of buying a practice.

All businesses need capital to get going. If you think you can start an accounting practice for nothing you are wrong.

Many times in the last 15 years I have been approached by "jokers" who say, I want to be a partner in your firm...

I always reply with three questions;

1) Have you got any money to put in the pot?

2) If not, are you willing to borrow money to put in the pot?

3) Have you got any work to put in the pot?

I have yes to find anyone answer yes to any of these.

You can be a partner tomorrow - or a business owner - if you can answer 2 out of these three.

The OP is in the same place. 

And if you're not able or unwilling to answer 2 out of 3, go and get a job

Steve

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Website / SEO / Pay per click

Hi Steve,

Im interested that all your suggestions centre around offline marketing.

Do you not think PPC and SEO play a role?

We used to do a fair bit of dirct mail, but it only seemed to produce manly low value work and postage is now much more expenseive for high volume campaigns.

Also at the sort of quantities you are talking about most geographic marketing databases will quickly be exhausted.

Other than that I don't dispute your numbers.

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@ Steve

This is my first post; the title of the thread brought me here so I am interested in what everyone has to say.

I have looked at telemarketing as a way of building my practice. Steve hope you don't mind, could you recommend a decent company to try? 

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you need to hit them...

at least x2 per year.

 

Okay, I live in the suburbs of a northern city, so it increases my audience, but in one post code region I have 22000 businesses turning over under £5 million.

 

That means to get around the x2 in a year I need to do 44k contacts per year or 3666 per month!!!

 

Personally, I think the website stuff doesn't find you prospects, it only supports the conversion process once you have then in the filter.

 

Almost all of my prospects look me up on line and I find my Linkedin profile especially provides a reassurance and referencing system for my prospects, bt I don't believe that local small businesses gain much new work directly from this route.

 

To me, google is just yellow pages of the 21st century, and I don't know about you, but I never got very much from yellow pages

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Recomendations

I often get asked for recomendations for telemarketing companies.

 

The very best I have used as Accountax Marketing.

 

Many many others (who I will not name) were rubbish

 

In the end I did it myself, employing stay at home workers on £6.60 per hour plus bonus for appointment and bonus for sign up... its much much cheaper this way.

 

You just have to manage it and you need to watch IR35!

 

 

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Try the AccountingWeb practice start-up guide

It's freely available here

http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/topic/practice/accountingweb-guide-starting-practice/419008

 

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Need a break

Thanks for all the wonderful tips. 

Sometimes it feels there are more accountants than businesses !

I do need to start investing in some marketing ploys and you have given me some great ideas.  Though i don't have 30K in my marketing budget - I will just be content in getting 40K of business. Maybe not this year but hopefully the next.

The Start ups are normally quite lucrative since I can do everything for them.  I really only need one or two at the moment.  I do have some international contacts and unfortunately they have done well overseas and they do have plans for the UK at somepoint in the future.   Question is when.

 Just not getting a break at the moment.  I will  increase the networking and hope.  I agree with Glennzy you also need some luck as well. 

What I really do not want to do is to go back to full time employment and work for someone else which I have done for 20 years.

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Getting clients is easy - but are they the ones you want?

You can very easily get a few dozen clients though traditional/cheap methods.  You can attract local tradesmen and home based businesses by placing adverts in shop windows, local Parish magazine, local free newspaper etc.  If you offer something that others don't i.e. cheaper pricing, visiting the client, evening & weekend meetings, etc., you'll soon have a few dozen clients.  The question is whether you want that kind of client!  But whether you do or not, it's a good way of paying the bills and building up contacts - some will prosper into bigger/better businesses and some will refer you to their friends/family who have bigger/better businesses.  Just remember to weed them out as you get busier otherwise you'll end up a busy fool.

For me, the best clients have come from direct marketing.  I've never done telesales, but I have done tailored, personal letters, either from my own observation and research of businesses I've seen starting or growing, or by buying lists of new business start ups.  I probably got a success rate of maybe 5% to meet and then maybe 95% conversion to clients after meeting those 5%.  I've no idea whether that's good or bad, but for 1 new quality client out of 21 speculative letters, I I'm happy with that.  All at very little cost.

I've had mixed responses from website, Yell, Google advertising - nothing to shout about despite having some very expensive all-singing, all-dancing websites and SEO etc.  Some good clients, but a lot of dross from people just looking for the cheapest or from dodgy foreigners wanting to set up dodgy UK companies.

Paid for adverts on industry leading websites also worked well for me.  Very expensive - something like £500 for 3 months in an accountants directory on a specific industry website/forum, but plenty of new business from it, so well worth it.  I've also been heavily into several business/money website forums, giving free advice/guidance to others - that also builds up your image and other users on those forums get to know you over time and become "easy sells" when they finally decide to approach me to become their accountant.

But, at the end of the day, recommendations and referrals from existing clients has to be the way to go.  Referrals are already "pre-vetted" so that you don't have to persuade them to engage you - they're already "hot" by being recommended by another client.  That means less time spent proving confidence and also higher prices as they're less likely to shop around and more likely to pay more for a "trusted" provider rather than risking an unknown.

 

 

 

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New Clients

Ken excellent advice.  Actually I would probably take on any clients as perhaps getting little desperate at the moment

I have put out leaflets on a couple of newsgents for a couple of months and have delivered leaflets where we live in December.    I thought coming upto the self assessment deadline that might be at least one response but no nothing which did surpise me.  Also tried gumtree several times. 

I have sent many emails to companies  who have set up recently and have offered evening consultations, bank holiday and weekends but again drew a blank.  I have also been very active on Linkedin but only have had one meeting for some tax return work.

I might actually try buying the database of new company start ups. Where can I purchase such lists ?

Agree on the referals but dont have the client base that will help for future referals as yet

 

 

 

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try different things and see what works

You have to try many things and see what works for you

1. I have used direct mailing.  Sent about 1k letters to date costing about £700  and from that got 7 clients directly and 3 clients as referrals generating fees of about £10.5k.  Therefore costs less than 7% of fees generated.  Provided get a 10 fold return then happy to keep doing this.

2. Get a website set up.  Had a number of clients this way.

3. Last year got some leaflets printed up and delivered them locally to small retailers, take aways, hairdressers, etc.  Got a number of clients through this.  Going to do the same this year but also got about 7 different flyers done so can go to 7 other areas within 25 miles of where I stay and spread the word.

4. Go to networking events.  This is a slow burner but will pay off in the end.

5. Get set up and be active social media wise eg facebook, twitter, linkedin.  This is something I am going to concentrate on in the next couple of months.

6. Teach courses in your area of specialism.  I teach courses in SAGE accounts and payroll at a local enterprise company.  On the back of that have been asked to deliver a bookkeeping course, a course about maximising profits and a course about credit control  As well as getting paid to deliver the course you are in front of your target audience.  People newly set up in business who need help with everything.  If you come across well they will be in touch with you.  Have also now branched out to another local enterprise company and will be delivering their bookkeeping courses.

7.  Ask clients for referrals.  I have a referral scheme where if a client gets me a new client directly I give them 10% of the first fee when paid.  Gives them an incentive to recommend me.  Had one client who has directly referred me a number of clients They provide signing services and are going to recommend me to give a presentation at the next meeting of the the local signers.

So there isnt a one option fits all.  You need to try many things to generate those first few clients.  Currently have about 50 clients and target is to generate 5 clients a month so up about 100 clients by the end of the year.  

Regards

Mark 

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New Clients

Many Thanks Mark for sharing your tips.    I can see why they are working for you.

I agree i need to try to widen the net and try different marketing strategies. I think I need to be focused like yourself and others on this thread. 

Social media has not really worked as I had hoped despite interacting on many groups on Linkedin.

Not at all expected an avalanche of clients but even a few new clients would be most welcomed.

 

 

 

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Linkedin worked for me

I would estimate that 80% of all my clients have come via linkedin. Either direct from linkedin or indirect via other contacts I have met through linkedin.

This isn't a quick win though, you need to work at it. Have a structured approach and stick with it - 6 months minimum before you start to see the benefits.

Very much depends on you, as to what will work for you. For me its:

1. Social media - Linkedin & Twitter

2. Client referrals - ask for them

3. Reciprocal referrals with key contacts - no introducer fees

4. Formal arrangements with introducers where fees are paid - either as commission or as 'marketing fees'.

For this year I'm also going to start e-mail marketing to a 500+ mailing list I have built up. I may also consider buying a mailing list of suitable companies.

When you say you want to keep busy for 30 hours a week I assume you want to have 30 chargeable hours a week?

If that's the case you will need to be prepared to do far more work than that until you can get to that stage. I worked 60-80 hours a week on average for the first 18 months (from the point I decided to start my practice).

I now do around 45-50 hours a week which may sound a lot to some but its a level I'm happy with 

 

 

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@kentaccountant about linkedin
One of the problems I have found with linkedin is that although I have swaithes of contacts lots of them are accountants/consultants/coaches/trainers. In short the sort of people who network. Not that many "normal" business people are on it in my neck of the woods, or if they are on it, don't use it much

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@zarathustra

Ok, its Friday and I'm feeling generous :).

Potential clients local to you are there.

 

1. Don't connect with accountants - they are the enemy and will harvest your contacts (if they're clued up).

2. Disconnect with the accountants/business advisors/coaches you don't know/like/compete with.

3. Hide your contacts.

2. Join groups where you are located, for example I'm based in Kent so joined as many local groups (Kent, south East England, London) where potential clients were members.

3. Start discussion, post comments in these groups.

4. Connect to potential clients 'I see we are both members of XX group, it would be great to connect and find out more about you and your business'

May sound cheesy but it works, you've made the effort to personalise the invite (also look at their profile so that they know you've looked).

5. Don't use the standard linkedin contact request - its shows you have made no effort.

5. Post regular profile updates (your connections will see your updates) 'just helped a client get a £10k overdraft, or save £5k in tax' etc.

 

I won't go any further or I'll give my whole strategy away!

 

Actually I should call myself a social media expert and run seminars charging £100 a head...

 

 

 

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thanks Kent some useful stuff
Very useful post.

The only other thing I would say is I only have a couple of people who hide their contacts, and it puts my back up a bit as it seems like they are somehow "not playing the game", so I think that might be counterproductive.

I'm really impressed you get so much new work from working linkedin - and yes if you could talk for 3 hrs about I think many business people would pay for a seminar !

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