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New Sole Practitioner

I am a new sole practitioner and I have just received my long awaited for practising certificate from the ACCA. I would be interested to hear from sole practitioners who have established profitable businesses about how they first attracted clients and how quickly their client base grew.

Thank you

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longer term

I'm sure there will be lots of advice to come on marketing & social media routes from those who have done it recently but longer term the best route is reccomendation.

I know that's useless advice when you have no clients and so what I did was to work for 2-3 other firms sub-contract and picked up clients they did not want and it gave me time to do a bit of "networking" of old contacts & colleagues.  In one case I actually inherited a batch of clients, that I'd worked on, from the accountant as he wound down to retirement and, from that month I never did any more subby work.

The alternative for a quick fix it to buy a batch of clients.  With the average age of practicing accountants being way over 50 I'm sure there are far more approaching retirement than ever before.

Good Luck and no matter how desperate you are don't take on anyone just for the sake of the fee.  Just like a partner, if a client doesn't feel right then long term, they are not.

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This has been

covered in lots of other threads, so a search on AWeb and you will find them.

There has also been an article and publications written by Mark Lee recently, again you'll find those on AWeb.

There's also a start up practice group in the discussion section.

I don't think you'll get many responses as this has been done to death.

I started my practice less than a year ago and now employ part time staff and subcontract out work.

There's no magic bullet, its all down to hardwork, effective marketing, lots of networking and some luck.

All the best.

 

 

 

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Setting up

@Dawn - many accountants are not profitable (if they deduct a notional salary for their time). And, many will disagree with me but the first two things I think you need are a) £30k (mainly to cover your wages which you build to break-even) and b) attitude.

On the assumption you want to do better than average (and not deal with crappy clients who moan about fees) it is very important that you develop an effective strategy. 

Strategy is about identifying a segment/niche and Positioning yourself effectively. Then you need to make sure you use the best marketing methodologies. Then think tactics and I highly recommend telemarketing. It works, guaranteed (if you do it right) and you can do it yourself, easily if you have the strategy and methodology sorted.

By the way, you must have three systems 1) CRM to manage data 2) CMS for your Website and 3) an email marketing system.

Good luck.

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

 

 

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Time's up

Bob Harper wrote:

@Dawn - many accountants are not profitable (if they deduct a notional salary for their time).  

 

At last, Bob is recommending accountants keep track of their time. Who'd have thought it?

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power of the aweb community

some great contributions here ... thanks to all.  

 

i won't add too much other than to list out what has worked for me, in the order of importance ...

 

1.  magazine articles - for 2 good quality mags: >50 clients gained

2.  business forums - online posting of answers / content: >50 clients gained

3.  trade shows - have a stand at the show, plus a daily presentation given: >50 clients gained

4.  "getting in with" certain individuals - to refer clients to you: >50 clients gained

5. referrals: >30 clients gained

5. offline networking - regular seminars / presentations: >30 clients gained

 

what hasn't worked too well: 

1.  advert on side of car: 1 client

2.  direct mail: 2 clients

 

new marketing for 2012 - 13 onwards ... 

1. email marketing - we now have 3500 opt-in names/email addresses

2.  wider newspaper / magazine coverage

 

one thing to remember ... try as many avenues of marketing as you can / can afford ... THEN ... ditch the ones that are not working, or not cost-effective.  THEN, go hell for leather on the ones that are working LOL.  there was an episode of the apprentice recently where this was the "lesson" to be learned i.e. "smell what sells" ... then JUST sell that!  for us as accountants trying to choose which marketing channels work best for us, we also need to "smell what sells" ... in other words, once you hit a rich vein of clients from a certain type of marketing, do more of that and less of what hasnt been working.  

 

good luck mate ... LB2

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Networking has been effective for me. I started last year.

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@Bob....30K....if only....

yep in a perfect world....but if not then pretty much any job to start the money rolling in....as mentioned above sub-contracting provides a potentially steady if less profitable flow of money....networking works but takes a little time (so important to build up strategic relationships with other businesses dealing with clients you potentially want...start ups/IT contractors etc etc).

There are any number of marketing things you can do....but you need to select what works best for you, what is affordable for you and what will grow the business at the rate you require (whilst still leaving enough time for you to do the work).   

 

If you put yourself about enough eventually things start to drop into your lap.....may just appear to be luck....but like the lottery, you can't win it if you don't buy a ticket!

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Thank you to everyone that has commented. I have started networking and have made several valuable contacts. Hopefully these will start to pay off over the next few months.

I will do a search for the other threads........

Kent accountant: I am very encouraged by your post. I would never have expected to start employing part time staff within the first year. I'm happy to do the networking (might need to increase my time spent on this), I'm not sure what is effective marketing at the moment and I'm happy to put in the hard work.

Thank you all again.

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.

@ Dawn, the quicker you employ people you quicker you will grow. This was one of the reasons I floundered around year 3, I didn't employ anyone quick enough to do the day to day so limiting both my networking time the amount of work I can physically do myself.

With an assistant you can charge full hit for your time and not waste it on tedious admin. 

The key for me is networking and knowing your stuff. You can take all of Bob's management sales talk in the world but if when the client asks you a question you dont know and end up giving them bad advice then they wont come back! 

 

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Debits and Credits

@ireallyshouldkn - it's normal to use accounting terminology when talking about finance, I choose to use marketing words and phases when discussing practice development.

@Dawn - imagine trying to do accounting without knowing the methodology of Debits and Credits. Just bear in mind that you have put yourself in the role of a marketer. You are your own Marketing Director and sales person.

I'd highly recommend you educate yourself.

Bob Harper

Crunchers - Alternative Accountants

 

 

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.

@bob its normal to use plain English when talking to non-accountants about tax and accounts.  If you cant translate your knowledge into words your audience understands, or indeed finds credible then you may as well not say or type anything, Going back to the OP if you can do that well - and it takes time to develop - then you will do well.

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The secret of my success...

@DawnT

What worked for me was to network with professionals who I thought may be able to refer clients to me - finance brokers, insurance brokers, IFA's, bank managers, solicitors, bookkeepers, payroll providers.

If you also set up a generous commission structure (I offer 20% of first year's accountancy fees) you will find some contacts very happy to refer work to you.

This has worked very well for me and I have gained 10-12 clients in the past nine months or so from one contact alone.

IFA's and independent brokers are good in this respect.

Let's assume the average fee per client is £1,000 pa (small ltd co), then for 50 new clients you would pay £10,000 in commission and in 12 months you're up and running.

So what's best - a marketing budget of £10k or offering a generous commission structure which encourages warm referrals?

PM me if you have any questions.

 

 

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Depends on the market you're after...

I told all my school gate mum friends and gave them a business card, registered on Linkedin and joined a few facebook local groups.

One said 'It's amazing what us mums do' - she'd just started a company and asked me straight away to act for her and she's since recommended two further clients to me.

The facebook group has also yielded excellent recommendations (their nice comments have made me blush!).

Linkedin has helped me get back in contact with people from my two previous large practices and one partner has made contact to say he'd love to recommend those clients who can't afford the larger firms fees.

My practice is small and fits in with my children's school times following a return to work after (nine years!) maternity leave so I'm clearly not in the same league as the big boys (or girls) commenting above but some of it might be relevent to your situation.

 

Best wishes

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Hi,

Thank you for your reply. I am in a very similar situation to you.........I have returned to work after 4 years and have two school age children. I'm hoping to be able to make enough income to allow me to be very flexible and not to have to work for somebody again. I am on Linkedin and have a facebook page and have started to network.

Very best wishes with your practice.

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Mailshots
When I started out simple mailshots, and lots of them, 000s worked. Cheap, and gave me a good start.

I found I got a better return if we followed up by phone, however better quality clients, albeit less of them, if we just wrote and left it at that - guess that's because those who responded were the who were really keen. Over 10 years tha got me from zero to 25 staff...

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Expert

@Dawn - keep in mind that the amount of money you'll make and flexibility you'll enjoy will be determined by your sales/marketing knowledge/capability more than your accounting skills.

Everything mentioned by others does work but it's a case of optimal performance so you have time, energy and money for your kids. That's why (in my opinion) you should be seeking to be an expert in practice development.

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accountants

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What sort of clients do you want???

What sort of clients do you want and do you have any specialist skills/knowledge you intend to use?

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It all depends...

It is always fascinating to watch how other people do things. I personally feel a lot of networking isn't right for me, but some might be.

Kent Accountant - you have some fantastic ideas - I am really impressed, particularly when you tell us how they have worked for you.

I would suggest joining "The Profitable Accountant" group on Linked in. Mark Wickersham gave a very good webinar this week on systemising Getting Referrals. He was so good, that I explained one part of the system to a beauty consultant I bumped into and at the same time convinced myself how good his ideas are! This is free advice from one of the best trainers in the country. As he says, by increasing our own marketing skills for our businesses, we can pass this advice on to our clients.

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Remember you are running a business
My advice would be to go and get a copy of the Emyth, an read and digest the principles in there to help you understand what your purpose is.

Most accountants think and act like technicians, even when they own the business. That's fine when you are doing the work but when you aren't you have to think differently - about marketing, sales etc.

I do agree with Bob that you need to get good at marketing, and there are loads of books and free online resources to get you started. And then it's a case of practice, test and measure to find what works for you and gives the best ROI.

If I was starting a practice now, knowing what I know, I would be doing a mixture of the following:

Networking, to make contacts in your area and to build your personal brand
Direct mail - flyers, letters and postcards.
Telemarketing - following up on the above and warming up prospects ready for a meeting
Email marketing - once you have got a database of people who you have spoken with you should obtain their permission to send them tips and news and free stuff. Then make sure you send something once a month that they will find beneficial with a call to action. (this is vital or you will be wasting your time)
A good website with decent local SEO and the facility to capture your visitors details (in exchange for something like a tax saving report)
Seminars and webinars
A bit of advertising in local magazines with calls to action like "call us to book your free tax review" or somethig
Referrals - ask, ask and ask again!! Moonbeam has already mentioned Mark's webinars recently which is very powerful stuff once you have some clients to get referrals from
PR - get yourself some free publicity by offering to write something for a local paper or magazine, or just general stories about yourself. Local Chambers are always willing to help their members (and if you join they will often give you access to their members database to boot!)

And of course do a brilliant job - not just getting the disclosures right which is the bare minimum but adding value and delivering an exceptional experience to your clients.

You could do all of the above with a budget of about £3k and that would include the database and CRM/ email marketing software. The only other thing you need is time.

Hope this all helps and please keep us posted on how you get on.

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Starting Up

Some good advice given here.  I wish that I had asked the question you have when I started out, but then again the mistakes I made I learned from so not all bad.

These blogs may help, I wrote them a few years ago but I think that the points still stand today and will give you something to think about:

 

A better way?

Thinking of starting an accountancy practice?

The top five mistakes made by small firms

Good luck!

Jason

 

 

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One size fits all?

@Jason Dormer - very interesting blogs, certainly given me some good ideas.

@dbowleracca - very comprehensive, perhaps two or three at a time?

There are loads of things you can do to get your business going and continue to grow and improve it.

My view is you need to choose an approach, make sure its a sound one, perhaps run your ideas past others whose opinion you value. Then implement the plan but make sure you give it enough time to work but also know when to change it.

I'm now looking at ways to develop my business further and I know I have to spend time planning an approach and then implementing it properly and giving it sufficient time to work.

 

 

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Marketing calendar
@kent accountant

The list is quite comprehensive, and I would suggest that all of these activities (possible excluding seminars which can be left until yr2 or 3) are done in year 1.

The best way to approach this would be to draw up a marketing calendar (a good CRM system should help you to diarise the events I listed) and work to this.

Get a database of say 500 local businesses who fit the profile of the type of client you want.

Start with some free PR publicising the launch of your new business.

Then sen out some direct mail, say 50 items a week over a 10 week period. It must be well written with a strong headline and a call to action to get their attention. There is a book called write to sell, and another called sales letters that sell, that can help you here.

Follow up each letter with a phone call 2 days after it should have been received, saying something like "I'm calling to confirm you got our letter about your free tax review, and wondered what date would suit you best for us to do this? Is xxxx okay for you?". If the call doesn't result in an immediate appointment, which it likely won't, then ask if you can send them free tips and advice by email and get their email address.

Repeat this process every week.

Once a month, send a nice email newsletter to the people who have opted in, and this should also contain calls to action to prompt them to do somethig "call for your free profit boosting report" or "visit our website now to get your free tax saving guide".

I forgot to say that, before you do all this, you ideally need to have your website up and running because prospects are likely to check you out online when they get your letter.

During the periods when you aren't doing the above, network with local businesses and introducers and also try and get as much PR as possible for free.

Then just keep doing this over and over and from the original 500 people on your database you could easily get 50 clients in a 12-18 month period. And you should also get 12 to 18 from your website and networking.

If this does happen, then all you need to do is provide great service and vale to those clients and ask for referrals every time you complete a piece of work. Assuming you can get each one to give a referral every 3 years, you would have a very nice practice after 4 years and if you also continue with the marketing (which I would strongly recommend you do if you're wanting to grow to a decent size) you could have 200 clients by year 4.

It sounds simple I know, but I know of many practices who have done the above and got these results. We have had similar success, but because we have been around for a long time, our approach is slightly different and our target clients are fewer in number.

Good luck with it all :)

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Time

@Andy - why track time when profits come from somewhere else? 

You can "spend" your time recording how long things take and you can be very accurate about it. Or, you can "invest" your time building knowledge about how to help clients get what they REALLY want. And, then link your prices to their results.

If you do this well your profits will go up which has nothing to do with time apart from how long it takes to learn new things.

What is worth measuring (even if it is not 100% accurate) is how much you know about what REALLY matters to clients.

With the Internet there is really no excuse for not knowing.

Finally, anyone setting up would be wise to start by discovering their point of uniqueness before starting any promoting. This is so the message has the best chance of getting through because if you are perceived as the same as everyone else you will be ignored. 

Bob

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Disagree

Bob Harper wrote:

Finally, anyone setting up would be wise to start by discovering their point of uniqueness before starting any promoting. This is so the message has the best chance of getting through because if you are perceived as the same as everyone else you will be ignored. 

Bob

Two points of issue here:

1. A new practitioner isn't going know what their uniqueness is until they have been in the game awhile, but they do need to promote themselves before they have found out.

2. This concept of uniqueness is lost on many clients, particularly the start-up and small ones. They actually want to believe that all accountants are alike because they lack the knowledge to make a distinction.

So, the important thing is to get your name out there as soon as possible then you can drink equally from the cup of new enquiries as much as any other competitor. Ultimately you will want to rely on doing good work so that you get recommendations. 

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Wrong way around

@Andy - you seem a nice guy but you are so wrong it is stunning.

The uniqueness is the business and needs to be discovered before anything else because it effects everything; the brand, product/service features, price and promotion.

The best way for me to explain this is to give you an example. 

Let's say we are talking about a Yoga Instructor setting up in business. From doing research, knowing about the business and brainstorming their perfect Yoga Class they come up with this list of a dozen things including:

Clean matsFriendly instructorNo painSame sex classes

Form here they could develop a number of unique propositions but let's go with "Pain Free Yoga".

Once you have this you have something different. And. because it is different the message has a much better chance of getting through. That's because the brain ignores what it already has.

From the uniqueness of Pain Free Yoga a money back guarantee can be offered, the Website could have advice (with videos) about how to avoid pain and the pricing strategy could be to charge a premium with smaller classes.

All accountants are the same because they have bothered to develop a uniqueness.

Bob

 

 

 

 

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I still disagree

Bob, don't be stunned and don't be phoney-stunned. 

If I wanted to do Yoga I would expect it to be pain-free. But then I don't know much about Yoga.

And isn't that the point I'm making? So many prospects do not know about accountancy, they do not know about qualifications. They expect all accountants to be the same.

How many clients decide in advance that they do not want to be represented by an accountant with qualifications. There are many unqualifieds doing very well, but if the message of a qualification isn't powerful enough in the market-place, you are mistaken if you think 'guarantees' will make more than a tiny difference.

The important thing is to make people aware that you are open for trading. While you sit wondering what your USP is and what colour you logo will be, prospects are being signed up elsewhere.

Of course, Bob, you won't agree, but then you have a vested interest.

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I agree completely Andy. 

I agree completely Andy.  When I started up I had no idea of the two specialism we now deliver, one of which was a complete accident, nor did I know now what I was good at and bad at in terms of dealing with clients.   The way I see the proffession is the easist way to make the business work is simply to be good at what you do as a day job, get recomendations and then be very choosy about what work you do.

I also have to take excpetion with Bobs comment:

"@Dawn - keep in mind that the amount of money you'll make and flexibility you'll enjoy will be determined by your sales/marketing knowledge/capability more than your accounting skills."

Marketing is a part of any business, and at the start and important one, but at no possible point does it overshaddow the product. 

Local to us is a solictors who market like crazy, they have been around years but still bombard what is not a big town with advertising.  A client make the mistake of using them. The start was fab, really good sales patter from the partner, but the second they were turned over to the staff it was utter rubbish. They made a complete mess of everything and customer service was poor. Litteraly next door is another firm of solicitors. They dont advertise, and I know do a great job (I use them personally as do several clients), I do talk to one of the partners now and again and love their neighbours as they pick up so much work and staff from them!

I know which firm I would rather build out of the two.

 

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Education

@Andy - I have no idea what phoney stunned is.

Education is a key part of marketing so people don't think everything is the same. Prospects need to understand there are choices and they need to know the downsides of not going with you.

Here is an example click here.

If lots of people go with unqualified accountants then the Institutes and qualified accountants have not done a good enough job in their marketing.

Take ownership of this, accept responsibility and you are in control. Or, are you going to blame clients for not understanding? 

The only vested interest I have is in my clients succeeding and so do you. And. my belief is that you could do more for them. I also think you should because no one else will.

Bob

 

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Being good

YouReallyShouldn't - product is part of the marketing mix, along with place, price and promotion.

But, the product development comes after research and the strategy otherwise you end up developing something that already exists with big competitors already established. That's stupid.

New brands can be launched for new segments as they are discovered.

Being good at accounts is the same as having a toilet in a hotel. And, I would not rubbish good marketing because of a poor firm of solicitors.

Bob

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.

Bob Harper wrote:

Being good at accounts is the same as having a toilet in a hotel.

Well that made me laugh!

 

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Some great points made above...

although in practice with a limited budget and no employees it means making sure the marketing you do is the most effective for your business and you don't try everything at once....as for a USP....well i would suggest there is only ever one....and that is the owner.  All accountants do roughly the same (to a lessor or greater degree) and the offers of money back guarantees/fixed fees...etc are not new (not unique) within the accountancy sector....in the end the only unique part is the owner and of course his clients problems/issues.

 

As for a money back guarantee....i can't help but smile at the paradox of a marketing slogan such as 'guaranteed no pain....or your money back'.....

 

i think the definition of guarantee is some sort of assurance that something will happen...seems apparent that you have singularly failed if someone has pain....having guaranteed they won't.....and even without a 'marketing' guarantee i would be asking for my money back....and not visiting you again (either way)....

 

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Misjudgement

Bob, if we were discussing a mature business that had got a bit tired and needed freshening up, your approach might have some merit. We are not.

Let DawnT, a new practitioner, get their name out there and do some work before shackling them with specialisms, USPs, jargon and the contemplation of their navel. At this stage they might not know what they are best at or what they enjoy most. Your way is tantamount to selecting a child's uni course before they have learned to talk.

By the way, I am sure in your line of business you really do know what phoney means.

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@ Bob

andy.partridge wrote:

By the way, I am sure in your line of business you really do know what phoney means.

Bob, you are right I am nice, which is why I can't let you misquote me. As you can see I did not call your line of business phoney and it was a response to your previous comment to me. Perhaps you have forgotten the context?

Your certainty over the steps DawnT should take is a genuine cause for concern. I believe you are wrong to say that they would be ignored. That is not my experience of accountants good or bad. The market needs to be aware of DawnT's existence. The rest is fine-tuning. Any delay is a loss of income.

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Hurt

@Andy - get the name out for what? Being an accountant....there are lots of them already there and Dawn is likely to be ignored because that's just the way the brain works.

Getting the name out there is probably the biggest marketing mistake made by people who don;t have a clue. Be careful, your advice could hurt her and her kids. 

I didn't say specialisms, I said uniqueness. 

My way is about being focussed, perhaps being the only fish in a very small pond. As she grows she can always expand the pond.

What do you mean by my line of business being phoney? I'll give you the benefit of doubt and say you are referring to telemarketing because otherwise you wouldn't be nice and you are, are't you? 

Bob

 

 

 

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Let's not make this personal

I think we covered that off on Friday.

Please stick to the original question. We don't want this thread to turn nasty and then have to close it.

Thanks in advance.

Jenny

 

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One step back

@Andy - on Jenny's request I'll leave the phoney comment, I still don't get what you meant other than a dig and me or marketing.

Jenny - why you don't just delete and ban people who start off arguments with personal comments/snipes.

Yes, I am certain over the steps a firm should take to market effectively because I've seen what happens when there is no strategy. This is business basics and I can't believe you'd recommend a business start up without a target market and some "reason why" the target market should use them.

As regards loss of income I'd say one step back to take two forward. If developing a strategy is the right thing to do don't let the mistake of timing lead to a bigger mistake. And, this can be done very quickly.

Bob

 

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Target market?

That's easy. It's people who need an accountant. You are over-thinking it.

 

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Different

People who need an accountant will go to the accountants who are already in the market. the vast majority will talk to their contacts and get recommended.

Dawn is going to have to work to establish herself as a choice. To do this she needs to be perceived (keyword) as offering something different.

By the way, I just read an AWeb article saying that the new Cash Accounting rules are going to have "huge" impact on small firms, including loss of fees.

What do you think will happen?

My take is that some will lower prices to win more work. Others will make people redundant (who will set up on their own) and everyone will step up their marketing so the noise will be louder.

Dawn needs to make sure she will be heard.

The change in the market that everyone predicted is just about to happen.

Good luck...choose to be a better accountant or a different one.

Bob

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@andy states an obvious but fundamental target client

for a new practice with little or no cash to back them up...anyone seeking an accountant.  (networking thru your friends and relatives is probably the cheapest way...albeit your view on taking on clients who are related to you may impact on this) - be choosy when you can afford to be....it also means spending your marketing budget wisely, on things that will give you the best return.....

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Fear of the future

Instilling fear is one the less savoury ways of getting people to buy. I don't recommend it for accountants or marketers.

A small practice like DawnT will be in a very good position to adjust and adapt as and when necessary. Their small size will be an advantage over the larger firms.

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Networking

Yes, networking works and friends and family will want to support Dawn.

But, unless Dawn has loads of friends (like me on AWeb) this will only get her so far. And, as for going out as cheap, that is a massive mistake that can takes years (if ever) to recover from.

Bob

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Size

@Andy - why would you not recommend using fear when people are (at least) twice as motivated by avoiding a negative than getting a positive?

Dawn should use fear in her marketing because it will works. And, there is plenty for business owners to be fearful of.

My guess is that Dawn is not looking to make a million. But, she does want what's best for her kids and using uniqueness is what bigger more established firms struggle to do because they spend all their time arguing. 

Being small is only an advantage if you use it. 

Bob

 

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on that basis presumably the USP

maybe leaving a mint on the pillow 

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How and what

JustSotax - have a listen click here.

Bob

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it was meant a little tongue in cheek...

nevertheless....i am more impressed by a service or product that meets the basic spec rather than a product that excels in something i didn't originally buy it for.....just an opinion....but one i have with my buyers hat on.  

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No specialism, no marketing budget

I don't have a specialism, I'll take any reasonable client from any sector. Annual fees range from £60 - £xx,xxx.

I don't have a marketing budget, although I have spent £201 on marketing in the last 12 months (no return on this).

I have got 70 clients in less than 12 months and have >£100k GRF.

I'll continue to do what I do and I know I'll continue to get 3/4 clients every month. Why? because what I do works and it will continue to work.

1. I provide an excellent service to clients and respond promptly to requests for information/advice (perhaps this is my specialism?).

2. I network with professionals likely to refer work to me.

3. I offer generous commission to introducers (is this my 'marketing budget'?).

4. I ask clients for recommendations.

My target is 100 clients by Christmas and 150 by the end of 2013.

There are so many different routes people can follow to grow their businesses. I can only comment on what works for me and like @ireallyshouldkn... @andy.partridge @justsotax have stated, I'm a new practice and I'll consider any client.

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We all "do" marketing but may not know it

Ken Accountant you say "no marketing" and then go and set out your 4 point marketing approach (hate the S word).

At its heart Marketing is the whole approach to identifying and anticipating clients' needs then seeing whether you are able to fulfil them AND make a profit (or what ever else makes you happy).

In DawnT's case she's trying to identify potential clients and thinking of ways of attracting them in the first place but, in our business, once you have even a small band of clients marketing is targetted though your #1 & #4, ie to existing clients as that, in my opinion & experience, is where the best new clients come from, ie by giving your clients a great service they will almost certainly want to reccomend you.  In fact when it works the other way and I recommend someone (like Hosted Desktop UK) it's a way of paying them for all the good they have done me.

I part company with you over #3 ie paying unconnected parties to say how good you are (whether they think it or not) but hey if that works for you, fine.

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Gosh, I have never been so popular. I feel like a celebrity, perhaps that is my USP.........!!

A big thank you to all of the contributors, you have been very helpful and have given me lots to think about.

Whilst my practice is small (and I mean small!), I am going to concentrate on offering a friendly, approachable, but professional service. I am now getting in front of small business owners and this seems to be working for me. I also take a real interest in their business and what their plans for the future are and this seems to be well received. I've also found playing with the dog/cat seems to work! I also use the fact that I am working from home to my advantage and point out that I do not have the overheads of larger firms (although I'm trying not to set my fees too low!).

At this stage, I cannot see what my niche market, USP etc would be. As the practice grows, I can start to think about the theory of marketing and whether what I am doing is working for me. However, in the short term, I just need to use my charm and win clients! I hope to be able to build the practice to a reasonable size, but I am conscious that I need to fully understand the basics of practice management first.

Once again, thank you to all of you who have commented.

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Fair comment Paul

About marketing. What I meant was that I don't have a marketing budget in the traditional sense focusing more on personal relationships.

The S word - lots of talk about it, a bit like 'proactive' its a buzz word which has lost its real meaning because its used incorrectly a lot of the time.

@DawnT - your thread got a lot more comments than I expected;o)

Good luck and keep us posted. 

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You don't have the answer

@Dawn - most people do not see their uniqueness because to them they don't think it is unique.

Friend, approachable but professional is what everyone says. Lower overheads leads to a price focus so that's a real no:no.

Showing a "real interest" is interesting and "charm" have potential.

Bob

The Alternative Accounting Franchise

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