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Securing the first client

I am on the cusp of starting out on building a practice from scratch. For those that have already done it, could you tell me how you secured your first client please? What were the objections from those that you didn't manage to win?

Thank you all for, what has so far been, your excellent advice in my other posts. I look forward to reading about your experiences in this area.

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22nd Jun 2010 17:39

Local clients

For local clients I made a list through searches on google, Yell etc of all the local businesses I felt could use my services in the area detailing about me and the services I could provide.

You have an excellent time to write a newsletter say on the Budget today. The idea would be the advice you provide in this letter may not have been passed on by the current accountant shall we say.

Get some business cards developed and ask local businesses would they be able to put the cards on their counter etc. You get to then indirectly invite a conversation with the business owner on any issues he may book-keeping or accountancy wise when he/she recognises what you do.

You can join a local networking group say 4N or BNI. That will get you out and about meeting local business owners and getting your name about. There may be other functions in your area you could participate in.

As stated in other threads look for a local event to sponsor or perhaps an advert in a church or sports program (local fixtures etc). 

Get your website up and running too. Look to use the freeindex and other methods to push it higher on the Google ranking.

 

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22nd Jun 2010 18:41

references

Advert in the local.

My first meeting (I was terrified) went fine, but at the end, the potential client asked for references from other clients, which I was obviously unable to provide. I hummed and haared, before admitting that I couldn't provide any. The "client" thanked me for my time, and said he'd be in touch.

Within a couple of weeks, I had 3 clients, all of which recommended by this first potential. (I didn't know at the time). Either way, the first guy came back to me a year later (didn't ask for references this time), and is still a client. I never asked him how or why he recommended 3 people without knowing me or having been a client, but I think he sent 3 guinea pigs to test me out. Either way, I've built up from there, and whenever I'm asked for a reference, he's the first one I give (obviously always with permission).

 

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By Rikos
22nd Jun 2010 19:29

Response

Firstly I would like to wish you all the best with the new practice. As above there is some very good advice, you could also try contacting a current practice and seeing if there is any work that they cant take on and so will pass your details on.

Advertising and networking are two of the best ways of gaining clients. I was very lucky that my first client was someone I used to work for when I was younger as a waiter and they knew I was working towards my accounts qualification and so when they required a new accountant they came to me first.

Once again I wish you all the best.

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22nd Jun 2010 21:06

Opportunity is everywhere

@Aiwalters – I’d suggest the reason the potential client referred clients was because they decided to use you and wanted to justify their decision.  That’s normal behaviour and it’s why asking for referrals when you take on a client works.

@Husainweb – one of first clients was won because my car broke down outside their office and I asked to borrow their phone.  They offered me a coffee while I waited for my Dad to pick me up and asked me what I did.  They were just buying the business and asked me to check the business out. I probably ended up billing them the best part of £100,000 over the years because they had numerous businesses and property interests. 

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing

 

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By maxxy
23rd Jun 2010 10:25

Accidental or Targeted?

Good luck and you will get your first client, it's only a matter of time, but if it is the type of client you want is another question :)

For my husbands plumbing firm we were our accountants first client and that came from him going out to a leaking toilet.  We just happened to be on the look out for an accountant at the time. 

However, in addition to the accidental acquisitions maybe have a think about what type of client you want to attract and then think about where those people are likely to look.  If you want to attract new start ups then joining the business link supplier brokerage network can be a good idea so that people can spend vouchers with you.

You can also purchase a snapshot CD from companies house £30 approx and write to a load of companies in your geographic area introducing yourself. (much easier than trawling through directories such as Yell as t&c say you should not use for creating directories etc)

Telemarketing is a good option (I know I am bound to say that seeing that is what I make a living doing!) but for two reasons... 1) you can have a pay-per-appointment type arrangement whereby you are only paying for the appointment  or 2) a fixed rate type campaign where you will also get pipeline aswell as appointments and leads. There are advantages/disadvantages to both but it's worth a mention for a proven way to build up a portfolio of clients fairly quickly.

Social media is another popular method too and I hear of some accountants doing this really well with twitter, linked in, business forums, etc as it's a way of showcasing knowledge and expertise aswell as personality

Good luck

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23rd Jun 2010 18:25

First clients

My first clients were all referrals from old employers and previous colleagues.  That might sound strange but it's quite common for specialist practitioners. It's still my largest source of work .

One of my accountancy clients says he got good results from a leaflet drop in the station car park. He didn't have much money and it was something he could do himself . 

 

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23rd Jun 2010 18:26

Leaflet dropping

When I started out 10+ years ago, I printed 4 fliers on to thin A4 card, cut them in to 4 with a guillotine and then spent my evenings dropping them through doors of housing estates.  I figured that everyone lives somewhere, and dropping them through doors at industrial units won't get them on to the md's desk.  I printed them on card so they were less "scrunch upable" and might be read on the way to the bin.  One ream of 160g card was about £7 at the time.  We were on a tight budget and I had the time to deliver them myself, so why pay someone else to?  Also, didn't want them being mixed up with the pizza adverts.

If I spent an hour or so delivering, I would get one or two enquiries, which I think is not a bad hit rate.  Obviously it is then up to you how the meeting goes.  I think you need to be flexible about meeting in the evening etc to fit in with them.   10 years on, several of them are still clients. The ones who aren't, left because they no longer needed an accountant, and from many of them, I have had several referrals.  I got some great jobs from this and would do the same again if I needed more clients.

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29th Jun 2010 13:16

Mailshot

I set up my business when we moved to a new area so I had no professional or social contacts. My first few clients came through mailshots. I used a leaflet that was put together by my local printer from my initial drivel. I refer all my start up clients to the same printer.

Don't forget business networking. This took about 12 months to start to pay off for me but so you should really be investing your time now.

Make sure that everybody you know knows what you do. No need to push it but a shame to miss out when their best friend is looking for an accountant.

Get yourself a good website. Mine now produces about 1 client per month.

Good luck

Della

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