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Help I've lost a significant client...what to do?

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I'm a sole practioner and I've just found out that I'm about to lose a significant chunk of my business income (as it's all  being taken in house).  I need to replace the fee income urgently but just don't know where to start.  Up until now I've built the business from referrals, but this has been slow going.  Where do I start?  Marketing, website?  What has been the most effective for you?  Any advice much appreciated, I'm really quite worried.

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By NH
09th Oct 2018 13:17

If you need a quick fix, the quickest is probably buying fees but that will depend on what's available. I was also quite surprised recently when I found out just how many potential buyers there are to sellers and how sellers are becoming much more selective

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09th Oct 2018 13:22

Thanks for your reply, I wouldn't even know where to start with that one?

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to Anony1974
09th Oct 2018 16:06

Have a look at http://draperhinks.com/

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By Alex_T
09th Oct 2018 13:37

It's becoming more and more common as companies tighten their belts I'm afraid. Have you tried social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.)? I'm not an expert so I employ a lady a few hours a week to take care of it for me. It's a fraction of the cost of other forms of advertising and I've managed to pick up a few clients this way.
Best of luck!

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to Alex_T
09th Oct 2018 13:53

Thanks Alex. Would your lady be interested in some more work? : )

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By Alex_T
to Anony1974
10th Oct 2018 11:50

Unfortunately not, she works full time and is doing this as a favour to me because we are good friends. However, she has said she won't be able to do it indefinitely so my plan is to eventually do it myself.

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09th Oct 2018 13:44

Google Adwords is quickest to drum up work, you just have to filter a few tyre kickers/ cheapskakes out when they call.

This time of year you should be able to get some work through as it tends to be when my referrals spike

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to Glennzy
09th Oct 2018 13:54

Thanks Glenn, I will take a look.

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By DJKL
09th Oct 2018 15:02

Its not over until it is over.

My only suggestion is keep tight with departing client, try to keep your name in their minds and make sure you have made it clear to them that if events etc change happy to have them back onboard, because:

1. Incoming possibly cannot do everything you did, may be some fees still to be earned.

2. Incoming may not work out, you want to be top of the list if they decide it is not working.

In effect never burn your bridges and ensure all is very friendly, bend over backwards to assist in the transition and you never know what may happen.

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09th Oct 2018 15:33

If you rush around and panic, there will be no beneficial outcome. Think where you want to be and try and take stock of the type of client you want to attract. Yes, it will take time but, attracting new business won't happen overnight.
Have you thought of offering your services, as a sub-contractor, to keep the wolf from the door?
Similarly, if you don't learn from this experience ( if the outcome is as you think it will be) and, ensure that you don't have too much reliance on one particular client for your fee income, you will simply end up, where you are now.
These events should be regarded as "opportunities". Always look on the bright side.

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By marks
09th Oct 2018 21:02

Can sympathise with you as we have just lost our 2nd biggest client who is going into liquidation. They pay over 10k a year but now they amount to only 4% in GRF so although a big fee we will survive and will make it back up in the next month or so. In fact got over 10k out in proposals which if come through will be good.

To get business I think you need to concentrate on the trifecta of

1. SEO
2. Social Media
3. Content Marketing

Unfortunately, they are slow burners and they wont result in a flood of clients tomorrow as they will take 12-18 months to gain traction.

Also think about the type of client you want to attract;

Do you want to be a generalist who will take on anyone looking for accounting services - this approach makes it difficult to stand out and be remembered

Do you want to niche? eg in an industry or with a type of business. If you can micro niche ie offer a particular service to a particular type of business then that can make you the go to expert but again takes time to gain traction.

We are going through the process of niching in 3 areas (not by sector but by type of business) and we will base all our marketing around these 3 areas.

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09th Oct 2018 23:14

another suggestion to drum up business is :-
-ask your other clients if they can recommend any of their contacts to you

- attend networking events

both have worked for me

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10th Oct 2018 10:11

Try some networking events, there are a number in my area that are breakfast events and others lunchtime or evening. You could try FSB or BNI or the institute of Directors. Just type your are and business networking into google and plenty will come up. A number will allow you to go along for free to your first event.

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to david304
10th Oct 2018 10:12

should say "type in your area"

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10th Oct 2018 10:22

Remember. If you pick up a new client just because he thinks the other accountant was too expensive, he will leave you just as easily.
Also, as mentioned, be 'nice and helpful' to the leaving client. It could have two effects - firstly, if things don't work out they will remember you favourably, and secondly, they will not be hesitant in recommending you to others.

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10th Oct 2018 10:22

Remember. If you pick up a new client just because he thinks the other accountant was too expensive, he will leave you just as easily.
Also, as mentioned, be 'nice and helpful' to the leaving client. It could have two effects - firstly, if things don't work out they will remember you favourably, and secondly, they will not be hesitant in recommending you to others.

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10th Oct 2018 10:39

I have to say this. How can you advise clients when you don't know how to get business yourself. Having said that the only "quick fix" (if income is of paramount importance) is to subcontract your services to local Accountants. It might not be ideal but it will put food on the table.

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10th Oct 2018 10:51

Its difficult being a sole practitioner trying to hold yourself out to the outside world as being bigger than you really are. Many accountants join networks like ProActivTax,2020,ICPA who help you promote your services to your local community and have the back up support to help you deal with the work that comes in if it is outside your comfort zone. Monthly fees can be as low as £97 per month for that sort of service.

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to 24November92
10th Oct 2018 11:15

Why would you want to promote yourself as being "bigger than you are". I have found that over the last 53 years in business "honesty" with your client is the best policy. Let them know your capabilities and that if it goes beyond that then they will have to pay for the expertise that may be needed. None of us know everything.

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By DJKL
to johnjenkins
10th Oct 2018 17:11

John, agree 100%, pretending you know what you are doing and winging it is a recipe for an ex client, follow Clint's advice,

"A man's got to know his limitations."

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to DJKL
11th Oct 2018 09:08

That phrase has been the backbone of my business, and yes sometimes I do "feel lucky".

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10th Oct 2018 10:54

Thanks everyone, lots of new replies today!

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By Tosie
10th Oct 2018 11:13

Where are you based ? Hope that you soon get back on track.

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to Tosie
10th Oct 2018 14:37

Thanks Tosie. I'm Bristol based.

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By Tosie
to Anony1974
12th Oct 2018 07:15

Shame too far for me to help.Hope situation improves. best wishes

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10th Oct 2018 11:35

Hi Anony1974
For quick fix, you can try https://www.bark.com to get few new clients after paying referral fee.Sometimes you will find just businesses finding low cost accountants so be selective.
Networking will take time and is not short cut.
Another option is to use google adwords, Its expensive but you never know, sometimes you get few clients & sometimes not.
I tried paid Facebook & Instagram ads but it didn't work for me.
These days i also found lot of prospects & they just went to the low cost accountants.
Goodluck!

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to @inforubina
11th Oct 2018 19:29

[quote=-AT-inforubina]

Hi Anony1974
For quick fix, you can try https://www.bark.com to get few new clients after paying referral fee.

I don't think I have ever heard of an accountants getting worthwhile work referrals through bark.

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to @inforubina
11th Oct 2018 19:30

[quote=-AT-inforubina]

Hi Anony1974
For quick fix, you can try https://www.bark.com to get few new clients after paying referral fee.

I don't think I have ever heard of an accountant getting worthwhile work referrals through bark.

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to @inforubina
11th Oct 2018 19:30

[quote=-AT-inforubina]

Hi Anony1974
For quick fix, you can try https://www.bark.com to get few new clients after paying referral fee.

I don't think I have ever heard of an accountant getting worthwhile work referrals through bark.

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to bookmarklee
11th Oct 2018 20:41

I've had worthwhile work from Bark. Most leads that come through are garbage, but not all. I picked up a nice £200 per month client from there and it didn't cost me a penny.

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By Matrix
10th Oct 2018 13:19

Sorry not much to add to the good advice above. I do some advertising/networking/social media but I would say that all my leads come from referrals these days. Sadly it is down to timing and luck.

I have always grown slowly but if I wanted to grow faster then I would join the local BNI or similar.

Also see if you can put any fees up for existing clients, add services and make sure you charge for extras not covered by annual fees since it all helps.

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10th Oct 2018 14:38

Some great advice, thanks so much for all your responses it's much appreciated.

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to Anony1974
11th Oct 2018 09:48

As I have said to people before, if you get really desperate for money you can perhaps retrain as a tradesperson (plumber, electrician, decorator, whatever) and work in South West London. I guarantee you will then never be unemployed and short of money. There are waiting lists of weeks if not months to get people in to do work here and some jobs posted on checkatrade etc. don't even get a response. Business is booming for such people and will continue to boom I expect.

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11th Oct 2018 10:59

In the mid 1990's I received a leaflet from a local accountant offering to half my fees, which he did. I stayed with him for about 10 years, and he gradually increased his fees over a few years.

You have got £10,000 worth of time on your hands and every week that goes by without filling it is lost revenue. If you can get 10 new clients paying you £1,000 a year, or 5 new clients paying you £2,000 a year, you have replaced the revenue. You might find clients who are paying a lot more than you would charge, such that halfing their fees would not be too big a deal for you. You wont know until you try, and it would be surprising if there aren't 10 or 20 clients who would love to half their fees in a good sized mail drop to local businesses, (every shop, office, industrial unit etc..). Once you have filled the time with revenue earning work, you can think about increasing fees, getting even more clients and, perhaps, losing a few that cost more in time and headaches than you would like

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11th Oct 2018 19:42

Sorry to hear you're losing a big chunk of fees in one go. It's cold comfort to know you're not alone, but it is a story I hear very often.

So often accountants credit referrals with being their best source of new clients. But, when I push, I find that the number of good new clients won is very few. It's just that they're not doing anything to encourage more or better referrals, or to find clients any other way.

There is little point spending money on marketing if the clients you want to win will be turned off by your website. Indeed anyone looking you up online will see your Linkedin profile before they get to your website.

So start with registering on Linkedin. Create a good profile (I have a free guide to doing this on my website) and start connecting with people in your area who you know. Then search out those people in your area who you don't know and who might be good influencers, referrers or even clients. but do NOT try to actively promote and sell yourself on Linkedin.

Here's a few blog posts that I hope you'll find helpful too.
http://bookmarklee.co.uk/whats-the-best-way-for-an-accountant-to-win-new...
http://bookmarklee.co.uk/debunked-12-misconceptions-about-networking/
http://bookmarklee.co.uk/effective-websites-a-checklist-for-accountants/
http://bookmarklee.co.uk/is-it-really-about-the-competition-or-is-it-abo...

Good luck!

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