How to start an accountancy firm with no clients
With our new eBook: 'Marketing your startup accountancy practice' launching, we wanted to take a look at some of the basics you need to build a scalable business.
You are feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. You are about to start your very own accountancy firm but have few or no clients to begin with. And maybe not much idea of where to start in building processes for winning a reliable stream of clients.
It’s a common conundrum in most industries actually. Often, the principal has good technical skills in their chosen profession or trade, but needs to develop all the other skills and processes required to build a successful business.
Countless books have been written on the subject (The E-Myth Revisited is a classic). But for something instantly accessible, we’ll look at five bite-sized areas which could be considered foundations to building a scalable accountancy business and winning clients.
Whatever your take on technology, AI and algorithms, a degree of systems automation is a must for any business starting up in the 2020s. In fact, the more you embrace it the easier you will find it is to grow. You may think that systems automation will take away the human touch, but counter-intuitively the opposite will probably be true.
Automation can be utilised in just about every area of your business. From sending out marketing emails and invoices to booking calendar appointments and managing HR when you are able to take on staff. Significantly, they instil streamlined processes in your business which are easily scalable. Done well, they will drastically improve your interactions with clients and staff rather than limit them.
Of course not all technology is automated. Some technologies are simply tools for you or your growing team to harness. A CRM system – that’s a customer relationship management system – is a database that you can use to manage your relationships with your clients. You’ll store client data in it, but it will help you use this data to provide high service levels.
This may include flagging key times to get in touch with clients, providing a secure channel to share confidential information (you’re bound to know that email is not sufficiently secure), and following up on leads. A CRM system is just the start.
There’s email marketing software, time tracking software and much more to take away some of the strain of running a business whilst adding a professional sheen to what you do.
It is just about impossible today to start a successful business without having a website. But there are many different types of website which serve different purposes.
At their simplest, they are a place holder on the Internet on which people can check you out, having met you in person or been given your business card. And that’s fine, although it is still important that it looks good and functions well if you want to create a good impression.
Many start-ups will begin at that level. But websites can also be lead-generating machines making an SEO impact (being found on search engines) or supporting PPC campaigns (paid advertising). Some will include knowledge banks where you share helpful information or your website may have a portal where documents can be securely shared.
Some even have e-commerce functionality (being able to buy things directly off the site) although that may not be relevant to you. But it helps to feed into your understanding of where your website sits in terms of functionality.
In the competitive world of search rankings, first impressions count, and that goes for accountants as much as any other business. Taking advantage of Google’s directory tool, Google My Business, can also make sure the right information about your firm is easy to find.
Branding and positioning
A brand is far more than just a logo. It represents the purpose of your firm, what you want your clients, employees and competitors to think of you. So it requires careful thought and planning, preferably with an expert, to devise your place in the market and how you communicate it. Part of the output of this theoretical work will be some or all of: your name, logo, strapline, brand colours and fonts.
And the work does not stop there. Once you have developed a strong brand you have to live up to it in everything you do. Achieving this will mean you can sell on the value you provide, not price; allow you to appeal directly to your preferred type of client; stick to a clear purpose and point of difference; and remain distinct from your competition.
Channels and platforms
If everything we have discussed so far is about internal processes and actions, let’s not forget actually getting out there to find prospective clients. There are plenty of channels to choose from (both digital and physical), and you may at first be steered by your own personal preferences. Over time though, you will likely build up a multi-channel approach.
Think where you are most likely to find your ideal clients. For instance, if you are interested in social media, LinkedIn is likely to be the most fruitful place to find accountancy clients. You may already be a LinkedIn star, but if not bear in mind that there is a whole suite of techniques that can be used to develop relationships and attract clients on the platform; not to mention premium plans which extend your reach.
You may decide that SEO is your way forward or email marketing. And (in non-pandemic times) don’t forget the power of face-to-face channels: business networking, events and word-of-mouth.
Whatever channels or platforms you choose, it is important to measure your success and understand what works and what doesn’t. Everything will normally take a bit of time to see a return on investment, but the better a handle you get on this and respond to it, the more successfully you will grow.
Free eBook on marketing your accountancy start-up firm
We have just written an eBook sharing more detailed advice on marketing your startup accountancy firm. It is packed with helpful tips and ideas to get you started. Download guide.
If you would like to discuss your exciting project with an expert in accountancy marketing, get in touch with us today. We are happy to talk things through and can help with everything discussed in this article.
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