YouTube, Instagram and curry nights. How these accountants attract new clients.
Some new practice owners are lucky enough to buy a swathe of clients. Others get by on word of mouth. Fewer and fewer rely on highstreet presence. So what about everyone else? We asked these AccountancyManager users about their approach to building a clientbase and ensuring a steady flow of leads.
When you’re starting a business, attracting clients is one of your many jobs. But that doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds. It’s all about working out who you want as clients, what they want from you, and where you can find them. That’s an important order to follow.
Thanks to cloud-based systems like AccountancyManager, Xero, and Zoom practices can find, onboard, and work with clients from anywhere. We take a look at how some of our users are attracting new leads both online and locally.
What is lead generation?
Leads are potential new clients that contact you directly. The ‘trigger points’ along the way that nudge people into contacting you are the ‘generation’ bit. Your prospective clients are likely to come across you a few times before making their decision. So staying ‘front of mind’ is key.
If you just cringed, this approach may not be for you. But hear us out. Many of our users have reported fantastic lead generation results from sharing the right content with the right people.
In fact social media has become the main lead generation method for some practices. As you’ll see from these users, however, what you say and how you say it is just as important as where.
Ben Thexton, owner of TAC Accountants, launched his practice just before the pandemic hit. He decided that UK businesses needed his advice more than he needed to build a clientbase. A brave decision, that has more than paid off now.
I'm a great believer in paying it forward, helping people first, there's no angle to it, it's just ‘what can I do for you?’”
“I offered myself freely to anybody that needed any support, helping them get CBILS loans, bounce back loans, grants, helping them with furlough and cashflow... I just thought - everybody's trying to muck in and help, however they can’.”
I was quite active, and still am, on LinkedIn and that really did help my business grow. It's grown a lot quicker than I expected it to, so I know it's working.”
“I think that planted quite a lot of seeds. Since then I've just seen a steady increase, to the point now where I've got three staff and I've moved into an office. It's grown a lot quicker than I expected it to, so I know it's working.”
Local Facebook groups
Beth and Jessie, owners of 2 Sisters, built their clientbase from nothing, primarily through sharing content and speaking to prospects through social media. “Originally it was the local town’s Facebook groups, then LinkedIn.” Beth tells us. “People just go, "I saw you, you seem like a normal person. Can we chat about accounts?" And it just really seems to work.”
I talk about my LinkedIn friends to Jessie and she’s like 'What? Are you a teenager?”
“We try to make it easy, normal and not scary. We have initial conversations and people say 'I've spoken to three or four accountants. And you're the first one that's made sense.’ For me that’s everything. That's what I want."
We expected accountants to use LinkedIn and maybe Facebook, but Aaron Patrick, owner of accountancy firm Boffix, has broken the mold. “I never imagined I’d have a YouTube channel.” Aaron chuckled. “We actually have multiple channels now. They've had really good growth. And it gives us something to share on [other] social media [channels] as well. So it's not just trying to hard sell. It's actually providing information that's going to be useful for people.”
YouTube has been by far the best investment we've ever made in terms of how to get new leads and how to bring in new work.”
“YouTube and social media, that’s our way forward because we can build much more of a rapport with someone. Most of the time they’ll say “I've watched your videos and that advice was great.” What we've learnt from the pandemic is, how do you still stay relevant even if you can't have those face-to-face conversations?
Lead generation on YouTube has been really, really positive. We've pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone. But it works. I highly recommend it.”
As long as you've got subjects out there that potential clients are looking for, then you build it up. So maybe we don’t answer someone’s exact question, or maybe that one video isn't enough for them to get in touch. But you're going to be one of the people they think of down the line.
Ok, now this one really surprised us. Caroline Hocking, owner of Mona Accountancy gets the majority of her new clients from word of mouth and Instagram. “I know that as an accountant, using Instagram is weird. But so is the amount of business I get through it! I don't really do Facebook, not a fan. And the website is more the landing page for people to book a call.”
“Even though I don't post much on Instagram, that's my one of my main sources of referral. It's normally my clients saying 'Oh my God. My accountant is amazing' and tagging me. And then suddenly I start getting all these followers and I'm like 'right, who's tagged me in something? Here we go!'.”
“I'm not the stereotypical accountant, but there isn't really much of a stereotypical accountant anymore. As much as technology is changing the industry, the people are changing as well. Now, when you're making that connection with your client, they're getting to know you as a person. And it's different, it's not 'us and them'. It's business owners together working together for the outcome they want.”
It’s not all online…
Sponsorship and the local community
Kasser Abbas is co-owner of Butt & Co with his business partner Wasim. Kasser’s father founded the firm 15 years ago. “My father is a very social person. He’s heavily involved in politics, the council and community. I've always been involved in community service since I was a little boy, whether it be charities, working with the local church or the local mosque or the local synagogue or anything.”
“Even today this is where a lot of our clients come from. We sponsor a lot of charities, we go out of our way to show that we are there for the community, which has always helped. Our name has travelled a lot. Around Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, the average person has heard of Butt & Co, which is a good thing for us!”
Good old-fashioned networking (and a little tipple)
Alistair Hayward-Wright started his practice over 20 years ago. He was social networking before Facebook existed. “At the beginning, I made a lot of professional contacts - meeting solicitors, banks, insolvency guys… and generated a lot of clients off the back of their referrals into us.”
Rather than going to meet his contacts, Paul Cain, at Cain & Beer, gets them to come to him. Paul is quite rightfully proud of his Curry & Beer nights. Created to raise Cain & Beer’s profile in the local area, the nights are immensely popular networking events with good food and good company. “They’re open to everyone, all businesses, business owners, service providers, banks. We started our first one in Ashford and we had in excess of 28, 29 people. Now we're two away from our 50th event!”
Beth at 2 Sisters is championing this approach too, specifically networking with fellow accountants. “My advice would be ‘Get out there, make a lot of friends’. People are like, ‘oh, no, I can't speak to other accountants, they’re my enemy now’. Make friends with as many other accountants as you can, because you can bounce ideas off each other – and they might have wine when you do!”
“You find a lot of accountants pass jobs around from each other.” Beth adds. “We have slightly bigger firms that have certain clients that are just too small for them, so they pass them down to us. Then I have a couple of bookkeepers that if there's work that we don't quite have capacity for, then we pass it on to them. So just building a network of people around you that you actually like and want to work with and want to help out. This makes a really big difference.”
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