Get an effective client acquisition strategy
It’s an unpleasant truth – accountants need to market. We know we need to do it, but often it’s not our strong suit. Why do marketing strategies work for some yet not others?
Some accountants don’t understand marketing. For those accountants, it pays to know what doesn’t work and why. To do this you need a plan that provides some positive strategies that get results. While many practice gurus recommend different techniques – like Renuka Rana, editor of acecloudhosting.com, who suggests referrals, lead capture, social media – what's clear is you need to do something.
What makes a strategy effective?
Based on interviews among people who market their services for a living, six points emerged.
Commit to a strategy – “One and done” rarely gets results. People need to hear your message at least six times before you get on their radar screen. If you volunteer your services to speak before groups, you must present several times before people make the connection you are a subject matter expert.
The strategy must be proactive – You must drive the results, not wait for something to happen. Referrals are an excellent way to gain new clients. What’s more powerful than a satisfied client sending along a friend? But you can’t press people for referrals. Can you imagine yourself saying: “Phil, why haven’t sent me any referrals this year?” I didn’t think so.
The drawback to the referral strategy is people’s minds often go blank when you discuss referrals in general terms. Here’s another approach: After you have helped a client address a difficult problem, ask who they know that is also facing the same problem. As Wayne Morris, author of the Best Practice, says, “They want the very best solution to their problem”. If you’ve delivered, they may know another person with the same issue.
Attracts target audience – It’s likely your brand is not all things to all people. It might be all things to some people. You help certain types of clients with problems unique to their situation. Let’s assume this represents 5% of the general population. If you spoke before a public audience of 20 people from the general population, only one might face the issue you discussed. If you presented at a professional association of manufacturers, many more might face the issue.
What’s the message – Action plans are crucial. Once you have made people aware of a problem, they need to know the next steps to address it. Suppose you target market. Maybe you present a seminar about a topical issue. You are helping people, but you also want to deliver a message: Do business with me. Do it now. You might tactfully frame this as “Something you should discuss with your tax professional.” This could be followed by “If you are not currently working with one, I would be glad to speak with you”.
Cost efficient – According to an article in The Telegraph, accounting firms chose to cut or freeze marketing budgets during the recession. This brings up another point. The strategy needs to justify the expenditure. If the revenue a new client brings in was £1, yet the cost of bringing them on board was £10, it would be difficult to justify the strategy. You need to be able to explain: “Why this will work.”
Can it be measured? – You work in numbers. Managing directors want to see targeted against actual results from their managers. Your marketing strategy needs similar metrics to justify itself. Why? Because you may be implementing multiple strategies over a period of time to raise your visibility and bring in clients. One might be getting great results, another none. Cost efficiency provides a metric for success. You need the proper measurements.
The chances of success for marketing strategies increase when the preceding six points are applied.