How you can minimise SME failures and churnby
The harsh truth is that most SMEs won't make it in the long term - and this ultimately affects accountants' bottom line. So what can accountants do to ensure more clients don't shut their doors for good?"
The time and effort spent on winning new clients can be wasted as 20% of SMEs close within the first year and nearly 60% don’t make their fifth birthday. A key cause is lack of expert advice (three out of four SMEs don’t try to access advice, citing cost as the main factor).
So if you could offer the right advice at the right time and price, your clients would benefit, plus you would increase client retention, revenue and customer lifetime value. Accountants are already a favoured source of advice for small business owners, but mainly on compliance and tax related matters, so how can you become a trusted source of advice on other areas such as marketing, HR, legal, and all the other areas an SME may need help with?
Unless you are part of a large practice with numerous partners and staff with the relevant expertise and experience, it is unlikely you can cover all the advice needs clients may have. It can also be a challenge to find the time to advise clients on non-financial issues, let alone find out what needs they may have. For example, a client looking to increase sales may think they need advice on marketing, but they may get better results by improving conversion, retention, upsells, cross-sales or referrals!
Here are four ideas that can help you become a trusted adviser for your clients on all things business related:
Client peer boards
Peer boards are a great way of engaging with your clients and helping them solve business issues. As chair, you decide who attends (avoiding any conflicts of interest), keep the meeting flowing and get the best out of all the people present. Your clients benefit from discussing internal company issues in a confidential and supportive environment.
And, with the help of the others, they will gain new perspectives and opinions that can keep their business fresh and moving forward.
- Revenue generating (assuming you charge for membership).
- Clients learn from and generate referrals for each other, leading to greater revenue for themselves and you.
- You get a better understanding of the issues clients are facing, helping you offer more services.
- Require time to arrange and administer.
- Unlikely to involve many clients unless you arrange multiple boards.
- Time constraints make it unlikely that all attendees will have their issues discussed at every meeting.
Webinars and workshops
These can be excellent ways for SMEs to get advice. You are likely to have several subject matter expert clients who would be happy to facilitate a webinar or workshop.
- Deepens the client relationship, adding perceived value to your service.
- An Effective way of imparting knowledge to clients.
- Can generate referrals for clients who facilitate the webinar or workshop.
- Require time to arrange and administer.
- Unlikely to be directly revenue-generating .
- Subject matter may not be relevant for attendees unless you understand what their real need is.
Hints and Tips newsletters
These are a simple way to keep you front of mind and be seen as a source of advice. You can include articles written by clients to help promote their business.
- A cost-effective way of staying in touch with all clients who agree to accept emails.
- A good way to promote products and services, increasing cross sales.
- An Effective way to provide information and advice.
- Require time and expertise to source material and administer.
- Clients may have to opt in so you could have a limited audience.
- The advice may not be relevant or appropriate for all recipients.
Business advice software
We’re used to using online software to recommend the best insurance policy or utilities supplier. Now using clever online solutions to understand client needs and deliver advice is becoming popular.
BuBul is a platform which asks the questions an experienced business adviser would to establish client needs, then delivers the required advice from relevant experts.
- Identifies client needs and delivers appropriate advice.
- Can be revenue-generating as you can charge clients for access.
- Saves time, money and effort in helping clients be more successful.
- Initial set up fee and ongoing monthly cost.
- You still need to engage with the client to make sure they use the platform and implement the advice.
- You have no control over which subject matter experts provide the advice.
There are many options firms have to strengthen client relationships. There are pros and cons for each, so you have to pick what's right for your practice. But the main decision is to do something. After all, you don't want one of your clients to be one of the 20% of SMEs that close within the first year.
BuBul is a high quality, cost-effective business advice software package for SMEs and their advisers. Find out more here.