Catering for ideal clients can mean big business for accounting firms – that’s why firms go to great lengths to work out just who they are. But a bigger task comes once the firm has sketched out their ideal target: where to find them?
Knowing who your ideal client is can be an undertaking in itself. It took AccountingWEB member Matrix five years to reach that point. But targeting a particular client group is often a key factor in the success of Accounting Excellence firms.
Entries in the 2017 specialist team of the year category demonstrated how knowing your ideal client, in particular a niche sector, can be a fruitful catalyst for referrals.
Successful niche strategies ranged from Performance Accountancy, which serves classical musicians to Ramsay Brown and Partners, which specialises in medical practices.
Once a firm has dug into a particular niche, the next stage to attracting this kind of client. Some firms can take the “if you build it, they will come” stance and wait for clients to migrate naturally towards their services; Louise Herrington from Performance Accountancy said referrals come naturally as word speads through the small classical music community.
But if your ideal client doesn’t belong to such a micro niche, this task may be a little more time-consuming. This is the position that Matrix is now faces.
The first step is to be specific. Although practitioners may have already created persona profiles for the clients they want to work with, AccountingWEB members have found greater success by going even deeply into the detail.
A keen fisherman, Glenn Martin compared this process to fly fishing “where you should cast a fly onto the very nose of the individual fish you want to catch”.
In practice, as AccountingWEB member Moonbeam explained, this means honing your ideal client down to a narrow business sector: “The narrower your focus, the more clients you'll gain as a result.”
But where do you find these clients? The next stage is to work out where these businesses hang out, whether that’s on a social platform like Linkedin or Facebook, or whether there is somewhere else.
Martin compiled a list of ideal clients that held the key attributes he wanted in his local area. He started with a simple Google search and drove around industrial estates in the local area, where many of the service-based businesses he was targeting often have premises. His fisherman's instinct proved proved to be a success.
“Put a list together of say 30 prospects then do a bit work on them, go to Companies House find out who the directors are what their accounts look like,” he advised. “Then try and get a direct approach to them. Either send them some direct mail or try and get a meeting with the director.”
The language you use
When approaching a prospective ideal client, they need to recognise themselves in the services you offer. As AccountingWEB member Marks said: “If you know your ideal client then you have to talk to them and talk about the problems they are facing.”
When you do this, the client feels like you know them, what their issues are, and they’re more likely to speak to you.
There are many ways to tailor your marketing to appeal to your ideal client. This can be done through niche website landing pages, bespoke social media and marketing.
As Moonbeam advised: “For successful targeting, you do have to have a narrow niche, otherwise no-one recognises themselves in what you're posting. If you targeted physiotherapists, you'd regularly post health-related data of particular interest to them as well as accountancy stuff.”
Speak to existing clients
But you already have a source of information: your clients. Not only can they teach you about what makes their sector tick, if you do a good job they are also likely to refer other similar businesses.
“Speak to your existing ideal clients and tell them in a non salesy way that it would be great if they knew any other businesses that would benefit from meeting with you,” explained Kent Accountant.
All roads lead back to the main source of new clients: referrals. Year after year, Accounting Excellence firms highlight referrals as their main growth engine; last year, 57% of entrants championed referrals.
You may need to attend networking groups, as Glenn Martin does, and ask whether anyone knows people who fit your targeted profile, or make a list of likely referrers such as bank managers or old colleagues, as Mg200 does. The route you take depends on your dream clients.
Strong referrals remain the bedrock of any ideal client pursuit, Mg200 concluded: “The more you try and target new business that hasn't been referred, the more you get timewasters who see you as 'keen' for new business and take advantage of your goodwill, cheap rates or simply want a quote to compare to 2-3 others.”
What’s been your best route for attracting ideal clients? Do you have a method that you follow religiously?
If you've been inspired by the themes discussed in this article or can draw on innovative examples from your own firm, enter the Accounting Excellence awards. Now in their their eighth year, the awards celebrate excellence across the entire accounting profession.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.