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How to grow your fees in 2010

20th Jan 2010
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Paul Shrimpling outlines how to raise your clients’ eyebrows in 2010 (in a good way) and generate more income for your firm.

It's far from surprising to discover that the three most effective ways of getting new clients (based on the successes I've seen across 19 firms I worked with in 2009) are:

  1. Referrals from existing clients
  2. Referrals from influencers (bankers, solicitors, IFAs etc.)
  3. Events

Top of these is referrals from existing clients, so if that’s not the number one source of new business for your firm, it should be. Only when you get referrals from your clients can you know that they are truly happy. The willingness of your clients to refer you to others is the only true judge of client loyalty, according to this well researched article – and I’m inclined to agree.

Also, when you do everything possible to encourage client loyalty clients are more likely to stay - and I'm guessing the last thing you want is to be finding new clients whilst watching old established clients leave your firm for your competition.

Managing clients’ expectations
The better you get at managing and exceeding clients’ expectations, the more likely you are to raise their eyebrows (in a good way!), and the more likely you are to keep all your clients and all your existing fees. Plus, they are more likely to refer you to others they know.

It’s not rocket science, but why is it so rarely applied by accountancy firms? Mainly it’s because their definition of accountancy does not clearly focus on the expectations of the clients – instead, most firms focus on getting the technical work done. Of course this technical work must get done well, but the stuff clients value the most is their interaction with you, their accountant. It’s the relationship stuff. Have you ever asked them what their expectations are with regards to speed of response, speed of delivery, the interpretation and guidance you give them or how often they'd like to hear from you? Interpretation, explanation, guidance and support are what matter most to your clients - not the technical detail of a set of accounts.

I know you’ve heard it all before, but I’m stunned by the general lack of commitment from accountants. A commitment to great processes for managing, improving and stimulating the relationship between you and your clients will set you up for a great 2010.

Whenever firms apply some science to establishing clear expectations and staying in touch with their most valuable clients they amazingly hang on to clients they would otherwise have lost. Plus they start a flow of referrals that previously seemed unlikely (if not impossible)!

What I’m advocating is processes that manage, improve and stimulate a better relationship between you and your clients (including one linked to client expectations), coupled with processes asking for referrals and recommendations: Simple stuff.

Vive la revolution!
To get this process started, follow the steps below.

  • Work out what matters most to your clients and then deliver on it
  1. Ask them what matters most: I suggest you work on discussing three aspects of their experience of working with your firm: timing expectations, technical work expectations, and relationship expectations
  2. Capture client expectations: Write them down and then share them with your team and work out how you at least deliver on their expectations, although you might be wise to do what you can to exceed their expectations slightly. (Start by only focussing on your top 20% clients to make this project more achievable).
  3. Do the work necessary to exceed their expectations in a small way, often.
  • Work out several (five) processes to capture recommendations from your clients and put them to work systematically.

How achievable do these steps sound for your practice? Leave your comments and questions below.

Paul Shrimpling

Paul Shrimpling is managing director of Remarkable Practice and author of a whitepaper entitled ‘The 7 big mistakes that accountants make that costs them a fortune in lost sales, lost profits and lost personal cash’.


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