How to win new clients

Many smaller firms of practitioners ( up to 4 partners and 20 employees) talk about marketing and needing to win new business but often think they are too small to have a marketing plan.They hold the belief that they can't afford to fund a marketing campaign like the larger players and therefore approach the whole concept of marketing in a haphazard way. No wonder then why results seem to be poor and difficult to measure !

Based on talking with successful firms this year and on personal experience, below is an easy to use list to help you with a plan of action which is proven to be successful and involves minimal cost outlay.The list is merely an overview and is by no means exhaustive.

  • First of all, do you have an ideal client profile of who you actually want to win as a new client ? You need to know who you are going to target before you start contacting people.Otherwise, you can end up winning the wrong type of new business client at the wrong margin.
  • Compile a list to include e-mail addresses of all those you would like to have as new clients. Most practitioners can readily collate such a 'Target List' from businesses they have quoted for before (what I call 'near misses'), good referral contacts and databases which have previously been bought in and edited for telemarketing purposes or similar. Look at local industrial estates and business parks and collate data on those firms you think you would like to look after.
  • Decide on what makes you special as an accountant and advisor. The offering of 'giving excellent service' or being 'proactive' is now past its sell by date. These terms are often banded around without being able to be defined clearly and prospect clients don't really know what it means. What exactly do you mean by 'excellent client service ?' It needs to be more than 'we get accounts filed on time !'- surely this is essential for any accountant to deliver as a basic offering. Also, it should be a given that every accountant will be proactive and give excellent service- why would a client seek out an advisor who is merely average ?
  • Businesses are in dire need of better management information and meetings to discuss business strategy and planning. Cashflow management is also key for many businesses in these time s . Make sure your service offering asks what they really need and how you can help. No one is really interested in how well you can complete a set of accounts or tax returns- once again this is a given.
  • When you meet a potential client, listen more and talk less. Business owners will be more impressed by your interest in listening to their issues and learning about their business. Accountants can have a reputation of droning on about how wonderful they are and 'telling' clients what they think they need ! This is a real ' turn off ' to many potential clients.
  • Have a clear and visible pricing strategy. Offer Fixed Fees (again this is now standard for the more successful firms of accountan ts ) as is payment terms by standing order or direct debit. This is a winner for both client and accountant and manages both parties' cashflow.
  • Make sure your 'menu of services' is up to date and is written in simple language so the reader can understand what you can actually help with. Of course, test this on your team and make sure everyone working for you also knows everything you do as a firm.
  • Look at your website. This is your 'brochure' to the outside world. Is it up to date ? Do you have a system of inviting people to register on it so you can capture their data and send them regular updates and free newsletters etc?
  • Telemarketing can be effective for those wanting to win new clients with an average annual fee of £1000 or less. However, if your ideal client profile is for larger clients than this then it may prove more cost effective to have your own marketing campaign. The current market means that telemarketing offerings are very cost effective and it is worth looking at this as a supplement to your marketing plan if you haven't tried it before and you are looking to win a higher volume of clients at a lower fee level. A word of caution. Many clients who are attracted to the 'low balling' cheap and cheerful accountant will have little loyalty, need little more than a basic compliance service and change their accountants frequently. Ask yourself if this is the type of business model you want to build for your firm in the long term?
  • Look to raise your profile in the local community to get your name known. Every area has business publications which are relatively inexpensive to write a regular 'advertorial' feature for. This alone will rarely win new business leads for you but it will get people used to seeing your face and name.
  • Set up your e-mail system so that you can send out 'soundbite' e-mails every month as a minimum to your 'target list'. People respond better to e-mails as opposed to hard copy these days. Remember, people do not usually read further than the first couple of lines, so simply write a couple of sentences to 'whet the appetite' and create curiousity about you. E-mail campaigns always work best if they are followed up wth a personal call to ask 'Did you read the recent e-mail and did it strike a chord with you?'
  • If you don't have the resources internally to make follow up calls, which in itself is a thankless and time consuming task, there are many good providers who will do this for you at a daily rate to include sending you follow up notes etc. The objective is to win you an appointment with those on your 'target list.'
  • Nu r ture your professional contacts- bank managers in particular. Keep them copied on all your marketing e-mails and call them regularly. Many firms report that referrals from banks are still a major source of new business for them.
  • Consider running a small regular seminar. The thought of this may fill you with dread ! There are many excellent tools available to help you systematise this process, provide you with a topic and script and a step by step guide on how to run an event. I have met many practitioners (including myself in years gone by !) that believed public speaking was the stuff of nightmares. I have since seen the opposite to be true. Regular small seminars are an excellent way to 'court' potential clients and give them the opportunity to talk to exi s ting clients who you invite along too. Seminars are also an ideal way to win extra work from existing clients and again serve to raise your profile in your area.
  • The real secret to success is a 'gently,gently, drip drip' approach. In this climate businesses are reluctant to change advisors and take time to make the move. Consistent and regular contact is therefore the key. It can take more than a year to win an appointment with someone on your target list and then another year to convert them. Don't be disheartened- this is simply the way of the world of smaller practitioners.
  • Implement a simple system so you can set a target for new business and monitor what is successful together with conversion rates. You need this system in place so you can see what works best and replicate it.
  • On avarage, a partner responsible for the marketing plan should allow an average of 1 day a week for marketing and business development and a further day a week for seeing potential new clients. If this looks like an unrealistic target for you to achieve then it poses a raft of different questions about how you are running your own business and what exactly is your role as owner ? There may be issues to be addressed first in this area alone.

I cannot write about winning new clients without mentioning winning additional work from existing clients. Many practitioners fail to realise fee income potential by not using a 'w i ndows of opportunity' system with their existing client base. This is essential.

The above list is a very basic 'simple start' guide. I realise there are a wealth of marketing tools,resources and software available on the market- many of which work well and are cost effective. My intention with this article is to provide those with no marketing plan with a little inspiration. It may also be time for those who have a plan in place to review and update it.

Recent research amongst smaller firms of practitioners shows that many are winning new business and fee income as a result of offering something different and being more accessible and personal in their approach to servicing clients. I hope that you too can capitalise on this !

Please contact me on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or via www.practice-perfect.net if you have a specific question.

 

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