A referral is the best kind of recommendation you can get for your firm, especially when you look at the challenges of turning a cold target into a new client. But here are four key things to check before you start growing.
Your practice has spent a long time honing its client base and finding the right businesses to work with. Why not start getting making the most of your existing clients by using referrals to grow your business?
A referral is the best kind of recommendation you can get for your firm, especially when you look at the challenges of turning a cold target into a new client.
- Business owners are inundated with sales and marketing every day of the week, offering new and better services to help them achieve their goals. So it’s harder (and more expensive) than ever to cut through the noise and get the ear of the decision makers.
- A referral from someone in a buyer’s trusted network is the best way for your firm to win a new client. Business owners trust other business owners – meaning that a recommendation comes with a mark of quality that no amount of advertising can deliver.
- Birds of a feather flock together, so it’s likely your good clients will know business owners that share the same positive characteristics – making them a perfect fit for your practice.
What's more, it's never been easier for clients to switch accountants. The advent of cloud accounting means it can all be one with a few clicks, instead of having to truck a load of paper from office to office.
Marketing challenges faced by accountants
So what are the big challenges your firm faces when searching for the right new clients?
- An increasing amount of competition in the accounting marketplace, alongside the challenge of other aggressive, and highly marketing-savvy, firms.
- With the advent of cloud accounting systems, whether you’re a sole trader practice or a 50-partner firm, you’re all looking for the diamond clients in the same coal mine – and that’s tricky when the larger firm have almost unlimited budget and resources.
- With so many different marketing options – across digital and social media – it can be difficult to know which channel is the best place to start.
- Most accountants are not natural-born sellers (you may be the exception) and don’t want to appear too ‘salesy’ for fear of looking unprofessional.
- Technology has bolstered the importance of knowing your processes and systemising your business as much as possible – even if you never plan on selling your business, a ‘franchisable’ practice is worth far more than a non-systemised firm.
Most accountants will see organic growth of their client base through referrals, but most of these wins are not planned or intentional – and that means that’s a gap in your client strategy for a proactive and systemised referral method.
Quick-start tips for more effective referrals
Before you think about implementing referral systems in your practice, it’s advisable to ask yourself a few important questions:
1. Is your client service up to scratch?
The only way your clients will willingly provide referrals is if they’re completely thrilled with the service you’re offering them.
Don’t think about implementing a referral system until your service levels are where they need to be – your clients need to appreciate your firm and the work you do for them.
The most successful accounting firms spend the vast majority of their time providing clients with the best possible experience, and looking at ways they can constantly improve it.
2. Do you have a process ready?
As with any part of your firm, if you’re serious about getting more referrals, you need to make sure that the process is easy for your clients, the businesses being referred and, of course, for your firm. Not only do you need to provide clients with everything they need in order to refer effectively, you also need an onboarding process for new clients that’s seamless from start to finish.
3. Are you confident enough to ask?
Following on from both points above, if you want more referral clients, you must really commit to the process.
After all, if you’re delivering an amazing service to your clients, you’ve got no reason to be hesitant about asking for a referral. That’s because a) they’re over the moon with your services and can endorse you fully, and b) you know you’ll deliver the same quality service to the referred new client.
4. Do you know which clients to ask?
Every practice ends up with bad clients they wish they could sack. Often these are clients you took on in the early days but were never really the right fit, or they’re highly disorganised and demanding but on a low fee.
Luckily, there is a straightforward way of analysing your client data to show which clients actually produce profits. We’ve put together a guide to walk you through the method, step by step.
You’ll find out:
- How to organise analyse client data to reveal real profits
- How to identify problem clients
- The fastest way identify and close new clients