Philip Fisher advises accountants looking to boost their client base how they can find more clients.
Before even starting to market a practice it can be good to take important strategic decisions. As we all know, small clients can become someone else’s insolvency job but they can also turn into very large clients. The key is to work out where it is worth investing.
Sometimes, it is worth accepting clients that are barely profitable for several years, in the expectation that a percentage of them will eventually sell out or go to market, giving you a payoff that more than pays for your faith.
Although in recent times many firms of accountants have claimed that the only limitation on expansion is their inability to recruit enough high quality staff, and this is undoubtedly a significant issue, I am still firmly of the belief that the number one priority for every firm should be bringing in additional work, either from existing clients or by finding new clients.
If your practice is relatively small and manages to bring in 10 new clients paying £25,000 each, surely it must be possible to employ staff to do the work. Even if you have to pay them a premium or overtime for doing so there will still be an element of profit. Growing your practice also can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, since those clients will tell others, who tell others.
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In addition, after a certain point a practice might enter a Top 50 or Top 100 list, at which time it will suddenly find new marketing opportunities, possibly without even trying.
Books have been written about marketing theory and most of them are pretty tedious. The author trusts that his previous series on sales and marketing, which can be read alongside this article, is a little more enlightening, presenting ideas about seeking and hooking the kind of juicy clients that will help any practice to grow.
As a general rule, creating niches is always extremely valuable. If your firm has a knack of maximising refunds from R&D tax credits then make the most of it, as a perfect way of getting a foot in the door and ultimately bringing in a full-service client.
Although it does not come naturally to most accountants, selling services means not only doing the work well and getting a happy client but also boasting about it. Don’t be shy – utilise your website, the media and direct contact with clients and other work providers to tell the world about your achievements.
There are also practices that have developed their client base via a local association, which could be anything from a church or temple to a Rotary Club or even (so it is rumoured) a golf club.
Client referrals are also worth their weight in gold. While an advert on platform one at the local station may be seen by many more people, it will also pass far more by. If a client tells their business associates or even just friends about the accountant that saved £100,000 or got them off the taxman’s hook, that is a much more powerful message and will almost certainly have a positive impact on your practice in the longer term.
Patience is also more than a virtue. It can often take years to bring in clients and persistence will frequently pay off. Never neglect with whom you want to work. Wine them, dine them or even just telephone them every now and then. Eventually, it should pay large dividends.