Justin Feldman is a CA and former audit professional who articled at Grant Thornton (now SNG Grant Thornton) before venturing off to a mid-sized New York accounting firm.
What he saw there changed his life. “The firm was using social media in very interesting and innovative ways to attract new clients. No other accounting firm was doing any of this. They were still stuck in the traditional ways of doing things, relying on the power of their brand and word of mouth to attract new clients. This is the slow way of growing your practice. My plan was to return to SA and set up a business that was focused on using social media to help accounting firms grow their businesses and attract new clients,” he says.
He teamed up with some business partners and launched Accounting Clients Accelerator (ACA). The company is less than two years old and its growth has surprised even Feldman.
Scouting for clients
ACA scouts for new clients using LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and other channels, and then assist clients with marketing, sales, automation and systems. The onboarding process is fully digitised, which means many clients have to overhaul the way they interact with their customers. Fortunately, there’s an array of tech tools designed specifically for this purpose.
Most of Feldman’s clients are based in the US and UK. The fact that he is based in Johannesburg is irrelevant in this cloud-based land.
“Most accountants look at marketing as an expense,” he says. “That’s a mistake. Properly managed, it should be reflected as an asset. South Africans are not that big on marketing, which is a pity.
“As an accountant I fell prey to this type of thinking. We regard ourselves as among the best accountants in the world, and there is some truth in that, but that dominance doesn’t mean we know everything about marketing and business. I’d love to open up CAs’ minds to this area of using social media marketing.
“It’s important for accounting practitioners to realise that once you start a practice, you are no longer an accountant, you’re a business owner. I had to invest in courses and sales to understand the broader business world, which is something we don’t learn as accountants.
“If you want a business to generate £300,000 a month, you can’t scale to that level without marketing systems in place.”
Feldman cites the case of a UK client that was taking on an average of two clients a month. ACA was brought in to bump up this figure, and the client now signs up six new clients a month, with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to manage the leads and automate email communications.
The UK client now signing up six clients a month can flick a switch to turn his marketing drive on and off.
ACA is so confident of its ability to attract new clients for accountants that it will return the set-up fee unless it signs up a minimum of two new clients a month. Feldman says it has never failed to deliver on this minimum standard, and so has never had to return a fee – a sign of the confidence ACA has in its marketing acumen.
Blunt advice for accountants
Feldman also has some blunt advice for accountants in practice: “Accountants are all saying the same thing. They say ‘we do tax, payroll, bookkeeping’ – yet they all say they’re not a typical accountant. If this is how you position yourself, you’re going to get squeezed on price. It’s far better to differentiate yourself, for example, by positioning yourself as, say an accountant servicing doctors. This way you can create some space for yourself to grow.
“We would love to help SA accounting firms and show them how to expand their practices,” says Feldman, “though South African accountants are often reluctant to market themselves, or if they do, they are not as effective as they could be. We can show them how to do it.”
You can visit ACA’s website here: www.accountingclientsaccelerator.com