It’s always important to have a fresh stream of new clientele entering your practice, while at the same time maintaining strong relationships with current clients. This is the only way to expand and grow your firm and ensure that any clients lost will be replaced with one or more high-quality clients.
Finding and retaining new clients requires several steps, which we will briefly discuss below.
Brainstorm: Talk with your employees (or with trusted advisors, if you are a solo practice) about the direction of the firm. Do some real soul-searching and ask pivotal questions:
- What industry niches do I want to specialize in? Do I need additional training?
- Who is my “ideal client”? Industry, personality, company size, types of services, ability to pay on time, etc.
- What types of services do my ideal clients need? Do I cover all of them? If not, do I want to offer additional services?
- Who is currently supplying my ideal clients’ accounting needs? (Who is my competition?)
- What sets me apart from the competition? (How can I do what they do better than they do it? What do I offer that they don’t?)
- Where do my ideal clients hang out online – what social media and traditional media do they see? What organizations do they belong to?
- What do my best clients say that their needs are and do I supply what they need? (Survey them)
Evaluate your current assets: It’s easier to keep current clients and expand services for them than it is to get new ones, so reach out to them first. Hopefully, you communicate with your clients regularly in order to keep that relationship going throughout the year. A monthly newsletter is a great touch-point and opportunity to share some tips that will make their lives easier. It’s also a great idea to have a yearly call or meeting just to touch base.
In the call or newsletter, ask your best clients, those that fit your ideal client definition, what their needs and pain points are, what other services they use, and where they think they still need help. Based on this information, you can consider expanding your services.
Another idea is to develop an Advisory Services Plan offering different levels of service, from once-a-year tax services and a once-a-month call to more elaborate steps that include more services, financial advice, and regular opportunities to “pick your experienced brain.”
Ask your best clients what they would be interested in and build the plan around their needs. It can always be tweaked later once you’ve all had a chance to try it out. But this can be a very valuable draw for new clients, who may like a variety of services and want to know upfront how much it will cost.
Network and develop professional partnerships: You already know so many people through business, family, and community activities. Ask yourself how they might be sources of referral, and ask yourself how you may be able to help them. While your brother-in-law the real estate agent may not expect anything in return for sending you the occasional client, other professionals probably will. After all, they need referrals, too.
Here at PSTAP, we offer the ability for you to network with other accounting professionals not just for ideas on how to build your business. Our members refer clients to each other often when there is a specialty needed or a client needs a different fit.
Think about what lines of business would be good referral sources or professional partners. Decide how formal you would like the partnership to be. Then take the person out for lunch and talk. See how the two of you click. If there’s a mutual interest, work out the details of a partnership in which you send each other referrals from your mutually-compatible lines of work.
Develop a strong communication and marketing plan: Advertising can be expensive. It’s also a passive form of finding business, with lower success rates than referrals from clients. However, it’s worth doing if you develop an intentional, targeted plan. Advertise where you have determined your target audience is likely to see it. Offer community classes in your expertise that will attract people whose needs you can fulfill. Keep current clients happy with regular and helpful communications, and offer them a generous benefit if someone they refer becomes a client.
Make prospecting a part of your strategic plan: Develop your company’s strategic plan to include ongoing efforts to find new, high-quality clientele. Your plan should include professional memberships, such as PSTAP. PSTAP membership is a great way to tap into the wisdom of other CPAs and accounting professionals to see what works for them and how it might be adapted to your needs.
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