Business development isn't just about winning new clients, it's about nurturing existing client relationships so that they stay with you for the long term. Numerous studies have shown that one of the biggest challenges for accounting firms is attracting and developing new business, so how can you do this better? How can you actually start getting results from your business development efforts? Here are 9 strategies that work.
1. Change your mindset to "it's not me, it's you"
You wouldn't like for someone to approach you with a hard sell. I'm talking about that person that we've all met at a networking event who goes on and on about themselves and their business, why they're the best and so on. Nobody likes that, so don't do it.
To sell without selling, always listen first and engage second. Ask potential contacts and prospects questions and really listen to their answers. If you change your mindset from it having to be about you to it being all about them, you will really stand out. Empathy is a really powerful thing.
2. Focus on their specific challenges and fears
When talking to your prospects or clients about them and their business, find out about their pain points and challenges, their worries and fears, and their aspirations and motivations. The aim of this conversation is to find out 1) what's the biggest headache for them and 2) what success means for them.
Armed with these golden nuggets, you should now know how you can make life easier for them. You should now have a way in to plant the seeds of opportunity and really nurture the relationship.
That's really all it takes. Talk, ask a lot of questions, and listen to them. Find out what keeps them up at night and focusing on helping them with that.
3. Solve their problem
You know what the client needs from you, so now you need to deliver it. Do you already have a product or service that does that? Do you need to adapt an existing product/service or create a completely new one?
Even if you have to pivot your offering, it is worth it. Clients will tell you what they need the most from you. If you can't or won't deliver it, then they'll go elsewhere.
4. Use your client personas to convey a strong message
A vague marketing message won't appeal to anyone, so focus on making yours clear and targeted. Now that you have defined your client personas, you know their specific challenges and issues and how you can solve them, use this to craft a solid marketing message that makes an impact.
Remember, make your message about the client and the results that they want. For example, "we provide a personal, bespoke service" is about you and doesn't elicit any emotion for the client. If you say things like "giving clients complete peace of mind with their accounting" or "helping you spend less time on your finances and more time with your family," these are far more likely to encourage clients to take the action that you want them to.
Can you sum up your service offering in a single sentence?
5. Optimise your website and social presence
Your brand message needs to be consistent throughout your marketing, so review and update your website and all of your channels. Next, you need to make it easier for your prospects and clients to find you.
The best ways to do this are:
- Optimise your website - you will need to include keywords that your clients will be searching for within the copy of your website. That way, prospects can find you through Google. You will also need effective SEO in your articles.
- Build your social media presence - prospects will find you through search engines and also social media, so make sure to be where they are online. Engage in groups that they are in and make sure to post regularly on your own page to build your reputation as an expert. This way, you will always be front of mind when someone needs your product/service.
6. Build a strong brand that stands out
Your branding is a visual and conceptual way to convey what's special about your firm. It allows you to be recognised and remembered by creating that emotional connection with your audience. To get better results from your business development efforts, you need to think about your branding, particularly, your website design and content strategy.
To stand out from the thousands of other accounting firms, you need to create a brand that conveys your personality and culture. One that evokes an emotional response and motivates prospects to make that initial step towards becoming a client. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Make sure your company name, logo, slogan and design are cohesive and speak to your target audience.
- Ensure that the website copy speaks directly to prospects and makes them feel that they need what the firm offers.
- Work with a website designer and content marketing expert to get these messages right and to outline your marketing strategy moving forward.
7. Make it easy to get in touch
This seems like such a non-piece of advice, but it's one of the biggest mistakes that accountants make with their business development! They don't make it easy for prospects to take the action that they want them to. Whether it's to get in touch, book a discovery call or download a free resource, you have to make the call to actions prominent and clear for prospects.
At the crucial moment where a potential client is wanting to initiate contact, you need to make a positive first impression so make it easy for them. Make sure that they only need to take one step to get to you. That could be a link in your email to book a call with you or it could be a sign-up form on your website. Whatever you decide, give them the path of least resistance and they'll take it. If you don't, they will go elsewhere.
8. Nurture relationships and stay front of mind
The work isn't over when you win a client. In fact, that's when the real work begins. If you want to get results from your business development efforts, you need to invest time building and nurturing these relationships. You need to stay front of mind until they are ready to buy whilst also encouraging loyalty and referrals.
To stay front of mind with clients, here are a few things that you can do:
- Send a monthly newsletter that provides value to your contacts.
- Write and share high-quality content that your clients will find useful, inspiring or interesting. (Both blogs and posts on social media)
- Send them a thank you note or gift for their business. Or send them a box of chocolates on other occasions such as their birthday or at the beginning of tax season.
- Creating downloadable guides that will help clients with their specific challenges.
- Running webinars or workshops on topics that your clients are interested in.
Staying front of mind isn't about bombarding your contacts with sales emails, it's about contacting them with the right information at the right time. With every email, blog or post you put out, ask yourself:
- Will this answer a question that they have?
- Does this meet a time-sensitive need?
- Will this drive them to do something or to think differently?
- Is this of value and will it make an impact?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you can be sure that you'll be building a relationship with your clients (not annoying them).
- 3 easy ways for accountants to stop wasting time with business development activities that go nowhere
- The ultimate guide to sharing content on LinkedIn to generate new business for your small accountancy firm.
9. Help existing clients buy more from you
Many accountants are constantly running on that hamster wheels always looking for more clients, but that's not a sustainable way to grow! The best way to scale your practice is to turn to the clients you already have. How can you get them to buy more from you? They already like you and trust you, so this is a far easier approach than always searching for a new win.
Clients' needs will change as their business grows and changes, so make a point of sitting down with them regularly to check that you are giving them everything they need. Could they benefit from other services that you offer? Could you adapt your service offering to better serve them?
If you really focus on providing exceptional client service, the better your chances of retaining clients who are loyal for the long term. All you have to do is listen to the marketplace and the clients you already have. They'll tell you how to successfully grow your practice.
Streamline your business development efforts
These are the 9 steps you need to take to get results from your business development efforts. Once you have these working smoothly, you can then streamline the process even further. For example:
- Getting the essential information from a new prospect - create a questionnaire that they can fill in which asks about their specific pain points and their main challenge right now.
- Optimise your website and create a consistent content strategy - automations, website pop-ups, and social media scheduling will help you to work slicker.
- Call to action - always make getting in touch as easy as possible (e.g. try Acuity Scheduling) and package your services to encourage existing clients to buy more from you.
Remember, get your brand right first, stay front of mind for prospects, and nurture your relationships until they are ready to buy.