Think of the key skills you need to acquire to run a successful business — networking, content marketing know-how, delivering an amazing elevator pitch — they all revolve around the same basic thing: the need to find new clients.
When you’re starting out you can’t think of much else and every new client feels like a huge win. But established businesses can’t drop the ball on client acquisition either; new clients are the lifeblood of your business. Even if you’re working at capacity you never know when you’re going to need to add some new names to your customer base.
Of course, new clients can seem like some sort of mythical beings that only come out once in a blue moon when unicorns jump over rainbows and leprechauns dance in the fields. They can be hard to spot and even harder to catch!
There are the obvious ways of securing new clients: a well-designed website will work for some firms and online advertising, when done right, can be effective too. And the number one way of gaining new customers will always be through referrals from current or previous customers.
However, if business is slow and you need to turn those mythical beings into flesh and blood paying customers, it’s worth looking beyond the obvious.
It’s worth looking to industries adjacent to your own; the other types of business that your target clientele needs to work with. For example, SME owners need accountants but they also need lawyers that specialise in small businesses or insurance brokers who can provide them with professional indemnity insurance. Could you consider joining forces with another business to offer your potential clients a package deal or a discount for a referral of connected services?
LinkedIn seems to be the obvious social media channel of choice for accountancy firms but again, we’re trying to think beyond the obvious. Social media is somewhat underused by accountants so this could be a chance to stand out.
Instagram, for example, is becoming increasingly popular with small business owners but so many people still think you need to be a ‘visual’ business for it to be worthwhile. This isn’t the case and there are a growing number of entrepreneurs finding success through this channel. As with all social media, the trick is to find a way to make your firm stand out and to make use of hashtags that your potential clients are following.
It’s a good idea to investigate Facebook groups too. There are lots of groups specifically formed to serve SME owners and users regularly look to the group for recommendations for all kinds of service providers, including accountants.
Look to other people in your industry who serve a different sector. Let’s say that you work with mid-level SMEs but you know a firm or accountant that specialises in small SMEs and sole traders. Well, it’s guaranteed that some of those SME owners or sole traders are going to level up before long and start looking for a different company. Is it possible to come to an arrangement with that firm whereby they’ll recommend you to clients who’ve outgrown them in exchange for referrals from you for enquiries from people who don’t fit your ideal client profile? A true win-win for everyone involved.
It’s a bit too easy to get sucked into the digital world, particularly if you offer online services, but don’t forget that your local community can be a treasure trove of new business and old-fashioned marketing techniques still have their uses. Printing brochures to deliver to local businesses can be a great marketing tool and for getting in front of potential clients you can’t beat getting out of the office and into a networking event. You’re far more likely to be remembered (and hired!) by someone who’s enjoyed a conversation with you than by someone who’s stumbled across your website or seen a Facebook ad.
For a lot of people out there, accounting is a complicated and scary business, so if you can find a way to help demystify it and put a nice, friendly face to your accounting practice, you’ll be the first person they turn to when they need to hire an accountant. Lots of networking groups regularly feature guest speakers and conferences are another great way to get yourself in front of hundreds of potential new clients. Or you could try hosting your own workshop event. Find an inexpensive room to rent and invite local businesses who could benefit from free accounting advice.
Whether you’re great at public speaking or you’re more of a digital aficionado, at least one of these strategies will be enough to get your business moving again. Try all five and you’ll have more clients than you know what to do with!
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