Your current client is the fastest route to your next client, but can also be the fastest route to no new clients.
If you choose, in one way or another, to ignore the perception your clients have of your accounting services, you risk not only losing some of your current client base, but completely shutting off your most cost-effective channel to new clients.
For any of your marketing efforts to be effective, you absolutely must regularly survey your clients to determine their level of satisfaction with your firm.
Who is this article for?
I am writing this article for:
- Accountants who have their own firm and currently have clients
- Accountants who work for a firm they would like to help grow
- Any other professional who would like to make sure their current clients are happy.
I wrote this article to underscore the importance of not taking for granted that you are providing a service that your clients are pleased with, and then do whatever it takes to ensure their complete satisfaction.
Marketing for Accountants – The Shift
Marketing your accounting firm will depend on any number of factors. You need to consider who you are, your goals, how long you have practice, the type of practice you run, the competition, your available resources etc etc.
Fundamentally though, there is a shift. The shift is described in the book Absolute Value.
In a nutshell, and for the sake of time, the shift is described as people getting information about you from other people instead of from you. As an example, people are less likely to judge you based on what you say about yourself in an advertisement, on your website or in a meeting. Instead, they determine your ability to meet their needs by asking or listening to the people who have already experienced you.
Because of advancements in certain types of technology like social media, and review sites, it is easy for people to talk about you and for others to observe the conversation.
It doesn’t stop there.
Don’t forget that conversations happen the old fashioned way as well.
When your clients are out and about, at parties and gatherings where people talk, they talk about you. In certain circumstances they are specifically asked about their experience with you.
You need to make sure that when they talk, they say nothing but good things. You need to manage your firm to the standard set by the ultimate question.
The Ultimate Question – Be Proactive
A guy named Fred Reicheld wrote a book, in my opinion, that should be on the shelves of every business person on the planet. The book is called, “The Ultimate Question”.
The book was written as a result of Fred’s research into how and why certain companies seemed to grow faster, and more organically (without acquisitions) than other companies. In all of his research, he came to a conclusion.
Fred’s conclusion is that the strength of a companies ability to grow is determined by an aggregation of client answers to one simple question, “Would you refer me to ________?
The book is written as a testament to the strength and power of investing considerable amounts of time and money into understanding, and then pleasing your clients.
It really is a two step process.
- Determine how happy they are
- Do what you can to maintain their happiness, or change their negative opinion of you
In Fred’s opinion, his metric,the Net Promoter Score, can be used to determine your clients state of mind with regards to your services. The adjustments you make once you know what your score is depends on the score, and how far you are willing to go to make your clients happy.
Industry Niche – Word Travels Fast
It becomes even more imperative to stay on top of your clients level of satisfaction if you specialize in providing services to an industry niche.
If you focus or specialize in providing accounting services to a certain niche, and that niche is comprised of people who are close nit, there is a strong chance that they are going to share stories about their experiences. You will be included in those stories.
I once asked a lawyer where they got their accountant. His response was, from the advice of another lawyer. I know this makes sense to you, and seems like common sense. I wonder though, if you really know how happy your clients are, and what they say about you when you are not around.
The trick is to be absolutely certain you are not doing anything to sabotage or inhibit those types of referrals. You cannot take for granted that your clients are happy, are willing to tell people how happy they are, or worse, are telling people you are not worthy.
Professionals like dentists and lawyers look to their peers for referrals to other professionals. They also freely tell each other when they are not satisfied. In this case, and if it is about you, you will lose the opportunity to acquire clients cost-effectively. What’s worse is, your reputation will develop within the industry niche, quickly, developing a brand that people want to avoid.
Once you develop a brand that people want to avoid, nothing you do with your marketing is going to produce significant results.
Every business needs to determine the resources available for marketing efforts. The best part about relying on word-of-mouth from your current clients is, it is not resource intensive.
The money and time you do spend will be spent in serving their needs, and will result in the greatest ROI of any of your marketing spend.
When looked at this way, combined with the negative impact an unhappy client has on your firms growth potential, your next step should be to take action towards ensuring the conversation about you is the best it can be.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now
Conduct a Survey – If you have the fortune of having a strong base of clients, start by taking a quick survey using “The Ultimate Question” methodology. Here is a link to a Survey Monkey template for the Ultimate Question Survey. The survey will result in what Fred calls the Net Promoter Score.
It is actually a fairly simple survey to conduct, you just have to understand how to set it up, and then how to aggregate the data to determine what your score is.
Make Adjustments – If the results from the survey are good, wonderful. Keep doing what you are doing. If they are not so good, you need to understand why, then take action to improve your score.
The score is only the beggining in that you will have to do a bit more research if you find that your clients by and large are not happy with you.
Start with Your Clients First – Whenever you think about a marketing tactic, always consider first how you can use it to have an impact on your current clients first. For example, people are always suggesting that you craft a blog to acquire new clients. OK, I agree. But why don’t you also write your blog for your current clients too?
I realize it is probably nothing new to you that referrals matter. What may be new to you though is that you can take effective action to be sure you are on the right track.
The key message here is, never take for granted that you are doing the right thing. Ask your clients how they feel, and ask them regularly, to be sure you never slip.
The rewards can be tremendous, leaving you with no other problem other than how to manage the fast pace growth of your firm.