Small Fish Are Sweet for Accountants

Marketing is a bit like fishing, to be successful you need to prepare and have a clear plan as to the type of fish you are targeting. You can obviously target several species at once by setting up separate lines but without the right bait and tackle you are just hoping to get a bite. For accountants, hope is not an effective marketing strategy that hooks new clients.

So ... What type of clients are you targeting?

I regularly ask accountants this question and too often they can’t describe their 'ideal' client. Some will paint a very sketchy picture but you need to be crystal clear. If you think the larger firms have a clearer vision of their ideal client, think again. I recently met with a large firm in Melbourne and they described their ideal client as medical professionals who pay $20000 a year in accounting and financial planning fees. The indicated they may operate through a service trust, have multiple partners with multiple self-managed superannuation funds within the group and use the full range of other services on offer including financial planning, loans, finance etc. I asked them what sort of success rate they have in attracting that type of client and the consensus was they were fairly successful with a lot of ‘nodding’.

My next question then stumped the partners; When was the last time they picked up one of these ‘ideal’ clients? The partners all stared at each other and couldn’t produce a name so I asked all three partners to undergo a simple exercise. On a blank piece of paper they were asked to list their top 6 fee paying clients. Next to their names I asked them to list how long each of them had been clients of the firm. The results were very interesting because it proved that they had not attracted one of their ideal clients for more than 4 years even though they thought their marketing was working beautifully. The truth is their gross fees were almost flat lining and only 5 of their top 18 clients actually ticked the ‘ideal client’ boxes.

Here’s the icing on the cake. I asked the partners to detail the fees each of their top clients paid in their first year and the results were staggering. The vast majority of the clients paid between $2000 and $5000 in their first year and only 3 of them paid more than $12k and only one client paid more than $20k.

So, what did the partners learn from the exercise?

Firstly, communicate your successes with your partners. They were all busy on the tools thinking the business was humming along but ‘busy’ doesn’t always translate to profit in accounting firms. They have now set up a T account on the whiteboard in the managing partner’s office that lists any new clients they win during the month and on the opposite side of the ledger they list any clients they have lost and why. They now wheel that whiteboard into every partners meeting and discuss the source of any new clients (referrals, website, staff, bank manager etc.) so they know what is working and what needs working on. You can’t measure what you don’t monitor.

Now that they know they aren’t winning their ideal clients we are re-writing some content on their website and looking at some SEO strategies including writing blogs around the key issues these clients have to attract more traffic. They are also planning to run some seminars around these topics and looking to get in front of more medical graduates and positioning the firm as the industry expert. Social media strategies are now also on the radar and they are patient because $20k clients don’t grow on trees. Often they have been with their existing accountant for years so prying them away can be difficult so you need a strategic approach and the right tools or bait.

The big lesson here is ‘small fish are sweet'. You can turn small clients into big clients if you nurture them and introduce your additional services. Cast your mind back, we all cut our teeth consulting with smaller clients and business start-ups. If you only roll out the red carpet for the larger new clients you might be snubbing your big clients of the future.

If you want to win more of your ideal type of client talk to us today about our marketing services for accountants or consider joining the Accountants Accelerator Group in 2014. Also block your diary out for our Marketing Master Class Seminar for Accountants on November 25, 2013.

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