By Kevin Whitehouse
What do clients really want? In this article Kevin Whitehouse explains how you can market your practice to get the ones that you really want.
When I started my accounting practice, working with my first few clients, I attended their premises on a weekly basis. I don’t do this now, but back then I did it for three reasons.
Firstly, I didn’t have an office, so it was convenient to go to their premises to do their work. Secondly, I really needed work! Attending weekly meant I could really get stuck in and provide much more value. I’d just been made redundant; the economy was struggling and the housing market was in freefall. Interest rates were climbing to an all-time high and, at age 21, I’d recently signed up to my first mortgage. No income and rising costs creates some serious focus and urgency! The third reason for spending more time with my clients is because that is what they wanted.
The first few contacts came from a combination of people I knew, a recommendation, and someone who’d come from a mailshot I’d sent out.
During my introductory conversation with them I simply asked what they wanted. What they were struggling with and how they wanted me to help them.
This was back in the early 1990s, and yet today when I see new clients I still ask similar questions.
Small changes, big impact
A small change in the questions we ask our clients, and a small change in how we deliver what we do, leads to better service to our clients. However, before we develop better questions and a better way to deliver our service there is one small but very critical step to take, and that is to identify who your ideal client is.
When I started to grow my practice I tried all sorts of marketing tactics. I went networking, I sent out mailshots, letters and postcards and ran local press adverts. I even had a radio advert for a while on our local station, plus a good number of recommendations.
Looking back, I made a big mistake because I was simply copying everyone else. But when I realised it changed everything for the better.
Picking up clients today still involves getting yourself ‘out there’. These days we can add social media and, of course, there are many other forms of media to deliver our message.
You market yourself, get an enquiry, send a quote, they accept and you deliver your best service and hopefully make a profit, right? If that is the case, why do so many accountants complain that they have rubbish clients? Why do so many ignore the fact they are doing some work for fees that are so low it’s embarrassing? And why do so many complain of stress by the inevitable January rush?
It’s simple to fix. It may not be easy, but it is simple.
Before you rush off to pick up your next client, and try to shoehorn your services to them, only to find your fees being squeezed even further, STOP! Take a step back and identify exactly who your ideal client is – and who isn’t.
Once you have done this you will also know where they are likely to hang out, and then because you know to whom you are communicating you will start to change the language you use in your marketing message.
It doesn’t stop there. Imagine you had a practice where 100% of your clients were your perfect, ideal client. They would all work the way you want. They would listen and act on your advice, and get paperwork and documents to you when you want it and never cause you any stress.
If you had a better structure and a framework to spend more time with your clients you would soon build a better relationship, and that would strengthen the bond and trust. In turn, they will be happy to pay you a great deal more for you to deliver an even better, more valuable service.
The profession we are all in is perfectly placed to help the economy grow. We all have the right skill for the right clients. We are all good at helping our clients earn more money and save tax, but often they want more.
Just dealing with compliance is not giving you a chance to shine, to show what you really can do to give value. If you ask the right questions you will soon discover that they want more, but this starts with asking the right people in the first place.
I still run a practice , but I now have time to help others in the profession. If you’d like some help, I’m offering a free Growth Accelerator course, where I will show you exactly how to have better clients – those who are willing to pay the fees you know you deserve.
• Kevin Whitehouse is an accountant in practice and business mentor.