How do you and your accountancy firm attract new clients to your business? I have put together the following comprehensive list of 50 lead generation techniques for accountants in practice. Why? Well, just for a bit of fun really.
This is something that I, like most other accountancy practice owners, have been interested in for many years. Of course, we all hope that new clients will walk themselves through our doors in an ever-increasing number. However, sometimes – perhaps when we are just starting out in practice – we just need to give our ideal target clients a bit of direction on how to find us.
Let’s look at the list…
1) Word of mouth – There is little doubt that word of mouth can be the most powerful and cost-effective form of advertising going for accountants. But how do you get clients to talk about you and your firm in a positive light? Of course, we could use quirky PR stunts. However, I would suggest that the only way to get a consistent flow of word of mouth referrals from current clients (and others) is by providing nothing short of an exceptional service. Perhaps you go the extra mile to ensure large tax savings for the client. Perhaps you have a fast turnaround time for jobs. Perhaps you provide an advisory service that focuses on the business owner – as well as their business.
2) Ask for Client Referrals – Automatic word of mouth works well when the service provided is outstanding. However, some clients just need a little prompt in order to recommend your services to others. In their defence, they may be unsure whether you are taking on new clients. Leave them with no doubt that you fully encourage them to mention you and you firm to any other business owners that they know are looking for an accountant. Why not include a sentence in the email footer of all of your team members? Include a bullet point in all of your meeting agendas. Ask your clients “who do you know that we can help?”. When a referral is made to you, make sure that you show your appreciation – even if just through a phone call, email or posted card.
3) Referral Incentives for Employees – Incentivising employees to bring new clients into the firm often works well. Choose between a one-off incentive or ongoing incentive for the employee for as long as the client remains with the firm. As employees generally know what a great client looks like to your firm, they will be able to filter out the rest before they reach your office. It also has the added benefit of aligning your employees’ goals with that of the firm – effectively through a form of performance related pay.
4) Run Seminars – Create and run a seminar that your target clients will find useful. The event will allow you to position yourself and your firm as an expert in your field. It will also make it easy to build a relationship with prospects in the audience, which will increase the likelihood of them becoming a client.
5) Run Webinars – Very similar to running a physical seminar for prospects, a webinar will allow you to position yourself as an expert in your field through delivering a talk/content via video and sound over the internet. Although, the interaction will be a virtual one (i.e. no in-person interaction), it will allow you to reach clients from a wider geographical area. Take a look at Zoom.us if you need a great tool to facilitate the webinar.
6) Visible & Accessible Physical Office – Many accountancy firms still enjoy a high level of walk-in enquiries. By positioning your office in an area with high footfall, you are will increase the number of walk-in enquiries – as well as creating great brand awareness.
7) Strategic Hangouts – Where do your ideal clients spend their time? It can be a real-life location (e.g. sports events, night clubs, restaurants, kids’ activities, golf courses, tennis courts, libraries, museums, training events etc) or a virtual location (e.g. online forums, particular social media apps, music websites, sporting websites etc). If you can really pin down your ideal client persona, then being present where that persona frequents regularly can result in opportunities to discuss how you can help. Remember, just like in traditional networking situations, this is not a one-way street. Get to know people and listen to what they have to say.
8) PPC Advertising – Google – Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a great way of bringing in new leads very quickly. Think about the specific search terms potential clients will be typing into Google when they are looking for a new accountant. Create adverts in Google Adwords that are triggered by those keywords. Pay Google when someone clicks on your link to website within the advert. If you are not an expert on PPC marketing yourself, it is recommended that you get in touch with someone who is.
9) Author an Ebook – Instead (or as well) as writing a physical book, you could also write an ebook. Perhaps your ebook will be shorter and will be given away to your target clients. Perhaps some of those potential clients will take a look at your main website and decide that they like what you are about and are interested in exploring the value that you can provide to them. Just a thought?!
10) Create & Nurture an Email Marketing List – Do you have an email marketing list? Do you systematically record (in a GDPR compliant manner, of course) all of the email addresses and names and log them in an email marketing system? Is your firm at the forefront of those contacts’ minds when they think of an accountant because you are drip feeding them information about you and your firm amongst content which is extremely valuable to them?
11) Targeted LinkedIn Ads – LinkedIn allows you to run advertising campaigns that are targeted at very narrow or broad audiences. For example, you could create an advert which shows in the LinkedIn feed of, only, Directors and Owners of B&B Businesses, who are aged 35+ and have an interest in Cloud Accounting. Extremely powerful if managed properly.
12) LinkedIn – Be active, interested & interesting – The ability for a presence on LinkedIn to provide you with instantaneous leads upon the creation of your profile is just not how it works. Your profile is very unlikely to be seen by anyone other than those who are specifically searching for you – or others wanting to sell to you in your role as an accountant. However, if you regularly contribute content – whether it by sharing your blog posts or commenting on other threads, then it is possible to build up a steady influx of leads over time. The caveat being, of course, that the content you share must provide value to the audience. The worst thing you can do is create a profile and go on the hard-sell to people you do not know.
13) Ask for LinkedIn Testimonials – Before coming to meet you for the first time, there is a good chance that the prospective client will search for your LinkedIn profile to get a feel of what kind if service you and your firm provide. Having testimonials show up as social proof that you are worth your salt is a great way of reassuring prospects. Obviously, the more testimonials the better, but having just 4 or 5 glowing, but honest, testimonials on your profile is exponentially better than having none at all. There is absolutely no harm in asking for testimonial from existing clients, colleagues and suppliers.
14) Ask for Trust Pilot Reviews – Sometimes, your clients just need a little nudge in the right direction. There is no shame in asking for them to provide an online review of you and your firm. Trust Pilot is a reputable review website that potential clients may look at before choosing an accountant. The more positive reviews you have on Trust Pilot compared to other accountants’ listings in the local area, the greater the chance of you being the first (and final) accountant they call/email.
15) Google Business Reviews – Ever wondered why the firm of accountants down the road has so many Google Reviews? Perhaps your firm has been trading twice as long as them and you know that your service offering and experience is as good, if not better, than theirs. It boils down to one simple fact – they ask their clients to review them on Google. There that’s it. Simple. Of course, you can optimise the likelihood of the client providing a particularly glowing review by strategically choosing the point in time that you ask them for a review. When do you think you client review is going to be most favourable to you? When you send them a tax bill that is slightly higher than they were expecting at a point in time when cashflow is tight?, or when you have managed to identify ways of saving the client hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax over the course of the next ten years?
16) Employ a PR Agency – PR Agencies have the benefit of being able to build up substantial relationships with editors, contributors and decision makers at local and national press organisations. This can go a long way in getting your news and articles to the people that matter, especially when your firm is relatively new and unknown.
17) Give a talk at a university, college or school – Raise your accountancy firm’s profile, along with your own, by making talking appearances at your local university, colleges and schools. For example, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that a workshop on bookkeeping and tax (or related topics) for an entrepreneurship class at a university may result in an influx of future clients.
18) Quirky Gift or Cashback – Perhaps not entirely in line with the idea of attracting high quality accounting clients (as it is arguable whether quality clients would base their decision on which accountant to choose on whether they receive a gift in return for their choice). However, gifts can have their place in the marketing funnel – especially when the gift is unexpected.
19) Help A Reporter Out – Use dedicated sites like HARO to find opportunities to get your comment and opinion in the press. Also, hashtags like #journorequest and #prrequest are used by journalists looking for experts to contribute their thoughts to their articles. A really great way to talk directly to people capable of getting your thoughts out to the masses in.
20) Get Known On Twitter – Identify people that are important to the accounting industry and also anyone of importance in your target client persona’s industry. Interact with their tweets where it is natural for you to do so. If you have any thoughts on their posts, reply, comment and like. Consistently doing this (without going as far as virtual stalking) will get you on the radar of people that could matter to the future direction of your practice.
21) Walk-arounds – In the age of social media, cloud accounting and virtual meetings, there is something to be said for getting your walking boots on and putting yourself right in front of prospective clients at their workplace. I’m not suggesting that you go around with a cold hard sell to business owners that yo have never met before. I’m talking about a gentle, non-overly disruptive brand awareness campaign in your local towns and cities – perhaps offering a free initial consultation. This certainly worked for me when I was just starting out in practice.
22) Social Proof – How can you leave your target clients with no doubt how good your service is – even before they have met with you? Think client case studies, service reviews, testimonials and inviting your clients to talk about their business and your service at your events. Within our software for accountants, we have built in an “Impact” feature that you and/or your client can easily share with others on social media.
23) Advertise on Upwork etc – Listing and providing your accountancy services through Freelancer websites, such as Upwork can result in new client connections. What can start as helping a business owner with a business plan for a funding application could easily end up with a much deeper relationship and the provision of high value recurring services.
24) Questionnaires – Ask client prospects to complete a questionnaire about the service that they require from their current accountant. Review their answers and identify areas where you can fill in the gaps where their current adviser is lacking. This could be a questionnaire that is shared on LinkedIn or in niche Facebook groups. The process will, in its most basic form, show that you are an adviser who cares about the client experience and understands that the client-accountant relationship matters.
25) Make sure friends & family members know exactly what you do – By ensuring that you communicate to extended family and friends exactly what it is you do in your accountancy practice, who you can help and how you do it, you are increasing the chance that the individual will remember this if a need for an accountant comes up in a conversation they may have with someone else. It wouldn’t hurt to pass on a couple of business cards too as this will keep you and your role fresh in their mind.
26) Create a Relevant & Helpful App – I’m not thinking of the industry standard off the shelf apps for accountants that are essentially a database of tax rates and calculators branded with your logo and colour scheme (although these may work for you). If you can create an app which is unique and truly provides value to your target client which can naturally flow into communicating the benefits of using your firm, then this can really work as a lead generation tool. Perhaps you work in a niche industry and have thought of something that could improve efficiencies for your target client.
27) Speak at Industry Conferences – Speaking at public events provides a clear indicator to the audience that you are an authority on the topic. It is generally wise to steer clear of overly self-promoting yourself. However, using your own past experiences in helping businesses as real-life examples within your talk can clarify to the audience that you can help them with their own business whilst also adding practical context to the topic you are talking about on stage.
28) Referral Partnership – Independent Financial Advisers – Many accountants work closely with IFAs as both service providers perfectly complement each other. Accountants often identify large cash balances held by the client or their business. However, unable to advise on specific personal investment opportunities (unless regulated to do so), the accountant looks to the IFA to fill the gap. Likewise, business owning and/or high net worth individuals will generally work with IFAs in order to plan their retirement. There is an obvious opportunity there for the IFA to pass on your information, as accountant, to the client too.
29) Referral Partnership – Web Designers – Many new business owners may have a go at creating their own business website (to varying degrees of success). Would it be accurate to suggest that business owners who are prepared to pay for help in creating a website may also be open to higher, value-added services provided by an accountant? Perhaps a subtle way of filtering out clients that shop around solely on cost. Most web designers will welcome a strong referral relationship with an accountant, assuming it proves to be beneficial for both parties.
30) Referral Partnership – Co Incorporation Service Providers – Many new business owners take a DIY approach to setting up a new company. If you can make your accountancy practice visible slightly before, during or slightly after the DIY incorporation process, you have a better chance of converting that referred business owner into a client.
31) Referral Partnership – Software Providers – Is there a specific software package that your ideal client uses? Is there scope for you to get in touch to see if there is any way for you to get your accountancy practice in front of their customers? Perhaps, you would provide the software company’s promotional leaflet to all new clients in return?
32) Referral Partnership – Other Complimentary Service Providers – What other businesses are there out there that service your ideal client? Perhaps their service compliments the service that your firm provides? Can you come to some sort of reciprocal referral partnership with that other business?
33) Industry Influencers – These are the individuals that matter to your ideal client persona. When they talk about something new, it is enough to make your ideal client take notice and consider whether the new thing could benefit them. If you can find an influencer whose values are aligned to yours, then there is a strong possibility that you can forge a mutually beneficial relationship.
34) Industry Specific Directories – The more quality and relevant online directories that you can list your accountancy firm’s website on, the better. Obviously, this will increase the chance that your target client becomes aware of your website. It may also increase the visibility of your website search engine listings.
35) Content Marketing – If you and your team consistently write high-value blog articles that are in line with your accountancy practice’s value proposition then, over time, your website will creep up the rankings for your chosen keywords. Beware that the content should truly be helpful to your target audience (i.e. do not just create articles that are packed full of relevant keywords at the expense of a loss of meaning for the reader and quality). Think about the experience of the human reader of your article first – then optimise the keywords used without decreasing quality. Don’t expect an overnight flurry of new leads as soon as you write the first article. The process takes a lot of time and consistent effort. You will need to decide whether the potential for a steady of flow of future enquiries is worth the time cost for you and your team.
36) Optimize Website SEO – Educate yourself in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques and best practice. SEO involves making sure that all relevant factors that affect your website’s organic position on search engines when visitors search for keywords that are directly (or indirectly) related to your business are optimised. If you don’t have the time or the appetite to get directly involved in SEO, there are many SEO Consultants out there that will be able to help. Like in most lines of business, the quality of individual SEO consultants can vary drastically. It makes sense to visit Trust Pilot (and other similar independent review websites) and talk to others about their experiences with specific consultants before choosing the best person for the job.
37) Repackage Blog Articles – There are no rules that state you can only post links to your website’s blog article on social media once. However, if you keep reposting the same article and wrapping it in the same social media post, then the audience are likely to become numb to it. A better method would be to create unique social media posts that link to the same article. Perhaps also post to your articles when they are relevant to a particular news item or discussion thread.
38) Video Marketing – How are you in front of the camera? Video can be a great way to reach new clients. If you have something interesting and helpful to say, why not say it through video? Videos can have a lot higher view rate than plain text or text with images. If you don’t like the idea of projecting your face and voice all over the web, why not encourage a more suitable team member to become a video face of the firm?
39) Landing Page for Industry Niche – Create a landing page on your website that is optimised for your target persona client’s industry. Remove all distractions from the page. Follow landing page “best practice” in order to maximise the change of a conversion of the visitor into a lead for your accountancy firm.
40) Business Advice Forums – Web forums such as UKBF offer a lot of opportunity for discussion with business owners. If you consistently provide accurate and helpful advice to business owners, you will build up a reputation as an expert in your field who is willing to provide quality business guidance – rather than just yearend accounts and tax returns. Word of warning: don’t go on the hard sell on internet forums. If someone likes what you say they are likely to check out a simple link to your website in your forum post signature.
41) Give Away Knowledge to prospects – Often, client facing accountants are not keen to share too much tax and accounting knowledge with potential clients at the initial consultation – perhaps in fear of not leaving anything on the table to offer after the prospect becomes a client. I would argue that helping clients as much as possible during that initial meeting shows that you are a proactive and knowledgeable firm of accountants. This increases that chance of the business owner becoming a client and forms the basis of a long-term and meaningful relationship. If there really is nothing left on the table for you to offer the client after giving a piece of great advice during the initial consultation, then it may be worth addressing this issue first.
42) Social Media Groups – Similar to using business advice forums, social media groups, either for businesses in general or for the specific industries that you target are a great way of building relationships with business owners. If group rules allow it, you can often link to articles on your website in your comments where they are directly relevant to the topic being discussed in the group.
43) Guest Blog Posts – Writing articles for other relevant websites that are visited by your target accountancy clients is a powerful way of building up your profile, and that of your accountancy practice. A well written article that genuinely provides value to the reader can easily result in a steady flow of traffic to your own website (assuming you are able to link to it within the article). It makes sense that a good proportion of such visitors may turn into leads at some time in the future. Such backlinks from relevant and trusted websites to your own firm’s website are likely to increase the search engine ranking (i.e. how prominent your website shows up on the organic search results of a search engine) of your own website.
44) Guest on Industry Podcasts – Got something to say that is interesting and/or helpful for your target client? Identify 3rd party podcasts that are listened to by your client persona. If the listener likes what you have to say then you will instantly be positioned as more of an expert in your field.
45) Start your own Podcast – Creating your own podcast can be exciting. However, it is important that you have a good think about who you are talking to. Is the podcast aimed at other accountants, or at your target clients? Adapt the language used to suit your preferred audience. Perhaps bring in other experts who can spice the podcast up a bit – rather than each episode being a twenty-minute monologue. You could also invite existing clients on the show to talk about their own business – along with talking about how great and helpful your accountancy firm has been to them, of course!
46) Free Consultations – Although most accountants provide a free initial consultation as standard, not all explicitly make it clear in their marketing material. Anything that communicates the fact that the initial contact with you as accountant does not come with a financial risk must be a good thing. Think about it, if the prospect is picking which of three very similar (at least on paper) accountants they will contact first – and only one of the three explicitly mentions that the meeting won’t cost them a penny – with all other factors being equal, which do you think they will choose?
47) Billboard / Bus Stop Advertisement – You don’t see many accountants advertising on large billboards or bus stops, do you? That’s probably for a good reason. However, that is not to say that a strategically placed display wouldn’t work in some circumstances (e.g. outside a business exhibition).
48) Publicize Client Case Studies – How many times have you helped a business owner with a financial problem they were facing? Countless times? Probably. Pick three or so of these real-life examples of the great work that you do and write it up into a short case study. Perhaps write a blog post about each situation. Link to the case stud from your social media posts. Prominently link to the case studies from your website homepage. Of course, you should ask the client involved for permission to use them as an example – and remember to send them a copy of the case study for their approval before it goes live.
49) Setup a Business Growth Academy – A great way to identify and target business owners who actively want to grow their business. If this attribute forms part of your ideal client persona as it enables to provide high value advisory services, then the process of setting up a business growth academy can be extremely lucrative. Whether you hold the regular event at you offices, or at a 3rd party venue, invite other experts to run sessions – it is advisable to ensure that you are the figurehead for the overall movement. This will ensure that you and your firm are directly associated with the ability to help businesses, and therefore make you their go to adviser.
50) Party Time! – Host a party and ask clients to bring a business owner friend along with them. By getting introduced in an informal, warm and friendly environment by a client who is (hopefully) happy with the service you are providing to them should go a long way in your mission to win over the new prospect.
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