The main issue that all tax professionals face, is how to grow and promote their practice. In talking with many professionals over the years, their questions always seem to be the same:
- How do I build up my clientele?
- What is the best way to market my services?
- How do I encourage more client referrals?
- How much should I charge for services?
Recently, a question was posed in a forum we participate in regarding affordable ways to market a tax and accounting business. With that being said, we figured that we’d offer up our two cents on what we and others have had success with.
The first thing to keep in mind is that tax and accounting services typically have to be marketed in a manner different than consumable goods. We often tell people that if they were unexpectedly dropped off in a foreign country, they probably wouldn’t go to the phone book to look for their doctor, dentist or barber/hairstylist. Why? Because each of these services involves a “relationship component” so to speak. To find these providers, you will more than likely turn to a colleague and ask them for a recommendation or referral. This tends to be the same for a majority of consumers when they are searching for a new tax or accounting professional. With that being said, marketing for tax and accounting services needs to address two areas: relationship management and search optimization.
Relationship Management Unless you are starting from scratch, a good place to begin your marketing efforts is with your existing client base (no matter how large or small). Here are some ideas on how you can leverage your relationship with these individuals and hopefully yield an instant sales force.
- Have a referral program. Everyone likes to be able to tell their friends that they have a “guy/girl” who can take care of them. If you do a good job, your clients will be more than willing to tell others about the wonderful service you offer. So make it easy for them. Develop a one page sell sheet, similar to this one, that gives them all of the information they need to refer you properly. Having a written description of who makes an ideal prospect and how your referral system works is a powerful way to get more qualified leads.
- Reward those who make referrals. Mother always reminded you to say please and thank you. It’s good advice to follow this mantra when dealing with your referrals. Your reward doesn’t have to be expensive; it can be as simple as a thank you card or a $20 gift card. The key is to acknowledge that you appreciate the trust your referrer placed in you by giving someone their recommendation.
- Routinely “touch” your clients and network. Many marketers will tell you that it often takes 7-9 “touches” before a prospective client will engage you for services. It’s also recommended that you communicate with your existing clients this frequently or even more so. Many of the “touches” used in our practice are not sales oriented at all. For instance, we send birthday/holiday cards to our clients and their spouses just to show we value our relationship. Additionally, we use a monthly newsletter to interact with our clients and remind them that we are there to serve them and their friends should the need arise. All in all, you just want to make sure that you are top of mind when someone asks anyone in your network for a tax/accounting service provider.
Search Optimization In this day and age, the web (not the yellow pages) is where people often turn if they don’t have a person who can offer them a recommendation (think a person who just moved to a new town). With that being said, you need to make sure that your marketing is “search optimized” to help drive traffic to a place where they can locate or interact with you. If you think of the web as a barrel where people bob for apples (and you/your competition are the apples) you want to make sure that you have as many apples in play as you can. Listed below are some ways that you can increase your apples so to speak.
- Web page. With more people conducting web searches on the fly while they are out and about, make sure you web page works well with mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. We’ve found that our site looks fine on a computer, but when it’s on a mobile device there are some issues (yeah, we’re working on it). Like they say, first impressions count and you want to make sure you are putting your best foot forward.
- Google/Bing. These two sites offer services that will visibly highlight the location of your office on their page if you take the effort to set it up. Google Places and Bing Local will allow you to create a free listing complete with description, services, hours and a map of where you are located. True, you do need to wait for them to verify that you are the owner of the business (either by mail or phone) but it’s well worth the time to make it easier for prospects and clients to find you.
- Blog. This is just another way for people to “stumble” across your existence. Mr. Rogers likes to write so it’s not too hard for him to come up with ideas or content for us to post on our blog. Plus, because the blog is search engine optimized, it often drives traffic to us and our website when people search for key words that are in some of our post. Do a Google search for “2013 tax season delay” and for some reason one of our posts is the first item you will see. Free publicity? We’ll take it any day.
- Service provider sites. In addition to Google/Bing, there are some accounting specific sites that will let you set up a profile free of charge. One of our favorites is Teaspiller. There are also sites where you can pay for a listing; our favorite in this category is Bookkeepinghelp. Even if you only get one new client from each site, it’s pretty much 100% profit as you didn’t have to pay for the ad (outside of a little time to set it up) or very little in the case where you did have to pay.
- Free media press. If you like to write articles or do interviews, you could get some free web and physical traffic by reaching out to your local media contacts. If you make yourself available as the “local expert” in taxes (particularly during tax season) you might get some news coverage. Media professionals always need someone whom that can turn to when there is a particular tax topic they need a comment or perspective on. Why not make that person yourself or your practice?
While each of the above individually will not send droves of clients to your door, when implemented as a comprehensive strategy, they will yield a constant stream of prospects. We’ve often said to other professionals, we don’t know ONE way to generate a hundred clients, but we do know HUNDREDS of ways to get one client. Hopefully the above has gotten your own marketing juices flowing. Until next time!