Attracting quality new clients to your firm can be a challenge, especially in the current climate of accounting when what was once considered ‘safe’, dare I say ‘bread and butter’ work, is now at risk from the big 4. It has been on the cards for a few years now, but recently they have intensified activity and are now deliberately targeting smaller fee paying clients, using repetitive, clever marketing and multiple promotional emails.
Many firms are struggling to stay afloat in an environment that also sees many national tax agencies unveiling new methods of performing their taxes without the middle man – accountants – getting involved. We would like to think that this is not the end, but a new era of accounting.
To put it into context, the technologies that some might feel are creating problems can also solve them. Mobile technology in itself is a powerful connector that can be used to link accountants and clients on their smartphones or tablets in the here and now, and even on a tiny budget, it is possible to win new clients.
LinkedIn is a free online networking tool that enables you to be found online and stay connected.
Nobody likes hard sales, least of all finance professionals, and LinkedIn has nothing to do with hard sales, crass marketing or forceful messages. It employs the same etiquette and professionalism one would use online and embraces these online.
LinkedIn provides a fantastic, streamlined and acceptable system to ask for recommendations. One of the best ways to get recommendations is to provide them for other people (do unto others).
It takes just a few minutes to write a recommendation for someone you know. LinkedIn will then send both of you an email with the recommendation for their approval. Once it’s accepted, then it will send the recommendation to their profile. LinkedIn will now automatically prompt the receiver with a message asking them to return the favour. In our experience, somewhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent will do so.
As long as you have all the basics right, one of the big wins on LinkedIn is using it for active referral generation. In the financial profession, the very best customers come from client referrals. They are high-quality, easy to close and will save you enormous amounts of time in ‘cold’ prospecting.
2. Custom app
Accountants are the most trusted external advisers to business, according to research in 2016. This offers practitioners a competitive advantage in their fight to attract and retain clients – but maintaining this status is becoming more challenging. Digital sharing of data means accountants can no longer rely on local business or client loyalty to fuel their client pipeline.
In today’s 24/7 mobile world, the accountant’s position as the first point of contact to discuss financial issues is under threat. Numerous alternative sources of information are just a few taps away on a smartphone or tablet – and many people trust Google and the other search engines that aggregate this information more than they trust the originators of the information.
Relentless pressure to do more with fewer resources also nudges clients and prospects down the quickest and easiest route to information on accounts, finance and tax. By delivering this through a custom, branded app, you can neutralise threats such as ‘the Google effect’ and cement your firm’s position as its clients’ trusted and most authoritative anchor point in the mobile world.
Mobile apps account for the lion’s share of time spent online; every demographic has embraced them. With an icon for your firm’s app immediately visible to clients on the homepage of their smartphones and tablets, you can demonstrate that your firm understands – and is responding to – changing expectations around the accessibility and availability of services and support.
Research during 2016 found that on an average month people spend 73.8 hours in smartphone and tablet apps. Usage time peaks at 93.5 hours for device owners aged between 18 and 24. However, the research found increases in online app use across all age groups: each month, 35- to 44-year-olds spend 78.8 hours in apps and the over 45’s spend of 62.7 hours.
It’s not hard to understand why. Mobile apps are easily accessible and can be launched faster than the mobile web. They can also keep users more engaged and build brand loyalty, because they can support a more immersive experience than the mobile web by providing users with greater functionality, integration, simplicity and utility.
These strengths can benefit your firm and its clients. With as many as 40 apps being used between accountants and their clients, many workers yearn for a simpler, more personalised way to interact. Your firm can deliver this and demonstrate its client-focused approach by bringing all of the apps and online systems your firm and clients use together in one place.
3. Presentations and events
Instead of telling accountants to turn off their phones during a presentation, one accountant tells them to turn them on and download his app. This creates a memorable impression and the audience has all the tools including a mileage tracker, receipt management etc. at their fingertips long after the presentation is over.
In an even smarter approach, event material can be pre-loaded to the app and delegates can refer to it within the app on their smartphones.
4. Automated technology
Generating new clients can be time consuming, so why not let automated technology work for you. In this example, smartphone detection - a piece of invisible code embedded into the accountant’s website - detects when there is a potential client browsing and automatically asks them the question, “We see you are looking at our website. Would you like to download our free app?”
In the first week of using this automated tool, one small firm with limited budget and a sub $100,000 turnover used it to brilliant effect. A prospect visited their website, downloaded the free app and they arranged a meeting via the app.
The prospect even used the mileage tracker to get to the meeting and the engagement was finalised on that day.
5. Push notifications
As one key influencer to the profession said: “Push notifications are a game changer”. Because they go directly to the recipient within the app, there is a zero per cent bounce rate and an 80 per cent higher open rate than email shots.
They take seconds to send and can be segmented to clients, prospects, sectors or everyone on your contact list. Smart firms use them to approach those that may be thinking of selling their business along the lines of, ‘Thinking of selling your business? Call now for a free business consultation’.
6. Website promotion with call to action
Accountancy firms that offer their own app free to their clients and prospects on the homepage of their website attract large numbers of downloads and once it’s downloaded, it keeps on differentiating that accountant.
One successful firm promotes its app by saying that it is ‘changing lives by simplifying business’ and there is a clear call to action to download the free app. Another firm uses the strap line, ‘Saving contractors’ time and money’, to encourage businesses to download the app and highlights the Net Pay Calculator as a useful tool.