So you’re an accountant in a small- to medium-sized firm. You’re looking to build your client base but you don’t really know where to start. Or maybe you’ve been in business for a while, and you want to go to the next step.
What can you do?
Let’s look at Nick Nappo’s Strategies for Sales and Business Development.
1. What makes you unique?
Before you start work on growing your firm, you need to have clear marketing objectives in place. And before you do that, you must first determine what separates you from all the other firms out there. The professional services marketplace is incredibly oversaturated anywhere you go, but every firm is unique in its own way.
So what is it for you? Is it your approach to client service? Do you have a unique story to tell through your compelling culture? Do you give actively to your local community? Or is it your specialization in one or more niche practices?
Any of those are great places to start, but for the purposes of business development, firms that identify a niche specialty are the ones that exhibit the most growth. Do you have a large concentration of clients in a specific industry? Maybe you’re widespread in that regard, so are there any industries with pain points for which you and only you have a unique solution?
Identifying a niche specialty is great because once you do, you can then formulate a marketing strategy focused around that industry.
So you’ve figured out what makes you unique. Great! Time to create a focused marketing plan. There are numerous ways to put a marketing plan together, but here are the key things you should include.
-Situational Analysis. Where are you starting from, and what are you starting with? Identify yourself in relation to your competitors in the market and your results from last year.
-Objectives. What do you want to accomplish? Ideally, you should have 3-4 objectives per year, and they should, of course, be realistic and attainable. Do you want to gain a certain number of clients? Do you want to increase your assets by a certain percentage? It could even pertain to marketing itself – a certain amount of followers on your social media accounts, a certain number of email followers, a certain number of LinkedIn connections for the partners…however you define success.
-Strategies. This is the meat and potatoes. How are you gonna achieve what you want to achieve? First you need your message, and since you’ve already identified what makes you unique, it shouldn’t be a problem to communicate your value to your target clients. Next, you determine how you will communicate this message. As far as business development is concerned, LinkedIn is the most ideal social media platform for connecting with key influencers such as financial advisors and attorneys and sharing relevant content with them. Then, if you have a niche specialty, you can market your industry-specific content through that platform, as well as through other digital and traditional platforms. You should also put marketing content on your website by way of a blog, white papers and newsletters. Of course, you’ll need to market on a personal level, too…
3. Work your network.
…which is why you need to leverage your already-existing connections. You should certainly service all of your clients, but especially focus on your A-clients by attempting to cross-sell. Here’s a tip: make a chart with one axis listing all your clients, and the other axis listing all the services you provide. Where you provide a particular service to a particular client, fill in the box with a dot. Your job will be to fill as much of the chart as possible with dots.
Then, of course, you should ask your existing clients for referrals. Word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of marketing there is, and it costs you nothing, to boot! If you do well by a client, they’ll do well by you by sending you someone else. Furthermore, you should always look to expand your network through presenting seminars and speaking engagements, attending networking events, and attending tradeshows – anything to put yourself in front of other people.
I should also mention something about sales in the accounting industry. Even though I worked in financial services marketing, the same principle applies. You’re not really “selling” something. You’re trying to initiate a conversation, and from that, build a mutually beneficial relationship. The more you can make it about the other person, the better – it’s about helping them achieve their goals in their business. So instead of thinking about it in terms of selling a product…make it more about building relationships. Because the paradox of it is, I believe, that the more you make it about them, the more it’ll come back to you.
4. Build your content as you build your presence.
And when you connect with these people, you’ll of course need to demonstrate your expertise. It might be a good idea to have a piece of collateral handy – a brochure, flyer, notecard, anything that’s relevant to the industries you serve and the services you provide. Then, as I mentioned earlier, you should seek to create marketing content focused on the niche industr(y/ies) you serve. And if you have the knowledge to give, well, to quote the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.” If you do that, you’ll slowly build your reputation as the authority on whatever that niche is, and with your reputation, your clientele.
Those are really four basic strategies to marketing and business development. Of course, any one of the topics I discussed can be fleshed out in its own post, so if you want me to discuss something in greater detail, let me know! Hit me up in the comments or on social media – my LinkedIn is here, if you want to connect.
‘Til next week, compadres. Be well!