24 Unexpected Tips for Finding New Accounting Clients

You know to ask current clients for referrals. You know to enroll with your local Chamber of Commerce, and to attend networking events in your area. But what do you do when the usual strategies for finding new accounting clients start to run dry?

If the old methods have stopped paying off for you, it’s time to get creative. Here, we’ve gathered up 27 unexpected tips for finding new accounting clients. Adding just a few of them to your marketing and advertising efforts can keep a steady stream of new clients coming in your office door.

#1. Become a certified Quickbooks or Xero provider

Accountant’s Accelerator notes that this will allow you to claim a listing on the sites’ “Find a Provider” feature. Get started with Quickbook here and Xero here.

#2. Add new products or services

Expanding your firm’s service offerings won’t immediately result in new clients, but until you make the move, there are clients you won’t be able to recruit – simply because you don’t offer what they need.

Virtual CFO services and client accounting services are a hot topic right now, and an easy way to extend your firm’s core competencies to a new audience. Take a look at Orba’s Cloud CFO service as an example of this idea in action.

#3. Wear your business information on your sleeve

Turn yourself into a walking billboard with shirts or other apparel items that feature your firm’s name and contact information. Digital marketing agency owner Sujan Patel used this technique to drive nearly $1 million in new revenue.

#4. Try cold calling

No one wants to dial for dollars… which is what makes it a potentially lucrative opportunity for the firms that are willing to put in the effort. As Accounting Today contributor Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. describes:

By not using cold calling to grow your firm, its the same thing as when an Highway closes down one of the lanes on the Highway. You may go from four lanes to three lanes. The main lanes to grow your firm include: expansion of services to existing clients, referrals from clients, referral sources who present their clients to you, walk-in business, marketing campaigns, and your website. Why close the cold calling lane? Open it up.

#5. Send cold emails

If cold calling feels to intimidating, cold emailing may be a more appealing alternative. Look for proven cold email templates to shorten your learning curve.

#6. Re-engage inactive customers

Although inactive customers won’t technically be “new” once they’ve been re-engaged, your firm could be sitting on a revenue goldmine. This is especially true if you’ve added new services or made major changes to your firm’s operations – such as adding more appealing payment methods – since past customers became inactive.

#7. Advertise on LinkedIn

Advertising in print publications or local news sources may be your firm’s go-to promotional strategy. But consider shifting some of this budget to the often-underappreciated LinkedIn. There, you’ll be able to tailor your ads to your specific target customers, in addition to connecting with them in a business-focused environment.

#8. Publish on LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform

A broader suggestion is to move away from outbound advertising models and to focus more on building thought leadership – the kind that drives inbound leads – for yourself and your firm. Publishing contributions to LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform is one way to do this.

#9. Start your own LinkedIn Group

You can also leverage the professional network’s Group-building option to create a community where you can show off your expertise and connect with prospects in a less direct way.

#10. Run a Facebook Group

Facebook offers similar group-building functionality, though building communities on both platforms comes with an important caveat. While they can provide great opportunities to build a following around your firm, they also require regular upkeep on your part, as groups that lack ongoing engagement will quickly fizzle.

Consider carefully whether you have the resources – both time and talent – to invest in a social media group on an ongoing basis.

#11. Run social media challenges

If your firm supports more consumers than businesses, you may see success running a social media challenge.

For instance, in the eight weeks leading up to tax time, you could post messages issuing specific challenges to your followers to help them get their submissions in order. Encourage participants to check back regularly, confirm they’ve taken the challenge’s actions, and to share the challenge with others.

#12. Partner with community-specific websites

This tip is especially helpful if estate planning is one of your service offerings, as this makes finding and connecting with families in your area critical.

Look for local websites sharing resources with families. If you can find sites that serve your target audience, ask about sponsorship opportunities or other ways your firm can contribute.

#13. Launch a YouTube channel

When he was first launching his firm, CPA Josh Bauerle used simple YouTube videos to bring in $10,000 in new revenue (most of which went on to become recurring).

#14. Do a speaking engagement

Think of speaking engagements as in-person YouTube videos. Do them well, and people will remember both your name and the name of your firm.

#15. Offer to be a back-up speaker

If you aren’t able to land main-stage speaking slots, offer your name up to conference organisers as a back-up speaker. According to Eula M. Young of Griot’s Roll Film Production:

The one unexpected place I gained customers was when I was asked to fill in for a speaker on a panel who cancelled at the last minute. I was just there to see what I could learn from the topic of the event. After being on the panel, I gained some clients.

#16. Submit guest contributions to relevant websites

Many sites these days accept articles from guest contributors. Find sites your target customers spend time on, then reach out to the owner to ask if you can submit an article. You won’t likely be paid directly for your contribution, but you should be able to include your business information and a link back to your website in your author bio.

#17. Publish a book

Want to really skyrocket your perceived authority? Publish a book. Whether you go the traditional publishing route or opt for newer self-publishing opportunities, it’s a great way to demonstrate the expertise your clients are looking for.

#18. Sponsor a community event

Can you sponsor a sports team in your area? Contribute to a major event? Finding a community event like these to support can be a great way to get your name in front of prospective customers.

#19. Give to local charities

In a similar way, donating to local charities – whether on an ongoing basis or as part of a one-time fundraising drive – can be a great way to expand awareness of your firm’s name, while also anchoring it to meaningful causes in your area.

#20. Volunteer your time

You may not be able to make a financial donation to every community event or charity in your area, but you can still give back by volunteering your time. Even better, take your entire office out on a full day of volunteering together to improve internal morale, as well as external PR opportunities.

#21. Stage a PR event

If you’re serious about securing positive press, you can take your efforts to the next level by staging a PR event.

For example, can you try to set a world record for the most tax returns filed in an hour? Can you take a page from the Peanuts’ Lucy and set up a free financial advice booth under the sign “The Accountant is In”?

Get creative, and the corresponding press coverage will send new clients your way.

#22. Watch for relevant news releases

In addition to seeking out your own press, watch for relevant news releases sharing personnel updates or major victories from prospective clients. These can give you a good idea of when to reach out, and who you should be trying to connect with.

#23. Partner with non-competing businesses that reach your target customers

Structured business networking groups are great for this, but you can set up your own as well by partnering with non-competing businesses in your area that target similar clientele. Use these connections to arrange anything from jointly-hosted events, to exclusive discounts, to newsletter swaps and more.

#24. Partner with competitors

Even relationships with your competitors can be beneficial. If you’re ever swamped and need to send business elsewhere, having a competitor you trust can be valuable. Arrange these partnerships in advance so that you can be on both the giving and receiving end, as needed.

Got another strategy to add to this list? Leave us a note in the comments below:

Image Source: Pixabay

10 Top Tips for Making Past-Due Account Management Pain-Free

Building relationships with new clients can be a lot of fun. It’s interesting to learn about the services they provide and it can be intriguing and intellectually stimulating to analyze their business and offer opportunities for growth and improvement.

It’s not quite as fun once the new bloom of the relationship has worn away and you have to chat with them about late payments and past-due accounts. No one wants to have those “you’re late” conversations, and it can be especially difficult for businesses in service-oriented fields like accounting.

Often, when it comes to making payments, clients feel like they have a little more leeway with service-oriented partners. They’ll sometimes give first payment priority to providers of physical goods, like inventory and utilities, giving gives a literal meaning to “keeping the lights on.”

How can you create a relationship with your clients that makes collecting past-due invoices pain-free? It comes down to communicating early and often, implementing problem-solving solutions and making it easy for them to do the right thing when it comes to paying for your services.

Start Early

The best time to set payment expectations with a client is at the beginning of the relationship. At that point, everything is theoretical, and no one’s feelings will be hurt when credit terms are presented.

When you onboard new clients, get them set up with payment options, including using an online payment portal, putting a company card on file or setting up fee funding (a flexible payment schedule) for their invoices.

Realise no one wants to be past due

As painful as it may be to talk with a client about a late invoice, you can assume they feel equally mortified over the conversation. No one wants to be confronted about late payments or to feel like a slacker or failure in their business operations.

Instead of treating a past-due conversation as a confrontation, take the opportunity to see it as working together toward a common goal. When you approach your client as a helpful partner instead of as a taskmaster or antagonist, you have a better chance of getting a positive response.

Empathise with their busy schedules

Small business owners are wearing a lot of different hats. Many of them serve as the face of their business, as well as managing operations, logistics, finances and marketing.

Instead of adding one more piece of mail to the mountain of papers they review at the end of the day, make it easy on them. Providing an online portal with 24/7 payment access means they can submit their payments to you whenever they happen to be reviewing their finances, instead of crossing your fingers and hoping they bring by or call in a payment during business hours.

Allow them to save face

It can be embarrassing for a client when they are forced to make a late payment or to ask for more time to pay. And, it can also be awkward for clients to tell you they want your services but just can’t afford them right away.

Oftentimes, it can just be easier to try to avoid the conversation altogether and hope that the money rolls in.

Giving your clients access to fee funding can allow them to save face from the start. Fee funding is a method of payment that allows the client the opportunity to pay over time, while making sure your firm receives its money up front.

Providing fee funding allows clients to confidently discuss work with you, knowing they’ll have a means available to pay for the work over time. And, it allows you to build a stronger, multifaceted relationship with them because you have the opportunity to present multiple options for potential services that can truly benefit their business, without worrying that they’ll be overwhelmed by the upfront price tag.

Use technology to your advantage

Everyone’s connected to devices and computers and even mobile phones these days. In fact, some business owners may not spend much of their work time at a traditional desk at all.

When you meet them where they are when it comes to technology, you have a better chance of a pain-free overall experience. Automated invoicing and reminder systems can reduce the burden of past-due relationship management, while allowing clients to pay you using electronic means can reduce the payment hassle on both the client and firm’s sides.

Making clients aware of convenient and innovative technology you offer can be enticing when they’re determining whether to work with you as well. Most businesses know the importance of keeping ahead of the curve when it comes to providing solutions for clients, and they want to work with vendors and partners who have a similar vision.

Be a problem solver, not a problem creator

We all love interacting with people and products that make life easier. The same goes for businesses; clients flock to businesses that eliminate problems and provide solutions.

Instead of creating problems for your client with a messy invoicing and payment process, you can provide convenient solutions by offering payment options that fit their needs.

Whether that’s the ability to quickly and easily make an Credit or Debit payment online or the opportunity to pay over time with fee funding, when you make payments easier, you’re more likely to have a good experience getting them on time or collecting them if they fall past due.

Communicate clearly and consistently

Again, good communication goes back to the idea of starting early and setting clear expectations with clients.

When they sign on with you, make sure you give them a comprehensive overview of what to expect when it comes to payment timelines. Spelling out your firm’s payment terms and options in your engagement letter gives you a way to provide details clearly and unemotionally, and gives you a point of reference in the event that you need to talk terms with recalcitrant clients in the future.

On your firm’s side, take a look at your processes and make sure are sensible, well-structured and consistent.

If you tell clients you always send invoices on the last day of the month, ensure your staff knows it’s a priority on those days. Technology can help in this area, including automated invoicing systems that take out some of the room for human error or typical busy schedule slip-ups.

And, on the payment side, make sure you’re communicating the best ways to pay and making it easy for your clients to do so. If you offer an online payment portal or provide multiple payment options, give your clients that information and repeat it often, until it becomes second nature for them to pay in that way.

Avoid taking it to collections

Once you have to take a client to collections, you’ve wasted a lot of your time and money, and you’ve probably burned the bridge on the relationship. Screen your potential clients well to make sure they have the wherewithal and the desire to pay you.

If you have a good client who is just in a bad situation, look for ways to be proactive and become a solution provider. If you can you give them the opportunity to pay the invoice over time, again, fee funding can be a great tool and a relationship saver when it comes to upstanding clients who need your services but may be struggling to pay for them.

How do their past due accounts affect you?

While you may really want to give clients some leeway and flexibility on their payments, you also have a responsibility to your business.

According to the Inside Public Accounting 2018 National Benchmark Report, close to 30 percent of CPA firms’ accounts receivable are past the 90 day mark. As the person in charge of your firm’s livelihood, you need to analyze your accounts and have an understanding of how late payments can hinder your business from being truly successful.

When you offer clients fee funding as an option, you’re providing a win-win situation that positively impacts cash flow for both businesses.

You receive the full invoice payment upfront, which gives you a little more breathing room in your budget. And, in the meantime, your client has the opportunity to make payments over time, instead of forking over one big lump sum.

Create a culture focused on proper payments

As the leader of your firm, you may have a strategic plan for making sure payments are received on time. However, if your staff isn’t behind your vision, you may find it difficult to properly execute it when a late payment situation occurs.

As an example, if a client services team member wants to maintain a good relationship with the client, they may be tempted to downplay the urgency of timely payments in order to keep the client feeling pleased with them (and by extension, with the firm). While this may work in the short term, it doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run if you or another team leader has to be more aggressive later to counteract the first impression they received.

Make sure your entire team, from client services to support staff to your senior leadership, understands the importance of proper, timely payments and how it affects the business’s ability to expand, innovate and, in some cases, even pay salaries and bonuses.

Get your team onboard with advocating for payment systems you put in place, including online payment portals, fee funding or full payments by Credit or EFT.

Once they recognise and buy into the value of timely payments, they’ll be able to influence clients positively, instead of being apologetic regarding your processes. They may even be excited to share the convenient technology you offer, as a way to show how advanced and client-friendly your firm is.

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