It is time to take advantage of the new opportunities. From networking to search engine marketing and social media, here are our top tips for extending your list of clients beyond your local area.
When traditional methods of face-to-face building relationships are no longer practical, how do you attract new business in new geographical territories? COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the trend to remote working and online collaboration with clients. Accountants who adapt their lead generation and client engagement processes to online will be able to sell into new territories.
Distance is no longer a barrier to winning new clients
In the past, regular face-to-face meetings and frequent visits to clients’ business premises were required to create a strong accountant-client relationship. Now, clients have become comfortable with communicating online with their accountant, using tools such as client portals, online accounting software and receipt scanner apps. They have come to expect this form of communication, given the working-from-home situation and, in fact, hard-pressed business owners and managers now often prefer this way of collaborating as a more efficient use of their time.
Clients must, of course, be ready to embrace the technology that makes electronic collaboration a success. But these are precisely the kind of client that any forward-looking accountant will seek to attract, as their compliance work can be processed more efficiently.
Cast your net more widely
Equipping your client with tools for online collaboration and communication means you're ready to expand your business across the state, country or regionally, as well as overseas clients needing to comply with local regulatory frameworks. You can now cast your net very widely indeed.
Here are some tips on how to extend your reach beyond your local area:
- Word-of-mouth recommendation. This remains a powerful way of growing your practice organically. Don’t be shy: let clients know through your regular newsletters and briefings that you would be happy to have an exploratory chat with businesses needing an accountant, wherever they are located.
- Networking. Encourage your team to mine their networks and spread the word. Do they know any entrepreneurs based in a corner of the country not previously thought accessible? Assess the strength of the member are your team and who they know, there may be untapped potential in who your employees know to form your next group of clients.
- Create or update your website. Make it clear on your website that you are willing to serve clients the length and breadth of the country. Ask satisfied remote clients for a short testimonial to feature on your website. Post articles about how you support long-distance clients effectively. Consider downplaying your bricks-and-mortar location(s) if national coverage becomes a major strategic goal.
Most potential clients that contact you will visit your website first with many dismissing the practice if they can't see any online presence, or if your current website is poorly designed or hard to navigate. Stating clearly how your practice can help a prospective client is paramount. Suitable call-to-action buttons will help guide the prospect into make their decision to sign up with your practice. What is more, in many cases the prospect might not be ready to sign on so is important to guide them to blogs, case studies or service pages to help them make that decision.
- Search engine optimisation. Consider investing in SEO consultancy to move your practice up the search rankings and make it more visible to businesses seeking a new accountant. Again, make it clear that you are not limited by geography and outline the measures you take to build close partnerships with remote clients. Beyond just searching for clients further afield, a non-secure or non-optimised website will suffer in terms of performance and will not rank as highly in searches making your practice less discoverable.
- Social media. Engaging in networks such as LinkedIn and online business forums is a great way to get your name in front of prospects. Posting articles and commenting on other people’s content can take time (and time is money) but will reinforce your reputation as a thought leader. Social media tools like LinkedIn are the new networking tools in the modern remote accountancy. Other than the new way of connecting with potential clients, social media (and blog content) are excellent ways to drive more traffic to your website and increase your number of potential clients.
Having everything in place to serve clients hundreds of kilometers away creates exciting opportunities. It’s a radical shift away from the traditional business model of the high-street accountant.
In reaching out to clients in other areas, you and your team will be working in the way you're doing right now, but on a broader canvas.
Wolters Kluwer specialises in building and managing innovative, responsive websites for accounting firms. For advice on extending your firm’s geographic client reach, view CCH Web Manager.