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Tax & AccountingSeptember 01, 2022

What to think about when deciding when and how to market your accounting firm

For an accounting firm to be successful, it takes more than just opening your doors and hoping clients show up. Marketing your firm – and yourself – is another essential step to success.

How to find clients

If you’re struggling to think of ways to find accounting clients, fall back on the traditional way that accounting firms grow - through referrals and networking. Think back to your market research, determine where your target market is, and go there.

Look for ways to be active in the local community and around your target market, such as professional speaking engagements you can offer to local small business groups or the chamber of commerce. Where does your target market go to network? Find those prime locations and go there.

Build an effective online presence through social media, online ads, and a website

Should accounting firms and accountants have a website? What about social media?

The short answer to both of those is yes. While an online presence rarely has a detrimental impact on a firm’s chance of being hired, with over 90% of people researching service providers online, not being online will lose you customers.

Website

Make sure that your website is 1) easy to use, 2) up to date and 3) invites prospective clients to work with you.

This means keeping your website up to date; don’t slap a website up and never touch it again. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to have a decent website; there are simple and effective tools that can have you up and running in a day.

Social media

When it comes to social media, be on social media to your comfort level. Consider posting about regulatory changes with notes about how these could affect your clients and potential clients. There are many tech tools on the market that can help with both social media posting and analysis.

Regarding the content itself, tech can also help – whether it’s a research solution like CCH® AnswerConnect that provides insights into legislative changes, or tools like CCH Axcess iQ®, which use predictive intelligence to determine which of your clients may be affected by state and federal legal and regulatory changes – which providing client impact statements and letters that can easily be used for newsletter and social media.

Regardless of the tools you use or where you obtain your content, it’s important that you focus on the value you provide, rather than the services that you offer.

Your goal is to position your firm as more than someone that does your tax prep or bookkeeping. You want to be their partner.

Paid advertising

Online ads such as Google ads can be cheap and effective ways to market to your target market. It’s possible to cap an ad as low as $20.

If you do nothing else to create an online presence, build a website (or at least a Facebook page). In today’s digital environment, if you don’t show up on Google, you don’t exist.

How to appeal to prospective clients

If you’re struggling to understand what prospective clients look for in an accountant or a CPA, first impressions matter, and as a firm owner, you’re also selling yourself.

Your clients need to believe in and trust you. 

When communicating with prospective clients, keep your messaging clear, consistent, and focused on educating them about the value that you will provide them with. Focus the conversation on pain points that you can help them solve. Ensure that every communication provides a clear and concise value proposition. Every time you communicate with a prospective client, you want them to believe that you understand their problems and that your goals align with theirs.

Make sure that you provide clear, consistent communication that is engaging, direct, and tells a client that you can help them solve their problem.

This can’t be repeated enough, so I’ll say it again.

Make sure that you provide clear, consistent communication that is engaging, direct, and tells a client that you can help them solve their problem.

At the end of the day, if you can help your clients solve a problem, you’re a valued partner. Thoughtful and effective marketing can help you communicate the value of that partnership to potential clients.

Let's look at an example of how to turn a broad goal - "grow the business" - into a SMART goal.

Be specific

When making your goal specific, ensure that you specify five W’s - who is included, what you want to accomplish, which resources or limits are involved, where it is located, and why this goal is important.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring new business clients.

Ensure it’s measurable

When a goal is measurable, you know the answers to a couple of key How’s – how many, how much, how you’ll know when the goal is accomplished, and how you will know that the goal is a success.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients.

Make it attainable

The key How’s continue with ensuring that your goals are attainable. When making your goals attainable, you’ve determined how the goal can be accomplished and how realistic the goal is based on other constraints.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients through a paid social media campaign and a client referral program.

Keep it relevant

Now is the time to make sure that the goals matter to your practice or firm and aligns with other strategic goals the leadership team identified earlier in this process. However, sometimes making sure goals are relevant can sometimes be a struggle.

Rather than trying to answer a question when you’re making sure your goal is relevant, make sure that your goal can say “yes” to the following questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
    Yes – with our current profit margins, growing the business by adding new clients will increase revenue.
  • Is this the right time?
    Yes – social media advertising during tax season will help potential clients find us, and a client referral program will help us reach new clients after we have filed returns for our current clientele.
  • Does this match other efforts and needs?
    Yes – this goal does not conflict with other business priorities or undermine other projects.
  • Is this applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
    Yes – paid social advertising falls within our annual budget and our services are needed.

Make it timely

Every goal needs a deadline to focus on and a target end date to drive progress. The timely part of your goal should answer When the goal should be completed and what can be done in the short, medium, and long term.

Example: Grow the business by acquiring eight new business clients in the next year (two per quarter) through a paid social media campaign and a client referral program.

A SMART goal

Remember, the broad goal was to grow the business.

The SMART goal is to acquire two new business clients every quarter for a total of eight new business clients in the next year by asking current clients for referrals and launching a paid social media campaign. Bringing on new business clients will allow the business to grow, increase revenue, and support our strategic goals of increasing the percentage of business clients.

Now you don’t just have a goal, you have a plan!

Start getting SMART

Whether your firm’s definition of success is to become known as the subject matter expert for a particular industry or consistently add clients every year, building your goals as SMART goals will help you achieve them.

 Whatever your goal may be, starting a new challenge is daunting. The SMART framework is a powerful tool to improve your odds of succeeding because it better defines your goals and lay out steps to achieve them. And for many firms -- particularly smaller firms -- that's the most challenging part of growing; understanding what your next step should be.

To help you find the fastest route to success, we've assembled a small firm growth guide: Build Your Ideal Small Firm Tech Stack. Download your copy to see how cloud technology can make your new SMART goals more attainable! 

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Hillarie Diaz, Author for Tax & Accounting

As a content creator for Wolters Kluwer’s Professional Market, Hillarie focuses on a wide range of accounting and finance technology space topics. As an accountant who enjoys writing, she brings over a decade of accounting experience to her writing.

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