Connect – Collaborate – Collect – Communicate
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. These ‘6 proven ways to grow your practice’ will demonstrate how firms with a mobile strategy are successfully using the new technology to drive new business.
1. How a custom App can help
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 tapes 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 home page of their smartphones and tablets, you can demonstrate that your firms understands – and is responding to – changing expectations around the accessibility and availability of services and support.
Research during 2016 found that in an average month people spent 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 28.8 hours in Apps and the over 45’s spend 62.7 hours.
It’s not hard to understand why. Mobile Apps are easily accessibly 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.
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 that 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% – 40% will do so.
As long as you have all the basics right, one of the big wines 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. However, getting a referral from a client can be a little cumberstone. Most of the firms we speak to just don’t have a system to go about it. And even when a client is asked for a referral they often say ‘let me think about it’ and the opportunity is lost.
LinkedIn makes referral generation really simple. LinkedIn removes these obstacles by providing you with a system to pinpoint exactly who you wish to be referred to. Even this task is one you can get any staff member to do for you before meeting a client.
Before you meet your client, visit LinkedIn and look at their connections. Spend just a few moments seeing the people they are connected to and what they do. Then make a note of these people in preparation for your meeting.
No longer will you have to ask ‘Is there anyone you know who might like to use our services?” Instead you can say – “I have seen you are connected with xyz on LinkedIn. That’s a business we would love to be introduced to. Would you be kind enough to connect us via LinkedIn?” That’s so much more powerful, isn’t it? What’s more, if you have followed the steps outlined in our LinkedIn report then you will already have a recommendation on LinkedIn from the client you are meeting.
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 preloaded to the App and delegates can refer to it within the App on their smartphones.
4. How automated technology can work for you
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 $100K 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 0% bounce rate and an 80% 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 home page 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.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
It’s always great to hear accountants’ own stories about what works and how they have added to the number of App downloads. Here are a few that caught our eye:
- Run a competition and give away a free iPhone to promote the new App
- Put together a video on what the App does and let clients and prospects see it
- Hang external banners on the outside of the office building to announce the App. One firm hung a banner outside its office and they picked up both downloads from passers by and lots of coverage in the local press
- Railway station posters – if people are standing on a platform they have time to spare and may download the App
- Hire a cinema – one firm sponsored a film showing and used the screen as a call to action to download the App
This story might be of interest. An Australian accountant gathered his team together and asked them to spell out the biggest challenges facing the firm. The top two were to achieve better communication with clients and to find a better way to get data from them in a hassle free way. The accountant went back with a demonstration of an App and showed them how easily messages can be sent to clients and how easy it is to get data back. The team was won over and they saw how they were back in control with all the accounting systems and data integrated into one place on their clients’ smartphones or tablets.
The use of mobile technology in this way, links clients to tax authorities, 3rd party software suppliers and allows the accountant to keep control. Accountants give away something their clients want and they like using. Unlike other soft offers, it has longevity and what benefits clients, benefits the accountant.