Usually for accountants January is the busiest month of the year, followed by February and March being very quiet.
Except we have just had our companies busiest week ever for new clients, in February!
The new clients we have taken on have been a mixture of people that missed the recent deadline, are several years behind, and those who are either looking to start as self employed or change their existing accountant before the new tax year.
I thought that it could be useful to share how we have achieved this, when the competition are having a quiet time, as it may also be of benefit in your own business to bring in more clients:
1) Be a person, not a business name
So many people’s websites don’t even say their own name and just have the trading name – people want to know who it is they are dealing with, and some details about who they are as a person. This is why I shot a series of videos with Nick Tadd and Vanessa Warwick last year and have put these on many pages of our website so that people can see who I am in the video interview, as well as sharing personal information about myself.
Our biggest client last year actually contacted me after reading my profile – what attracting him was my hobby of private aviation rather than my two decades of business qualifications. We spent over an hour at the first meeting chatting about flying.
2) Be flexible in meeting times
Clients have their own business to run so taking time away from this to see the accountant can have a detrimental effect and cost them in lost working time, so I am flexible as to when I will see people to fit in with their schedule.
In the last few weeks I have seen people at 11am on a Sunday and 9pm on a Thursday – whichever is easiest for them. As a BNI director, I’m happy to meet people before 6:30am when they visit meetings as well.
3) Be flexible as to meeting locations
Many accountants require the client to come to see them in their office. With commuting time this can mean a client could potentially lose half a day’s work. I will visit clients wherever is most convenient for them – whether it is local to where they are working at lunchtime, at their home in the evening or wherever is easiest. Clients really appreciate it when you fit in with their needs.
4) Network extensively
I network extensively, both online and offline – this is important as it can take over a year to build relationships with people before they may do business with you.
Many people expect to get an instant result from networking, whereas if you are consistent then the results will come in time.
5) Don’t always use traditional marketing methods
My marketing plan in early 2009 was to use an extensive flyer campaign, which wasted several thousand pounds and which I won’t be repeating.
Vanessa Warwick posted this article, which I regularly refer to as it is important to realise that expensive traditional methods may not be relevant to your business.
For a small business trying to use traditional marketing methods you are competing with others who may have much larger budgets so it can be difficult to gain an effective result.
6) Be easily contactable
So many websites, as well as not telling you the person’s name, don’t even have their phone number or email address! I have openly published my email address and phone number for the last few years online and don’t suffer from mountains of spam. If you make it difficult for people to contact you they may give up and go to a competitor.
Our website has an extensive ‘contact us’ section which lists all the places people can connect with me. I also regularly use my twitterbutt (my signature block below) from Ces Loftus which makes it easy to see how to contact me.
I’ve had clients from twitter, Facebook to name a few – different ages of clients prefer different methods of contacting you. I regularly communicate via twitter and text message depending on the client.
Thomas mentions that it can take 1-3 years of being online before you see the benefits, and this is something I would definitely agree with – it’s been over 18 months since I started networking online and now is when I am seeing the results.
Many people ‘try’ social networking for a few months and give up, but if you stick with it you could find that results really start to come in from the end of the first year.
Being a pilot, I have an interest in aviation and have extensively used simulators to practice in a safe environment. Now this is available to the business owner as well through the use of ‘the business game’, which I am delighted to be supporting.
You can find out more about the first event we are holding, on 2nd March in Weybridge, here.