23rd June, 2020
As a trusted advisor, the advice and help you have been offering your clients has been invaluable in recent months.
Wage subsidies, small business loans and other forms of financial assistance offered by the Government has not been easy to navigate through, and many advisors have been unable to charge for their time in both upskilling themselves and their staff, or for the very important guidance they’ve delivered. It has been a very time consuming, costly exercise and even then, some businesses have had to cease operations regardless.
But, as we all know, loyalty can be a fickle thing, so now is the time to begin trading on the goodwill you have generated. Having had more contact with clients lately means you should find it easy to keep the momentum going.
Keeping in touch with a phone call, webinar, email, or newsletter can be useful, providing you’re offering useful information in a way your clients appreciate. If the communication is to be viewed by your (very busy) clients as worthy of their time, it must be done properly, which means understanding what they need and seeking their buy-in.
Fostering this level of acceptance and strengthening your place as a trusted advisor can be very demanding on your time, so it makes sense to consider scalable solutions wherever possible. Perhaps that means regular email newsletters, or video messages that can be broadcast to your entire audience.
Once you’ve an idea of the kinds of platforms you might use to enhance your thought leadership and cement your position with your clients, you need to consider the specific content you’ll use to do it. What are the areas of expertise you can address that you client really needs guidance on?
There are plenty of resources available that will allow you to research and produce content on a larger scale (like in the case of a templated newsletter or webinar). Problem is, the sourcing and production of great quality content can easily then become a full time job in itself.
Broadcast communication methods of these kinds are great for getting general updates and industry insights out into the hands of those clients that are interested in them, but they won’t necessarily help you provide unique advice to those clients who can afford to pay for it.
We all know that if you could personally interact with each client on a more regular basis it would bring dividends, for them and for you.
I have spoken with many accountants and bookkeepers over the past 40 years who tell me that an annual or bi-annual ‘business health check’ with their clients represents the sum total of the relationship and, while the client would like to spend more time going over the financials, they just never find the time to do so.
What many business owners don’t realise is that during that time together you could very well uncover further ways of helping them, especially if they share their future plans, or how they are thinking of changing aspects of their business.
It’s a double-edged sword: you genuinely want to be proactive and help your clients, but if they don’t see the value, they won’t pay, and you’ll have wasted yet more time.
So without surveying each client individually – how do you know what they want and need right now (and next month should their needs change as they discover more ways to adapt) and then, how do you offer that information on a large scale?
To achieve the level of client communications required to maintain an edge in this market, your accounting or bookkeeping business must now develop (if you do not have one already) a full marketing plan, which can be revisited and, if needed, rework when necessary.
Then there are the tools required to execute your marketing plans. Do you have a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, which can store important (and not so important) information about each client and, if so, is it updated regularly? Information such as clubs they belong to, hobbies they enjoy, their spouses and children’s names and dates of birth, holidays they are planning or have enjoyed in the past, how they have been impacted by COVID-19 are all examples of the sort of information a good CRM can put at your fingertips.
Next, have you separated your clients into tiers? Most advisors choose four groups to highlight how important each client is to your business, including which have the most potential for growth. On the other hand, you’ll also want to keep an eye on those clients that are absorbing significant resources without providing much in the way of returns. Again, this is something a CRM system will help you to track.
When used properly, this information will help you build lasting, relationships with your clients.
Your CRM system can link with an automated email system so if you do wish to send out bulk emails, you can, or, “tag” types of customers and send information to just those in certain categories. You can then design a step-by-step follow-up process to make sure you’re not missing any opportunities that arise.
With the way the world is changing, businesses are feeling uneasy and need useful, practical help, and not just in the financial sense, but for you the trusted advisor, it’s not enough to be an excellent accountant or bookkeeper anymore, you now need to develop and manage a lean, mean, marketing machine in order to provide exactly what your client needs, when they need it.
You even need to know what SMEs are searching for and need help with. In the wake of COVID-19, many businesses are looking to either step up their business with an online presence or even remodel their offering completely. Many online searches have sprung up on the topic of how to run Facebook ads, email marketing, lead generation, how to build sales funnels and automating your business.
This is a significant challenge for most bookkeepers and accountants to address, as there aren’t many in this field who got into the industry to give out marketing advice. And yet, as we shift further into the field of advisory services, marketing becomes a key component.
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