Business Growth – Don’t Forget the Old Fashioned Way to Market Your Accountancy Business (2 of 2)


In my first article I looked at the ‘front nine’ strategies for firm owners to consider in order to enable them to fully participate in driving firm growth. In this article I am going to look at the back nine. Implement these and next time you are in the club house make sure you have good cause to celebrate. You may even feel that you have made a hole in one with a really big new client – great reason to celebrate. Please note – if you are not into golf please allow me this one sporting reference!

Take time

Before we continue let’s take a quick look at what a firm owner should deliver in terms of their commitment to busines development. My benchmark has always been that a firm owner should invest a minimum of 200 hours a year. Why?

If you are a firm founder you will undoubtedly know that it is not what you do between 9 and 5 that builds the firm but what you do between 5 and 9. If you are a second or third generation partner you will probably never know how hard the founders worked to create the firm that today provides your livelihood. But you too have a responsibility to continue to grow the firm so that you can hand the firm over to the next generation. Along that journey you will expect, quite rightly, to reap the rewards from your training and expertise. So, 200 hours is the recommended minimum investment – four hours a week that is all. No one is exempt. You may feel you have limited abilities in this arena, but maybe you can write articles on a specialist subject that can be employed by PR or the website?

Here are the next 9 marketing ideas for you to consider:

  1. Invest in relevant mailshots: 
    After years of ever-increasing email, some clients may like to receive a good quality newsletter or tax planning brochure that can be read at leisure. No one believes they send junk mail; but, somehow, we all receive it. Make sure your mailings are personal and relevant by sending a letter that is personally signed. You could also include a handwritten P.S., write a margin note or highlight a section that you consider relevant to the recipient. 

  2. Give away a meeting: 
    Review your time management to see if you could allow 50 hours a year for free meetings with clients. This meeting will allow you to relax, get to know your client and ask questions. In my opinion, it is impossible to spend an hour with a client and not identify areas where they need help. You can then use this (free) meeting to set up another (fee-paying) meeting.

  3. Remember a problem handled well can lead to new business:
    Sometimes something happens that shouldn’t. However, I have found that if you handle these situations well, it can lead to a strengthened relationship and additional business. The key is to make sure you don’t become defensive. Here are the big three rules: say 1) We’re sorry (empathy), 2) We’re responsible (even if not at fault), and 3) We’ll fix it (action).

  4. Include staff in the marketing effort: 
    Lead them – by example. Explain why marketing is important to the firm’s future and what help you are looking for. Encourage/require them to attend marketing seminars. Fill them in on the details of the next quarter’s marketing activities. Include them in new client meetings. Make sure they all have a business card – everyone knows someone who would make a good client – and give them the financial resources to take people out to lunch. 

  5. Hold monthly staff marketing meetings: 
    Let staff know how important this is by holding this in firm time, or at least if you decide to hold meetings during the lunch hour, ensure lunch is provided by the firm.

  6. Reward staff: 
    People will do what they are rewarded for Make sure your schemes are written, clarifying the time-period, who can qualify and at what level. Tell staff how they can meet their goals and how they will be measured. One favourite incentive is the 10 per cent of fee award. Another increasingly popular option is the marketing miles award scheme. Keep it simple and achievable and be aware that praise and personal gestures can sometimes be more effective than monetary rewards.

  7. Extension services: 
    What extension services do you have that staff are best placed to identify? Maybe payroll, VAT, client accounting? Have your staff complete a review at the end of every job noting down those services from which the client might benefit.

  8. Be prepared to invest: 
    If are looking to grow your firm, stay ahead of inflation and replace clients lost through attrition, you will need to have a new client fee target of up to and possibly more than 8 per cent of your existing fees. That will need some resourcing – financial and human. As stated in the introduction my benchmark for year-on-year growth is three per cent of gross fees and 200 hours for each owner.

  9. Key Action Audit:
    How strong is the marketing culture in your firm? You know you have a marketing culture when:
    • Your partners want to spend more money on marketing
    • Marketing meetings are attended by everyone who was scheduled to attend
    • Partners ask for help with their marketing
    • Partners ask, “how can I be more effective?”
    • Partners ask clients for referrals
    • Marketing takes place all year round
    • You invest in someone dedicated to marketing the firm

I trust that one or more of these 18 business development strategies finds the sweet spot and that you will consider embedding them in your firm’s growth planning.