In my last article on accounting firm management I focused on attracting and retaining the right people and promised another article on clients. We talked about people first because you need the right people to be able to attract and retain clients.

So here is a five step process for attracting the right clients. I’ll do another article on retaining them. Although I’m writing this in respect of accounting firm management, the principles can be applied across all businesses. I could write books on this or run detailed workshops so I’m sharing just some highlights.

  1. Be clear on who your ideal clients is

Some firms take the view that any client is the right client. I strongly disagree with this.  When thinking about who your ideal client is, here are a few things to think about:

  • Are they in a particular geographic location?
  • Are they in a particular industry?
  • Are they in a particular demographic?
  • Do they have a particular attitude?
  • Are there enough of them to make it worthwhile?
  • Do they have the capacity to pay our fees?
  • Do we like them?
  • Does the firm have the capability to serve them well?
  • Will they provide opportunities to work we like doing?

Not every firm will have a narrow industry specialty, but even if you don’t you need to think this through and build a profile of a typical ideal client. You may even have a few, but don’t get too carried away!

  1. Understand what they need or want

This is about identifying their:

  • Challenges
  • Threats
  • Frustrations
  • Aspirations
  • Opportunities

Sales people often say that prospects buy if it helps them move away from or fix a pain point or get closer to or achieve a pleasure point. The first three above are more about pain and the last two about pleasure.

The process of understanding this never ends. You must be constantly updating your knowledge, which of course you mostly do by talking to your clients or prospects. If you don’t have some ideal clients already you may need to reverse the order of steps 2 and 3 but I am assuming you already have some and can be speaking with them and understanding them.

  1. Identify where they hangout

So having identified who your ideal clients are and started to understand a bit about their needs and wants you now identify where you can find lots of these ideal clients. Where do they congregate physically or virtually? You want to be there too! Consider:

  • Physically and virtually where are they?
  • What organisations are they members of?
  • What events to they attend?
  • What do they read, watch or listen to?
  • What online groups are they a part of?
  1. Build a database and start connecting with them

Having found where your ideal clients are you can start building a list and connecting with them. The key here is that you are wanting to find ways to demonstrate your expertise so you are pre-positioned as an expert on things they care about.

  • List build using online tools
  • Content Marketing – give lots of value and position yourself as an expert

o   Write articles for online and other media

o   Do presentations for your own and others’ events

o   Comment on other people’s articles

o   Write a book, regular newsletter or blog

  • Identify third parties who already know your ideal clients and connect with them – one to many instead of one to one
  • Make sure your website is right for your ideal clients and draw them to it
  • Build social proof – case studies and testimonials of existing ideal clients
  • Have calls to action – such as a button to click to book a free consultation or get a report
  • Schedule activity – in my experience unless a task is scheduled it is often not done

5. Have a process to follow up leads and convert to clients

  • Identify needs and wants and meet them
  • Emphasise value not price
  • The senior people in the firm have this as a part of their job
  • Make every touch with a client or prospect memorable Do what you say you will do
  • Make it easy to understand what you do and easy to buy
  • Measure activity
  • Try different things and if something works do more of it and if it does not stop doing it

As I said at the start these are just some tips to take on board.  For the most part the attracting of clients is achieved through a process and most of the process does not need to be done at a partner/director level.

In my next article on accounting firm management I’ll provide tips on retaining clients

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