Here is a three step process for identifying the right clients and attracting them to your firm. As an accounting firm coach, mentor and consultant I’m writing this in respect of accounting firm management, but the principles can be applied across other businesses.
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 consider:
- Are they in a particular geographic location?
- Are they in a particular industry?
- Are they a particular size in terms of turnover?
- 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? (Life is too short to work with people we don’t like.)
- Does the firm have the capability to serve them well?
- Will they provide opportunities to do 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! If you end up with more than two or three ideal client profiles you might need to think again.
Understand what they need or want
This is about identifying their:
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. One of the best ways is to spend time at their premises. In my experience the insights you gain and the appreciation you get from the client for visiting them more than outweigh the time and cost of doing so.
- Identify where they hangout
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?
If you have an industry speciality that can make this bit easier. If you are targeting SMEs it might be local Chambers of Commerce, Family Business Australia, networking groups such as BNI or other broad based membership organisations that could be useful. Spend some time researching and you will find some places where your ideal clients hang out. A director/partner doesn’t need to do this research – have one of your team do this for you and then take that person with you to a few events. And of course it is not just about face to face situations you also have to find places online where your ideal clients hang out too.
- 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. Here are some ideas:
- List build using online tools
- Content Marketing – give lots of value and position yourself as an expert
- Write articles for online and other media
- Do presentations for your own and others’ events
- Comment on other people’s articles
- 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. You invest in building and nurturing these relationships which can take time but having one or more great referral sources can make a huge difference to your pipeline of new work.
- Make sure your website is right for your ideal clients and draw them to it. If I fit the profile of an ideal client for you then when I browse your website it needs to speak to me. Part of this might be articulating your values and why you do what you do so you attract clients aligned with those values. (Simon Sinek says people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.)
- Build social proof – case studies and testimonials of existing ideal clients. There is plenty of evidence to support the view that this makes a big difference. If you can have a video or include an image of the person giving the testimonial that adds credibility too.
- Have calls to action on your website – 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. My experience is also that senior people in accounting firms will readily do a piece of non-urgent client work ahead of a marketing activity. You won’t grow your firm if you keep doing that!
- Don’t forget existing clients. If you already have clients that fit your ideal client profile the chances are they know more people who also fit the profile. Ask them!
- 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
If you don’t know who your ideal clients are or have a plan to attract them then I suggest you allocate some time to make a start on implementing the three steps I have discussed. 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.