While our SevenKeys to Successful CPA Firm Management research shows new and surging interest in social media (57%), search engine optimization (32%), and related website upgrades (55%), old-fashioned personal networking remains the tactic that CPA firms rely on to find new business.
This makes sense since it costs approximately 400% more to close an unreferred prospect than a referred prospect. And, it takes approximately half the time to close a referred prospect than it does to sell a nonreferred prospect.
Clients consider referrals important, as well. Research tells us that clients are influenced by referrals more than any other marketing tactic that may sway their decision to choose a new CPA firm.
It’s clear that CPAs need to work their networks and generate referrals. What’s the best way to do this? How can you build your referral network? Here are 12 Tips for More Referrals:
1. Identify the attorneys, bankers and other service providers of your current clients. Then, make contact with these referral sources.
2. Evaluate your current referral network. How are you keeping track of your activities? Who is sending you leads? This will help you prioritize who you need to spend time with.
3. Organize small scale networking events or mixers with referral sources you want to do business with. Invite a group of bankers (from the same bank) or attorneys (from the same firm) or both groups to your office or other appropriate venue to learn more about each other’s businesses and the types of desired new clients.
4. Provide networking skills training for your entire professional staff. Then, reinforce the training by accompanying them to networking functions and referral source meetings.
5. Teach your entire professional staff how to build their networks. Their base of contacts includes co-workers, clients, former clients, alumni, competitors, classmates, family, friends, neighbors, sports friends, parents and friends of their children, and church or synagogue contacts.
6. Collect client testimonials to use in your promotional materials, proposals, and website.
7. Remind your clients that you are interested in new business referrals. The best time to ask is after receiving a compliment.
8. Add networking activities to the performance evaluations of your entire professional staff. Reward them for success.
9. Research the organizations in your market that correspond with your client base and where you need to be seen. Then, be seen.
10. Call people in your network to see how they are doing, invite them to lunch, or discuss a current event in your marketplace. Haven’t talked to them in a while? If you’ve worked together before follow up to ask about the results of the project. Ask for their advice. Or, simply say, “Something reminded me of you …”
11. Ask for leads! Be sure that you have a description of the types of business that you’re interested in to help your referral sources.
12. Support your face-to-face networking with a LinkedIn profile. Be sure to coordinate your LinkedIn strategy with your firm’s overall marketing strategy. Be consistent with your firm’s description, etc. Click on the links below for two helpful articles about LinkedIn published in the Journal of Accountancy.