Hunting Hot Prospects

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We know that not all accounting firms have big marketing budgets they can use to keep existing clients and go after new business. What are your top few cost-effective methods for firms that can’t compete with those that can afford to pay for ads, etc.? Why are these methods so effective?

Networking continues to be the #1 lead generation tool for chartered accountants.  The more often CAs are in front of prospects and referral sources the more successful their marketing efforts will be.  Approach your organization membership strategically by researching the organizations in your market that correspond with your client base and where you need to be seen.  Evaluate your partners and team members to ensure that your firm is represented in the right organizations by the right people.  Then, be seen.  Attend functions. Join a committee.  Become the member that others want to know.

Mixers with referral sources are another cost-effective marketing tool. Mixers are small networking opportunities with 8-12 CA firm partners and staff and an equal amount of people from one bank, one law firm, or other referral source organization. You could also multiply the networking opportunities and invite two separate organizations to the same event.  Held at the CA firm or other location, e.g., country club, restaurant, hotel, mixers are less intimidating opportunity for CAs to describe the types of new business they are looking for and to learn about the types of business their referral sources want.

Seminars are an excellent way to get in front of clients, prospects and referral sources to share information and demonstrate expertise.  Seminars take a lot of planning; it’s worth it.  Aim for 15 to 20 attendees so you can spend quality time with each of them.

Which methods don’t generally result in new business? (For example, is advertising in the Yellow Pages now passe? Is word of mouth only effective in certain situations?)

While your firm should be listed in the Yellow Pages stop all advertising.  People who are searching for your address or telephone number are more likely to go online rather than the telephone book.

While your firm should have a promotional package – folder, brochures – that truly represent your firm and its brand, a brochure never closes a sale.  Your promotional package is a tangible leave behind; you still need the questioning and listening skills necessary to uncover the needs and challenges of your prospects and to demonstrate how your firm can meet these needs and challenges.

Word of mouth is effective if you give the market something to talk about. Be sure that your team knows how to tell your firm’s story. Be specific about the types of new business you’re looking for. Ensure that you are delivering superior client services so your clients have positive things to say. It costs approximately 400% more to close an un-referred prospect than a referred prospect. And, it takes approximately half the time to close a referred prospect than it does to sell a non-referred prospect.  So, give your clients and referral sources something positive to talk about!

Do not sponsor an event if you don’t plan to attend. And, when you attend, don’t fill your table with members of your firm.  Events can be a wonderful opportunity for networking and client entertainment.

In your expert opinion, are there obvious ways of attracting new clients that business owners/accountants often neglect to try? Why are these methods ignored?

Two of the top criteria used by prospects to select a new CA firm are “specific understanding of my business” and “specific understanding of my industry.”  The marketing tool that is getting a lot of attention – inbound marketing – is a way for CAs to demonstrate their understanding of their prospects’ business and industry.  Inbound marketing tactics including search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, social media, website lead generation and lead nurturing are more cost-effective than traditional forms of outbound marketing, e.g., print advertising, trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail.  We will see more CA firms invest in inbound marketing as success stories accumulate.  The challenge is that inbound marketing requires CAs to write articles, eBooks and blog posts – which requires their time – or to pay a professional to get it done – which requires their money.

Let’s not forget that CAs need to continue to ask for business!  They need to be able to describe the types of new business they want and to ask their clients and referral sources for leads.  CAs don’t ask for leads because they feel it’s unprofessional or are intimidated. However, this is a normal part of business and should be a regular CA activity.

Jean Caragher

Capstone Marketing

10601-G Tierrasanta Blvd.


San Diego, CA  92124