I was talking to an accountant on Facebook recently, and we were arranging a call to chat about her marketing. She knew who we were at PF, and what we do, and is in a group of accountants where she had heard about us. We were all set to have our call, and then she asked a really great question. One I hadn’t thought of until recently.
“Can I ask about the services you offer. Is it all about attracting new clients or is it about getting myself organised and efficient etc?”
I found that really interesting. We’re a marketing agency, so anything having to do with marketing for accountants we help with. So, what was the ‘organised and efficient’ element she was talking about?
I decided to ask. “Basically anything relating to marketing we help accountants with,” I said. “We have a few things we find work really well as a starting point for accountants who want to step up their marketing, but it depends on 1) what your marketing goals are and 2) how fast you want to move!”
Her reply was this:
“Well. Since we first spoke I’ve taken on quite a number of clients. One of which is a massive contact for me so I don’t actually have any capacity to take any more on so I don’t need to attract anyone at the moment.
What I’d like to do is to get my house in order ready for when I manage to recruit and start taking on more clients.
I need to develop a welcome pack for new clients. And some online training for current clients. Plus videos to welcome clients. I’ve read James Ashford’s book about the onboarding process and keeping in touch with prospects so I want to develop that too.
Plus I have the opportunity to have a QuickBooks training for clients which is like to look at doing next year as a promotion thing for me to try to gain new clients so I’d need some help with that maybe.
But the main thing at the moment is making sure my processes work well, especially the onboarding process as it just isn’t working for me at the moment.
Plus I’d like ideas for things to wow my clients, both current and future new ones.”
This was really powerful for a few reasons, with the primary one being that she’s recognised that marketing extends to apply to existing clients, and new clients.
Here are the core items identified which are still part of ‘marketing’, but we might not always consider them to be:
1. Follow up marketing
This is also considered “pre-onboarding”. It’s very likely the person is going to sign up, so what kinds of things can you put in place so that they are signing up faster?
This could include:
- Automated emails with helpful stuff, reminders, invitations to events
- Personal emails and other contact (phone calls, text messages, social media replies) that simply stay in touch
- Proposal reminders (ie, “your proposal is still waiting for you”)
- Sending a small gift or card
- Page or section on your website exclusively for those who are considering working with you
2. Onboarding marketing
What is the point of doing all this great marketing to attract clients, if you’re not continuing to attract them when they become a client?
Onboarding marketing means you are working on things like:
- Website thank you page (or series of pages) once the proposal is accepted
- Welcome video
- Page or graphic showing your onboarding process
- Questionnaires & diagnostics to gather information
- Emails and automated reminders
- Branding messages (who are you? What do you stand for? What are your values and style?)
- Community group or forum
- Sending a personal gift to new clients (the old tired method of sending the exact same thing to everyone, like a bottle of wine or a gift basket, doesn’t always appeal. What if they don’t drink, or hate chocolate?)
All of it fits within your brand, style, and tone – so they get a sense of who you are and continue to build trust, even after they’ve signed the proposal.
Here’s a beautiful example of Raedan’s onboarding page and process. It all came out of a marketing planning workshop in which we identified that onboarding was the highest priority in order to see success in their marketing.
3. Systems and processes
It’s not only your onboarding processes that need to be nailed down: every element of running your accounting firm needs to run in such a way that you are constantly winning over your clients, again and again. This will inspire and encourage them to tell others how great you are…and the marketing cycle begins again.
To address your systems, I highly recommend Will Farnell’s book “The Digital Firm” (and his consulting services), as he covers things like efficiency, fees, firm culture, software, apps… it’s all in there.
How you train your clients (and your prospects too) is one of the most critical elements of marketing.
It is not enough to simply take any potential client that comes to you. We all do it at the beginning of our business life, but as you grow, you learn how your clients act and think. You discover which type of clients are amazing to work with, and which ones not so much.
This then affects your entire process of taking on new clients, and then training them once they’re with you.
The marketing elements of training can include:
- Running workshops, courses, events, and seminars. Both clients and prospects can attend. Clients will either be better enabled to do things themselves, or they’ll understand better what they need from you. Prospects will build trust, and be more ready to start the client journey with you.
- Recording training videos. I’m so pleased at how many accountants are recognising the massive time savings that results from recording video. Instead of having yet another call with a client about the same issue they’ve covered twenty times before, take a little longer to record a quick video – and then you have it to share with the next twenty (or thirty or a hundred) clients who ask.
- Providing one on one training. Your clients will always have particular issues that are truly unique to their business, industry, or situation. Make sure you’re set up for them to get custom training from you. Create a website page, a video, a form asking for information, a thank you page, follow up emails. Link the page to your payment provider so they can buy it whenever they’re ready. The process for the one on one training can be very similar, even if the delivered training itself is custom.
- Training in non-accounting areas. Please, please don’t pigeon hole yourself into only training your clients in accounting. Train them to do good business – marketing, selling, team building, quotes and proposals, leadership, speaking and communication, creativity… the list goes on endlessly. Oh – and if you’re even vaguely considering providing this training to them, make sure you’re doing it within your own firm, too. Bring in guest speakers. Hire experts. Take the team to good conferences and events.
5. Client experience marketing
Last but most definitely not least, you can use your marketing budget and time to invest in the client experience so that they are taken care of every step of the way. This includes:
- Sending gifts
- Meeting regularly
- Contacting them randomly
- Following on social so you know what they’re doing
- Creating methods of communication for support, questions, ideas, feedback, and connection (including community groups and forums)
- Giving away free stuff
- Highlighting your client’s successes (social, email, video)
The key is not to copy what other people do with their client experience process, but to map out your own based on what you know your clients want and need. Then give it to them.
I’ve been blown away by how many accountants are coming to us lately to get help with their onboarding and client experience marketing – not simply attracting new clients. When you recognise that marketing starts long before someone becomes a client, and continues every day that they are a client (and beyond), then that marketing will have the impact you want it to.