Posts Tagged ‘clients’

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Landing New Clients & Keeping Them

I have always believed that the best marketing strategy is how you serve your clients. It’s sort of the the “build it and they will come” mentality.

If your firm wins the reputation for over-the-top client service, your current clients will talk about you and potential clients will seek you out.

This week’s quote from Tom Peters says volumes about the CPA profession:

“Obviously there is a role for marketing, strategy formulation, and the like. But, ultimately, it all boils down to perceived, and appreciated, and consistently delivered service and quality to customers.”

Your competitors can find out what services your offer, what niches you pursue and the names of your employees and rainmakers. They cannot easily judge how you serve your clients. Serve your clients better than your competitors and you will win the race

Service begins with the pursuit of the potential client. It is not about selling to them or “pitching” them, it is a longer process of simply building a relationship.

Jeffrey Gitomer says it so well:

“The relationship is the biggest advantage you have in selling. People want to do business with people they can relate to. Finding out what your customer wants will help you discover your competitive advantage, but this is not as powerful as building a relationship. Coming to work early is a great habit, but may not affect your relationship building skills. The worst scenario is to try to learn a competitive advantage from your competitor. Which came first, the competition or the relationship? The relationship comes first and the sale will follow.” –Jeffrey Gitomer, excerpted from The Little Red Book of Sales Answers

To me, maybe the most important quote for CPAs to take to heart is featured below in my quote of the day section – from Harvey Mackay.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

The Little Things – Client Service

IMG_3676I have always stressed that within a CPA firm, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. That applies to the team, each other and to your valuable clients.

Stop. When I say “valuable clients” does that mean all your client are valuable? No. Gently out-place the ones who are not valuable – you know who they are.

Back to the topic. All of this came to mind when a the Culligan man came to our house to service our system. See his picture; notice what he put on his feet when he came in the door.

Little things you can do:

  • A handwritten note to every employee on their work anniversary date
  • A small box of candy (4 to 6 pieces) mailed to their home on their birthday (so the family can see it and share)
  • Smiling and saying good morning to everyone
  • Making sure you have communication inside your firm that is open, honest and on-going.
  • Mailing the clients who always pay on time a “Thanks for always paying on time” note – U.S. mail or email.
  • Sending a card to a client’s child when they graduate from H.S. or college.
  • The client likes dark chocolate or milk chocolate – send them the appropriate box of candy.

Hey, Culligan Man! – Thanks for remembering the little things.

  • It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
  • John Wooden

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend

The weekend is time for something off-topic, humorous or even weird.

This weekend, I direct my lighten-up post to all of the young accountants just entering the CPA profession. You have such an exciting, challenging and never-boring life ahead of you that, if you focus, work hard and keep your sense of humor, it will give you an enormous payback. Not only a monetary payback but also the satisfaction that you have served your clients and employees well.

You will age and so will your peers and clients. So – lighten-up – and watch this young couple age from their 20s to their 90s – – enjoy the ride because you will be at retirement age in what will seem like a blink of an eye!

  • Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Helping Your Clients Succeed

CPA firms have all kinds of reasons why they are in the professional service business. We call it a mission, a vision, a purpose and some firm leaders spend a whole lot of time trying to define it with fancy words and catchy phrases.

I like to simplify, so I just refer to your mission in three words: Help clients succeed.

Helping clients is so much more than preparing an annual tax return or performing the annual audit. It is even more than helping them keep their books clean and up-to-date.

You, as a CPA, have a huge challenge – you sell something that no one wants!  Who simply can’t wait to get their taxes prepared or what company loves it when the auditors come in?

What they do want is more of you…. more advice, a sounding-board, an idea person… someone they can go to when they have a question.

Are you proactive? Are you reading what they are reading? Do you know what trends “out there” you should be informing them about? Do you send them links to great articles that they should read?

Here’s a simple example… I recently became aware of a site that helps small business owners find the right software – FitSmallBusiness.com. The have free calculators, such as an SBA Loan Calculator, that you can embed or share with your clients.

Always be searching for ways you can Help Clients Succeed.

 

  • Spend a lot of time talking to customers face-to-face. You'd be amazed how many companies don't listen to their customers.
  • Ross Perot

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Marketing To Your Core Audience

Accounting firms are notorious for seeking out new clients by writing articles, advertising in the business newspaper, using some direct mail and networking at local events so they can meet new people (prospects). Often their social media campaigns are designed to target and engage the non-client, new client, potential client.

SethGodinSeth Godin uses the example of Broadway. They spend so much money to attract tourists and those who rarely see a play, yet it is clear that the people who go to the theater regularly are often the ones who fill the seats, pay the bills and spread the word.

Spending money, time and effort on people who already like you is much more productive and profitable than “yelling” at people who don’t know you.

This is not a NEW message to CPAs trying to grow their practice. It is one of those BFO  topics (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) that all of the CPA management consultants stress with firm leaders – – it is nothing new, it is basic.

Focus on your current clients. Provide them with more services. Provide them with awesome client service. Talk, talk, talk to them about other things you can offer them and how you can help THEM grow their own business.

As Godin states: “This one shift, a shift to building relationships between and among the core audience, to make plays for your audience instead of finding an audience for your plays, is the golden lesson that applies to just about every organization.”

 

  • Don't try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Getting A Second Opinion – Two Ways For CPAs

Before making a decision, most CPAs and their clients like to hear all of the options. It never hurts to get a second opinion much like you would do in a medical situation.

Relating to your prospective clients

Many firms have been successful with offering prospective tax clients a “free second opinion.” Try organizing a marketing campaign around it. Let those important prospects know that your firm offers a free “second look” at their past tax returns and will offer comments and suggestions FREE of charge.

Relating to your firm and practice management

Has someone in your firm gone to a conference and heard a great idea from another firm and immediately began the process of implementing it at your firm?

I find this usually happens with managing partners when they attend their CPA firm association managing partners’ annual meeting. It also happens when firm administrators get ideas from other administrators at various meetings and conferences.

Gathering and considering all of those great ideas is a VERY good thing but be sure you think it through and plan carefully to ensure success. What works for your old friend Bob from the California firm (much larger than you) or what works for that progressive firm in NYC might not be exactly what would make a good fit for your firm in rural Indiana.

A lot of great ideas used by other firms and, yes, suggested by consultants like me, might not be compatible with the way your particular group of partners think or act. Just like you would do if you were faced with a serious medical situation, when you are faced with a serious management situation, gather more than one opinion, weigh your options and then proceed.

  • Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
  • Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Be Unique – Do Unexpected Things For Your Clients

Nolan GiereI hear many stories from my clients and friends in public accounting.

Sometimes I hear about frustrations and challenges. But, I also often hear some really cool things, such as how firms are serving their clients by doing special things for them. Here’s a great example.

Nolan, Giere & Company CPAs in Troy, Ohio does Shred Day In The Park every year. They arrange for a shred truck to come to the Park and they invite their clients to bring things they need to shred and to join the firm team members for a picnic lunch. The clients love it!

Before and after they promote it on their Facebook page. What are you doing to make your clients smile?

shred

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • One of the nice things about the Senior Tour is that we can take a cart and a cooler. If your game is not going well, you can always have a picnic.
  • Lee Trevino

Friday, September 6th, 2013

CPA Partners And Managers Clinging To The Work

I hear it all the time, CPA firm partners and managers talking out of both sides of their mouth.

On Delegating Work:

Left side of mouth: “These young people, they don’t realize that you have to work hard to serve clients. I give them a job to do. They get it partially done and then they send it back my way (and they go home).”

Right side of mouth: “Our young staff is just too green. They seem unsure and take too long to get something done. It’s so much quicker just to do it myself. My billing rate might be twice as much as theirs but I can do it twice as fast.”

On Performing Administrative Duties:

Left side of mouth: “I don’t try too hard to bring in new clients. I don’t go to many business-networking events. I just don’t have time. If I got a new client, I don’t have time to serve them properly. It would just mean that I would have to work more hours.”

Right side of mouth: “I am the one who takes care of all of our facilities management. I make sure our building HVAC works properly and that our conference room décor makes the proper first impression. I’m the one who has always done it, I can’t give that up.” – – or – – “I’m on the technology committee and have always been responsible for decisions relating to our website and the kind of laptops we purchase.”

I am sure, if you contemplate all of the activities of your firm’s partners and managers, you could add several more examples to this list.

On Delegating Work – It is every partner’s responsibility to train, mentor, coach, nurture, and encourage their replacement(s). Managers need to manage.  This is not done very well inside CPA firms. Managers (and some partners) are high-priced technicians. They cling to the client work because they enjoy it, it’s safe and it is in their comfort zone.

On Performing Administrative Duties – The big issue with this is that you are paying someone (a partner or several partners at about $300,000 each), to do the job that a professional, experienced, qualified firm administrator (HR Director, IT Manager, Marketing Director) could do at a significantly lower salary. Again, for some partners, performing administrative responsibilities is an excuse not to market, sell and bring new work and new clients into the firm. They cling to the administrative work because they enjoy it, it’s safe, and it is in their comfort zone.

  • It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
  • Mark Twain

Monday, July 1st, 2013

CPAs – Look Around.

CPAs, you are (or should be) consultants.

As the AICPA continually reminds you, YOU are the trusted advisor. That means your clients not only trust you to be their accountant, they trust you to advise them on major decisions about their business. The AICPA PCPS even provides a Trusted Business Advisor 2.0 Toolbox.  Look around your partner group. Successful partner groups have evolved from number crunchers to consultants.

For partners to be advisors, they leave the hands-on, technical accounting work to the senior and staff accountants. Look around your office. Do you have skilled technicians at the staff level who provide you with the information you need to bring valuable advice to your clients?

In too many firms, managers do not manage. They are technicians doing a lot of the work that senior and staff accountants should be doing. Managers, if they want to be owners, should be bringing in business and inspiring staff. Look around your manager group. Are they managing or doing?

The best clients make your life a joy. The worst clients drag you down. Look around. Do you have clients who don’t pay you on a timely basis. Do you have clients that pay you just before the next years work is about to begin? Do you have clients who never seek your advice? Do you have clients that in some way mistreat your staff?

Enjoy this 4th of July week. Take some time off to simply enjoy summer. Then next Monday as you go into the office – look around (then take action).

  • You will become like the five people you associate with the most – this can be either a blessing or a curse.
  • Billy Cox

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Describe What You Are Trying To Achieve

Many CPA leaders will soon be gathering for the annual retreat, summit, planning meeting – whatever your firm calls it. The partners, key functional area leaders and accounting managers will gather and discuss and debate where the firm is going and what they all need to do this year to keep moving forward.

Once it is over, the group will return and tell the rest of the team what to do to help achieve the firm goals. This plays out in smaller ways by managers and partners telling the team what to do relating to their daily duties that involve serving clients.

While I believe in lots of communication with your team – – continual, brief conversations on how they are doing and if they need your help – – I don’t think you should tell them every single step in great detail. You should not expect them to do it exactly how YOU have always done it.

Give them some room to explore and to actually THINK about what they are trying to accomplish. There is a difference between active, hands on management and micro management. I think you get the picture – hands-on means you are available and helpful. Micro means you are breathing down their neck and hovering.

Yes, checklists are a good thing when you are training young, inexperienced accountants but don’t develop a culture where if it is not on the checklist we don’t do it.

Do you have a team of box-checkers or entrepreneurial thinkers?

Here’s a good story from HBR about sharing what you want to achieve versus telling someone exactly what to do. It’s titled, Stop Telling Your Employees What To Do.

  • Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.
  • Arnold Glasow