Last week I spent time with The Accountants' Growth Club Advisory Board members. We were having our quarterly mastermind meeting. One of the challenges posed was "how to get more leads". This article explores why "how to get more leads" is actually the wrong question to be answering for owners of small growing accountancy practices.
How to get more leads: Why we didn't answer this question in the mastermind discussion
We were not cruel to our mastermind member, by refusing to answer his question "How to get more leads". We actually looked strategically at what he was doing, and then answered the right question for him.
How do most accountants start marketing their practice?
If you think back to the early days of marketing your practice, you probably relied on leads from networking activities and existing clients. Whether this was via attending events, or networking groups such as BNI or referrals from introducers such as bank managers. There is nothing wrong with these routes at all. However, when you are reliant on referrals, which come to the owner of the practice you will naturally put a brake on the growth of the practice.
If only YOU can generate leads for your practice, your practice’s growth is not sustainable.
Why do you put a brake on your marketing if only the owner of the practice can complete this work?
Our Advisory Board member had identified ways in which he could free up his time to do the marketing he needed to. We then pointed out that whilst this was great, all that was going to happen was he was going to win more clients. Then he'd be back to the start again and run out of his time to go out and win work. This was why the question "how to get more leads" was the wrong question to ask.
What activities to do BEFORE investing in marketing to generate new leads to your practice
Accountants are in a very fortunate position. (It's not often you will hear that said!). The reason being is that most accountancy firm clients will only move if one of the following conditions are true:
- They have grown out of their existing accountant
- Their existing firm has given them poor service or perceived to be delivering poor value for the fees paid
That's it! There is a huge amount of inertia before a client will disengage from their current accountant. Not many other professionals, e.g. lawyers, coaches, trainers have this with their business.
As a result, it makes so much sense to invest in retaining and growing your existing client accounts (well the ones you want to keep) and maximising your opportunities to generate referrals from your existing clients, before you spend marketing dollars or pounds on bringing in new client leads. The banking industry has found that the best time to upsell more services to a new client is within their first 90 days. Given that the banking industry has many of the same advantages that accountants do, i.e. loyal clients who are very reluctant to change their bank or accountant, this research probably holds up for accountants. This means nailing your onboarding process and having multiple touch points for new clients in the first 90 days. (And not just chasing clients for their information.)
Phase 2 of growth for the Accountants' Growth Club is all about putting in place a firm foundation for growth. This means making sure your existing business is rock solid. This means not losing clients out the bottom whilst you spend big to put clients in at the top. A core part of the work we advise to be done in phase 2 is to invest in client service excellence, as well as systemising opportunities to deliver "extraordinary service", upsell more services to existing clients and generate referrals from existing clients. See 4 tips to sell advisory services to clients.
When is the right time to invest in getting more leads?
Only when you have exhausted all the options you have which are commercially viable to organically grow your existing client portfolio and minimised client churn is it time to look at how to get more leads.
However, if you want to be able to scale sustainably rather than just hitting another plateau, it's time to investigate how to do your marketing without you needing to be the person driving it.
Our 4 Accountants' Growth Club Advisory Board members grew their practices by just north of £400k in the last 15 months, and added on £250k of net profit to their practices. Each of the board members did this in different ways:
- Outsourced their social media marketing. They paid £120 a month for 2.5 hours work each month. This lead to a 43% increase in traffic to their website from social sources and has doubled their lead generation from 6 a month to 12+ a month.
- Using an outsourced marketing director in conjunction with a part time marketing executive. They added £100k of new business in the last year. They saw a huge increase in leads when their new website went live, particularly from e-commerce businesses one of the sectors they were targeting.
- Using SEO to generate leads to local business. This was a large factor in one of the practices growing their top line by 40% in the 15 months.
- Increasing their prices and adding in new higher yield advisory services to their existing client portfolio. This resulted in a 12% turnover growth and a 4x increase in their net profit market.
As you can see, there are lots of different ways to generate scalable growth without you needing to be the person doing all of your marketing going forward. When you get to phase 3 your aim is to identify routes to market which don't need you to be the person driving your marketing. After all, if you want to maximise the value of your practice on exit, it needs to be able to run without you being there.