1. Everyone is Your Customer
The old adage is true, ‘Nothing is certain except death and taxes‘. Everyone has to pay tax and accountants try to minise the amount of tax each person pays. It’s easy to look at this and think that everyone is a potential client. After all, if everyone has to pay taxes, you’re only limited by the number of hours in a day, right?
This is true, but only if you are the only accountant in your area. This is not often the case, and so you fall into the trap of competing against other accounting firms who also offer accounting services to everyone with a pulse. How does your client choose an accountant when you and your competition both do a fantastic job, have excellent reviews, and have an office closeby?
Choosing your ideal client reduces your competition’s ability to steal work from you significantly. A business owner would rather go to an accountant that specialises in business accounting rather than a generalist who offers personal tax returns, business advice, and super advice. Furthermore, a plumber would rather go to an accountant who specialises in accounting for plumbers than a business accountant who has clients across many different industries.
Deciding how to specialise your business isn’t always simple, though. There are a few strategies you can use side-by-side to identify the best fit.
First, think about what you’ve done in the past. Is there a particular industry or type of accounting that has been a frequent flyer in your schedule? The more experience you already have in a speciality, the easier it will be to sell yourself for that service.
Second, think about what you want for the future. Do you enjoy business taxes or personal taxes? Perhaps you particularly enjoy doing taxes for freelancers or non-profit organizations.
Finally, do some market research. When you know what you want to do, find out how big the market is for that accounting niche in your area. Research whether anyone else offers that speciality too. This combination will tell you whether your niche is viable.
2. You Don’t Know Your Client
This ties in to the first mistake, everyone being your customer. When everyone is your customer, it is difficult to determine what the common pain points are for each type of client.
You can cover the basics; everyone wants to pay less tax, every business owner wants to grow their business and needs the right advice to do so. Narrowing that down to be more specific in a way that applies to a good portion of your client base isn’t possible if you’re serving everyone.
However, if you segment, you can get really specific about pain points, interests, and motivations. A plumber, for example, may find it difficult to hire staff. Because they are going to hire other plumbers to do the work, they risk training their competition.
This cannot apply to a startup who has just acquired capital for a new app that tracks employee productivity for accountants. They have different pain points, different problems, and in most cases, even different interests.
By digging deeper, you are better able to form a relationship with your clients. They will feel better understood and become fiercely loyal to your firm.
How do you go about this? There are several strategies you can use.
One option is to simply get to know your target customers. Talk to those you know who are in that industry or who have the type of circumstance you specialize in. Find out their financial and tax-related concerns.
Of course, not everyone in that segment of the population will have the same pain points. A single chat with a friend over coffee won’t make you an expert. You need to talk to multiple people and look for patterns.
Another helpful strategy is to research that industry or speciality. Look for articles about recent trends in the industry and how they’re affecting businesses or individuals.
3. You Compete on Price
When you don’t target specific segments of the market and don’t know your clients, you’re stuck to compete on price. There’s no way out of that when you offer everyone the same products and services as every other accounting firm in your local area.
Competing on price is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. There is always someone who can do it cheaper.
For example, you have an accounting firm with 2 accountants working for you. You charge fairly, but need to charge more than if you were on your own because you have running costs. A freelance accountant sets up shop, charges half of what you do and steals all but your most loyal clients. The freelancer puts you out of business because you can’t compete with their prices, then he hires your staff and makes the same mistakes you did.
The only way to stop competing on price is the specialise. By targeting a specific service, or a specific industry, you separate yourself from every other accountant who doesn’t specialise in what you do.
Make sure your advertising reflects this. When you market your business, emphasize your speciality. Focus what makes you unique and valuable. Keep price out of your marketing as much as possible.
When you introduce pricing to the conversation, your future client starts thinking in that direction. You need an opportunity to demonstrate how valuable you are so the price won’t be as much of a concern.
4. You Rely on Referrals
Referrals are great, and you should be getting them. However, they should not be your only form of new client acquisition. Referrals are unpredictable; you have no control over them.
You also have no control over the type of referral you receive. The referral may just be a tire kicker, or they may only need a low tier service. All of a sudden, you’re doing 100 personal tax returns for low income earners.
That’s not to say that referrals aren’t a great source of clients. They definitely are, and you should build a referral network. However, if this is your only form of client acquisition, you’ve got a problem.
This is why you need to strategically invest in marketing your business. Even if your business is doing well, keep up with your marketing. Those messages will lay the seeds for clients that may take years to materialize.
Don’t forget to spread your message in multiple marketing channels too. Social media marketing, your own website, and search engine optimization should all be on your list. Add in traditional types of marketing like print ads or billboards.
5. Ineffective Marketing Message
Picture this – you’re out at a bar with your friends. You’re having a great time when a man walks up to you and says,
“Hi! I’ve got this great robotic vaccuum cleaner. It does an amazing job keeping your house clean and will clean it autonomously. All you have to do is empty the bag when it gets full. Want to buy one?”
This seems like unusual behaviour, but it is how most accountants market their business online. They hear about Facebook Ads, or LinkedIn Marketing and jump onboard to try it for themselves, and then they list out all the reasons why a prospect should choose them.
Similar to the man in the example, when you market like this online, you’re virtually approaching complete strangers and trying to sell them something they aren’t even thinking about at that point in time.
A better way to tackle this is to start forming a relationship. You create relationships through commonalities, this about when you were a kid. You liked another kid because they had the same colour shirt as you, or they opened a door for you because you were carrying too many books.
Start by providing value first. Always give first with no expectation to receive anything. Blog posts are good for this, as are videos, ebooks, podcasts, calculators, and tools.
Use these types of media as an opportunity to share your personality. Clients don’t want their accountant to be a nameless, faceless corporation. They want to see you as a real person who can understand and sympathize with their needs.
Throughout this process, people will develop trust for you because they feel like they truly know you. Not only are they more likely to become clients, but they’re likely to be more loyal clients because they trust you before they even meet you.
6. No Clear Call to Action
In general, people like direction. A website with a big red button at the bottom that tells the visitor, ‘Call Now’ will do a lot better than a website that just stops at the bottom with no clear next step.
Having a clear call to action will help guide your prospect through to take an action that you want them to take. Your prospect will view your website as ‘easy to navigate’ and you’ll get more engagement on your website and other marketing materials.
Simply tell them what you want them to do.
This is true in your other marketing messages too. You can write a beautiful, informative blog. End it with a simple line that reads: “For answers to all your questions, contact XYZ Accounting.”
Keep your calls to action brief and to the point, though. Don’t mistake this as saying that you should be pushing a hard sell. A simple button or prompt is all you need.
7. Too Many Calls to Action
Of course, the opposite of having no clear call to action occurs too. You create an ad that sends them to a landing page.
The landing page wants them to download an ebook, but you also want them to subscribe to your blog, follow you on Facebook, book an appointment on your calendar, and hang out the washing. All on the same page.
Instead of doing this, break it down. First, they download your ebook. Then, they’re redirected to a thank you page that asks them to follow you on Facebook.
A week later, you send them an email with your latest blog post. At the bottom of the blog post, you ask them to subscribe.
After 3-4 blog post updates, you send them an opportunity to book an appointment. At the appointment, you tell them that you were joking about hanging out the washing.
If you have too many calls to action, people could react in a few different ways. Some will get overwhelmed by the scattered directions and leave your site.
Others, however, will feel like you’re treating them as nothing more than a wallet. Not only will they leave your website, but they’ll also have a negative opinion of you that they may spread to others. Keeping your calls to action direct and clear can prevent both of these problems away.
8. Creating Content for Content’s Sake
Often, an accountant will read somewhere that they need to do content marketing. It’s great for SEO, you can share it on your LinkedIn account, and you’ll get more visits to your website.
All of this is true, except when it’s not. Each day, there are over 4 million blog posts published. That means, for your content to stand out, it needs to be of high quality, unique and innovative.
Copying and pasting content from emails sent by CPA Australia or other similar services provides no value to your reader, and so has no business being on your website.
It’s also important to have a clear purpose for each piece of content. Is the content meant to be educational, engaging those people who are looking for information, but aren’t quite ready to change accountants?
Is the content transactional, meaning that you are wanting to engage people ready for change?
Instead of churning out a weekly blog about any random topic that comes to mind, be more intentional. Sit down and consider who your target client is and what they might want to know about accounting.
Your blogs don’t have to be excessively long. They do need to provide enough detail to offer clear and impactful value, though.
One helpful strategy is to think about current trends and how they relate to accounting. For example, let’s say a huge celebrity divorce is all over the news. Write a blog about how divorce affects a person’s tax situation.
This will capture some of the traffic for those popular related keywords while offering true value to people who are considering or processing a divorce.
9. You’re Not Doing SEO
There are many different marketing strategies that are effective for acquiring new clients for your accounting firm, but at the end of the day, people still go to Google to find a new accountant.
If you aren’t showing up in Google when your prospects are searching, you’re leaving money on the table. Your competition will gladly take these clients and you will simply go without.
Google wants to see expertise, authority and trust from accountants. You have the ability to drastically change people’s lives with your advice, so you need to be creating excellent content that people want to share and link to on a website that is secure and up-to-date.
Having strong SEO isn’t a “one and done” task you can cross off your to-do list. It’s a project that requires ongoing work to keep enhancing and maintaining your position in the search results.
Strong SEO is a complex blend of multiple strategies. It involves keyword research, competition research, link-building, content creation, and much more. If you’re not an expert yourself, our SEO specialists are here to help.
10. You Say ‘Yes’ to Every Client
Similar to the first mistake, everyone being your customer, when you say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that knocks, it closes the door to other, sometimes better, opportunities.
Imagine filling your books with small clients, then a bigger client comes across your table and you don’t have the time or resources help them.
Do you offload a few of the smaller clients to make room and take the hit to your reputation?
Do you ask the bigger client to wait around and hope they don’t go to another accountant?
With a little more discerning in who you let into your business, you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it too.
To make it easy to prioritize, make lists of your most desirable traits to find in a client. Perhaps there’s a specific revenue range that works well with your skillset. If you’re using the tips above, you’ll want to prioritize clients who fit into your chosen speciality too.
Have a few traits that are “must-haves,” meaning you only accept customers who meet those criteria. Next, have a list of “good to have” traits. If clients meet those criteria, they’re a better fit for your business.
Finally, have a list of traits for your ideal clients. When someone comes along who fits all those criteria, they’re a golden goose you want to bring on board.