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Vikram Rajan
Vikram Rajan
 

Can You Spare Just a Minute With Your Clients?

Use these seven strategies to boost your post-tax season referrals.

March 15, 2010
by Vikram Rajan

In my last column I revealed the Six Marketing Seasons and how you can grow your CPA practice. It’s Season #2: While you are in the middle of tax season, you need not succumb to being mired in it. By taking 5 minutes to read this article and just a minute per client, you will be able to distinguish your practice, bring real value to your clients and even spur better referrals for next season.

How many CPAs sit down with their clients, unsolicited, to analyze their tax returns and financial statements? How many CPAs help their clients with 2010 tax planning now? How many CPAs offer financial advice based on experience with hundreds of other businesses and client’s real numbers? Most business owners hardly take the time to plan, prioritize and prepare on their own. You are in the perfect position to significantly impact the decisions your clients make.

How to Be a Good Trusted Advisor

Most CPAs allow their role as the trusted advisor to remain dormant — you need not. Client review sessions have a marketing impact far beyond client service. Use these seven strategies to create client-review sessions that can boost your post-tax season referrals:

  1. Secure the client for you. Clients switch from good accountants mainly because they feel neglected, ignored or unimportant. Your quarterly review sessions can avoid this completely. Increasing client retention should be the first priority of any marketing strategy.
  2. Reduce client-acquisition cost. What does it cost to replace a client and to add another? More than retention, your sit-down sessions enable more quality referrals. As you distinguish your practice with this level of interest, clients will naturally recommend you more. After all, whose CPA explains their tax returns and profit-and-losses (P&Ls)? They will brag; you can ask them to brag. Once you become comfortable asking for referrals, your prospects will skyrocket.
  3. Conduct in-person client-review sessions. This way both you will have your client’s full attention they will have the same from you. It need not be as long as a strategic planning session, but it should be quality time. Schedule sessions now for Season #3: May and June. Make it a value-add for your clients by offering a cursory statement review at no additional cost. Insist to do so as their financial counselor. It is their responsibility to understand the intricate numbers of their business, but it is your responsibility to help them.
  4. Attend workshops. These client-review sessions cost time. Yet, it can be profitable just through retention and referrals. Moreover, your initial session can help you offer strategic planning at reasonable rates. The AICPA’s Trusted Business Advisor Workshops can help you hone your skills in this area and thus, your review sessions can springboard a new profit center.
  5. Introduce your staff associates to your clients over the phone. The cursory review sessions (explanations) can then be handled by your junior accountants. Not only does this reduce your personal time, but it can also ensure the future of your practice beyond your presence. Unless your staff accountants are experienced and trained, clients would benefit more by meeting with you. This also secures the clients with you and your firm.
  6. Provide personal attention. This effectively distinguishes your practice. Still, investing this much time may seem like an unnecessary burden, until the practice down the street approaches your client. Opt for more efficient processes by conducting small group sessions at your office. Hold seminars on ‘Industry Numbers’ bringing together like-minded clients within a single industry, such as construction. Together, you can review what their numbers should be, in comparison to national and local averages and trends.
  7. Have clients network with one another. Private information need not be discussed, though your clients may want to bring their statements for comparison. Your clients can benefit from networking with your other clients. This helps you ask for referrals. You can ask clients to invite their vendors, resellers and key clients to also understand the state of the industry and its related numbers. Such seminars can also springboard lucrative strategic planning sessions.

Conclusion

Ultimately, reviewing your clients accounting figures should:

  • Educate clients on their own business; and
  • Showcase your genuine interest in their success.

Scheduling private sessions or small groups with this in mind will definitely grow your practice. The marketing motive — retention and referrals — should fulfill itself as you do the right thing. Of course, asking your clients to share the benefits of your ‘review sessions’ is a simple way for them to recommend you. Enjoy the season!

AICPA RESOURCES: Client Service Resource Center

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Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for accountants and attorneys. Rajan helps CPA practices with their marketing action plans, within professional codes of ethics and compliance. For more marketing ideas, please visit PracticeMarketingBLOG.com.