Marketing does not have to take a back seat just because you are swamped during tax season. In fact, this is one of the best times to grow your practice. Your prospective clients are right now getting frustrated with their current practitioner because they are:
- Dealing with an inexperienced tax preparer — not you, a CPA;
- Not having their calls returned from their current accountant; and
- Not receiving the high-level service that you provide.
Best Practice Tips to Grow Your Firm
By following these three tips, marketing will be a natural extension of client service.
- Answer a Question With a Question
Your clients will naturally have accounting questions about their household income and/or business. They’ll ask about new write-offs, tax incentives and mundane bookkeeping issues. Of course, many clients don’t know what to ask.
As their trusted adviser, it is your responsibility to bring up insightful questions. Moreover, if they do ask a seemingly simple question, there’s probably more to it, as surely you’ve found out in the past. Instead of just answering their question, ask a follow-up, such as: “What prompted you to think of asking it now?”; “I’m sure there’s more behind that question.”; or “How would you answer that question for yourself?”
Such questions help to uncover, discover and reveal misgivings, misunderstandings, assumptions, myths, stigma and mistakes that would otherwise remain hidden under a shroud of embarrassment, blank stares, shrugs and absent-minded head-nodding. Of course, it’s easier and quicker to simply answer and move on to the next tax return. After all, you’re the financial doctor and you have a waiting room full of tax patients. Then again, how does it feel when your doctor dismisses your questions and your presence in mere minutes of his time?
In the age of blogs, newsletters and online group discussions, the answers your clients are seeking are out there. They may not be complete, thorough or correct, but your peers — who are willing to invest time educating your clients — are waiting with greener grass. More importantly, client retention is as important as new business.
So, take the time to peak under the hood by asking follow-up questions, which will lead you to more business and help avoid costly surprises.
- Book a Meeting From a Meeting
Tax season is the best time to find out about your clients’ need for other financial services or further expanding your consultative advisory relationship. Very often, clients are ushered out the door with a passive, “Let’s talk after tax season.” While this is easier, it’s not good marketing.
Vacations, holidays, work and phone tag cause delays. Spring quickly turns into summer and into extensions time. Lost months lead to lost business, missed opportunities and reactive client service (missing early detections, corrections and improvements).
Your clients will be in front of you. Tell them why they should schedule time now to avoid further delays. Even better, schedule a year’s worth of quarterly meetings (matter of course for business clients and wonderfully insightful for households as well). As their financial doctor, you should treat them to regular, scheduled check-ups.
- Cash, Then Carry
Poor realization rate is the top killer of cash-flow and profitability in a small CPA practice. Far too many CPA practices throw good time after bad time at bad clients. You can avoid unethical practices by turning down the business upfront.
A figurative “cash, then carry” policy is the easiest business rule-of-thumb to enact, but it still takes discipline. Luckily, technology can help. Online and other credit card payment systems, subscription retainers and simple monthly payment plans are obvious solutions. Unfortunately, the enforcement will require buy-in from your partners. Consider this a reminder to officially declare office policy for real this time.
Bad habits are hard to break with old clients and partners. New clients are expecting a breath of fresh air when they switch to your firm. Mark delineated practices, policies and systems clearly to affirm their correct decision in coming to you. As their CPA, you should lead by example with best financial practices.
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Vikram Rajan offers CPAs a consistent referral marketing system through phoneBlogger.net.