How to accurately identify what your accounting clients really need

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Pain – it’s not a word that usually evokes thoughts of opportunity or growth but when used in the context of identifying the unmet needs of your clients, suddenly it has a whole new meaning.

I’ve had an interesting few months listening to Principals of accounting firms, and in particular, their answers when I ask about their ‘pain points’. Sometimes the question is met with confusion – “what do you mean by our pain points?”.

Sorry, that’s marketing jargon for finding out what’s hurting a business so a solution can be found to heal it.

From the perspective of running an accounting practice, let’s start with knowing what your clients’ pain points are so you can offer specific solutions. A solution might be a service you already offer or it could be something new. Identifying your clients’ pain points may not only generate more revenue from your current service offering, but it can often help to create opportunities on which to expand your business.

 

How does this benefit accounting firms?

Simple – business clients have management problems – ‘their pain points’ – but don’t go to their accountants for ‘the cure’. This is probably because the client doesn’t know their accountant can offer a solution… usually because their accountant has never told them.

“But how do we find out what our clients’ pain points are so that we can offer to fix them?”

I smile when asked this because it’s not something you get by sending out an email with the subject line “Tell us your pain points”. Well, I suppose you could do that but I’m pretty sure you’re not going to get too many responses! There is a far more effective method – feed them information.

We produce relevant content focused on various issues/pain points and we measure what people engage with. It could be a blog post they read or an e-book they download. This activity gives us insights about what they need help with. Our system tracks this activity and alerts the Partner to the related opportunities.

 

Here it comes, the biggest pain point of all

“That’s all sounds great, but we don’t have the time to do all that.”

Partners and their staff obviously work hard expanding their service offering to existing clients, but they lack the time and resources to effectively communicate this on a regular basis. (See my point above about accountants not telling their clients what else they can do). And more importantly, to communicate it in a way that measures clients’ interest.

So how does marketing automation help?

Typically, a series of emails is prepared. The first email is carefully crafted to pique the interest of your clients by discussing their pain points and how your firm’s solutions can address their pain. The automation platform then tracks which clients engage with the content and – based on how they engage  – triggers a series of highly relevant, personalised follow up emails. The platform is also configured to send an alert to the Partner who manages the client or service which informs them of the client’s interest, behaviour pattern and even their contact details.

This level of business development support makes it much easier for the Partner to engage the client in a meaningful discussion and provide information about additional services and solutions relevant to them.

The process can be repeated, with each subsequent email or web interaction adding more value as your client’s pain points are explored further. In time, using this approach we’ve seen the share of clients only using tax return services declining in favour of those also using higher-value business advisory services.

Overall we have been able to deliver a 25-30% improvement to the firm’s billings by assisting with the development and introduction of new advice services via this process.

 

No more pain – we do all the hard work

Believe it or not, marketing automation is nothing new. Many of the Partners I’ve met have been exposed to the technology because they’ve been tracked themselves while using search engines. Still when they hear about this approach they assume it’s a lot of hard work. And it can be if you use old sales tools.

So you should see the reactions I get when I tell them that their involvement is minimal because my team and I do all the configuration work and then it largely runs itself!

We set everything up so the marketing automation program tracks their clients’ interest through the information the firm sends (which we also create) showing the Partner what their clients want. It’s a non-invasive way of gathering data; giving the firm precise intelligence about its client base that no amount of surveys will ever achieve.

It transforms the way accountants identify their clients’ pain points to enable them to deliver expanded services and personalised solutions – profitably.

58% of clients generate fees of less than $5, 000 per year. Produce more yield from clients by cross-selling added value services.

 

For a chat email me at mark.peall@permission.com.au or call us on 1800 737 266.

 

References:

Succession planning statistic: http://www.lindfieldpartners.com.au/news/succession-planning/

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