Author Archives: Mark Peall

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/

Are you a time poor accountant? Here’s your solution

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Over the past year, I’ve spoken with many Partners of accounting firms, asking them what their biggest hurdle is when it comes to growing revenue from their existing client base.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s something as simple as lack of time. My research tells me that 45-55% of Partners don’t have enough time, and say their main challenge is getting drowned in email, paperwork and compliance.

The comment about having to be compliant with ever-increasing regulation is understandable. But I was confounded to hear that paperwork and communication eats up so much of their time because there is a range of readily available technology that provides great solutions for managing both.

So diving a bit further down I discovered that the issue is not really lack of time; the problem facing exasperated Partners is not knowing what solutions are available to handle these tasks. They are not aware, for example, that marketing to existing clients can be fully automated, allowing Partners and their staff to reach into the pot of gold that is right under their noses – with minimal demand on time.

 

Transactions are no longer business builders – so what is?

We all know that more businesses, particularly SMEs, are utilising cloud-based programs like XERO and MYOB to reduce time and money spent on accounting, causing transactional revenue to disappear into thin air.

Smart accountants are building their firm’s revenue and value by taking a strategic role in their clients’ businesses, such as offering advice on business structuring and the often over-looked succession planning. Partners sometimes join the client’s business in a board advisory role bringing corporate governance and financial management to the table.

But, again from my conversations with Partners, most are only doing this with the top 5% of their client base – the remaining 95% are left untapped. “We don’t have time to build relationships with everyone.”

 

A powerful solution is now available to time-poor Partners

For some years now anyone who’s used a search engine has been aware that big companies have been tracking our internet activity via our searches and other online behaviour. You know what I mean; you’re thinking of upgrading your Audi so do a few searches and then on your subsequent Google visits you see advertisements for new cars popping up. Well, that technology is no longer restricted to big budget conglomerates. That technology, called marketing automation, is now available through affordable platforms to help you reach and correspond effectively with the untapped 95% of your clients.

 

I’ve seen it work – here’s a great example

Working with an accounting firm whose Partners only had time to build full relationships with just the top 5% of their client base, we set about looking for a campaign focus that might appeal to a sizeable proportion of their client base.

“It is reported that 75% of business owners do not have a formal exit plan.”

Identifying this glaring statistic as an opportunity, we created a campaign to reach every single client with information about the importance of succession planning – what is involved and how professional advice would help to add more value to their business when the time came to sell.

The end result was that more clients realised the accountant could help them in other ways they hadn’t considered. This repositioned the firm/Partner as someone to rely on for a range of business assistance – with little impact on the firm’s time or resources.

“79% of high performing firms believe adding value to existing customers is the most effective strategy for growth – seems to be working for them”

The program guided clients and prospective clients through a range of helpful online material educating them about the advisory capacity of the Partner and how it can improve their business. It automatically tracked the client’s journey through the campaign, identifying when their interest reached a targeted level and then triggering a ‘hot’ sales alert to the Partner to follow up.

So that’s a single call to a highly qualified lead, instead of trying to call the entire client list and wasting everybody’s time. Plus, automating the communication process guarantees that no-one falls through the cracks.

 

We know what accounting firms need and we do all the hard work

What’s so easy about using marketing automation is that we do all the hard work at Permission.

My team and I use Act-on technology to deliver the information necessary to build a trusted adviser relationship. We track clients’ consumption of this information and deliver reports to the Partner with names of clients interested in meeting them and what they want to talk about.

It literally transforms the way accountants attract, convert and retain clients.

“Companies using marketing automation generate twice as many leads and see 53% higher conversion rates.”

 

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/