Getting Aggressive: Fearlessly Leveraging Word of Mouth, Supply Chain, and More

March 31st, 2016

Let's talk about a subject seldom broached in accounting circles. That is, let's talk about aggressiveness.

Although clients and colleagues alike appreciate a certain level of conservativeness in an accountancy, one thing that many (let's be honest!) partners could stand is to let their proverbial hair down and to permit themselves to proactively solicit new business - aggressively. Growth is the path to sustaining a practice, and, unfortunately, all too many partners working at firms around the globe are just too docile about growth.

The prospect of actively marketing your firm's menu of services may seem daunting, but the reality of the situation is that, in an increasingly competitive market, every firm – even those veritable institutions – have every reason to outreach in the name of growth. Lest you let your firm founder, here are three ways to get more aggressive about growing your practice.

Tip #1: Show and Tell to Generate Word-of-Mouth Advertising

"Ensure your employees understand what your brand stands for so they are your first line of word-of-mouth advertising." - Simon Mainwaring

Here's some news for you: accountancies seldom enjoy the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that benefits other types of businesses. Why? Few people sing the praises of their accountant because they a) don't know what the hell accountants actually do and b) take for granted the fact that their books look great. In your clients' minds, it's your job to make their numbers look good and help them avoid being audited. Even when you succeed on those expectations, and even exceeded them, there is little visible evidence for your client to say about it.

To enlist the support of your existing clients, you have to tell them what you do. If in the course of a yearly engagement, you recover money that they are able to realise on their taxes, they have no clue, unless you tell them. A great time to do this is when you tender a re-engagement proposal. This will serve two purposes: sustaining the existing relationship and giving that client something to talk about.

Tip #2: Think Logically and Explore the Supply Chain

When it comes time to aggressively expand your accounting practice, you needn't reinvent the wheel. It's safe to think logically, and that can very well mean soliciting the businesses that supply your existing clients. Think about it. If you've cornered the market for restaurant accounting in your city, why not reach out to food suppliers.

Chances are, you have a good idea which businesses to look at, given that you have probably handled paperwork from them on behalf of one of your old clients. Likewise, if you've got all the local auto garages on lockdown, why not parts houses? If it's stockyards, why not feed supply?

Your next client may neither be more of the same nor something altogether different. It could just be the next logical step in the supply chain.

Tip #3: Be Fearless in the Face of Changing Markets

The core services of accounting may have served you well, but times, they are a-changing. Client demand for new services can dictate movement in your market. On which side of the movement your firm resides is up to you. If you have stuck to core offerings as upstarts in your neighbourhood market have made steady games, it may time to get ahead of the transitions. If you've stuck to accounting and tax compliance, look at your menu of services and think about the processes which would cost little, in terms of hours on your end, to offer. Could you manage accounts payable as a service? Might you add payroll services?

Given the ease of automating those types of activities for firms today, why not offer more. This, once again, opens up a new billable service or two to your existing clients while making your practice more attractive to new businesses that might be in search of a practice offering a more comprehensive menu than simply core accounting.

Do you have any tips for getting more aggressive about growing an accounting practice? We'd love to hear what you think. Please share your best go-getting ideas in the comments space below.

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