It’s that time of year again – tax season. Only accounting professionals truly understand the grueling busy season, which usually means little time for sleep, meals, or family and friends. Many will have their nose to the grindstone with their sole focus on getting the work completed. Who has time for networking or marketing during busy season? If that is how you think, then you may be missing a great opportunity for referrals!
Referrals remain the most effective marketing method for accounting professionals. People trust and value referrals for an accountant more than any other form of marketing or advertising. When clients refer someone to you, they are vouching for you and it increases their loyalty to you.
Tax season is an opportune time to cultivate referrals and obtain new clients. These 5 tips will help you generate referrals with minimal time required.
#1: Be worthy of referrals. Always provide professional and quality service for existing clients. When clients are happy with your services, they are more likely to provide referrals for you. When you complete their tax return (or other services), ask them if they are satisfied or happy with the services performed (if they answer is no, then address the problem or issue so the answer is yes). This is a perfect time to ask if they know of others who could benefit from your services too.
In addition, communicate and develop a relationship with existing clients. It is surprising how many clients are uncomfortable asking their accountant a question or think their accountant does not have time for them. How likely are they to provide you with a referral?
#2: Clarify ideal referrals. Identify the types of clients and services that make an ideal referral for you. Are you looking for clients in specific industries? Clients of a certain size? Clients at a certain stage of business? Do you want more tax clients? Clients for monthly bookkeeping or write up? Clients who need payroll services? You need to be able to community the types of clients and services that would be an ideal referral for you.
Another best practice is to rank existing clients to identify your best clients (A level), adequate clients (B level) or marginal clients (C level). Obviously you want more A-level clients. Definitely ask A level clients for referrals and hopefully they will provide A level referrals.
#3: Ask for referrals. Many accountants simply do not ask for referrals. Many existing clients or others are happy to provide you with referrals if you ask for them. You can ask for referrals in a variety of ways:
- Verbally when you provide them with their tax return (or other services).
- Request testimonials for your website or reviews elsewhere.
- Statement in your email signature – “Referrals are welcome and appreciated.”
- Social media – especially Linkedin, which is much more effective for business professionals than Facebook and Twitter according to several studies.
Tip #4: Develop strategic referral partners. Cultivate referral relationships with others who work with your ideal type of clients such as bankers, attorneys, insurance agents, real estate agents, organizations such as the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and others. To develop mutual referral partners, cultivate a relationship with them. They need to know, like and trust you prior to providing you with referrals – and vica versa for you to provide referrals for them. Emails or letters are not sufficient to develop strategic referral partners. You need to meet (coffee or lunch works great) or talk to get to know each other and keep in contact to maintain the relationship.
Do not overlook other accounting professionals as they may be a great source of referrals. For example, perhaps you provide monthly bookkeeping or payroll services but not tax preparation. Personally, I focus on QuickBooks training and consulting and I do not provide tax services. When you specialize in the types of services provided, it is easier to exchange referrals with other accounting professionals.
Tip #5: Develop a referral system. Have a system to track and follow up with referrals. Always ask new clients how they found you and follow up with the person who provided the referral. When the referral becomes a new client, thank the person providing the referral with a discount for future services, a gift card or charitable contribution in their name. If the referral does not work out, still thank the person providing the referral and let them know why it didn’t work out. This helps you communicate what types of referrals are right for you.
Cultivating referrals does not require a lot of time and can result in many new clients. During tax season, don’t forget to ask existing clients for referrals, follow up and provide others with referrals too. Follow these 5 tips and with patience and persistence, you will see an increase in referrals and new clients.
This blog first appeared on Intuit Accountant’s News Central