Preparing our firms for the future starts with maintaining a solid pipeline of clients. But when we’re busy serving our current clients and completing our day-to-day business operations, spending time finding new clients can often take a backseat. Eventually, the lack of a steady flow of new business can start impacting our firm’s profits.

We need to make time to attract new business by building successful relationships and prioritizing marketing. The hard work doesn’t stop when we win new clients, either – we then need to keep them happy and confident that we’re the right firm for them. In the long run, this can create substantial savings: retaining current clients is five to 25 times more cost-efficient than constantly finding new ones.

The following tips on attracting and retaining new clients can help achieve business growth.

Build Successful Relationships

We may be accountants, but our clients often view us as much more than that. Many see us as their trusted advisors, consultants, and coaches – professionals who are genuinely interested in our clients’ financial success.

Engaging with clients at a deeper level rather than only discussing tax strategies or an upcoming audit shows that we genuinely care. When we know, like, and trust someone, we’re more likely to refer them by word of mouth to friends and family, which is the best type of referral available. It’s also why paid advertising – like monthly mailers and newspaper ads – should be the secondary approach behind relationship building. People want someone they can trust, and they’re more likely to trust an accountant from someone recommended by a friend than a paid advertisement.

Listening is the key to any relationship, and the accountant-client relationship is no different. Ask the right questions to new and existing clients, and then actually listen to their answers. When it comes to accounting matters, we need to be proactive rather than reactive. Offer guidance, advice, and education to our clients.

To learn how to serve our clients best, develop a clear understanding of their expectations of our services, preferred communications methods, and personal and business goals. For new clients, asking these types of questions can help us determine if they’ll be a good fit for our firms.

Building referral relationships with other businesses is also important. Partnering up with lawyers, financial planners, or other like-minded professionals can provide a whole new client source for both parties involved.

Make Marketing a Priority

Marketing is a key pillar of business success. An important marketing focus for any accounting firm should be ensuring there’s a solid online presence.

When we connect with clients, we need to use a method that resonates with them, and for millennials – the largest generation of Canadians currently – that’s with technology. This resourceful group is quick to type their questions and queries – such as finding an accounting firm – into search engines. Without a website, we’re missing out on the potential opportunity for our firm to show up in their search results.

Just having a website isn’t enough, though. We need to maintain it properly, increase its user-friendliness, and strengthen its search engine optimization (SEO). Improving SEO is a constant battle that requires creating authoritative content consistently, completing strong keyword research, and performing technical optimizations such as writing meta descriptions and image alt tags.

Social media is another component of a strong SEO strategy. Most people are on social media these days, and our firms should be, too. Leverage free platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter to provide insights on tax, accounting, and business issues. Be strategic in which social platforms you dip into first, as there is a role for each in your marketing strategy, but not a need for all. Being active on social media appeals to Millennials and Generation Z – soon to be a significant customer base in 10 to 15 years.

Email marketing also provides a great way to target potential clients that embrace technology. It’s an effective communications method to alert clients of upcoming tax deadlines, highlight important legislation that may affect their business, request referrals, and grow our firms.

Between blogging, posting on socials, and sending out emails, we need to balance the amount of communicating we do. Too much communication, and we risk current, new, and potential clients unsubscribing; too little, and we don’t remain at the forefront of their minds when they need an accountant.

Building a successful content marketing strategy takes time, patience, and practice to figure out what works best for our firms. But in the end, when done right, it can lead to great results and lower client acquisition costs compared to paid advertising. For firms that recognize they don’t have the time or expertise with marketing, outsourcing is always an option to consider.

Offer the Best Knowledge and Service

Research shows that almost 80 percent of clients view being trustworthy as the most important quality they want in an accountant. To meet those expectations, we need to deliver helpful advice based on our technical expertise. Professional development courses ensure we stay current on best practices and industry news as well as meet annual CPA requirements.

We also need to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Consider offering value-added services beyond filing tax returns, such as payroll, bookkeeping, and business planning. Embracing niche or specialized accounting is also becoming popular. Some firms limit their clients to a specific industry – such as non-profits or healthcare – to establish themselves as authoritative leaders.

Most importantly, we need to be there for our clients when they need us the most. We can do this by being responsive, embracing new technology to appeal to the younger generations, and communicating clearly when connecting with existing and new clients.

Parting Words

Attracting and retaining new clients needs to be a priority in addition to our day-to-day accounting practice. Signing new clients ensures our firms remain vital and helps account for occasions when long-standing clients decide they no longer need our services.

Although attracting new clients can never be replaced, retaining existing ones is valuable and more cost-efficient. By developing strong relationships, utilizing effective communications strategies, and providing the best knowledge and service, we can both attract and retain new clients – at the same time as we lay the foundation for future business success.

Remaining current on the latest tax, audit, and regulatory content helps Canadian CPAs provide the best accounting advice to new and existing clients. View our comprehensive selection of over 100 professional development courses and webinars to learn more.