Funnel or Filter?
I went to a networking meeting last week which included a presentation from a marketing expert who was talking about using on-line tools to generate leads.
He was talking about building a “sales funnel” but was picked up by a member of the audience who expressed a view that it was perhaps a filter not a funnel as otherwise both good and poor quality leads could end up passing through the funnel and ending up as clients.
I thought this was a good point and reminded me that an accountant client relationship is a little a marriage – a two way process which both parties should feel is valuable to them. At the point of engagement the accountant should be sure that the prospective client understands his proposition and basis of charging and is in agreement with it.
Taking on the clients that fit your proposition as an accountant will negate the need to profile clients later down the line. Should, however, you need to profile your clients as your practice matures I would suggest that they are likely to fall into three categories:
1. “A” clients – those who are not price sensitive and are open to new offerings.
2. “B” clients – those that are “price neutral” i.e are prepared to pay the market rate for your
size of practice, but who are unlikely to being receptive to you up-selling services to them.
3. “C” clients – those who are price sensitive, don’t value your services and are poor payers
Clearly all accountants would like a portfolio of “A” clients but unless you have a clear proposition from the outset which fits with their requirements and have built a practice around them it is more likely that your practice consists of some “A” clients a lot of “B” clients and some “C” clients.
Clearly you should encourage the “C” clients to find other advisers, whilst marketing yourself around a proposition that will attract “A” and “B” clients. An “A” client of mine recently had a marketing letter from another firm asking when their current accountant last asked them what was important to them. That’s a good point and is consistent with the need to ensure that you are always listening to your clients “pain” so that you can up-sell, where appropriate.
All three categories of client are likely to take compliance services for granted and be more interested in services which add value. This in turn means that sales propositions to attract new clients should be based on value based services. These could include legitimate ways of mitigating tax liabilities and ways of raising finance to help accelerate growth.
Harnessing technology is increasingly important as well and is a way of differentiating yourself from other practices. This could include using on-line accounts packages as well as techniques such as benchmarking to enable you to give clients more meaningful management information.
The bottom line is that we usually get the clients we deserve in terms of how we market ourselves and service our clients but as I mentioned at the outset – just be aware of the difference between a funnel and a filter to help ensure that you achieve a good match between you and your clients.
If you are setting up a new accountancy practice or need help growing your existing practice please contact me on 0129 879140 for an informal chat.
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