Searching for the first clients for your startup accounting business might seem like finding a needle in a haystack (or, for you Harry Potter fans, like finding a Horcrux in the Room of Requirement). In reality, however, it can actually be pretty simple, thanks to powerful apps and social media marketing. Or, you might have better luck finding your first ten accounting clients the old-fashioned way, via face-to-face interaction. Better still, why not combine both types of marketing to find those first customers?
Expert Advice for Finding Accounting Clients
Here are 10 ways to find your initial accounting clients and start building your business:
- Ask friends, family and colleagues for referrals. The wider you spread the word that you’re looking for clients, the more people you’ll find who know someone that needs your accounting expertise. Since more than 80 percent of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind, word-of-mouth marketing can be one of your most effective ways to find clients. Talk up your new business to everyone you know (be sure to have business cards ready to hand out, too). In return, offer to hand out business cards for your friends and family members who are looking for new business as well.
- Use online ratings and review sites. Online ratings and review sites are the digital word-of-mouth. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers make a purchase after visiting Yelp. But how can you make sure your new accounting business is represented on Yelp, when you’re just starting out and don’t yet have any clients to review your business? Easy. By purchasing a few Yelp ads when you open your business and start searching for customers, you can be sure local prospects looking for accounting services will see your business’s name. Yelp ads appear in a variety of places, including on relevant search result pages and competitors’ business pages.
- Focus on your niche. Do you have a specialty such as accounting for small businesses or for a specific industry? If so, get involved with that specialty’s trade associations and industry groups. Speak at their conferences, attend networking events and follow them on all relevant social media platforms. Staying close to the groups in your niche not only increases your chances of meeting new clients, but it also helps you stay on the cutting edge. You’ll be up to date on the latest concerns your target clients have and any emerging legislation. The more knowledgeable you can become on the topics important to your clients, the more you can help solve their specific issues. For example, suppose you decide to specialize in accounting for the elderly. In this case, you’ll want to work with retirement homes or other groups catering to seniors. Volunteer your services for a few hours to help members with tax forms, or give free, informative talks.
- Get involved with social media groups. LinkedIn and Facebook, in particular, have strong group page dynamics. Ask to join groups and then search for relevant topics or questions. Start answering members’ accounting questions, and offer additional help offline or IRL (in real life). You can search for topics or keywords across all platforms with a free search tool like Social Searcher. If you want to set up an account so the search results are sent automatically to your email, Social Searcher has several package price options.
- Target startup businesses. New businesses often don’t have accountants yet. Look for business startups by volunteering for organizations such as your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE which provide free or low-cost consulting to business owners. Be extra helpful by adding other services, such as incorporation services, LLC filings, and annual corporate compliance. You can even earn a commission by becoming a referral partner or offer the service in-house through a reseller program.
- Content marketing. Websites love offers of free content. Offer to be a guest blogger for relevant websites that your target clients visit. Be sure to turn in high quality posts rich with relevant keywords so you bhigh-qualityst’s ranking and also make a name for yourself as an expert in your field. Be sure to include a link to your website URL and any other information on how visitors can reach your accounting business. Since video marketing is getting more popular, you can also record speeches you make and offer them as content to other websites or offer to do a webinar and/or podcast for the site.
- Partner with other professionals. Seek out other professionals in your area to see if they have partnered with an accounting business. Attorneys, personal and business investment consultants, and even IT pros probably have clients in need of services your accounting startup can provide. Offer to refer their businesses to your clients as your company gets off the ground. You can even look for well-established accounting firms that may not have expertise in your area of specialization.
- Arrange for barter. Why not trade your accounting services for another entrepreneur’s product or services? For example, barter your accounting skills to a graphic designer in return for a logo, or to a website designer in exchange for getting your website up and running. You can join an official barter exchange (search for them online) or use informal barter with other local business owners. Even if you don’t make any money off the exchange, you’ll get something beneficial out of it—and once you’ve developed a relationship with the other business, you may also get some referrals out of the deal.
- Do accounting for an organization you belong to. Are you active with your church group, kids’ school or a local charity? You can build your business’s reputation and spread the word about your accounting business by volunteering to do the group’s accounting tasks for free (think PTA treasurer). The more people you get to know and organizations you get involved with, the easier getting those first 10 paying accounting clients will be. Most organizations also have newsletters or membership guides where you can purchase a classified ad. In the case of a school, you could sponsor the annual carnival, talent show or sports team.
- Take advantage of the holidays. Offer discounts on your services by advertising around holidays. You don’t have to wait for a big holiday; instead, stand out by advertising a discount on more obscure holidays such as Grandparents Day. Think out of the box, be clever and rein in new clients with a special offer. Maybe you can offer to answer the first three accounting questions for free or offer to help a business client incorporate.
Once you get those first 10 accounting clients, take good care of them to build a lasting relationship. Make sure all their needs are met, show your appreciation for their business, and only then ask them for referrals to grow your client base.