Tax season represents one of the best opportunities to build your lead pipeline for the upcoming year. Your firm will touch almost every client in the next few months, which increases retention, presents cross-selling opportunities and provides the chance to ask for referrals. One of the most common problems accounting firms have is communication with their clientele. Although most firms manage to address compliance needs, they do not always have the time to investigate or suggest extended service opportunities.
The culprit is the time compression of the service delivery period. The demand for services combined with deadlines create a situation that takes the advisory capacity away from accountants and turns them into a volume-producing machine. If they don't develop a 'crank and churn' mentality, they will miss deadlines or drive staff so hard that the firm will have a difficult time with recruiting and retention.
By default, firms are forced to first concentrate on compliance services and then address advisory services. Most firms never get the number of consulting engagement opportunities needed to evolve their advisory services to its fullest potential. Accounting firms 'advertise' consulting capabilities in their web sites and literature, but when pressed for details, the consulting is often tax or estate planning. Yes, those services are critical, but the CEO is 'time-strapped' just like you and needs someone to help with operational insight. It's the 'non-tax' advisory areas that can really grow in most firms.
A large company CEO has a 'crew' of advisors. CEOs surround themselves with vice presidents and industry specialists. Your entrepreneurial and emerging or mid-sized clients are often equipped with a good, but limited support staff. They are more dependent on input from outside advisors or learn to be self-reliant. Advisory-minded firms increase revenues with existing clients by embracing the role of the outside advisor. This consultative approach is often used to 'steal' high-paying compliance business away from competitors.
You set the business tone with clients. If the initial conversation is on tax and audit issues, and the focus remains tax and audit oriented, then the opportunity to transcend to the trusted confidant level diminishes. Clients require tax and audit services, but they may not value them because they do not understand the effort or strategy involved in tax planning or a thorough audit. When a professional assumes that a client understands the value they are providing, they undermine the value of their services.
Marketing starts in tax season. The focus on meeting deadlines is difficult to overcome, but if a firm wants to expand revenues they need to take time to interview clients. This is really a data collection process that captures needs and at the same time educates the client so they understand why they may have other concerns beyond tax or accounting issues.
Tailor a business development approach to fit your firm's style, delivery capabilities and realistic win possibilities. Focus on five different targets: