Five client targeting tactics for accountants

Five client targeting tactics for accountants

They say you don’t know what you’ve got till you lose it. And for companies choosing accounting services, the reverse can also apply: they may not know what they need until they get it.

That’s why accountants can’t just offer their expertise on a plate and wait for customers to choose. Firms looking to win new clients must stay on the lookout for companies in need of their various services – even if the companies themselves don’t know it yet.

A business can get used to making do and may take time to realise that they need more accounting services. By anticipating such needs before they become urgent, accountants can get better at identifying potential new customers and cross-selling to existing ones.

Research by Unbiased has revealed patterns in the uptake of accounting services among SMEs. Analysis of these patterns has yielded these helpful tips for growing your client list and squeezing more business from it.

1.    Keep an eye on the top 10 services

Perhaps the simplest tip is to bear in mind the hierarchy of accounting services in terms of popularity. Some services are always going to be more in demand among SMEs than others, so it’s natural to target the top three slots (reporting, bookkeeping and payroll).

It’s also worth checking to see what’s next in line. For instance, if the client is already sorted for the big three services, then target areas like VAT accounting, tax efficiency and cash flow management.

Here is the full rundown:

  1. Annual accounts and reporting
  2. Bookkeeping
  3. Payroll
  4. Handling VAT
  5. Improving tax efficiency
  6. Maintaining cash flow
  7. Business planning
  8. Credit control (chasing payments etc)
  9. Taking income from the business
  10. Raising finance (bank or private equity)

2.     Remember that size matters

As every accountant knows, the larger a business, the more accounting services it will probably need. The interesting thing is that as businesses grow, they don’t just increase the number of accounting services they use – they also tend to engage them in the order of the hierarchy.

For instance, one-person businesses such as contractors use accountants in a very limited way and those that do tend to be restricted to accounts and reporting services. But businesses with up to nine staff start to use bookkeepers more, along with payroll and VAT accounting (around of fifth of businesses in our survey used each of these services). Among businesses with 10-49 staff, a fifth now also use tax accounting.

With larger SMEs (50-249 staff) there was an interesting shift. There’s widespread use of more specialist services, with one in five using cash flow management, credit control and tax accounting tools in addition to those services mentioned above. But use of the standard accounting and reporting services declines somewhat, perhaps because some of these larger SMEs are automating these processes. As businesses grow beyond a certain size, they may start to reserve their accountants for skills that IT solutions cannot replicate so easily.

3.     Leverage your sector specialisms

Certain sectors seem to generate more demand for some services than others do. Though the reasons behind this are not always immediately obvious, with the survey finding several strong correlations between sectors and particular accounting services.

The most striking example of this is the IT and computing sector. IT companies showed significantly above-average demand for all the specialist accounting services and were also the most likely to use a wide range of services.

Other sectors that show notable demand for niche services included manufacturing (VAT, tax accounting, cash flow management and credit control), construction (cash flow, business planning and raising finance), and food and drink (VAT accounting and taking income from the business).

4.     To achieve growth, assist growth

Companies seeking growth funding are more likely to be on the brink of rapid growth and the right accounting services can maximise their chances of securing that funding (whether via bank loans or private equity), so highlighting these services in your own offering can be a good way to attract clients who have plans to go places. Accountants can provide the helping hand they need to achieve their goals and, as they grow, their demand for your other services should also increase proportionally – think long-term.

5.     Note the boss’s age

Bit of an odd one – but our research identified an interesting split between companies with older and younger CEOs. Those with bosses in their 50s seem much more likely to use the basic accounting services and less likely to use the more specialist ones. Conversely, companies with CEOs in their 30s and 40s are more prolific in their use of services like cash flow management, business planning and raising finance – which makes sense, since these younger companies are more likely to be in a growth phase. At the same time, these entrepreneurial businesses are significantly less likely to use basic accounting services. Therefore, checking the age of the boss could offer a clue – no more – as to the range of services you may be able to sell.

Remember that gaining clients isn’t about them choosing you – it’s also about you choosing them.

Listing your firm with Unbiased is an effective way to focus your marketing efforts on the types of customers that you most want to attract. And remember that you can always start small, offering basic services first and then cross-selling additional ones. Once you have their attention, you can show them what they’re missing out on.


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