Selling your accounting services in a virtual world
Selling accounting services today is very different from how it used to be. Firstly, most interactions take place digitally, and secondly, the market itself has changed. Clients behave differently and expect different things. Having learnt how to survive the many challenges of the past two years, now’s the time to hone the skills of marketing and selling your accounting services virtually.
It may seem a daunting task to peddle one’s trade in the online space. For starters, in marketing and selling your services digitally, it may feel that all face-to-face contact has been lost. However, this need not hinder the process if we learn to intentionally make virtual interactions more intimate.
The first thing to get right is knowing the difference between marketing and selling. Marketing is the act of messaging your target market. It’s about consistently putting out content for your market to hear you and it’s got to be the right market. Going digital means your market has widened, but you still need to decide where to place your focus.
Do you want to focus on specific industries and market your accounting services to them or do you want to be more of a generalist? Also, do you want to specialise in certain services, for example, strictly bookkeeping, or specifically payroll, or perhaps navigating the complexities of tax for your clients?
Marketing to your target audience
In a virtual world, your website is your ‘shopfront’, and it’s the first place people go to assess what sort of business you are. You want your website to get more hits, but you first want to make sure you’re presenting the right image. To make it more personal, have pictures of yourself and your team members, their titles and what they do. This helps clients connect with you.
If you haven’t updated your website in six months, it’s time for a refresh. In a world where instant gratification rules, it’s essential that you make your services as quick and easy to understand. Remember also that most clients will read a review before making a decision to connect with you, so place your reviews prominently.
If you want to get more hits on your website, remember to use hashtags and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in all your posts. You could also consider using Google Ads. Using Google Ads allows you to specifically target the market you’re focusing on, and you can align your website with specific keywords so that you’re appearing as one of the first results to the right client.
Since business and social events are scarce these days, the opportunity for networking has diminished. However, word of mouth still applies, so ask your clients to rate your service and incentivise them to send more business your way. Offering a small discount on the next month’s invoice or offering an existing client a free advisory session for every new sign-up they refer to you is a good way to get your clients to do some marketing for you.
Crafting the right messaging
Marketing is about messaging your market very consistently and with very relevant information. This includes blogs on your website, posts on social media, and newsletters that are helpful to the industry. You can collaborate and do webinars or podcasts to add credence to your messaging and add weight to your reputation. Remember to talk about what’s relevant to potential clients in their specific industry – you’re not sending out messaging for other accountants.
Also important is that whenever you put out any kind of post, add a button for people to click on and respond if they liked it, or give them an email address or let them fill in a form so they have the ability to respond to you in some way.
Selling to potential clients
When someone responds to your messaging by sending an email or filling out a form, they have become a potential client. Once they’ve shown interest, it’s time to reach out to them. Selling is educating, so the more you can educate them, the more they trust you. This is when you explain, for example, why they need to have regular reports, why they need to keep their taxes up to date, why they need to transition to an online platform, and so on.
Being consistent is a large part of building trust and creating processes is what helps you be consistent. Following your processes steadfastly helps clients build trust in your ‘brand’ – accountants don’t sell products, they sell services, so the client experience you create is your brand.
The very first interaction is key. When someone emails you or fills out the form on your website, it’s an opportunity for human interaction. You then send out an email, explaining your values and what you believe is important in the relationship, for example, collaboration and communication. This is to determine whether your business and the potential clients have similar values.
When they agree with your values, you can send a second email with more information. They may want to hurry things up because they want you to do their taxes, for example, but you’re building a relationship, so each step is important. This is not a process of talking about accounting, it’s about discussing the potential client and their needs.
Ask them questions like ‘What are you struggling with?’, ‘Where are you succeeding?’, ‘Why do you want to do this now?’, ‘How do you want to grow in two years?’. These questions are important to let the client feel that you’re focused on them and that you’re demonstrating a high level of care.
Meeting face to face
After the emails, you can set up your very first face-to-face meeting on an online platform. This is where you discuss what the client values and expects. When you have this meeting, turn on your camera, ask your client to turn on their camera, and share your screen as well. These are tactile things that drive trust and intimacy. Then follow up with an email to let them know that you are creating pricing packages for them and you’re looking forward to presenting them soon.
Pricing your services
Now it’s time to set up the second face-to-face meeting and this is when you’ll have the conversation about pricing. You present a high, medium and low price – this helps them feel in control and able to choose which option is best for them. Often they’ll ask for a fourth option that combines elements of the three you first presented.
Your pricing should expire in seven to 10 days, so that the client is encouraged to make a decision and commit. Once they’ve agreed to the pricing, you begin setting up the contract detailing what services they can expect and the pricing structure. It’s important that you don’t start any work until the contract has been signed.
Once they’ve signed, you have a final meeting which is to celebrate their coming on board. Introduce people from your team and ask to be introduced to people from their team. This allows a more personal interaction and lets everyone feel part of a real partnership. This meeting is to celebrate them and to thank them.
Following these procedures may seem time-consuming, but it is necessary to build trust and start the relationship off right. It will also encourage the client to refer other clients to you in future. Marketing and selling your accounting service virtually need not be an intimidating prospect. By marketing correctly and having solid procedures in place, as well as using the tools available to create as personal an interaction as possible, you can succeed in growing your business in the online space.