In 2020, about 1.4 million jobs were held by accountants and auditors. A quarter of them worked for tax preparation services and about 5% were self-employed.
If you’re among the accounting practice owners and self-employed workers, you know how challenging it is to build a successful practice. There’s a tremendous amount of competition and people think they can DIY taxes to save a little money.
How do you get away from the constant struggle of keeping your accounting practice afloat? Is it possible to grow beyond self-employment and create an actual business?
It’s possible to create a thriving accounting company, even if you start with just a few accounting clients.
If you keep reading, you’ll learn exactly how to do it.
1. Build a Marketing Foundation
Business owners like to skip over the foundation and jump right to marketing tactics. You can do that, too. Keep in mind that your marketing tactics will crumble because you don’t have a solid foundation to build on.
Start by defining the brand of your accounting company. The brand is how people relate to your company or how you make them feel.
It can usually be summed up in just one or two words. Think of the large corporations and what they offer. Amazon’s brand is about speed and convenience. Coca-Cola offers happiness.
Defining a niche is central to your accounting practice. When you market your practice, you instantly want people to say, “That’s exactly what I need!”
There are a lot of ways to define a niche. You can start with your geographic area. For instance, your accounting company can be the premier accounting practice in the local area.
You can also cater to a specific market. Accountants can take advantage of seismic shifts happening in the labor market.
For instance, you can cater to small businesses that hire independent contractors. You’ll be able to help those businesses properly classify workers as contractors or employees.
Why is that important to them? You’ll save them thousands of dollars in potential fines and penalties.
A record number of small businesses started during the pandemic, with 440,000 starting in the first half of 2021. You can bet that most of these small business owners don’t know a lot about small business taxes.
You can position your accounting practice to work with newly self-employed and small business owners. Your job is to educate them on recordkeeping, deductions, and other important tax issues.
The marketing message answers a few questions. What problem do you solve? Who do you do it for? What sets your accounting practice apart from the rest?
This takes a deep understanding of your target audience. Learn what they fear the most about taxes and how you help solve them.
There are dozens of reasons why people work with accountants. Some want peace of mind, while others want to save time. Some people need an accountant to decide if it’s the right time to hire an employee or not.
The message needs to be communicated in a few sentences. This is your Unique Selling Proposition. If you get this right, you’ll have no problem attracting the right clients to your accounting practice.
Set goals for your accounting company. How many clients do you want to serve each year? How much money do you want to make?
Once you have your goals, you can create a strategy to achieve them. You can also create different levels of a plan.
An example is if you want to have a 5-person accounting company in the next five years. Reverse engineer the goal and figure out where you need to be at the end of each year.
Break your first year into smaller steps, and then break them down into 90-day goals. By the end, you’ll have quarterly and annual goals to achieve for the next five years.
2. Put Scalable Systems in Place
Businesses that grow can deliver the same level of quality to clients no matter how many clients they have. That’s the essence of having a scalable business.
This is the time to look at your current processes and see what you can do to limit the amount of time you spend on client work.
Accountants that do much of the work by hand know that it takes a long time to do a tax return. Not only that, but the potential for errors is incredibly high.
Working with accounting software enables you to do tax returns more efficiently and reduce errors.
You can also leverage technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence in your accounting practice. These tools can handle repeatable tasks and give you broad insights into your business.
You should also create a system for lead generation. This is a marketing system that ensures you have a steady stream of leads and new clients.
Create documentation of your new processes and systems as you create them. You’re eventually going to hand these tasks off to your employees. They’ll be able to do the work with minimal training.
3. Expand Your Accounting Services
Do people think of your accounting company as a way to file taxes? There are so many more things that accountants can do.
You can grow revenue by offering more services. Go back to your niche market and think about other things that they need.
If you work with self-employed clients, they usually don’t think about retirement planning. You can become a Certified Financial Planner and help them manage their entire financial picture.
That can transform your accounting company because you no longer have to refer that business out to other financial planners.
Plus, you just added a new revenue stream to your business.
You can offer auditing services or business overviews to help businesses manage their financials and develop their own plans to grow.
If you’re an IRS Enrolled Agent, you can convey what that means to your potential clients. You’ll be able to represent them in front of the IRS.
That is an additional offering if a client gets audited or has to file an Offer in Compromise.
4. Invest in the Right Marketing Mix
Marketing is about reaching the right audience with the right message at the right place and time. You already have the message and the audience nailed down.
It’s time to work on the right place and time.
When is the right time to market your accounting practice? All year long. The most effective marketing happens on a consistent basis. If you can do that, then you’re well on your way to a growing business.
Let’s move on to the right place. Where does your ideal client go to find accountants? They’ll ask people in their network and they’ll look online.
Depending on your niche, they might look at other avenues, such as LinkedIn. You want your marketing efforts to span online and offline activities.
Offline, focus on networking and presentations. Join your local chamber of commerce and network in places where your target audience spends the most time.
For instance, if you work with real estate investors, make it a point to join real estate investment groups. You can find them on Meetup and Facebook.
If you target families and individuals, you can give informative presentations in your area. Presentations help educate your audience and they position you as an expert.
Search Engine Optimization
About a third of clicks go to the first search result. If you can get your accounting practice to that top result, you can generate leads automatically.
You’ll get the right clients because you targeted the right keywords. The best way to approach SEO is to put yourself in your clients’ minds.
What are the questions they ask most often? What are the challenges that you see with clients? Your clients probably tried to find the answers online before they used your services.
Those are keywords you can use in your content. You can also create blog posts around those questions.
For example, if you work with expats, you know that they might not know if they have to pay taxes or not. They’ll search for “do expats pay taxes,” which is a blog post to answer that question.
Do that on a consistent basis and you’ll move up in search results.
Search engine optimization takes time to develop. What if you don’t have months to organically get traffic from search results?
You can invest in search ads that appear before the search results. It’s not always easy to make a search ad campaign work.
It’s important to have a set budget and compelling copy to generate clicks to your website. Once people get to the site, give them a call to action.
You might want to encourage them to set up an initial consultation. This is a great way to turn traffic into warm leads.
Your website needs to be set up so it’s ready for the new traffic. There’s a good chance that people will check out your site and leave without taking action.
That happens because visitors are doing research or because you have a poorly designed website. A lot rides on your site’s design.
A slow website reduces the amount of time people spend on your site. It has a negative impact on SEO. The site’s design can leave a bad impression on visitors.
They could decide to do business elsewhere if you don’t clean up your site. Do a quick audit of your website. Check the speed and usability of the site.
5. Always Deliver Great Service
You can have incredible accounting services and the best marketing. You can be the best accountant in town, but if you don’t deliver client experiences, it will be easier for them to leave.
It’s also much more difficult to attract new clients because of your reputation.
Look at the various aspects of the customer experience. Where are the places you can improve?
The three key areas to start with are the onboarding process, communications, and referrals.
The onboarding process is how clients get started with your accounting services. You might want to show your appreciation right away with a gift, like a promotional mug with your company’s logo.
Make a checklist of items that clients need to get to you. This can include previous tax records and access to accounting software.
Create a welcome packet that addresses the most common questions. This is also a chance to outline expectations so everyone is on the same page.
The communications process ensures that you and your clients are always on the same page. You have a system to send out reminders and when clients need to get their documents to you.
Also, make sure you have a way to personalize communications. Send out holiday cards, thank you cards, and birthday notes.
You can’t sit by the phone and wait for referrals to contact you. You have to encourage clients to leave reviews and refer clients to you.
Put a referral program in place where you offer a discount on future services as a thank you. Ask some of your top clients to leave a video testimonial.
These are ways to grow your accounting practice and get social proof to show you’re great at what you do.
Creative Ways to Grow Your Accounting Practice
You just learned a few ways to grow your accounting practice. It always helps to have a goal in mind and a firm foundation to build from.
Create scalable systems and increase your reliance on technology to do more with less. Increase your own knowledge and expand your services. Invest in the right marketing tactics and always deliver amazing service.
Do those things well, and you’ll have a scalable, successful accounting practice that everyone raves about. Do you want more great business tips? Be sure to check out the blog for more business insights today!