I have discovered a truth that is very profound. The single biggest challenge facing any entrepreneur is uncertainty. If we don’t know what to do next to grow our business, we end up doing everything we can think of and hope for positive results.
Marketing is a great example of this. I see many accounting firms creating blog posts, running paid ads on social media, leveraging search engines, and so many other things that can waste a lot of time, energy, and money. If you knew with 100% certainty that one method would work better than another, it makes sense that you would focus on that one method, does it not?
Business development of any type should be based on the concepts of test and measure. If you cannot measure the return on investment from your marketing efforts, you should not be doing them. It is that simple. And, the ones that generate the best return on investment should get the most of your time, energy, and money. Focusing on return on investment is the single best way that I know of to judge the outcomes you are getting from business growth strategies. Good marketing should allow you to test a particular path, measure the outcomes, and adjust accordingly.
If you ask the “experts”, they will each give you a different answer as to how to grow A firm. But, what you need to know is how to grow YOUR firm. Your firm is not exactly like any other firm, therefore, you need to know how to specifically grow your own firm. Beware of any expert who tells you that the ONLY way to do something is their way. And, beware of experts that want you to pay a large sum of money up front before they deliver any results.
In this post, I will share with you a time tested strategy that has worked to grow many firms. And, I suspect you use it occasionally, but get distracted by other methods. The best part is that the strategy I am about to share comes naturally to most accountants and we do it anyway. If we do it deliberately and with intention, we will get predictable results. And, it has a very low cost in terms of time, energy, and money.
I am almost embarrassed to share this strategy, but here goes. It is word-of-mouth marketing, more commonly known as referral marketing. That is my secret. I used it to grow my firm and have used it to help many of my coaching clients grow their firms. Referrals can come from existing clients and from other businesses (centers of influence) that you work with in some capacity. Referrals from clients and centers of influence should be part of any deliberate growth strategy. Create a process that you follow consistently and you will see consistent results.
Before I tell you how to do it, I want you to test a theory for me. Think about your favorite clients that you have had over the course of your career. How many of your best clients came to you through referrals? How many of the clients that you remember with positive feelings came to your through cold leads or some other paid strategy? I find that the vast majority of accountants will tell you that their best clients came to them through referrals.
Referrals are far more loyal, less fee sensitive, and will work with you longer. This has been proven in a multitude of studies. However, if you are like most accountants, you already know this. If you don’t believe me, take a quick look at your existing clients and see if you can spot any trends.
Leveraging referrals requires two things:
1. You need to know with 100% certainty who you serve. Be as precise and specific as you can.
2. You need to be crystal clear on the problems that you solve for your clients. Again, you need to be precise and specific. Focus on how you stand out from your competitors.
Educate your existing clients and your centers of influence as to who you serve and how you serve them. Make it easy for them to introduce you to their contacts.
Above all else, you need to honor the introductions you get. That may include expressing gratitude for the introductions, treating the introduction with respect, and being clear on expectations for all parties.
We will share advanced strategies on building a referral network in our webinar on July 21 “How to Grow Your Practice by Leveraging Key Strategic Partnerships.”