Maintain Contact With Clients Year-Round

CPAs who want to survive in a turbulent business environment and grow their firms must emphasize maintaining a relationship with existing and potential clients—that means contacting them more than just a few times annually. Follow these simple tips to help you stay in touch.
Maintain a high level of contact throughout the year. You should touch base with a client at least 18 times a year. Some studies even recommend contacts numbering in the high 20s, says Martin R. Baird, president of Advisor Marketing, Phoenix, and author of The 7 Deadly Sins of Advisor Marketing. Keeping up with clients helps prevent them from looking elsewhere for new solutions to their financial goals or for another CPA. Peoples’ lives and the financial markets change quickly, and repeatedly reminding clients of your existence helps them to remember you when they need advice.

Use variety in your approach. Making contact doesn’t mean simply calling a client 18 times or sending him or her 18 letters a year. To get the best return on your investment of time, Baird recommends reaching out to people in a host of different ways throughout the year. For example, you could pass along to them articles you’ve read that would be of interest or you might invite them to a seminar where you will speak. If you get an invitation to a conference or dinner event and can bring someone, call one of your clients and ask him or her to join you. Once there, introduce the guest to other successful professionals in the room and let him or her see how much you value the relationship.

Send something of interest. Don’t limit what you send clients to topics related only to their business or industry or yours. The subject matter also could mirror their hobbies and desires, if you know what they are. Giving a magazine on organic gardening, hiking or sailing, for example, could go a long way toward making them realize you took the time to get to know them.

Stand out from the crowd. You can get creative and do more fun things in your marketing to get your target audience’s attention. Anything you do to help your communications stand out from the generic information people see all day can bolster your position in clients’ minds. You don’t have to think outrageous—just unique. Look carefully at your target market and see what its members like or are interested in. For instance, if your target market is made up of men and you find out most of them like to golf, you could hold spring golf “tune-ups,” suggests Baird. These would be a series of golf lessons, and at the end of each lesson, you could share one “accounting tune-up tip” with them. This wouldn’t be a hard sell, says Baird, just giving them something to think more about and providing good information in a fun and informative way.

Take advantage of the digital age. Use e-mail to make some contacts during the year, but don’t rely solely on this method. It is a cost-effective way to reach clients in a time when marketing budgets are tight, but remember that people tend to view electronic communication as impersonal. Limit your use of e-mail in staying connected to your clients; instead make more phone calls and send a few handwritten notes here and there.

Consider a joint promotion with other area professionals. Who else (other than a competitor) is trying to reach your target market? Once you’ve got your answer by doing some quick research and asking around, give some complementary local businesses a call and see whether they have an interest in a marketing partnership; it will save all participants some money. For example, if your clients are older with significant assets, you may decide to jointly market with some local estate planning attorneys—for example, by sharing the cost of a booth at the town festival in order to reach the crowd and display some promotional materials. “You also could set up a table at a health screening at companies or senior communities and pass out brochures about retirement assets or long-term-care benefits,” Baird says. Or if you target small business owners, maybe you could work with business coaches and consultants that are helping these clients grow their business acumen. While they’re working on the art of closing a deal or their presentation skills, you can help them with their accounting needs. The only limit to this is your imagination.

Source: Adapted from “Advisors Who Survive Rocky Financial Markets Are the Ones Who Emphasize Customer Contact,” Advisor Marketing, , 2003.

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