Monthly Archives: November 2016
Dale Carnegie may have been the first person to say that people buy on emotion by saying, “When dealing with people, let us remember, we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”
Over past few decades, many behavioral economists and marketing gurus said that we do buy emotionally, and then subsequently rationalize our purchase decision. The challenge is knowing how to use the proper techniques to connect with your prospects in a fashion that captivates their emotional desires, and compels them to do business with you and your firm.
To become a successful rainmaker for your accounting practice, you have to differentiate yourself from the competition, and tap into your prospects pain points and emotional needs. Marketing and sales gurus refer to this technique as need-based selling, solution selling and/or customer centric selling.
In a nutshell, the rainmaker focuses on the needs of the prospect by asking probing questions, listening intently to the prospects responses while showing empathy with the prospects pain, and then connecting the benefits of your firm’s services to alleviate their pain while articulating the benefits (e.g., less stress, fewer headaches and ROI). When done effectively, the accountant will be able to evolve toward consultative selling by establishing trust earlier in the process.
Here are four tips for deploying this approach so you can become more effective generating new business:
- Treat the initial dialogue with the prospect more like an interview – Your initial meeting should focus on understanding your prospect’s business situation, listening more than talking, and then illustrating how your firm is unique and can eliminate the pains they’ve been experiencing. With the right questions, many prospects will walk right into the sale.
- Keep it conversational – Although you’ve probably got a script and process for selling, approach your prospect in a conversational tone. Seek to understand before trying to be understood.
- Connect the attributes of your service to benefits – Rather than just focusing on the types of services you offer, paint them a picture that explains what’s in it for them. Whether those benefits are lower taxes for a more comfortable lifestyle, outsourcing their accounting so they have fewer employees to manage, or reducing the risk of an IRS audit, which can be expensive, time consuming and full of sleepless nights.
- Offer solutions that save them time – Assume your customers are busy like you are during tax season. Offer them solutions to work with your practice virtually and avoid the hassles of making appointments to meet with you.
8 Step Program for Accounting Firms
While it’s hard to believe, accountants struggle to get paid promptly. That’s right, most accounting firms are downright terrible at implementing a payment processing system to get paid quickly and minimize their uncollectible write offs. Even worse, they dread calling slow paying clients for fear that it will end the engagement, which perpetuates the problem.
If this describes your practice, then here is a process for reducing your write offs by 99% and dramatically improving your cash flow.
1. Invoice clients electronically. If you are still mailing out physical invoices to your customers, you are delaying the payment process. Instead, you need to email out invoices and encourage electronic payment processing to speed up payments. In fact, many customers prefer to pay electronically.
2. Send out invoices right away. Rather than wait until the end of the month, invoice clients immediately upon completing their work. While this tip seems blatantly obvious, most accountants kick the can down the road and bill at the end of the month. Billing at the end of the month for work completed the first couple of weeks within a month makes no sense. Instead, operate like most businesses and present a bill when the work is completed.
3. Integrated electronic payment system. Rather than wait for bills to arrive in the mail, savvy accountants are using an online payment system which accepts electronic payments by eCheck (ACH), credit cards and bank wires. Three forms of electronic payment integrated into one system for maximum convenience. BizPayO was designed to accept multiple forms of electronic payments so waiting for checks to arrive in the mail ceased.
4. Distribute hyperlinks everywhere. To make it easier for your clients to pay you electronically at all times, BizPayO provides a secure hyperlink program so you can integrate electronic payment processing into your website, imbed hyperlinks into your invoices, and even in your email signature thus eliminating the check is in the mail routine.
5. Accept mobile payments. You electronic payment processing system needs to be mobile friendly these days. And, you should consider accepting mobile payments on your cell phone. It’s so easy today to become “mobile friendly.”
6. Integrate online payment processing into your new client process. Going forward, all new business clients for your accounting practice need to sign a client engagement letter AND authorization to debit their account (e.g., ACH or credit card) for payment. Whether the client’s bill changes each month or is the same fixed fee, you need authorization to capture payment. This provides you with the ability to control getting paid immediately after your work is completed. The reality is that the general public trusts accountants so asking them to sign a document stating that they authorize you to pay yourself is no big deal to most small businesses.
7. Existing clients that fall behind. If one of your existing business clients falls 60 days behind, then it’s time to contact them directly, provide a reasonable installment payment, and demand that they sign your authorization to debit their account to prevent this from happening in the future. If they don’t have the cash, then credit card payment is the fallback alternative.
8. Coax clients to pay by ACH (eCheck) over credit cards. As the trusted advisor for your clients, you should advocate that clients pay by ACH. The BizPayO electronic payment processing system reinforces this message by providing you with an Upcharge feature on credit card payments, thus encouraging clients to pay by ACH.
This 8 Step Program will reduce your uncollectible write offs by 99%. The biggest challenge is your own aversion to change. That’s right, your own fear is the biggest obstacle.
Here are some quotes from accountants who have used this process to take control over getting paid.
Mark Orlando, CPA in San Diego CA
“BizPayO’s convenient link creation tool speeds up payment and provides us with control over getting paid. Our goal is to get 90% of our clients onto this system to improve our cash flow even further. The days of waiting for checks to arrive in the mail are thankfully over.”
Larry O’Dell, CPA in Winston-Salem NC
“I have integrated BizPayO into my billing system to provide one holistic solution, rather than two merchants. Using one merchant for credit cards and another for ACH was inefficient. BizPayO’s hyperlink tool enables clients to pay rapidly without me taking a phone call for payment.”
Luke Gheen, CPA in Colorado Springs, CO
“All new business clients must sign our engagement letter plus the authorization for ACH processing to become a client of ours. That provides us with the control to get paid a few days after invoices are generated. As a result, our Accounts Receivable is $0 and we never have write offs for bad debt any more. It’s how we operate a modern, tech savvy accounting practice and have total control over getting paid rapidly.”
About 10-15 years ago, you would win the website marketing race with your primary website. Heck, it worked well and the return on investment (ROI) was a no brainer. One website that was search engine optimized would work across a wide variety of keyword searches.
As more accountants eventually caught on, it became more challenging to stay ahead of the curve and still get more than your fair share of website leads. That’s when the general public became aware of search engine optimization and pay per click advertising. The ROI was still very attractive but you had to spend more to acquire the same number of leads.
Today, it is harder and harder for a single (primary) website to be placed towards the top of the search engine results pages for all of the services you provide. And if you operate in multiple geographic markets, it is even harder to be towards the top because your message to the search engines is more complex and less clear.
As more accounting firms have integrated blogs, social media, pay per click advertising, retargeting advertising and reputation management, it has become more difficult to dominate the online lead generation game.
So what is the solution?
While there is no single solution, many savvy accounting firms have deployed a multiple website strategy to obtain dominate search engine placement for their practice and to create that aha moment that business owners seek (someone that understands and works with businesses like theirs). Some accountants will deploy a generalist approach (e.g., we do it all) focused on their primary location and complement it with a couple niche websites.
In the example below, we developed a generalist website for the Los Angeles CPA Firm and then designed two separate websites which utilize video for the industry niches, dental accounting and real estate accounting.
Here are a couple examples:
For the small business owner searching for a CPA Firm located in a certain area, this approach works well. However, one size does not fit all people searching on the internet.
Dental CPA Firm in Los Angeles – Tax, accounting and benchmarking for dental practices.
For the dental practice owner who thinks their business is complicated and a generalist can possibly service their world, this website focuses on all types of dentists from orthodontists to pediatric dentistry to endodontists and periodontists.
This website focuses on property management, commercial real estate and real estate investor groups who want to leverage the tax laws to minimize their tax obligations.
If you are serious about website marketing and would like to generate more than your fair share of leads from the internet, then you should develop an aggressive multiple website marketing tactic to improve your lead generation. The costs are insignificant relative to the value of obtaining more small business clients.
The fact is that prospects for your accounting services search online for solutions to their problems. To become the firm (or person) best suited to solve their complex issues, you need to create a presence on the internet which motivates the prospect to call you. In other words, all roads direct them back to your firm, or you.
Blogging first started in the late 1990s as a unique way for people to share ideas, experiences, thoughts and opinions. Today, everyone from mom-and-pop businesses to Fortune 500 companies utilize blogs to increase their visibility online, improve their reputation, develop a following, and generate new business.
Here are the reasons why having a blog integrated into your website is imperative.
- “Google says” – Google rewards website owners for providing unique content by elevating your website in the search engine results pages. They especially like blogs because the content is easier to index and is date stamped so they know how fresh or old it is.
- Showcase your unique talents – A blog is a wonderful platform to demonstrate your knowledge base for a boutique type of service and create a following. Rather than blog about general accounting and tax related topics, which are too broad, we recommend that you narrow the range by developing a niche within your accounting practice, have a niche website developed around that niche service, and then add a blog within the niche website. By narrowing the range of topics and constraining the subject matter, you can now laser focus on blogging about your expertise.
- Build trust and create a brand identity – Now that you have a niche website along with a themed blog to support it, the stage has been set to create an identity and establish trust. The next challenge is to write 3-4 blog posts per month which help your followers and demonstrate the depth of your expertise. If you do this successfully, you will eventually create an identity as a subject matter expert who prospects reach out to when they need help.
- Generate more leads – Blogging is a core component of inbound marketing. You can use social media outlets like Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook to drive prospects to your blog, thus creating more opportunities for new client acquisition.