Engaging your clients during tax season is second nature. As we work hard to serve our clients’ needs, the phone calls, meetings, emails and text messages consume us. In the months and weeks leading up to the deadline, we know what we need to do. There’s a process we follow, procedures to guide us and a tempo we ride all the way to the tax deadline. It’s all too familiar, but how do we continue to sustain visibility, add value and win more work outside of busy season?
Provide Value and Build Confidence
Depending on your firm’s service philosophy and approach to articulating value, there are a host of strategies and tactics you can execute year-round to increase your revenue while nurturing relationships and building trust. The idea is to provide value beyond the compliance work so that you make yourself indispensable.
Value is subjective, so a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work. You must understand how your clients want to be engaged and what they value most. Price your work accordingly and deliver on what you promise.
Take the 360-Degree Approach
The most successful advisors who make themselves relevant year-round take a 360-degree approach to serving their clients. They look beyond their core compliance services to find solutions for clients in areas beyond tax, including operations, human resources, strategy, information technology, industry updates and financial, just to name a few. If you or your firm cannot provide the service or solution, make a referral; you’re still providing value. Always keep the client’s best interest at heart. Once you’ve adopted the right mindset, you’re ready to engage your clients throughout the year. Here are a few tips to keep the relationship moving forward:
- Strategy Meetings: Companies must immediately seize opportunities while simultaneously planning for the future. Business owners don’t want to wait to hear from you. Understand their goals and objectives, along with learning their business, so that you can be a more effective advisor. Take a proactive approach to help your clients plan for events that may play out in months and years to come. Issues, such as estate planning, succession planning, buy/sell agreements and tax strategy, are all good cross-selling opportunities. Sell the idea of quarterly, bi-annual or annual strategy sessions – and charge accordingly.
- Keep Them Informed: Informational updates, regulatory, governance, legislative or industry-specific guidance are great ways to stay visible with your clients throughout the year. It’s not just about subscribing them to your newsletter and forgetting about it. If there’s a particular issue that’s going to impact them or their business, tell them how (potentially) and what steps they can take. Do the heavy lifting for them – and “heavy lifting” doesn’t have to be non-chargeable time if you structure your engagement to be more consultative in nature. Set the expectation that this type of information is part of your value offer; your clients will see that it’s worth their investment.
- Make Introductions: As accountants, we meet entrepreneurs and business leaders on a daily basis, and we often see potential synergies between clients and our contacts. Making thoughtful introductions that provide value to both parties is a great way to build value in the relationship.
- Send Invitations: Keep your clients in mind for firm events, or invite them to lunch, mixers, open houses, seminars and recreational activities. Less formal occasions are terrific opportunities to get to know your clients on a personal level. When clients like you personally, they are more likely to maintain loyalty.
- Participate in Social Media: Engaging clients in our fast-paced world of e-commerce and new technology is critical to relevance. If you’re not in the communities (online) that your clients are in, then you’re not top of mind. Just remember that if you’re not willing to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, be prepared to accept that your competitors might be.
The most important thing to remember is to always offer value with each touch. It’s not about bombarding your clients with a large frequency of requests, newsletters and emails! It’s more about making yourself an essential part of their decisions and strategies by being aware of their needs so that you can be there at the right time and ready to assist. If you demonstrate that your clients are on the top of your priority list, you’ll be at the top of theirs.
Editor’s note: For more on growing your practice, check out the ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article, “How to Grow Your Referrals During the Off Season.”