Business Development Basics for Accountants

Posted by Joseph Himy
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When it comes to accounting, it’s not enough to be good at your job. With 1.3 million accountants in the U.S. today, you need to bring more to the table to make yourself stand out from the competition. This is where business development comes in. If you want your accounting business to thrive, implementing a business development plan is crucial.

Business development is often interchanged with marketing, but the two are quite different. Marketing includes getting your name out there, advertising on different platforms, and reaching new audiences. Business development encompasses any ideas or activities designed to improve your business. This includes building relationships with new clients, retaining current clients, accruing referral sources, working on increasing revenue, forming strategic alliances, and more. Both marketing and business development are necessary, but to market without a development strategy won’t necessarily help your business grow.

A good way to put it is this: Marketing is about getting attention, whereas business development is about giving attention. Attention to your business, to your clients, and to your ideas for expansion and growth.

Here are 5 business development ideas that can help grow your accounting practice:

Zero in on a specific audience

The accounting field is very competitive, so if you focus on building relationships with a specific audience or group of people, you may have a better chance of securing them as clients. It’s casting a small net instead of a wide net, but in the competitive marketplace of accounting, this is a good strategy. As you focus on a specific audience, you’ll have to make sure to brand yourself as a niche accountant “who knows x” — international tax, forensics, real estate, the medical profession, etc.

Get a leads management system

If part of your business development plan is to acquire new clients, a leads management system is an ideal solution. Leads management can help you:

  • Analyze data to identify potential clients
  • Generate contacts through content distribution through specific funneled channels
  • Keep track of all leads in an orderly system
  • Create a client engagement process that’s followed through with each lead

Leads management is not straight-up marketing, since it doesn’t just plaster an ad on Google or a local Facebook group. It’s much more targeted and provides a way to make sure no potential clients fall through the cracks. There are tons of leads management tools available at reasonable prices, so you can choose the one that works best for you.

Know the metrics of your campaigns

It’s not enough to run a business development campaign — you have to be able to measure the results and know what they mean. For example, if you start using a leads management system, you need to be able to measure the results to see whether it’s successful. Since accountants are great with numbers, looking at the metrics and ROI shouldn’t be a problem. It’s just a matter of doing it.

Keep your current clients happy

Business experts say that it’s more cost-effective to retain your current clients than to branch out and seek new clients. This means that you need to keep your current clients happy. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, keeping clients happy can mean more than doing just a good job on their tax forms. It can include personalized emails for special occasions (birthdays, holidays), a refer-a-friend discount, or identifying opportunities to offer more services suited to their field.

Outsource

You’re an accountant, not a business developer. If you want to work on business expansion but don’t have the time, patience, or bandwidth, consider hiring a professional. A professional will sit with you, get an understanding of your business and where you’d like to take it, and create a personalized plan. Sure, it will cost you money, but the returns can be greater. You can even ask your potential business developer what kind of returns you can expect. While business developers probably won’t make specific guarantees, they should be able to give you a general idea as to what kind of results you can expect.

Start slowly

Business development is part art, part science. Not every strategy is suitable for every accountant, but the good news is, because there are many, you can choose the ones that are suitable. You also don’t need to do everything at once. If you take on too much at once, you’re likely to get overwhelmed. Rather, choose one aspect of business development that speaks to you, and focus on that. From there, you’ll see how much more you want/need to take on or whether you’d like to try a different strategy entirely. Nothing is set in stone — if one thing doesn’t work, try another. But most importantly, don’t neglect your actual accounting work. At the end of the day, a business development strategy can only be successful if there is a good accountant behind it.

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