A survey from the 2014 Bookkeeping Business Benchmark Report conducted by the Australian Bookkeepers Network took a look at the top challenges that bookkeepers face in their business:
Evidently, right up there as one of the biggest concerns for you in business is sourcing new clients. This is an aspect of business ownership that can seem both time-consuming and costly, not to mention one of those things that gets bumped to the bottom of the pile when you’re trying to make time for revenue-generating tasks instead. Typically, accountants and bookkeepers are not natural salespeople, they’re great at getting the job done, but not so great at telling everyone about it!
Marketing your business doesn’t have to involve expensive advertising campaigns. Your marketing plan should also be largely focused around on-going initiatives that are still manageable during your busy times, not just when things get quieter.
Here are 9 ideas you can add to your marketing plan for 2015 to help you boost your bookkeeping business without massive monetary investment:
1. Pro-bono work
Offer your services to help out a local community group or charity organisation. I know this might sound counter-productive, after all, you’re trying to make money, not give it away, right? However, offering your services pro-bono can have a flow-on effect as you build your networks and lift your profile in the community. You never know who else you can get your business in front of! Ask if your logo or current promotions can be included in community newsletters or if you can advertise with business cards or a poster in return for your services. Commit to at least 6 months and then re-evaluate to see if your business is getting anything out of the relationship - although you might find that simply giving back is benefit enough!
2. Provide helpful free resources
Become known as a reliable source of expert, up-to-date knowledge around accounting, compliance, best practice, and business hacks.
These resources could include:
- regular blog articles on your website
- a monthly newsletter with advice and helpful links
- contribute guest posts on other blogs
- ‘How-to’ videos or demos
Make sure to capture email addresses through download forms or subscriber options, so that you can then continue to nurture the potential lead relationship through emails.
3. Incentivise referrals
Make the most of your biggest fans - your existing customers. Ask them to refer your services to their own networks, and if necessary, incentivise this by offering them a ‘reward’ for any new leads, or new business won, such as an hour off their next fee, a voucher or a free lunch.
Remember: give to get! Make sure you are also out there actively offering referrals to other businesses in your networks if you expect others to do the same.
4. Face-to-face networking
Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face networking. Yes, it might seem like a lot of time investment, but building strategic relationships is the most critical part of marketing your business. Attending networking events is not just about finding new clients (although obviously that should also be your aim!), it’s also about meeting other business owners who may be great sources of continued referrals to your ideal clients.
Consider joining a local networking group that meets fortnightly or monthly (they are usually around an hour and will often be held over breakfast, so won’t eat into your day), and take up opportunities to attend various industry events. However, make sure you do your research and consider whether other attendees are going to fit into your target customer before you invest time or money.
5. Connect with others in your industry
One of the things that was evident to me at the recent Xerocon Auckland event was what a tight and supportive industry bookkeeping is. Bookkeepers are awesome at helping out others in their industry, rather than simply seeing them as competitors. Make the most of these alliances - when you do find you have too much work on your plate, you have a client that’s not quite right for you, or perhaps they want to work with someone a little closer to home, don’t be afraid to refer leads on to other bookkeepers - you’ll find that they will do the same!
Be sure to network and connect with other bookkeepers, ask questions, offer advice, provide commentary on industry events and participate in online discussions.
6. Online networking
A big part of connecting with other bookkeepers will likely revolve around online forums and communities. These present a great opportunity to build relationships, learn from others, and increase referral opportunities.
Consider your target audience before you invest too much time in social networking. For example, if you’re targeting business owners, you’ll likely have the most success using LinkedIn to promote your services, rather than Facebook. Join groups and get involved in the discussions. Once you feel confident, start your own threads by posing questions and posting your blogs.
7. Strengthen your web presence
If you want new leads, you need your website to be appearing in the top results in a Google search. This requires a bit of investment into your SEO, but doesn’t necessarily mean paying big bucks to an online advertising or web development company. Take a look at this post of 8 SEO tips for getting more traffic from Google and also what every bookkeeper needs to know about search engines to get you started.
Don’t forget to also get your business listed on as many online business directories as possible. These directories often appear quite high in search results, so until your website is achieving good organic search results you can increase the likelihood of prospects finding you through these listings.
8. Expand your services
Be open-minded about additional services that you could offer that may increase opportunities for more leads. For example, WorkflowMax offers accountants and bookkeepers the opportunity to be a WorkflowMax Advisor. As an Advisor you can ‘own’ subscriptions and generate an additional income stream. Become proficient in other cloud software so you become known as a software specialist - if you can offer your clients added value over and above bookkeeping, you create a point of difference for your business.
9. Align yourself with accountants
Create strategic partnerships with accountants who will be willing to refer their clients to you for bookkeeping services. Make sure you clearly demonstrate to them how you like to work and the kind of clients you prefer - and vice versa - so that you know it’s going to be a partnership that works for you both.
What other marketing techniques have you had success with while operating on a small budget? Share your ideas in the comments below.