I recently spoke with graduates from some of the top accounting programs in the country to find out all the latest accounting best practices that your new, digitally savvy competitors have been learning to help level the playing field.
While there was much to glean from their perspective, there were five key things that recent accounting graduates know about growing a successful practice that you don't ... but should!
The Client Search Begins Online
When it comes to attracting potential new clients, the strategic focus has largely shifted to Google search results. Consumers today first turn to Google to begin most B2B and B2C transactions. The look and content of your practice's website matters, too â potential new clients are actively comparing your practice to others (welcome to the world of multi-tab browsing). The top accounting programs now preach the importance of a sleek-looking website, listings on popular review sites like Angie's List, and directory listings with the accounting packages you work with (for example: QuickBooks' find an accountant search) to aid your Google search ranking.
When it comes to being found, you need to make sure you're up to date on Local Search tactics â they are different than general SEO best practices. The easiest way to get started is to create a Google Plus page for your accounting practice. These listings come up on Google searches first, before webpage listings.
Today's customers expect service, even before they actually begin a business relationship. Your website should have free, helpful resources and some informative guides or white papers. A recent KoMarketing study of customers searching for new business services found that nearly 40 percent claimed such resources, and info-rich guides were a âmust-haveâ for them to consider selecting a business.
Clients Perceive Expertise Through Social Media
Today's clients increasingly associate social media presence with expertise for businesses. You don't need to post every day, but every few days share some industry news or a business accomplishment. Social media accounts have taken on the role of word-of-mouth referrals (several people your client knows already âlikeâ your Facebook page). Social media also has created a new, powerful consumer mindset of âsocial proof." This relates to associating competence with a high number of social followers. For example, if you have 200 Twitter followers or Facebook âlikes," the customer will perceive that your practice is better than another practice that only has 50 Twitter followers or Facebook âlikes."
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Decisions Are Made by Younger Members of the Business
According to a March 2015 study by Google, more than 50 percent of all B2B researchers are millennials. When considering your potential client profile, keep in mind that these days, it's likely that a young millennial is presenting his boss with his top three recommendations. You need to appeal to those millennials by having a modern-looking website and demonstrated expertise (social media, testimonials, and extracurricular accreditations).
Pitch Your Skillset Beyond Taxes
The top accounting schools and programs all push the message of diversifying your practice, both to expand business opportunities and to bolster your core practice (perceived expertise and superiority). Without taking any extra classes, most accountants are already equipped to add several new offerings to their practice's repertoire: competitive business analysis, business budgeting and forecasting, investor due diligence, exit and succession planning, and a great deal more. Go for it!
Small businesses still find in-person events like conferences to be the best way to investigate new business opportunities. Even the most advanced, innovative accounting programs agree that when it comes to attracting small business clients, in-person events such as industry conferences remain paramount. Try to attend at least one conference a year to actually meet potential new clients, and to showcase your practice.
About the author:
Diana Mackie is the chief content officer for Funding Gates, a receivables performance management software company.