3 Strategies for Growing an Advisory Practiceby
One way for accounting firms to remain relevant and meet client demands is to add client advisory services (CAS) to their offerings. But making sure your CAS are successful will require leadership, teamwork and a cohesive marketing plan. Here, Amanda Wilkie with Boomer Consulting discusses the winning strategies to make CAS work for you.
For decades, accounting firms have generated organic growth and profits by offering essential services such as bookkeeping, tax and audit. However, the services that got your firm where it is today won’t necessarily get you to where you want to be in the future. To remain relevant and meet client demands, you need to offer client advisory services (CAS). But once you’ve officially sold clients on your new service line, how do you keep the momentum going? Today, I’m sharing advice for building a successful advisory practice through talent, growth strategy and leadership.
Successfully growing an advisory practice requires a team dedicated to the task. It can’t be a side project of your tax or audit department. Building out your advisory services line should be someone’s full-time job. This way, you’ll see results much more quickly (and see more profits).
Some professionals in your firm won’t have the skills or desire to provide advisory services, and that’s okay; clients still need compliance work. The key to success is recognizing that advisory is a team sport. Hire staff or train existing staff who are interested in taking on a more advisory role with clients, then get your whole team comfortable with collaborating to help clients reach their goals.
Remember to leverage talent throughout the firm. CPAs aren’t the only professionals who can deliver CAS services; talented administrative professionals can become engagement managers or client relationship managers to oversee execution of the service delivery. Think beyond traditional roles like preparer and reviewer to better leverage your talent. Your talent doesn’t necessarily need to be internal, either. For example, outsourcing transactional bookkeeping work can help you build capacity and focus on client relationships.
Many firms have successfully marketed their traditional service lines but find that the same tools and methods that worked for audit and tax don’t work for advisory. Consider whether you have the following elements in your CAS marketing plan:
1. Clear messaging. Many accounting firm websites focus too much on the firm’s history and experience and not enough on how they have solved their clients’ problems. As a result, visitors to the website aren’t even aware of all of the services the firm offers. When a client or prospect visits your website, they should understand what you do and how they will benefit from working with you.
2. Frequent calls to action (CTAs). What action do you want potential clients to take after visiting your website? Each page of your website and every blog post or email should have a clear CTA, whether it’s encouraging them to schedule a discovery call, make an appointment, download a resource or read more of your content.
3. Lead magnets. The CTAs mentioned above are known as “direct CTAs.” They’re like a “buy now” button that makes it easy for the client to take the next step toward working with you. But when people aren’t ready to take the next step, that's when lead magnets, also known as “transitional CTAs,” come in. Lead magnets offer something of value, such as a checklist, worksheet or white paper. In exchange, you collect something valuable, too: their email address.
4. An automated series of emails. Once you have the email addresses of interested prospects, an automated series of emails, or drip campaign, can send them regularly scheduled, targeted messages. Drip campaigns allow you to share your knowledge with prospects while drawing their attention to your CAS offerings until they’re ready to buy.
5. Compelling client testimonials. Testimonials from existing CAS clients can help build trust and grow your practice. To ensure detailed responses from current clients, try interviewing them and asking specific questions about how your firm has helped them solve problems or grow their business. Craft the testimonial for them, but get their final approval. You can share these testimonials on your blog and social media channels and in marketing materials and email campaigns.
A successful CAS practice requires strong, committed leadership. Your firm leaders should see why it’s important to offer advisory services. It might be easier to wait for compliance clients to come knocking than to compete for advisory clients, but waiting will not help you reach your goals.
Leaders need to show courage and confidence in times of change. This will allow you to launch your advisory practice, find the right talent and grow your CAS offerings, thereby leading to significant growth. By anticipating the growing needs of your clients, you’ll be ready for the new opportunities of tomorrow.