We recently spoke to an accounting practice owner in Portland, Oregon who told us his practice was growing 20% a year, year over year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October of 2007, the unemployment rate in Portland, OR was at 4.5%. By October of 2009 the unemployment rate had jumped to 10.7%. (It is now hovering around 12%.)
Between the end of 2007 and 2009 while the unemployment rate more than doubled, this accounting practice had grown 40%.
What is the owner’s secret? He told us he does not know, he just gets lots of referrals. Although he does not know what he is doing to acquire new clients, he does know what he is doing to serve them. He values his clients highly, provides exceptional service and stays in regular communication with them through a monthly newsletter.
“We stay in touch with our clients and manage the relationship. Even if we have a problem client, we do our best to treat them right. Even if we have to let them go, we try doing it in a way that leaves them with a positive experience.”
Following his intuition about the value of customer service, this practitioner has inadvertently developed a client referral program that works.
A Referral Ready Accounting Firm
No client will refer friends and neighbors to a service they do not believe in. Some clients may refer people to a service they find helpful. Most clients will refer a service that they experience as exceptional and unique.
What can you do to create a referral ready accounting firm?
- Manage the relationships with the clients you he already have. Make sure they are well-served. Anticipate their needs. Respond to their concerns in a timely fashion. Work to maintain a relationship of value with each and every one.
- Stay in contact with your clients. Distribute a monthly newsletter. Survey your clients to check your quality. Ask how you may better meet their needs.
- Educate your clients on how you firm can serve them. Use a monthly newsletter to make it easy for them to talk to their friends and neighbors about how you can help them solve their problems. Tell how you have saved a particular client money, or resolved a tax issue, or provided sound advice.
- Give your clients something to talk about. By being intentional about how your clients experience your service. Find small ways to make it special, unique: One practioner we know has M&M figures throughout his office...many given to him by clients over the years. When you visit his office, you tell people about it. People do not tell stories about a work product. They tell stories about what they experience.
What are your thoughts on developing referrals? We would love to hear them.