All posts from February 2010

Does Your Web Site Differentiate You From Your Competition?

by Ken Berry, CBI

We were recently talking with a CPA who expressed excitement over a couple new accounts. Naturally we were curious to find what the CPA thought was the reason for picking up these two new accounts.

Both new clients found him while they were searching the Internet for someone to solve their complex problems.  Based on their search results, they contacted him to discuss their problems. We looked at his website and it did a good job of expressing his competency and personality.  Obviously, it was successful in engaging these prospects and differentiating him from his competition.

So, how well do you differentiate yourself and your practice from your competition?  Addressing the following questions about your site will get you started on generating leads that will be a good fit for your practice:

  1. Who are your ideal clients?  What niches do you serve?  Be sure your site identifies and welcomes these individuals and industries through text and use of imagery.
  2. What are your specialties and areas of expertise?  Can you present them in terms of clients needs (benefits) rather than just services (features)?
  3. Can you present yourself and your staff through the site?  Think of this as the “online dating” portion of lead generation.  Pictures, stories, backgrounds, articles, a blog—all provide the prospect an opportunity to get to know you early in their decision making process.  Work hard to get your personality engrained in the site.
  4. What value adds can you build into your site?  Obviously, you can post one of the syndicated newsletters on the latest tax code changes or something similar, but so can your competitor.  So again, think blog or a specific area of knowledge you can share.  There is a level of transparency where you can provide enough to inform prospects without giving away your advantage to your competitors.

Your web site provides you with a great opportunity to make a strong first impression and you cannot beat the price when it comes to direct marketing.  So, take some time to think about what a prospective client will experience when they go to your site.  Most importantly identify your key differentiators and be sure to present them in terms that will resonate with your prospects and your clients.

 

Comments (2) • Posted February 23rd, 2010 at 11:51am

Building Rapport is a Key to Creating Client Loyalty

by Ken Berry, CBI

Years ago, I was in a brand development meeting and we were discussing whether or not a company could come right out and say “we care.” After more than a decade in business development roles, I struggled with this presentation. My problem is, unless you work in specific care-related industries, this statement is not believable. Unfortunately, segments of corporate America have demonstrated prominently over the years that they do not care.

The flip side of the coin is nothing builds client loyalty better than letting them know you care. Therefore, it is important you continually demonstrate to your clients that you care about them and their needs. This time of year provides a great opportunity to use your tax appointments to communicate how much you care. Here are some simple guidelines to get you started:

1) Make sure you have ample time between your appointments. Although this may seem to be poor utilization of your time, stacking your meetings can be a critical mistake on two levels: it does not account for a meeting running over; and it does not allow you time to prepare for your next meeting.

2) Give yourself ample time to prepare for a meeting. Reframe your thoughts from an earlier meeting, clear your desk, review and prepare for the meeting with the next client.  Nothing says “I don’t care” or at least “I don’t know you” more than flipping through a file to find a piece of personal information about a client during a meeting.

3) Respect your clients’ time by being punctual. We wait in lines and traffic throughout the day, make sure you are an exception to this experience.

4) Have a simple agenda for the meeting. Something that outlines the key phases of the meeting is all that is needed. Perhaps as simple as (1) agenda review (2) catch up (3) review financials and tax return (4) discuss business development - referrals and (5) next steps.

5) Be sure you focus on building rapport in all of your client interactions. This may not be a natural process for you, but it is critical in the “catch up” phase that you ask open ended questions to provide your clients an opportunity to tell you about their lives. Asking appropriate follow up questions will affirm that you are listening and care about what they are sharing.

These steps are simple, straightforward and will pay huge dividends over the years. If you are not already using them, I recommend you test one or two by implementing them this season with half of your appointments. After the season, survey your clients about their satisfaction and see how the results vary based on the two types of appointments.

Comments (2) • Posted February 18th, 2010 at 6:04am

De-Stress for Success

by Ken Berry, CBI

I recently got a note from a CPA who said “so far, this year has exceeded my expectations, and its only January!”

I wrote back to say that I was happy the season was going well for her. I asked her to what did she contribute her success and was pleasantly surprised with her response.  She mentioned streamlining work processes and great support from home, by ensuring the following:

  1. Having a routine and sticking to it
  2. Limiting herself to a 12 hour work day, no matter how much energy she may have.
  3. Taking a late lunch and exercising daily
  4. No matter what, taking Sundays off.

Some who read this may shake their heads and disagree. What they will not realize is that this CPA has figured out that the time to recharge her batteries is not when they are totally run down. She realized that it is better to work harder and smarter. Stress is a big part of most people’s lives these days, and a busy tax season will just pile on the stress.  Taking time to recharge and “de-stress” will make your time at work more productive.

I can not wait to speak with her later this spring.  I imagine that, when I do, the same smile will be there.  At the same time, many others will have that tired, worn-out look and will need a while to de-compress before they truly enjoy the fruits of their labors.

I say find some time to recharge your batteries this season and enjoy the journey. What are your thoughts?

Comments (0) • Posted February 17th, 2010 at 5:20am

The Value of Your Practice

by Ken Berry, CBI

We talk daily with accountants who are nearing retirement age and contemplating selling their practice in the next several years.  Almost every one of them asks what practices are selling for these days.  Their intent is to ascertain a value.  Sometimes, the value the seller has in mind is more than the actual price the firm will fetch in the market.

Several years ago we spoke with someone wanting to sell a tax practice in Arizona.  This owner had not increased fees in five years for fear that clients would leave and go to the H&R Block office nearby.  He wanted to receive a premium price for a premium practice, but what he had was a discount tax service.  Potential buyers were willing to purchase the practice at the same type of discount.

The value you receive as price when you sell your practice is going to be determined by the market.  To create a higher price for your practice, you need to create more value within the practice, typically by creating more value around each individual client.  This is done by providing more value to each client.

There are three core values a practice can provide to a client:  high service, high quality and  low price.  The catch is that a practice can only survive and stay in business when it provides two of the three.  A practice cannot afford the cost and overhead of providing high service and high quality while also providing low price.  So to provide low price, either the standard of service or the standard of quality has to be lowered.  Guess which of these a buyer will find of least value?  Low price equals low revenue per client or at best a huge volume of work to generate revenue per client and buyers care about revenue margin and profitability to insure debt service and future income.

Buyers are looking for valuable practices. Spend the quality time and effort building that practice and it should pay off handsomely, both along the way and when it comes time to sell.

What are your thoughts?

Comments (0) • Posted February 5th, 2010 at 12:49pm