The traditional system of being referred to a new client from a solicitor or bank manager is all but dead. Whilst it still happens, it’s not a viable route to growing, or even maintaining, an accountancy practice. Why not?

The death of the accountancy referral

Banks, in the wake of the recession and banking crisis, have new policies which prevent staff developing close relationships in which referrals are possible. In fact they rotate staff precisely to avoid this kind of behaviour. Solicitors too are increasingly wary of referrals out of concern they may end up being considered ‘liable’ for suggesting professional relationships that don’t work out. As a result, many accountants are finding they receive few referrals and the ones they do get are low value.

How to create new business for accountancy firms

Let’s be honest, the kind of clients most accountants want won’t be sitting around waiting for a suggestion of who to work with. They will be:

  1. Researching
  2. Asking questions
  3. Actively seeking recommendation.

New accountancy clients and research

Online searches are the way that most new businesses find their accountants. This may be done through ‘open’ search – Google etc, or through business directory search such as Chamber of Commerce databases or similar local, regional or professional networks. If you’re not searchable, you won’t make it onto the long-list, let alone the short-list, and that means you won’t get the business. A fully responsive website, preferably with some substantial downloads that show you’re an expert and a generous and enthusiastic person to work with, will ensure you get from the long-list to the short-list with new clients.

Asking questions

Who do you go to with questions? I’ll be it’s not your bank manager or your solicitor. Most of us ask questions of our friends and professionally speaking, that’s exactly what businesses do too. So to reach this section of the potential market for your services, you need to be friends of the friends of those people. One way to do this is to create highly sharable content – Top Ten Tips for Year End Accounting for example, is the kind of material that will get emailed from business to business, and similar online content will ensure that when the question gets asked, people will remember that great infographic or tip-list or ‘how to’ document that was shared with them … and to share it with their friend.

Actively seeking recommendation

Once people have done their footwork, by researching and asking questions, they go to their final phase which is asking others if they would recommend you. Now you can remain passive in this process and hope they will, or use your website, mail-shots and other marketing material to provide an active recommendation in the form of testimonials, or even better, simple survey material that you can share with potential clients. Statements such as ‘71% of our clients say we’ve reduced their time spent dealing with VAT issues’ – have a powerful effect on the last stage of the decision making process which is the call to action. It can make the difference that leads to hearing from a new client.

If you’re ready to take charge off the referral process and become an accountant who is easy to find, hard to forget and highly recommendable, contact Creative Harmony to discover how you can develop a strategy that leads to more referrals and more, and better, new clients. Call us now on 0203 773 9137 or email to discuss your needs.

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