Do you ever feel that you wake up every day and think you would be further ahead by now with your firm and only work with clients that you love to work with? Finding clients can be tough – or does it have to be? Sometimes it feels like dating; you’re searching for that perfect match. By defining what you’re looking for in a client – often by finding your niche and developing an area of expertise, you can find an abundance of new clients. Once you’ve figured out the type of client you want to have in your firm in abundance, you’ll be able to bring in your marketing tactics so that you attract them all into your firm. You’ll know what to exactly do to bring them into your firm. You’ll learn how to market yourself so that your ideal clients COME TO YOU – in abundance!
In this episode of The Abundant Accountant Podcast, The Pitch Queen, along with Hugh Duffy, explains how he helps accounting firms niche and posture themselves as industry experts and how they’ve attracted many clients. Enjoy, and thank you for listening and tuning into The Abundant Accountant Podcast!
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Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:
Michelle Introduces Hugh Duffy and his business, Build Your Firm.
- The goal is for accounting firms to leverage marketing to find an abundance of clients based on their specific niche.
- “Sales and marketing are like the Ying and the Yang” ~ Hugh Duffy. They work together to help you get to the right clients!
- When you market yourself well, you will have clients coming to YOU and saying, “you are the kind of person I want to work with!”
- First, you have to define that ideal client.
- Instead of just looking at what you want, often you can define that client by finding what you don’t want! Reverse engineer the process.
- “Finding that client is like dating: you look through the deal-breakers to find that perfect match.” ~ Hugh Duffy
- By defining your ideal client, you’re finding the person you can serve in the most effective way possible.
- Accountants are not typically taught to work on serving a niche; however, serving a particular niche will help you find the right clients who will come to you and find you.
- Having a niche, and serving it well, sets you apart!
- The goal is for a potential client to see you and your expertise and think, “this person knows me and knows my needs!”
- You can use a website to posture yourself as a niche expert – websites are an affordable way to show potential clients that you can serve them.
- As you showcase yourself as an expert in a niche, continue to do the work to be the expert in that niche! Learn the tax codes, loopholes, and everything you can to serve your clients well in whichever niche you choose.
- Social media can be used to connect and market yourself, but there’s no “one size fits all” answer.
- The key to social media is that whatever you do, you do it consistently and nurture it to be effective.
- Video can be a great connecting point with people – most accountants don’t do it, so you can set yourself apart using video!
- Hugh summarizes his four thoughts on what accountants can do TODAY to find your ideal leads.
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You will learn:
- The easiest ways to sift through clients and get to the RIGHT ideal clients!
- Proven tactics to get paid instead of giving away FREE advice!
- How to stop competing on price FOREVER!
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How To Drum Up Ideal Clients For Accountants With Hugh Duffy
Welcome to the show. If you would like to join us for our free Accountant Masterclass, head on over to TheAbundantAccountant.com to learn how to communicate your value, collect higher fees with confidence and get paid what you’re worth so you can work a little bit less, make more money and get paid up upfront from clients. On this episode show, we have a very special guest.
Our special guest is a marketing coach for accountants who takes pride in the impact that it has on their practice and their lives. He has many years of marketing experience. He also plays paddle tennis competitively, played golf in Maryland and also has an MBA from the University of Rochester in Marketing and a Degree in Finance. Before we dive into our episode, I wanted to give a shout-out to the Reviewer of the Week. The Reviewer of the Week is GTransform. He or she says, “This is a great source of information for accountants looking to increase sales and leads.” That is true.
Here at the show, it is my mission to help each of you grow your life of abundance and firm of abundance with the clients whom you truly want to work with. There are way too many accountants that I talk to daily that are working with clients they don’t even love to work with. I am here and on a mission to help you navigate those waters so you can start working with more clients that you want to help and serve.
With that said, I would like to hear from more of you. Make sure to subscribe to the show and also leave a written rating for the show. I’m going to take that written review and highlight it in a future episode. Thank you so much for sharing your review with us. Also, for each of you, please do tell me in your reviews what are you learning from the show, how you are thinking differently and what did you implement that you heard that you think would be worthwhile.
You are going to want to make sure to screenshot this episode on your phone and at the end, when you’re finished reading it, tag me, Michelle Weinstein and our incredible guest, Hugh Duffy and post it on LinkedIn. I want to see what was your biggest takeaway. What are you going to put into action that you learned from Hugh? I will make sure to share it on all of our social platforms. Make sure to put #TheAbundantAccountantPodcast and put on your post what was your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment from this episode. Let’s welcome the Cofounder of Build Your Firm, Hugh Duffy to the show.
Thank you, Michelle. I’m looking forward to it.
I’m so happy to have you here on the show. I’m very excited to talk to you because I love what you do. That is not the area of my expertise but I would love it if you could share with all the accountants reading what is it that you do.
I see what we are is we’re a marketing coaching firm. What we do is help accounting firms, whether or not it’s a CPA, enrolled agent or degreed accountant. We try to teach them how to leverage marketing as a vehicle to prove the quality of their practice, make more money and become more efficient in managing the business as a business and not a tireless job. What we’re trying to do is guide them down the path of not being a jack of all trades and helping them leverage marketing as a vehicle to pick up more of the types of clients that they truly would like to work with over the course of 10 or 20 years.
You say a lot of times that you’re a marketing coach. There are a lot of accountants out there that say, “Michelle, what’s the difference between marketing and sales?” A lot of accountants that I run into and I’ve helped a lot of them never thought they had to have a sales process. Hugh, what is your take on the realm of what’s the difference between a marketing coach and also on the sales side? How would you explain that to the people reading and how each of them is like the yin and yang, in my opinion?
I do look at it differently. I separate marketing from a lead generation like you do, Michelle. What I’m trying to do is leverage marketing as a vehicle to get a prospect, reach out, express interest, contact the accounting firm and say, “This is my problem. This is what I’m struggling with. Can you help me?” From there, it starts to transition into a pitch but the first thing is to qualify that particular prospect and see whether or not it’s worthy of spending time before you transition into a matchmaking process and a sales process. From my vantage point, I’m looking at is, how can I leverage marketing tactics as a vehicle to motivate a total stranger to contact you and express interest in the firm or the services that you provide.Leverage marketing as a vehicle to get a prospect to reach out, express interest, to contact the accounting pharmacy. Click To Tweet
What we’re going to be talking about here is how to drum up more high-quality leads for people’s accounting firms because that’s what you’re an expert at. You’re motivating a stranger to generate interest and even talk to you. Once that happens, then I do believe the sales process occurs. You need to figure out how you qualify this person or is this lead an actual real lead?
There’s a lot of stuff that you even do in the beginning stages of how you drum up more high-quality leads. I get a lot of questions from accountants and I’d love to get your opinion on a few of them. Most of them say, “How do I even start,” when it comes to drumming up some high-quality leads for their firm. What do you recommend someone reading should do from the get-go? They don’t hire you and your firm, not yet. They’re trying to figure it out on their own.
The first thing that I guide them through is a process of what type of clients they want and what type of clients they want to avoid. I’ll take a big tangent. Let’s go into a process that’s a little bit easier and outside the box for folks. Suppose you’re in the dating process and someone asks you, “Whom do you want? Who’s a good partner for you? Who’s your target audience?” The person will say, “That’s easy. I know it when I see it.”
That tells me nothing. To a lot of accountants, that’s the same answer I get at the beginning. I’ll start to work from the backward side of the equation. Let’s identify the types of people that you want to avoid. In the dating process, it might be somebody who drinks too much, smokes too much, does this, does that or whatever it is. Maybe they have too much, I’m not even going to go there.
We can go there. We can make this fun for all the accountants reading. Who cares? We’re not on the dating show. It’s a great example though. I love it. You can say whatever you want.
It could be, you don’t want someone that rides a motorcycle or that has body art or somebody that a guy that has back hair. Whatever it is, there’s a bunch of disqualifiers that we all know that if you see it, they’re gone. They’re out. It’s the same thing with an accounting practitioner. I will start the backward side in because they can’t define for me who is their ideal target audience but if I reverse engineer the process and I say, “Whom do you want to avoid,” they can quickly say, “I don’t want somebody making an income below this. I don’t want a retail store owner. I don’t want a nonprofit. I don’t want this or that.”
It’s the same process. Here’s the wrong answer I get, “I want a client that’s going to pay me on time.” That is not a qualified answer. What I want to do is understand who doesn’t fit your target audience. Slowly, what are you passionate about? Intellectually, who works well with your staff such that you close the client and pass them off to your team to process and manage? They don’t come back to you and create issues. Who is that client?
I want to go down the path of how do I develop a system or a process in your organization so that long-term you can ultimately be the best provider at servicing them or exceeding their needs in anticipating their needs in advance of them even asking the question. Most people would say that’s developing a niche but what I’m trying to do is narrow down the range of options that you get in front of so that you have your little blue ocean pond so you’re competing against fewer competitors.
I am 1,000% in alignment with you and I love the dating analogy. I hope each accountant reading can relate. After you’ve figured that out, you know whom you want to avoid, passionate about and the type of client you and your team want to work with because when your team and staff help them, it’s very important. What can an accountant do to put themselves out there to start attracting these people? In the dating world, there are dating apps but for accountants, how do they get new clients? What’s the best way for them to drum up some new leads to see if they meet their new qualifications or if they are on the avoid list?
It’s twofold. First, we need to create a marketing system designed to attract those types of people. At the same time, we need to help the accountant develop inside knowledge as it relates to that particular type of client and educate themselves at the same time. Most of the accountants that I stumble upon and have a discussion with do not think of this process as having a niche or expertise.
It’s not something that’s traditionally taught within accounting firms or undergrad or graduate programs similar to what it’s done in the medical or legal industry. If you think about the legal industry, dental industry or medical industry, all of those professions teach segments of the category, whether it’s medical, legal or dental. You name it. Those are specialists. In the accounting industry, they don’t do that.
What I’m trying to do is help them understand well beyond the needs of the client, whether or not it could be a veterinarian, a retail business or an accounting firm servicing restaurants. It could be oil and gas accounting. To me, as a marketer, it doesn’t matter what the niche or expertise is. One, they have to be passionate and interested in learning more about that industry and ways to leverage the tax code as well as the accounting software to exceed the expectations of the folks in that particular industry or type of service.
At the same time, I’m trying to do the marketing upfront so that you persuade them that you work with people like them and the light bulb goes on for the prospect. At the same time, I’ll develop a website making it appear that the accounting firm only works with that certain type of client. When they stumble on the website, the light bulb goes, “A-ha. This is the person I need to talk to. Every other website I’ve seen so far doesn’t understand my industry or problem.”
It’s like a person with a medical issue that says, “I need to find a doctor that only works with people that have this specific condition. I don’t want to work with a generalist. I want to work with a specialist. I want to work with the best person.” The prospect, the small business owner is going through the same process that a person is trying to find that doctor for that specific condition and the person that they think may be the best at it. That’s what we do.
That is key. I love how you said that you’re at the same time not only the accountant but you have to become the specialist. Not only be passionate about the industry and know the accounting software for that industry, the tax code and all the loopholes for that exec. You want the best brain surgeon in the United States because you have this tumor that has to be removed. You’re going to go find the best person.
What you’re saying in the accounting world is that we’re doing the same. You want to become a specialist so you can start attracting these clients. After that, you’ve got your list of who doesn’t make the cut and who does. For the accountants, let’s say they don’t have the bandwidth to create this website. When someone lands on it, they’re like, “This is the exact type of person that I want.” It’s very specific and they’re not a generalist. What’s another way that you’ve seen work for an accountant to drum up some business if they don’t have a website?
That is fundamental and those are the basics. A website is so inexpensive. I’m not going to let someone off the hook on that one. There’s no reason why a person has to have one website. You could have 3, 4 or 5 different types of websites. They’re not expensive and not difficult. It’s a way to speak out of multiple sides of your mouth and position your practice toward servicing different types of clients. To answer your question, Michelle, there are other ways to go about it out there.
If somebody is financially strapped, they could use something like LinkedIn to find other professionals in a particular industry and use that as a tool to reach out to them. Another outbound effort could be direct mail. Direct mail is a relatively easy way to target folks by industry as well as size. Having a well-constructed direct mail letter introducing your firm and expertise, why you’re unique and why somebody should reach out to you is another tactic to reach out to them.
There are always trade events in regions of the country where you can reach out to meet people but I probably wouldn’t start there. I probably start with the other two taxes that I mentioned. A website is so inexpensive and easy to do. You can have several different websites. I have many clients who have 4, 5, 6 or 7 different websites enabling them to make that light bulb go on and it’s not difficult. How many websites do you have, Michelle?
I have one main one but I have a few, specifically for the accountants like TheAbundantAccountant.com or TheAbundantAccountantPodcast.com. I have a lot of them routing to one main one but having this discussion, I’m like, “Maybe I’ll separate everything.” It is important so there is no confusion. For all of the accountants reading, if you’re working with a brain surgeon but then you’re also working with another type of client that’s your orthopedic surgeon, have a website for orthopedic surgeons and another website for brain surgeons. You speak a little differently to both. When they go there, they’re like, “That’s me.”
It’s so true. I have quite a few folks that will overlap a bunch of them that are logical but they’re also distinct and separate. As an example, I might have one person that targets the oil and gas industry. They might be in Houston or somewhere in the Midwest. Oil and gas are a big piece of it but a lot of those clients also have a cattle ranch or a farm.
They’ll have a second website targeting farms or organic farms or it could be a ranch. The third niche website they might have is real estate because items 1 and 2 are on real estate. This person has done well over time. They’ve purchased multiple properties, commercial properties and residential properties. They might think of themselves as an oil and gas person, as a farmer or as a real estate investor.
You don’t know what they’re going to type in even though all three of them are related. They could be distinct and separate. What you’re trying to do is use them as magnets to pull little paperclips to you so that those are the types of people most inclined to pick up the phone and call you and say, “I need someone like you. It’s on your real estate website and I want someone to understand this specific issue.”
I love how you said that. Use your website as a magnet and that’s how you attract. That’s how you will drum up more phone calls to attract these higher-quality leads for your firms. They’re coming specifically because you are the specialist in that area too. Back to what you said, it is so important for each person reading that they become the specialist and expert in that exact area. If it’s organic farms, you better know everything about organic farming and the tax implications.
You bring up a good point because, in addition to faking it, which is what I’m talking about, the next thing is to go out there and learn the aspects of the tax code. It’s going to empower them and you to save them more money than a generalist down the street. What you’re trying to do is identify with their issue. Break down the tax codes so you’re only dealing with a subset of it. A smaller range of it is like the brain surgeon. You’re only dealing with a small portion of the body so you can become superior at servicing that type of client.Go out there and learn what the aspects of the tax code are. It will empower your clients and you to save them more money than a generalist down the street. Click To Tweet
The brain surgeon is the subset of a surgeon. It’s getting more specific and it’s interesting because it goes back to your dating analogy. You’re not going to have a client that rides a motorcycle or is a smoker. You have your list of things that they’re not and then when you start meeting some of these people in the subset, you can align with who’s going to be the best client. I’m glad I got it. It’s all for everyone reading to get it and put it into action. I’m all about taking action, Hugh. I don’t want all of us who are here to not see any results.
I get this question a lot and I want to get your take on it. I’m all about the conversion aspect, like once the lead comes into you, what do you do with them and how do you take them through your process? What about getting themselves out there? Let’s say they’re doing the trade show or direct mail but what about social media? There’s Facebook and LinkedIn. A lot of accountants have asked me, “How do I even start with this?” What’s the best social media vehicle for drumming up higher-quality leads for their firms?
There’s not one answer because, for different niches or expertise that they have, different social media outlets are going to work more or less effectively. The second thing is they’re going to have to be willing to support that social medium. For me to recommend a blog to somebody unwilling to write and nurture it, it’s not going to be successful. Either you’re going to have to be passionate and support it or pick something else. It could be LinkedIn.For different niches or expertise that you have, different social media outlets will work more or less effectively. You will have to be willing to support that social medium. Click To Tweet
LinkedIn could be great for targeting people by industry but it’s terrible to target people for IRS problem resolution work. You’re not going to see anything on somebody’s LinkedIn profile that talks about their tax issues. It’s not going to be there but if you want to target somebody by oil and gas, a hedge fund, defense contracting or a restaurant door, it does work for that. You have to flex on what outlet you use.
Most of our clients don’t overly engage in Facebook because it tends to be more of an individual network of friends, not for business purposes but I would say a blog, LinkedIn and there are some others. It depends on the type of person’s practice. Video is another one that you could use. There are different video outlets that you can use in conjunction with your website and engage people. There are a lot of platforms out there that you can use to deliver videos professionally. We do quite a bit of it as well. Although I don’t edit. I do have people that work for me that make it look easy and it’s very effective as well.
What platforms do you use to get the video content out?
I don’t use YouTube because it doesn’t give us as much control as we would like. We use more of a proprietary system that enables us to have more control over the video. We did experiment years ago with YouTube. It didn’t give us enough control. We did have a YouTube channel and then they slowly started to disengage from that. I was willing to pay a subscription fee but there are a lot of platforms out there that you can use.
Years ago, we did use Vimeo which is relatively inexpensive but we use a more proprietary one. We use that as a vehicle to strategically place it on certain pages within our websites. We have a gallery as well. We use a variety of different techniques but even though YouTube is huge and if it was a search engine, it’d probably be the second biggest search engine out there. We don’t use it aggressively like we used to because we don’t have enough control over that.
I like how you said how you use Vimeo or your proprietary system but you’re ultimately putting them into these niche websites for different purposes. Your glorious editing is helping it but then you also have a gallery video. I talk about this a lot in my process. Videos help your clients get to know you as a person. That sets you apart from 99% of the accountants out there because most people who are accountants don’t ever want to do a video. That’s probably the most difficult thing to do. It can help give you an edge and maybe attract some more business from the clients that you’re looking for.
Video done well does create a relationship. It is very powerful and persuasive but the person has to feel comfortable to reach out outside of their comfort zone and think about what the goal is, what they’re going to deliver, what they’re going to provide to the end user, the listener or the watcher and then what’s in it for them.
Hugh, for someone reading, what are the best 1, 2 or 3 things they can put into action to get on the horse with drumming up some new leads? Maybe if it’s even one out of all the things that we talked about. What are the 1, 2 or 3 things that they can do to start attracting some of these higher-quality leads?
It’s probably not as easy as the person likes because it’s not as turnkey but it all starts with who’s your ideal client like who’s your ideal date? I mean that sincerely. Who is the person that you want to pick up over and over again? The accounting industry is a single’s business. It’s like picking up lots of singles. You don’t get many triples or home runs. It’s all about picking up more of the same type of clients.
I would start with who is the ideal client so that you can pick up not just 1, 2 or 10 of them. How can you pick up 50 to 100 to 200 of them and do the same thing over and over again? That’s the beginning. The second thing is what are the different life stages of that typical client? Are they a newbie in the industry? If so, what are some of the things that I would provide to them? Are they in the mid-stage of their career? Are they in the 35 to 50-year-old range in their profession and industry? This is what I would gradually cross-sell them into, as you would call that.
The third stage is what are the folks toward the latter stage of their career that are more established? What are the things in your back pocket that you’re going to cross-sell them into? I didn’t say much of that of the newbies but break it into the life stage of their profession and industry in terms of what you can provide and what they’re going to need. That would be the second thing I’d start to think through and develop. What are the 1, 2 or 3 things you’re going to provide for somebody new in their career, at the mid-stage or the latter aspect of their career?
I would develop a website, putting your best foot forward and making it appear so you’re the best accounting firm for that type of professional. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re in the early, mid or late stage of their career but how do you put your best foot forward so that more of those people pick up the phone and call you? The last fourth piece and I’ll end with this is what are some of the social media components that help you stand out and establish that inexpensive connection? Most people will drive by your website and your firm several times before they pick up the phone and call you.
They need multiple different ways of being persuaded that you’re the best solution for them because advertising works on frequency. It’s not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd piece of advertisement that’s going to persuade them to pick up the phone. They need to be hit in several different ways as somebody mentions to you, “Did you hear about the movie that just came out last week or the good restaurant that opened up in town?”Advertising works on frequency. Click To Tweet
It’s going to have to come from different angles. About the third time you hear it, you’re saying, “You’re the third person that’s mentioned that to me.” The light bulb goes on. That’s the same thing with advertising. It has to come to you from different angles and then all of a sudden, bingo. The light bulb goes on, they’re inspired and they pick up the phone. Those would be the four things I’d explained in terms of the path that they would take.
Every single person can do that and put that into action. Thank you so much, Hugh, for being here with us on the show. What’s the best way for people to learn about you and build your firm?
Simply, they could go to BuildYourFirm.com, check us out and see the variety of different things we do or they could reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Either way, it’s fine. I’m easy to reach. My email address is Hugh@BuildYourFirm.com. I wish you nothing but success. Michelle, thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed the conversation.
Thank you so much for being here with us.
Thank you all so much for joining me and Hugh. What a fun time thinking about what type of ideal clients you want to find to drum up some new clients in your accounting firm and thinking of it as dating. Isn’t that fun? The first thing is to remember that each client will have a different life stage. Figure that out and put that into action right away. Where are they established in their career? Are they new? Are they in the mid-level? Are they in the latter part?
I love the last piece, which he says is the social media presence. It’s inexpensive. People are driving by your website., LinkedIn and videos. Advanced marketing or frequency is key. He says that it takes three times for a light bulb to click on like if you heard about the latest greatest movie that’s out. Honestly, it’s seven times for me, maybe even ten, but people need to drive by you. What’s that impression going to be? What is it that you want to get out to your specific ideal client that you truly want to work with?
I say take at least those four things at the end that he was discussing. Put it into action. Start implementing it. One of the biggest questions that I’ve heard from a lot of you is how you drum up the exact types of clients that you’re looking for to grow your firm. Also, if you have a quick second, I’d be grateful if you could leave me a rating and a review on iTunes. Also, hit the subscribe button because I always love hearing from you.
If you’ve ever felt like you’ve given away too much information for free and you’re sick and tired of not getting paid what you’re worth, you’re like a lot of other accountants. I do have a solution for you. You can join me on my next Accountant Masterclass over at TheAbundantAccountant.com. Learn how to communicate your value, collect those higher fees and also how to get paid what you’re worth and get paid upfront. I will see you next time.
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