Business development (BD) is not something most accountants love. However, if you want to remain relevant and grow your firm, it’s required.
When it comes to business development, it’s never too early to start learning this skill set. In fact, at Leaders Online, we often see firms wait too long to train their people on business development.
So when it comes to getting started with business development, where can you start? And what should you do?
In today’s blog, we are going to share tips on how to get started this week.
What Is Business Development?
Accounting is a thriving industry, and firms are competing to gain market share in new, exciting ways. How? By innovating and brainstorming ideas on ways to improve the firm through BD, which can include:
- Finding ways to generate more revenue
- Relationship building with clients
- Retaining clients
- Forging strategic alliances with other professionals in the field
- Increasing profitability
- Identifying new markets and opportunities
- Much more
Before we go much further, it’s important to note that business development and marketing are not the same thing, even though they both help you to grow your bottom line.
How is Business Development Different From Marketing?
When it comes to accounting firms, business development and marketing are two essential components of their growth strategy. While they may seem similar, they aren’t the same thing.
In short, marketing primarily focuses on promoting the firm’s services, while business development is focused on identifying and pursuing new opportunities for growth. However, there is a ton of over lap between the two categories, and the two should work together to achieve common goals.
With 79% of accountants experiencing clients with ever-growing expectations, marketing teams are crucial in showing how a firm’s services can help meet a client’s needs. Your marketing and BD strategy should work together to create the maximum impact.
When it comes to your exact BD strategy, where should you begin?
Tips to Help Accountants Master Business Development
Train and Educate Your BD Team
Training new accountants (and even veterans in the industry) is crucial if you want them to be a part of business development. Oftentimes, senior managers or partners are suddenly expected to do BD but they aren’t necessarily equipped with the skills necessary for BD. However, there is good news – they’re often quick learners.
You need to help your team feel comfortable and confident by helping them develop the skills they need for success.
Lead by example. The tips below are all ways that can help you guide business development in your firm, grow revenue and stay ahead of the competition.
Build a Brand
Branding is crucial to a firm’s success. If you’re just starting your firm or already have a well-established one, branding is one of the most important steps you can take. Multiple elements must be considered:
- Even company name
While the above elements are essential parts of a brand’s identity, they are just one aspect. A strong brand connects emotionally with clients, builds trust, and creates a unique and memorable experience that sets it apart from competitors.
If your branding is done properly, it will invoke certain feelings when a potential and current client views your firm. You can poll employees to ask them:
- How does our branding make you feel?
- What emotions does our branding create?
- Would you trust our firm based on branding?
Further, a brand’s success depends on consistent messaging and delivery across all touchpoints, from marketing and advertising to client satisfaction. Creating a high caliber brand for your firm is much more than a logo and requires a comprehensive strategy to build and maintain its reputation and identity.
Need help with branding? We can help you create the right perception with your brand.
Show Up Where It Matters – Both Digital And In Person
Are you showing up where it matters most? Depending on your ideal client base, you want to consider where you need to show up.
Ask yourself where your ideal clients are hanging out. Consider:
- Networking events
- Trade shows
- Social media
- Online and offline groups
You’ll find that this area often greatly overlaps with marketing, and that’s a good thing. When you’re at these events, your goal should be to get your business seen and build trust. If sales materialize, that’s great. However don’t rush them. Focus on developing and deepening relationships.
Once you start hanging out where they’re at, the next step is to consider how you will nurture and engage with them.
Engage Clients Before They Sign On
Engaging and nurturing clients before they even sign on with a firm is one of the most important parts of BD. You can begin this process by:
- Automate appointment making
- Prepare for interacting with clients
- Follow-up often
Building trust with your clients is more important than ever before. Prospective clients have more than enough options to choose from when securing services. In fact, 81% of customers rate trust as an important factor when buying a product or service.
Nurture Client Relationships Ongoing
Nurturing clients once they sign on is equally or more important than initially engaging with them. If you exceed expectations, build deep relationships, and check in frequently, you’ll continue nurturing the clients you have.
However, it’s important to take this process a step further:
- Brainstorm ways to add even more value for your clients
- Find additional services you can offer
When done correctly, your clients are better served, and your firm is able to make more money in the process – it’s a win-win for both parties!
Make It Easy To Work With You
What do your onboarding process and procedures look like? Is it as easy as possible to work with you? If not, you need to begin researching and utilizing tools and technology that make it easy to:
- Collaborate with you or your team
- Schedule appointments
- Send follow-up communications
For example, you might be able to incorporate a new CRM that will allow you and your team to track the conversations that you have with clients, stay in touch via email and reminders and set follow-up conversations in the future. Some CRMs even are able to send thought leadership content directly to your clients.
Ask for Referrals
A timeless form of promotion and business development is the referral. People love referrals, and they can be one of the driving factors behind a firm’s growth. If you have deep relationships with clients, you can ask them to recommend their friends to your firm. As a bonus tip, ask for a video referral. .
Excel Your Growth in Small, Incremental Steps
Business development is an ongoing process and one that takes time for accountants to learn. If you’re an accountant hoping to make partner, it can take 10 – 15 years, and during this time, we recommend you become familiar with the BD process. It’s never too early to become educated and get hands-on experience.
For firm owners and existing partners, they need to continue honing their own skills and training teams on how they can implement BD properly.
Over time and with the right approach, you’ll be well on your way to retaining clients, attracting new ones, and evolving to meet the needs now and in the future.
Do you need help with your firm’s business development? We can help.