You’re a professional services provider, perhaps an accountant. Your client is a growing business, and they came to you to prepare the corporate tax return. After several years of faithfully performing this service for your client, you send them the annual email reminding them to bring in the information to get this year’s return completed. When they don’t respond, you call them. And find out that the tax return was completed by another accountant this year, the accountant who took over the bookkeeping. “But we could have done that for you, too”, you say. But now it’s too late, and the client has a different accountant. Consider it an opportunity lost, along with the client.
Is this something you run in to fairly frequently, losing clients to others who provide substantially the same services as you do? It happens to the best of firms, and the secret to keeping it from happening is to be sticky – delivering the services which securely attach the client to your firm – and provide the ongoing value that your business clients can’t do without.
The first place to create stickiness is in your service offering. One-time or annual projects (like tax returns and audits) don’t keep you in front of your client often enough for them to think of you daily, and daily (or at least frequently) is how often you want them to think of you. As the business owner faces daily decisions, do they consider calling you for advice or insight? If not, then you probably aren’t delivering the value, or the sticky service, which will tie your practice to the client for the long-term. Daily bookkeeping, or helping the client keep their books in order, is a valuable service that most small businesses need. While your firm may not be realty interested in performing or supporting the business bookkeeping, it is important to recognize that this level of work allows the firm to be more intimately involved with client business processes, providing a great deal more insight and understanding into client operations than through an annual tax interview. By attaching your firm to the daily activities of helping to account for business activities, you elevate your position from an occasional service provider to a consultant whose advice is sought after on a regular basis. You are now in a position to understand better what areas of business may need focus and attention, and have placed yourself as a trusted advisor who can help determine the best course of action in any given situation.
The other, critical element to being sticky is to make sure your clients know what you can do for them. Don’t assume that each of your clients knows what service or value you can offer them (you know what happens when you assume, right?). You have to tell them; spell it out and thoroughly communicate the variety of ways your firm can help them. Just because you’re an accountant, you should not assume the client will ask you to help them with various business issues. Often, a business owner will face a challenge and not know who to turn to. Seeking out the assistance of specialty consultants is a standard approach, as is turning to IT contractors, software consultants, attorneys, or other service providers. Why not you? Did they know you were available to help with this? If they didn’t call you, then they probably didn’t think this was a service you provide.
Accounting professionals serving business clients must not only make their range of services known, but should also actually ask for the additional business from those clients. Only through consistent exploration and value building, asking the client if services offered might be valuable to them and demonstrating how those services have benefitted others, will the firm begin to make the impact necessary to keep the client coming back, and coming back for more.
When the client comes back for more, you know you’re getting sticky. That’s a good thing.