You may have heard the tip, ‘If you do one thing for your business, get it online.’ But once you’ve got it online, how do you navigate the changes from the old ways of doing things to the new? Selling to an online audience has its own dynamics and requires different strategies, but the principles are the same and it’s simpler than you might think
First, be specific. Do you want your business to focus on providing more general services, or do you want to provide specialised services, for example tax consulting or advisory services? Once you know this, you can market to the right audience.
Jazz up your ‘shopfront’
In a digital world, potential clients visit your website before they visit your office. They glean a lot of information from there and use it to assess your business. Make sure it’s professionally done and speaks to your target audience. To make it more personal, include pictures of your team, as well as their titles and your services. And since everyone wants everything now, make sure that it’s quick and easy to understand your offering.
Tricks of the trade
- Using hashtags and search engine optimisation (SEO) in your posts will get people’s attention. Using Google Ads will make it possible to reach your target market, as you can align your website with specific keywords so that you appear in the top search results for the right client.
- Networking at events is somewhat limited in our current circumstances. However, word of mouth still applies, so ask your clients to rate your services on your website and offer an incentive if they introduce you to new clients.
- Constantly communicating the right message is effective marketing. Commit to writing blogs on your website, posting content on social media, and crafting newsletters with relevant information that is helpful to your target market. You can also take part in webinars and podcasts to get known and set yourself up as an expert in the field. Always add a button that people can click on to respond.
Selling to potential clients
When you receive an email from someone or a completed form via your website, that person has become a potential client. Reach out to them and provide information that is helpful to them so that they feel they can trust you. Explain, for example, why they need regular reports or how you can help with their taxes.
Be consistent to engender trust and create firm processes to help you be consistent. Your brand is the service you provide, so the client experience you create is your brand.
When someone has emailed you or filled out your form, it’s time for interaction. Reply to their email explaining your company values and what you believe is important in the relationship, for example, collaboration and communication. If they agree with your values, ask them questions – find out what they’re struggling with, what they’re succeeding in, how they want to grow in two years, and so on. Doing this will make them feel that you are truly focused on them and care about their business.
After the emails, you can set up your first face-to-face meeting on an online platform. This is where you discuss what the client values and expects. When you have this meeting, turn on your camera, ask your client to turn on their camera, and share your screen as well. These are tactile things that drive trust and intimacy.
In the second face-to-face meeting, you can discuss your pricing. Present a high, medium and low pricing structure so the client feels more in control. If they want a fourth option that combines the first three, then accommodate them. Your pricing should have an expiry date of seven to ten days so that the client is encouraged to make a commitment. It’s essential that you don’t start any work until your contract has been signed.
Once the client has signed, have a final meeting in which you thank them and celebrate them coming on board. Introduce people from your team and meet people from their team. This allows a more personal interaction and lets everyone feel part of a real partnership.
Marketing and selling your accounting services in the online space need not be an overwhelming experience. Using simple marketing and sales techniques and having solid procedures in place can help your business expand to become a successful and lucrative venture. And it’s good to know that some of the tried-and-tested principles of business, such as personal interaction and word-of-mouth marketing, will always be relevant.
Gary Epstein, MD of EasyBiz Technologies, the authorized local partner for QuickBooks Online in South Africa