How to leverage referrals in this virtual world
May 27, 2021
It’s no secret most accountants and CPAs are introverts. Generally, most accounting professionals believe developing new business is all about networking and meeting new people at face-to-face meetings. Sound like you? Then you might also believe business development is totally unattainable during this new video-meeting, virtual era.
Thankfully, there are options that exist to bring in new business from behind your desk. In fact, I have found that many of the accounting professionals who I work with have discovered creative ways to market themselves and their services from behind their desks during this pandemic. As we all begin to emerge from this pandemic, here are some tips to help you leverage what we have learned.
Make it easy — start with your existing network
You are most likely to receive the largest source of referrals from your existing contacts, so use this to your advantage. Begin by identifying the top 10 contacts you have in each of these categories: current clients, past clients and referral sources. These individuals will represent 20% of the contacts with whom you will spend 80% of your business development time.
These are the people who you can easily connect with for a quick Zoom networking meeting. And, as things open back up, they are the very first people you should be scheduling coffee or lunch with. Everyone is in the same boat as you are — mainly working from home and, if not, they certainly understand it if you are. So, take advantage of the fact that you are not needing to be an extrovert now to be successful.
But here is the most important point to remember as you start to meet with your top 10 contacts in each of these lists. Make sure you have an agenda, even if it is only in your mind. As you start meeting with people again after busy season, I suggest that you share with your contacts what an ideal ‘A-Level’ client looks like for you now. It is likely that it has been a while since you have talked with them and so they may have forgotten who you are working with now. Also make sure you ask them how you can help them, too.
Continue to network online
One of the easiest and best ways to network from behind your desk is by continuing to make the most of social media. Social media is the future of networking and right now LinkedIn is where you need to focus your time online as a professional. Even if your primary source for new business is from referrals, prospective clients will still Google your name before they contact you. LinkedIn is very respected by Google, so it is likely your LinkedIn profile will come up high in the search results when people are trying to find you — even if they are referred to you. So, make sure your profile is up to date and provides an authentic representation of your practice.
A few tips for making your LinkedIn profile a hit:
- Create a compelling “About” section. When writing your about summary, make sure it is written in first person because you want people to connect personally with you. Also highlight the type of clients you serve, your strengths and the value you and your firm provide to those you help. Bonus points if you add a little backstory of why you enjoy accounting and what interests you about this industry. It will also help people connect with you online.
- Use the featured section. This section is a newer area on your LinkedIn profile where you can showcase work samples that you are most proud of. For example, if you have published any articles, written any blogs, or recorded any videos or webinars, this is the perfect place to highlight this expertise. Think of your LinkedIn profile as a mini website for yourself and as a place to showcase your work. It gives people a chance to research you and your work first before they contact you. When they do call you, they are already more familiar with you, what you do and who you help.
- Reach out and connect. Some of my accounting clients have used the pandemic to reach out to people they do not know on LinkedIn to meet new referral partners. For example, one accountant I work with was looking to meet estate planning attorneys. She did a search on LinkedIn for estate planning attorneys in her area and then sent them requests to connect and included a note saying why she wanted to meet them. Most the time they were open to connecting and, because of the pandemic, it was easy to schedule a quick 15-minute video ‘get-to-know-you’ meeting. She could determine from that meeting if she wanted to continue to the relationship and meet again down the road. It’s really worked well for her — and this is a person that never thought she would like networking! Networking from behind her desk has really worked in her favor.
Become virtually famous
Content is still king, so please keep writing and blogging. But, if a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a video must be worth one million. Potential clients are more likely to click on a video rather than read a written post. For example, did you know that viewers of videos are 95% more likely to retain a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when they read it in text (Note to self: I should have recorded this blog.).
Quick tip, if you are new to videoing, try recording your own webinar on Zoom or GoToMeeting where you discuss your subject of expertise and then edit it. Remember to record your webinar so you can post it on your social media accounts and then link it back to your website. Becoming a virtual expert will not happen overnight. It takes time, effort and patience.
The big COVID opportunity: Search engine optimization
One of the biggest opportunities of being an introvert is to let your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) do your marketing for you. SEO is an incredibly powerful method for growing your business online because it allows potential clients and referrals to discover your website through online searches. SEO is the backbone of internet marketing. It involves many intricate details like optimizing your site structure, creating custom content and tracking your site’s analytics.
Maybe you are not ready to dive headfirst into SEO and that is all right. One of the easiest ways to build your SEO game is by blogging and continuing to add expertise to your website on a regular basis. Adding content to your practice’s website will boost your online search rankings by using specific keywords found on your website. If you are willing to consistently develop time and effort to writing and then investing in an organic strategic SEO plan, then in 12–18 months you will reap the lead generation reward — all while sitting behind your desk.
Not every strategy works for everyone. Maybe video work just isn’t your thing, or blogging isn’t your strong suit. If there is one key takeaway here, it is that it is possible
to succeed from behind your desk! Keep reconnecting with your referral sources, staying active on LinkedIn, writing content, recording webinars and talking with clients. Good luck!
Kristy Gusick is a partner at PSM Marketing where she works with a team of high-level marketing specialists to implement marketing tactics on behalf of their clients, which are primarily financial advisory firms and accounting firms. You may reach her at email@example.com or 651-592-4662.