Maintaining and enhancing client engagement now and in the future
How to be there for your clients in the age of COVID-19
November 2020 Footnote
Editor's note: Updated October 30, 2020
“See you soon!” Can you remember the last time you said this to a client?
If you can, your memory is better than mine. It’s been more than seven months since the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives, not to mention the ways in which we engage with clients. Gone are the days of face-to-face meetings. Lunches and in-office seminars feel like relics of the past. Files are passed back and forth electronically, and virtual conferences have become the norm. For most of us, “seeing” a client happens only through a screen.
But video calls only get you so far. And let’s be honest — even if you’re a total extrovert like me, participating in one after another can be immensely draining. So, how do you keep your clients engaged during these crazy times, without going crazy yourself?
Thankfully, there are several actions you can take (that don’t require you to log into Zoom) to maintain a high level of client service from afar. Here are a few ideas to help boost your firm’s client engagement during these unprecedented and unconnected times.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
People are nervous right now because they don’t know what the future holds. Now, more than ever, they want to hear a trusted voice of reason. They want to hear from you.
True, you may not have a crystal ball, but you do have insight into the latest CARES Act developments as well as strategies for making the most of uncertainty. Sharing this information — i.e., tidbits of hope — with your clients can help to quell their anxious thoughts.
Not feeling like an expert? That’s OK — you don’t need to know everything. Just remember this: Given your profession, it’s likely you know more than most. So, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Here’s how: Start by choosing your top 10 contacts. This list could include both your clients and referral sources. Then, focus on reaching out to one or two individuals from your list each day. You could email, call or schedule a call or video chat with them. Share a recent development (if you’re sending an email, include a link to a blog post you wrote or a relevant news story) that could impact your client or contact. Don’t forget to let them know you’re available to help.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or formal. The key is just to do it!
Don’t fret about having the right answers to their questions when you reach out to your contacts. Make sure you have questions to ask them, too. Doing so conveys empathy for their situation — something we all could use a little more of right now.
Here are some questions you could ask:
- How are you doing?
- How is your business doing?
- Have you been able to get the assistance you need?
- What are you most worried about?
- What can I/we be doing to help you right now?
People are stuck at home more than usual, which could be why “snail mail” is making a comeback. So, consider dropping your clients a handwritten note in the mail to let them know you’re thinking of them. You could take it a step further by mailing a thoughtful gift. If you don’t feel confident about reaching out to a client via phone, sending a letter or gift in the mail gives you a way to make a tangible connection.
Hold virtual networking meetings and client meetings
Virtual meetings and, yes, even happy hours are quickly becoming part of our new normal. These are an effective way to keep in touch with the clients and contacts with whom you enjoy a close relationship — as long as you practice the same etiquette as you would for a physical meeting. A few tips: Arrive early, dress the part and make eye contact (i.e., look into your camera instead of at your screen) as much as possible.
As people become more and more comfortable with the virtual workspace, it’s possible we will all rely on video to develop and expand relationships long after the pandemic is over. If you have not done it already, consider scheduling a virtual meeting with your best clients and contacts to practice your video presence and build your confidence.
In fact, over time you might begin to appreciate the convenience of virtual meetings, which save you from having to find a coffee house or restaurant to meet at. Virtual meetings save both time and money, which most accounting professionals greatly appreciate!
Develop new content
Developing content gives you a way to provide a helpful resource for your clients at a time when they really need one. Unsure of what to write about? Reflect on your clients’ situations to brainstorm topics. For instance, if your clients are concerned about managing cash flow, write a blog post that features tips for doing so. If you’ve fielded multiple questions about PPP loan forgiveness, consider writing about it. You could also develop quick reference guides and infographics to help your clients make sense of the latest CARES Act updates.
Video is the most effective way to gain attention on social media. While it’s not for everyone, some people actually prefer it instead of writing a blog post to share their thought leadership. Short videos can also be included in email newsletters to increase open rates and clicks.
Your video should be no more than five minutes long. Consider writing out your video script or talking points ahead of time. Memorize what you will say or write it out on cue cards you can quickly reference if needed.
The possibilities of using video to connect with your clients are endless. What’s more, by building a robust library of video content, your firm can develop a valuable educational resource for your clients.
Educate through webinars
People are craving knowledge right now — perhaps because it helps them feel in control. Hosting an educational webinar is a great way to meet this need. It also gives you a way to stay in front of your clients and contacts when you can’t be physically present. You can even repurpose a presentation you may have done in the past for an association or prospect meeting as a webinar.
Spend more time on LinkedIn
While not all of us are hardwired to post updates on LinkedIn, you can still make a positive impact by “liking” your clients’ and contacts’ posts or writing a comment of support. Additionally, sharing videos your firm has created can be a great way to get in front of people in a helpful way.
Again, you don’t need to know the answer to every question. No one knows how long this pandemic will last or what the world will look like when it’s over. But you do need to be there for your clients no matter what. Regularly staying in touch — whether through a simple phone call or thoughtfully produced webinar — allows you to serve as a trusted adviser while also keeping your clients engaged. When COVID-19 is behind us, they might not remember what you told them, but they will remember you were there.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-592-4662.
Kristy Gusick at TAX20
Learn from Kristy Gusick at the virtual MNCPA Tax Conference at her session covering toxic client relationships (and how to get rid of them).
MNCPA Tax Conference (TAX20)
Nov. 16–18 | 24 CPE
to view the agenda and register today.