Referrals are the best way to access the best clients. That’s a bold statement, but there are numbers to back it up.
Consumers trust word-of-mouth marketing the most. While 84% of respondents to a Nielsen poll said they trusted recommendations from people they know, only 48% of respondents said they trusted ads on social networks.
As an added bonus, word-of-mouth referrals cost your business nothing. Sure, you can incentivize referrals, which might require investing your time or money—but that cost pales in comparison to the costs of formal marketing campaigns run by experts.
Of course, if you do your job well, some referrals could come organically. But this has become an uphill battle for accounting firms as the business has become less about face-to-face interaction: Accounting referrals have declined 15% in the past five years.
Honing your referral techniques can help you improve your word-of-mouth marketing practices despite this steady decline. Here are five tips for stepping up your referral game and bringing in a network of stellar clients:
Get employees to generate referrals
Leverage your employees’ networks to access referrals. Speak with your team and see how many referrals they can each feasibly bring in in a month. Based on this number, set a monthly referral goal for them along with an incentive for meeting that goal.
To make the process easier and more uniform, prepare copy for social media posts, in-person pitches, email asks, and email signatures that your employees can use when extending a referral. From there, your employees can easily copy and paste this messaging across multiple platforms.
You can also allow your employees to promise special offers to referrers. Whether it’s a free introductory session or a complimentary lunch, providing special offers will help your employees rake in high-quality referrals.
Ask for referrals from happy clients
Simply asking for client referrals might be intimidating, but it’s the quickest, most cost-effective way to get more referrals. Plus, there are many different and effective ways to ask for client referrals that you can choose from.
For instance, some accountants feel most comfortable requesting referrals from the get-go. Consider asking a new client to agree to provide referrals once you’ve successfully fulfilled your duties.
If that tactic feels too bold for you, you can flip the conversation. Try to subtly remind your client how valuable a trustworthy and talented accountant is. Then ask if they have any friends or colleagues who need financial help from someone with a proven track record—meaning, you!
Attend networking events
Attending networking events for industries that you typically serve is another concrete step to take in your referral strategy. Say you’re particularly adept at accounting for up-and-coming tech companies. In this case, you should search for startup events in your area so that you can network with professionals in your preferred field.
You can also look for online communities for professionals in industries that you typically serve—think Facebook Groups and Patreon listservs, for instance. Whether you’re face-to-face or writing from your desk, getting in touch with new contacts in your industry will open up a new web of potential referrals for your accounting firm.
Create shareable content
Taking the time to create top-notch accounting content can also be a valuable tactic for your accounting firm’s referral strategy. Smart, insightful, and conversational content can serve as proof of your firm’s expertise. Try to publish at least one white paper under each of your employees’ bylines so that the expertise and cache of your business is spread firm-wide.
Even better: Employ SEO best practices when crafting your content. If you can get your content to rank well for relevant search terms, then it could also prove to be its own lead generation source.
Team up with similar businesses you trust
Rather than competing with similar firms in your area, try to work with them to create a referral exchange program. If your firm has a potential client that isn’t the right fit for your offerings, or if you’re already booked and can’t take on any new clients, you can send them to your partner firm. The same can apply vice versa.
You could also set up partnerships with other B2B finance businesses that can exchange referrals with you. Even if a given business isn’t an accounting firm, if it services businesses who are seeking financial guidance, then that business could be working with potential new clients.
You should absolutely take pains to make sure that you’re only exchanging referrals with firms and businesses that you trust, though. Be sure to thoroughly vet any potential partners before sending any clients their way—your firm’s reputation is on the line when you refer someone to a partner.
The bottom line generating referrals for your firm
You’re familiar with the top five tactics for generating more referrals for your accounting firm—now what? Because these tips are easy to execute, you can make next steps pretty easily. Choose which referral strategy you want to tackle first, and go.
Whether you’re creating social posts for employees, scripting a conversation with a happy client, or buying a ticket to a conference, you’re already well on your way to tapping into a new network of clients. ABOUT THE AUTHOREric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as business loans. He writes extensively on marketing, entrepreneurship, financing, and small business trends.