Navigating Client Retention and Firm Growth During a Crisis
It’s not easy to keep your head above water when we’re living in a time of “business unusual.” But we believe you can be one of the smart few recession proof businesses if you commit to client retention as a top goal for your firm.
1. Maximize Your Tax Workflow
Even though you may not file until July 15th, you will still need to ramp up to get work done.
We recommend setting a hard deadline well before July 15th.
Let’s be honest: clients who wait until the last minute will wait until the last minute, regardless of the deadline. So create your own deadline!
We recommend setting a deadline of June 30th. Communicate to your clients that they will need to submit their information before June 30th if they want to file by the tax deadline. You’ll also want to remind them that waiting to file in order to receive a large stimulus check could result in paying more in 2021 taxes.
TL;DR: Aim for upfront payment from your clients.
Here’s an email template you can use:
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2. Master SBA and Alternative Financing Options
There is a tidal wave of information coming out that can help individuals and small businesses. It is absolutely vital that you both learn as much as you can and communicate that you are a resource for your client.
PRO TIP: You can also consider hosting an educational call or webinar.
Even though you cannot directly charge or receive payment as part of a loan, there are preparatory services you can bundle together. You can also offer potential clean up work for a number of clients.
If someone would have come to us and said, “We’ll be your outsourced SBA experts for the next 90 days. We’ll research, answer, and collect any information you need,” and they charged us $XXXX, it would be an obvious “yes” from us.
Of course, not all clients will have the funds or investment mindset to review all these options, but the ones without internal accounting teams who have either a healthy margin or sizable business might love this offer.
For the ones who likely cannot afford a larger package, you can also charge a “cover my cost” fee. This fee can be contingent on receiving a grant or loan.
Your clients need you. Small businesses are waking up and trying to become financial experts and cash flow forecasters overnight. That is a recipe for disaster. They need you now more than ever, so be sure to reach out.
Also, please don’t forget to charge for your value. Make it contingent or deferred if need be, but don’t forget to protect your own business!
3. Offer Cash Flow Advisory Services
Most businesses are either going through a major cash trough or exploding in cash flow . More on this in Tip 4.
Both parties need a sharp understanding of their forecast and how it impacts things like labor costs and inventory.
Cash flow can also open up advisory conversations around financing options. There is a buzz around everything SBA is doing, as well as financing options.
PRO TIP: Check out some tools like Jirav, Cashflowapp, LivePlan, Spotlight, and Frutli. All of these create platforms to help you create reports for your clients.Here’s an email template you can use to outline financing options; plug in whatever options are best for your clients:
4. Explore Emerging and Fast Growth Industries
Worried about your client diversity?
Depending on whom you serve, you should be.
We got a note that these are the projected industries that will do well in 2020.
While we 100% believe in serving your existing base by helping them with financing options, cashflow forecasting, it could also be helpful to think about what industries you should learn more about, and potentially pick up clients in.
Here’s a highlight of the projected winning market segments:
- Online education: In the absence of physical schools, students are turning towards online education as a solution.
- Video conferencing: Office workers are remaining productive by using tools such as Zoom.
- Virtual event technology: Physical conferences are being cancelled, and virtual events are replacing them.
- Remote work technologies: Slack and other remote technologies are more essential than before.
- Subscription entertainment: Netflix, HBO, and others will need to fill-in the void left by external entertainment.
- At-home delivery networks to bring goods to people's homes: These are now more necessary than ever due to retail stores being closed and regulations on reduced max capacity in grocery stores.
- At-home exercise companies: To stay in shape, consumers are likely to workout at home more often than in gym, as most gyms are currently closed.
- Online ecommerce: We're seeing a large surge in demand for ecommerce due to self-quarantining.
- Video games and virtual reality: Being at home more often leaves more time for at-home entertainment.
- Subscription food delivery and subscription commerce: Having products delivered via subscription is going to become more important due to a lack of local options.
- Air purification / sanitization: Having clean air and clean facilities will be top-of-mind for the foreseeable future.
- Internet-based services: Reliance on the internet (especially at-home internet) is likely to surge in demand, and traffic will likely become congested.
Also, we recently shot a video to explain more about the ecommerce categories that are exploding right now. You will see a surge in new companies in these categories. You should immediately become familiar with them and consider how to gain clients in these industries if you don’t already have them.
If you are unsure about how to acquire new clients, I would recommend listening to this interview with Michael Ly. He walks through how he uses GrowBots to reach new markets and build a cold email/outbound engine to grow.
Here’s an email template you can use:
If they respond with “sure,” you can send them metrics most useful for their industry.
PRO TIP: If you are unsure about the metrics for their industry, this is a good place to start for ecommerce.
You’ll then want to ask to schedule a free consultation (bonus points if you can call it a “benchmarking consultation,” where you measure their metrics against an industry average).
These industries are exploding in 2020. To maintain your firm, you will likely need to start reaching out and learning all you can about ecommerce.
BONUS: While you must set up your firm to retain your clients, don’t forget many industries are experiencing a lot of growth. You should invest in learning more about them and how you can serve them well in the immediate future.
5. Highlight Your Expertise In Original Content
Finally, remember that you know more than the large majority of business owners, and online content consumption will skyrocket. Here are three media platforms to keep in mind for sharing your expertise:
Whether through your own self-hosted blog or on an external blogging platform like Medium, a quick way to get started is to take “frequently asked client questions” and turn them into articles. If writing is your go to medium (no pun intended), this is a great way to increase your industry visibility, gain new clients, and even send these articles to your existing clients.
Keep blogging simple. Don’t worry about being perfect, just start creating content you know your clients need. Typically it’s from questions they are already asking you!
Notable accounting blogs we follow:
If video is more your style, follow this basic video setup guide (for a professional view), or just open up Quicktime or PhotoBooth to shoot a video.
No need for pro equipment. Get started with valuable content, be consistent, and gradually improve the video quality over time.
Notable YouTube channels we binge:
Finally, podcasting/audio distribution. This is what we’ve been doing on the Growing Your Firm podcast for years. It’s been a real joy to connect with so many smart people.
Because it’s enjoyable to ask smart people lots of questions, it’s been an easy process to stay consistent at.
Our mini formula has included:
- Zoom for recording
- Libsyn for hosting and syndicating (i.e. Getting each episode to iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify)
- Freelance designers via Fiverr to create our first cover art
Here’s the email template we use to get guests:
PRO TIP: Here’s how you can create content for all three media platforms at once:
Open up Quicktime video (free) or PhotoBooth (free for mac users) to record your clients’ most pressing questions or give them a weekly tip in a video format.
Turn that video into both an mp3 to publish for your podcast, and use a service like rev.com to transcribe. With 1 hour of interviewing, you can create three major pieces of content!
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