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4 Ways to Attract New Clients

New-clientWhat’s one thing that CPA firm owners can agree on? While the top issues affecting CPA firms vary based on size, bringing in new clients is a common concern for all. That’s one of the many things we learned from the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues survey, which asked CPAs what’s keeping them up at night. The biennial survey, conducted by the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section, reveals the chief concerns of CPA firms like yours.  

We released the results of the Top Issues survey at the AICPA’s Practitioners Symposium TECH+ and AAM Summit on June 11 in Las Vegas. The survey responses are categorized by practice size, with top five concerns lists for sole practitioners and for CPA firms with 2 - 5, 6 - 10, 11 - 20 and 21 or more professionals. The findings offer unique insights into the critical challenges facing practitioners across the country, and enable the AICPA to understand and analyze the trends and challenges, and thus provide appropriate solutions and resources to our members.

Bringing in new clients was in the top five list for every size CPA firm. That’s a huge change from the survey results in 2009 and 2011, when client retention was a major focus for CPA firms. The 2013 results seem to indicate that practitioners feel more confident about existing clients, and they have shifted their attention to firm growth.  If you are emphasizing growth, you can use the survey to find out what’s on the minds of firms that are larger or smaller than your own.

If new clients are at the top of your agenda, PCPS has several recommendations:

  1. Let prospective clients know about all you have to offer. Take advantage of new developments and resources to start conversations with potential clients about how you can add value to their business. For example: you can set yourself apart from the competition serving small- and medium-sized businesses by becoming an expert on the new Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities and reinforcing your role as a trusted business advisor for Main Street America.  
  2. Articulate your value. What differentiates you from your competition? Price is only the primary basis of a client’s decision when you don’t give them anything else to judge you by. Think about what makes your CPA firm special and how you have made a difference for clients. Then, be prepared to talk about it with prospects. Better yet, have an in depth conversation with the prospect to gain an understanding of their wants and needs, and offer customized services and prices based on your discussions.
  3. Ask for referrals. What’s the number one reason why current clients don’t refer business? They were never asked. Make a list of the clients for whom you’ve done really great work. Take those clients to lunch and tell them that your practice is always interested in serving new businesses and that you’d appreciate it if they recommended you to others. Mention particular business contacts of theirs with whom you’d like to work. Even when you’re not asking for a referral, try to be the kind of professional your client would be proud to recommend. That means providing great client service—from their first phone call right through timely delivery of excellent service.
  4. Place a laser focus on niches. When you give some thought to the best work you do, do particular industries or services keep coming up? Do you have a wealth of expertise in one or two specialty areas? If you do, you’d be well advised to hone in on those areas when you seek new clients. You can use your proficiency to distinguish yourself from the competition and make a compelling case for future clients.

To find out which issues are impacting CPA firms of all sizes, take a look at the Top Issues Survey results. If you’re looking for resources to address the top issues that are keeping you up at night, I encourage you to check out the AICPA’s PCPS website. The PCPS team is dedicated to delivering articles, tools, checklists and other resources that address the day-to-day challenges of running a CPA practice. 

Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, Vice President, Firm Services & Global Alliances, American Institute of CPAs.

New client image via Shutterstock

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