Jason Blumer was part of “Building a Million Dollar Firm,” a Power Panel at QuickBooks® Connect 2017 moderated by Joe Woodard. Here are highlights from his part of the discussion.
1. How do you engage your ideal client in a certain niche?
Define your ideal client first. Make sure the firm is certain they know who they want to serve. Find out where your clients go (events), what they read online (content) or if they find value in what you offer as a firm (do they have a problem you can uniquely solve?). Then, you need a plan that will nurture leads for about four to six months so that trust is built and you begin to see conversions to clients.
2. How do you engage your ideal client if you don’t focus on a niche?
Same as above, but you may need more of a content creation plan to go on your blog instead of nurturing through emails. You’ll need to focus on simply writing consistent blog content for the masses.
3. What is a brand for an accountant, and how to do you manage it or enhance it?
A brand is the perception your target market has about you. You can influence this with consistent and well done logos and websites, but, ultimately, the marketplace will form its opinion of you. You can use tools that enhance trust faster such as podcasts and live events on Facebook, but generally a marketplace forms an opinion over long periods of time of seeing your content over and over again. It’s also helpful if your brand (or the leader of your firm) is somewhat polarizing so that you do not look like other accounting firms. Brands stand out so it’s important you don’t look like everyone else.
4. What is content marketing, or inbound marketing, and what is it supposed to do for a firm?
Inbound marketing is supposed to bring people to you instead of you having to go out and meet people. Many people think just posting consistently on social media will bring people to you, but that doesn’t generally work. Although it is necessary to be consistently seen on social platforms, inbound marketing seeks to capture the immediate attention of a visitor to your site (typically through an email address) so you can build direct trust with that user over time. Once they’ve given you an email address, you have permission to periodically email them messaging that will hopefully convert them to a client over time.
5. Can you grow your firm without a brand or website?
Sure you can, but it’s much slower and much harder. There are some brands that are so niche-focused that their customers already know they need to use them. And, their websites don’t matter as much (we have some clients like this), but this isn’t generally true for generalist service-based businesses. Service-based businesses, such as accounting firms, need to differentiate themselves from other firms. One key way to do this is with a brand and/or website.
6. How do you develop a brand if you are an invisible virtual firm?
If you are virtual, it helps to focus on a niche. Focusing on a niche targets your market and allows you to tell them you exist (since they can’t see you when they drive by). It’s also helpful to develop an expertise if you are virtual, so that customers will have a reason to seek you out. Developing a niche is a step toward claiming expertise in a certain area of work. Make sure you can deliver expert services in the niche you are claiming to serve.
7. What do people mean when they say,"I need to put in some infrastructure before I grow?"
This is typically talking about hiring people and/or creating consistent processes for team members to follow. Chaos will kill any growth strategy of a firm. Chaos is eliminated with strong leadership that is guiding the process of hiring great people to follow consistent processes. Great people following consistent processes can really form the basis for solid growth.
8. Should the owner be doing tax returns or other technical services if they plan on growing?
It depends. If a firm owner wants to grow a firm larger than themselves, then delegating technical work to others is going to be necessary. It will take time to do this effectively. But, if a firm owner wants to stay small, then they can remain in the technical services of the firm. This will limit their growth because the owner can only do so much. The firm owner has to know what they want before they begin the process of growing.
9. What is a "growth ceiling," and how do you know when you’ve hit one?
A growth ceiling is what all growing companies eventually hit. This is where the people and processes that allowed you to grow to the current place are not allowing you to continue growing to a new size (what got you here won’t get you there). Typically, an owner experiences a growth ceiling when they don’t have the expertise or knowledge of how to move to the next phase of company size. When owners hit growth ceilings, frustration is common: the team isn’t working, growth has stopped happening and clients could become unhappy. It takes some type of new risk to break the growth ceiling (such as installing new processes or hiring new leadership) and begin moving the company forward.
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