Business development strategies for accounting firmsBusiness development strategies for accounting firms.

Business development has a unique place in accounting firms. While it’s not usually central to an accountant’s core skills, it is an essential part of running a firm. Because it doesn’t come naturally to most people, many firms suffer from a distinct lack of business development strategies. In a recent webinar with CPA Practice Advisor, Barry Brown and Lee Hudson of Moore Stephens Tiller spoke with Wolters Kluwer product line manager Samantha Grovenstein-Deal about how that firm approaches business development. In addition to tips for growing revenue and tools that can help identify valuable opportunities, the webinar addressed how firms can move from basic business development to more advanced tactics.

Step One: Improve data.

If your firm’s data is in good shape, consider yourself ahead of the pack. Most firm databases have a considerable amount of incomplete or out-of-date data. To that end, one of the most basic, but most valuable, business development strategies is to clean up your data. That means updating client contact information, gathering information that might be missing, especially email addresses, line of business, and type of services provided.

And don’t just make this a one-time project. Formalize a client intake process that includes gathering all of the needed information. Have a plan for keeping information up to date. If your data needs a major overhaul, like service code restructuring or client renumbering, consider hiring a data specialist to help.

Step Two: Plan & Communicate.

When you have your data in good shape, you can begin to develop and refine your business development plan. Set up mailing lists targeted to specific client types or interest areas, and then target those clients for related digital marketing, mailers or phone calls. Thought leadership in the form of e-newsletters, blogs and ebooks are a great way to promote your services while creating value for clients. In fact, longer-form pieces can be re-purposed into presentations that you can deliver at industry events or through webinars.

Remember that every interaction with clients affects your firm’s business development efforts. Satisfied clients are more likely to refer their friends and colleagues. With the rise of social media, word of mouth has never been more important. Make sure that business development doesn’t take place in a vacuum. If you want want to attract new business, you’ll need to consider every stage of your clients’ journey.

Step Three: Track & Measure.

In conjunction with planning out your communication and outreach strategy, think about how you will track and measure success. Some business development channels will be more successful than others. And that will vary from firm to firm. You don’t necessarily need a full-featured CRM to do this. If your client intake procedure includes a field to record the source for each client, you can use this information to discover which channels are really working. The marketing source could be a person, if you’re tracking referrals or individual staff efforts. Or, it could be specific events, mailers, or search engine ads.

Also, find out who your most profitable clients are. That way you can set out to find more clients like them. If there’s a certain industry that seems to be working out for your firm, use that information to develop a specialization or niche. Determine which KPIs are most important to your firm and track them. Monthly reporting can give you a picture of past performance, but business intelligence tools and dashboards can help you drill down and slice-and-dice in near real-time. The more easily you can monitor your KPIs, the more quickly you can adjust your business development strategies.

Step Four: Analyze & Evolve.

Lastly, after you’ve mastered your business development strategy, be prepared to change it. The profession is evolving quickly. Legislative changes can create new client needs nearly overnight. And technology can disrupt what you once thought to be a sure-thing. You’ll need to be proactive about what clients want and need. The good news is that you don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s coming… As long as you have the data to show you the way.

Hear more about business development strategies having success today. Watch the webinar: Embracing Business Development in Accounting Firms.