Given the economic uncertainty, many of our CPA and IT firm clients have made a renewed commitment to marketing and sales activities. With busy season just around the corner, most of us are tempted to put marketing and sales on the back burner. But with thinning pipelines, taking your foot off of the business development gas could leave your firm with excess capacity when you reach the summer months.
That’s why I’ve outlined four business development activities that can be undertaken during busy season to help you smooth the peaks and valleys in your practice, uncover new ways to serve your clients, and identify opportunities you can follow up and close during your slower summer months. They include:
• Surveying your clients. Consider implementing a simple survey to uncover new opportunities within your existing client base while you’re meeting with virtually all of your clients over the next several months. Use our survey tool and modify it to ask each client four or five questions that would help you identify unmet needs so you can fulfill them.
Assign every client service owner the responsibility to complete a short survey and then forward each survey to one person who will compile them (don’t put them in your client files as they will stay there, lessening the likelihood of appropriate follow-up, reducing their value). If there is immediate follow-up required, it should be assigned and prioritized. For those whose needs are not as immediate, schedule a meeting with the client owners after busy season to make assignments for follow up.
• Participating in networking activities. One of the successful tenets of any marketing activity is consistency. Continue to participate in – and show up for – your networking meetings to build your firm’s – and your personal – brand during busy season. You don’t need to take on additional responsibilities or participate in “extra” events, but you do want to be consistent in your attendance at key association and group activities – even during busy season. Doing so demonstrates that you’re not too “busy” for new clients or referrals and shows your commitment to the organization and the members.
• Conducting referral meetings. Your relationships with referral sources don’t go on hiatus, even when your workload and due dates increase. You have to eat at some time during the day, and meeting with one referral source per week for lunch (rather than eating at your desk!) will give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with your referral partners, uncover potential new business, and break up the week by getting away from working “in” your practice to work “on” your practice for a brief respite of proactivity.
• Tracking your activities in a sales pipeline. Your sales and marketing activities will result in more successes when you track your opportunities in a sales pipeline. Even if your firm doesn’t have a centralized pipeline tracking system, you can use our Excel pipeline report to create your own and review it on a weekly basis to determine what sales actions you’re going to take to move opportunities forward, or what referral sources or networking organizations need your attention. Tracking these opportunities gives you visibility to the next step and helps ensure you’re following up appropriately, which in turn will help you close more business because opportunities won’t be as likely to fall through the cracks.
When we regularly prioritize and commit to specific sales and marketing activities, the long-term success of our firm is more secure. And, when our clients do the same, they don’t wake up one morning in May feeling pressure to scramble and undertake a bunch of sales and marketing activities to drive new business. Investing the time in these activities ongoingly enables you to reap the rewards of your long-term investments in your clients, networking organizations, and referral source marketing activities - and you’ll likely close more business with existing clients and even generate a few new clients for your firm!
What sales and marketing activities are you willing to commit to over the next four months? Who are you going to share these commitments with to help hold you accountable when your client workload increases? I would love to hear about your plans and how you balance the need for business development activities while managing your client commitments during your busy season. Please post a reply and share your ideas and your commitment.