The Wow Company
recently attended a London event for small businesses who didn’t have an
accountant. We spoke to twelve business owners there, and eventually signed
three as new clients.

We’ve always pitched ourselves as a
firm that’s good for young businesses. We want to work for them and we know how
to appeal to them. But Wow is 13 years old now. We’re an established business,
which means we have to continually ensure we relate well to younger
organisations. This was a great reminder of how to win their hearts and minds.


Understanding the
new-business headspace

When thinking about
how to get new accounting clients, it pays to try and understand their mindset.
Most businesses struggle into life as a small one or two person operation.
Their setup is simple and uncluttered, but there’s no budget for hiring help,
so the owners do everything – including bookkeeping. It’s a do-it-yourself
culture.  

As the business grows, the owners
come under pressure. There are more transactions happening and more records to
keep. Money flows in and out of the business faster, and they often lose track
of it. You can expect them to be feeling overworked, tired, and anxious.  


Owners will be
feeling some pain

As their workload
grows and they slip behind on their bookkeeping, business owners worry that:

·       
they’re not meeting their tax and compliance obligations

·       
they don’t really know how much money they’re making

·       
they’re making decisions about things they don’t fully understand (like
debt)

And they’ll feel
pressure to:

·       
work faster to meet growing demand for their goods and services

·       
catch up on business admin on their weekends

·       
try and fix their work-life balance

This is the state of mind of your
newest accounting client. Be ready to support them through this time.


Make an emotional
connection

Small business
owners can start to feel very lonely during the growing pains. As a result,
owners often feel isolated. The best thing you can do when meeting them for the
first time is show some empathy. Don’t focus on the debits and credits of
accounting. Try instead to give them a sense of comfort and understanding.

Being human isn’t
just a nice thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. It’s also a competitive
advantage. Business owners don’t expect it from an accountant, so it’ll set you
apart. At The Wow Company, we start by asking new accounting clients what keeps
them up at night, or what they wish for their business. They’re business
questions, but they’re framed in an emotional context.


What do they want
from an accountant?

Someone who doesn’t
have an accountant probably doesn’t know what an accountant can do. You’re not
going to educate them overnight so don’t try to. It’ll just overwhelm them.

Business owners in
these early stages aren’t looking for sophisticated services. If you can
address their short-term anxieties, they’ll be interested in talking some more.
Focus on these three things:

1.     Figuring out how
the business is doing

As businesses grow and speed up, owners generally lose track of their financial
situation. They may not know if they’re profitable, or how much they can
reinvest in the business. Tell them how you’ll put that information at their
fingertips.

2.     Taking away hassle
No one gets into business to do accounting. Build systems that reduce the
business owner’s bookkeeping commitments. For business owners who are
scrambling to do a thousand things at once, there’s no greater gift you can
give them than time.

3.     Being their go-to
person
Small business owners have a lot of questions. They probably worry some
of them are naive or stupid. Be the person they feel comfortable asking. As you
find out what they do and don’t know, you’ll be able to educate them. That will
make them more confident in themselves, their business, and in you.


Give them back
their life

It’s the sheer
volume of work that will often compel a business owner to find an accountant.
They’ll be sick of recording and reconciling transactions – or worrying about
their finances. Help them imagine a life where they don’t spend late nights or
weekends:

·       
punching data into a spreadsheet

·       
preparing and sending invoices

·       
wondering if they can afford new equipment, extra staff, or more
inventory


Services that will
hook small businesses

Explain how you’ll
take away the pain. Most new accounting clients won’t understand that modern
accounting tools can automate their:

·       
record keeping

·       
invoicing

·       
cash flow tracking

These three services alone will
relieve their work burden, give them certainty in their financial situation,
and help them understand their business. If you can promise to fix up these
areas of their business in the first couple of months, you’ll be in a strong
position to pick them up as new accounting clients.


Caring for your
clients isn’t just a marketing trick

Once you have a new
accounting client onboard, you need to keep working on the personal
relationship. Empathy is not just a show you put on to win the business.

It helps to have
compassionate people on staff, but there’s more to it than personalities. You
need to make relationship-building part of everyone’s workday. Keep a customer
relationship management system, and ensure everyone on staff buys into it. Use
it to record personal information about your clients, like:

·       
why they got into business

·       
what they want from the business

·       
who their family is

·       
what their interests are outside of work

This will ensure you never lose sight
of the personal connection that defined your relationship at the outset.


Young businesses
make great new accounting clients

Young businesses
can be excellent clients because:

·       
they’re often entering a growth curve when they become a client

·       
you can set up their accounting systems the way you like

·       
you can score quick wins by introducing modern accounting tools and
disciplines

It makes sense to go after these new
businesses. Just make sure you understand where they’re coming from, what they
need from you, and how to appeal to them.

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