The critical factors in winning new clients

Do you have a know, like and trust – KLT – strategy?

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Referrals have traditionally been the number one source of new clients for accountants. And, while they’re still important, a personal referral alone may not be enough to persuade someone to start working with you.

Nowadays, almost any potential new client will do an online search for you and your firm before they decide whether to contact you.

What would they find if they searched for you? A solid profile? A website that answers their questions? Links to helpful blogs or resources?

Those kinds of results will convince them it’s worth taking the next step in contacting you.

A salutory story

Have you ever tried Googling your own name (without including the name of your accountancy practice)? It’s an interesting exercise and often quite a wake-up call. To illustrate what I mean, I’d like to share a personal story.

Although AVN was originally founded by Steve Pipe, Mark Wickersham and I were partners in a separate business that worked very closely – and eventually merged – with it. Despite being part of AVN from very early on and being heavily involved in creating many of its resources and its strategy, I was quite happy to remain in the background and to lead the team rather than to get up on stage as Steve and Mark both enjoyed doing. In fact, not only were they up on stage a lot, they also embraced every opportunity to publish content online and had each written several books. In short, they were incredibly well known, liked and trusted within the global accountancy profession (the key factors in a great public profile).

Meanwhile, despite being managing director of AVN, I wasn’t its ‘face’. Not that I had any desire to be. As an introvert and an extremely private person, I didn’t enjoy being on stage nor did I see the need to be. In 2015, however, both Mark and Steve made the decision to gradually step away from AVN to focus on their other passions. I was confident that – having already been around for 17 years – AVN’s reputation would allow it to carry on exactly as before. But I quickly discovered that this wasn’t the case.

The impact on our business

Attendance at our events began to plummet and it soon became apparent that ‘people buy people’. I simply wasn’t known within the profession. I even received emails from accountants that AVN had been successfully marketing to for many years, saying I needed to establish a relationship with them before I began marketing to them! It was a bit of a wake-up call to say the least.

So I Googled my name to find out for myself what these accountants would see if they looked me up. It was horrifying. Despite being presented with thousands of results, not a single one on any of the pages was about me. In fact, the third entry on the first page was a news headline about a Shane Lukas – based in Brazil – who’d been found guilty of a horrendous crime. (And be warned: sometimes, even if it’s obvious that a result isn’t about you, it can still taint your name by association.)

I quickly realised that I needed to take control of my own public profile. ‘My’ Shane Lukas needed to dominate the first page of Google. In future, I wanted to be certain that whenever anyone received a message from me, they’d be able to find out more about me quickly and easily – and avoid any negative connotations.

So take control is what I did.

When I search for my name now, the results are far more positive. The Shane Lukas on the first page of Google links to my public speaking, videos, blogs and books (also to someone called ShaneLukas@thecanadiansamurai who I promise isn’t me!).

Building your KLT factor

By now, I suspect you’ve done a quick Google search for your own name. What were the results? Did they show you in the way you want to be seen? Did they show anything about you at all?

As I said at the start, potential clients looking for solutions to their challenges are almost certain to do an online search. And they will only follow up on the results that resonate with them and look as though they can answer their questions.

I appreciate that this may make you feel very uncomfortable. It can feel very much like shining a spotlight on yourself and shouting ‘Look at me!’ After all, many accountants are natural introverts and certainly don’t relish forcing themselves into the limelight.

But it’s important to understand that it’s less about shining a light on yourself, and more about being a light-bearer. As such, you’ll be able to shine that light on the things that are most important to clients and prospects. Once they identify you as the person shining this light, they’ll begin to know, like and trust you – the KLT factor.

So, if you’re not producing content already, start now. Make it as helpful as possible and don’t worry about giving away free advice. The more you’re seen as the person who provides the answers to their questions, the more you’ll build your KLT factor and your chances of working with them in the future.

And save time by making each piece of content work hard – a blog can become a video can become a downloadable resource can become social media posts (cut down into bite-sized chunks) that link back to your website.

Building your KLT factor will help you stay relevant and attract the kind of clients you really want to work with.

There are dozens more practical ideas for winning more of your ideal clients in The Accountants KnowHow Club. It’s packed full of tips, training and resources to help you take your accounting business to where you want it to go. Find out more about the club.

Shane Lukas, AVN for Accountants