Direct-response marketing – Day 14: how to get more clients, better clients, and improve collections
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today’s question comes from Darlene Moore out of Fresno, California. Darlene owns my book and sent this question in:
“Hi, Craig. I am a CPA in Fresno, CA. I do taxes & very limited accounting – only about 3 monthly write-up clients. The lion’s share of my business is taxes, mostly individual, some small business, which is mostly Schedule C’s. I also do taxes for about a dozen C Corps, S Corps, partnerships & nonprofits. I’d like to attract small business clients & perform the functions of an outside controller.
I have no idea how to market to or attract clients. I need to improve number of clients, type of clients, gross revenue, profitability & collections.
I have no idea how to differentiate myself. Clients seem to view all tax preparers & CPA’s as commodities, so fees are very low & I never know how to price. People expect me to be cheaper than H & R Block but I have more knowledge, more compliance & more costs. (By the way, did you know that CPA’s pay more for E & O insurance because we have professional standards to adhere to?) I also think I spend more time on the returns, because I go through all the various elections & such that can be done on a return & I don’t believe H&RB does more than input data. In other words, I am probably your typical sole practitioner CPA who does a good job for her clients, but so do many of the other CPA’s out there.
I used to believe that, although I did work for Deloitte & Touche once upon a time, the fact that most of my years of experience were gained working for various small businesses & industries as the full-charge bookkeeper or controller or VP of Finance or head of the accounting department, so I thought I had more hands-on experience than someone who always worked for an accounting firm & may have more theoretical vs. practical knowledge & experience, but that hasn’t been a selling point.
Ok, I need to do something, but I’m not sure what.”
great question, with many very easy to apply answers. this is a classic case of not being able to see yourself the way others see you. let’s take a look.
darlene has three issues. she wants more clients, better clients, and improved collections. I’m going to take these in reverse:
1. collections – if you want to avoid a collections problem, then the easiest way of doing it is to get paid up front. there are two things darlene can do. if she’s doing tax work, once the returns are ready, you give your client a summary sheet with the results, and then you tell them once they remit payment, they get their full return immediately.
maybe you don’t do this with clients who’ve been with you for years and paid on time — but you do it with 100% of everyone outside of this. if someone questions you, you say, “unfortunately we’ve had some collection problems, so our office manager has implemented this new procedure. i’m sure you can understand how thing are nowadays.”
another thing you can do with your bigger clients, is to have monthly billings instead of one flat lump sum for a tax return. this way, you’re getting paid all year round — which you should be doing anyway if you’re functioning like the company controller, anyway.
not having collection problems is a HUGE problem solved. not sure if you know this, but there’s a very successful entrepreneur out of south florida – wayne huizenga. one of the smartest things he did was start companies that had no collection issues. he did this in the sanitation industry (where you pay before they pick up) and he did this with blockbuster (where you pay before you leave the store). very smart man he is.
2. getting better clients – if you want better clients, then you simply have to prospect to better clients. look at it like this — if you are trying to catch rabbits, then you put your rabbit trap out in the middle of the forest near the rabbit warren. however if you put your trap instead on the grub-laden grassy patches, all you’re going to catch is armadillos.
if you want to get monthly write-up work, then send your marketing pieces to those people most likely to need these kinds of services.
what you need to do is figure out what kind of clients have hired you most, in the past. for instance, how long were they in business? how many employees did they have? what kind of accounting did they have before you got to them?
for example, there’s an accountant guy down here locally, that sends me a marketing piece every single time i start another company. it’s not a very good piece, but since he does it like clockwork, it leads me to believe even with his not so good marketing… this is a good source of leads for him.
and it’s easy to rent mailing lists with names of new businesses in your local area, and probably not very expensive. perhaps that’s your target client marketplace – who knows?
the bottom line is, you can only attract the people you’re speaking to. so it’s up to you to make sure you’re speaking to the right people in the first place. just the same way you probably want to live in a certain area and avoid living in other areas, you have to take the same approach with your prospecting.
3. getting more clients – darlene should be using, without exception, two-step lead generation. and here’s the great thing: in her free report, this is where she gets to describe all the reasons why working with her beats anything else – using the information she just sent me. in other words, it’s where she gets to create her differential
she already has a few of the key positioning items that make her different:
“People expect me to be cheaper than H & R Block but I have more knowledge, more compliance & more costs. (By the way, did you know that CPA’s pay more for E & O insurance because we have professional standards to adhere to?) I also think I spend more time on the returns, because I go through all the various elections & such that can be done on a return & I don’t believe H&RB does more than input data.”
this obviously isn’t the exact sales copy you’d want to use, but it’s certainly the premise for what you want to say.
one place you can put things like this in your free report, is in a section you can call “what kind of client gets the most out of working with me?”
then you can say something like, “if you’re looking for the cheapest services in town, then you and i are probably not a fit. the truth is, in life, and especially in business… you really do get what you pay for. and here’s why: see, while services like h & r block may cost you less money, that’s because you’re also getting far less value. blah, blah, blah…”
at that point, darlene can start going into the reasons why, which i repeated just a moment ago
i’m not sure if darlene is doing any kind of marketing right now, but this is all about putting out the right message to the right prospects
frankly, most people won’t do this simply because they are afraid it won’t work, or they’re afraid (oddly enough) that it might work. but that’s another topic for another day, and i sure hope darlene isn’t one of these people
Now go sell something, Craig Garber
P.S. THE # 1 SECRET to charging high prices is simply knowing how to “position” yourself in the marketplace. this eliminates any competition and frankly, is easy to do. you’ll find out for yourself in Chapter 10, “How To Become Number One In Your Industry”
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