3 creative ways to get your first advisory client
Advisory client vertical

3 creative ways to get your first advisory client

Read the Article

So you are considering adding advisory services to your firm! Great, but the first thing you need to do is figure out how to get your first paying advisory client.

If you ask a lot of firms that offer advisory how they landed their first client, it probably just sort of happened or they lucked into good timing. While some things do just happen and luck plays a role, those are not the most reliable, long-term business strategies.

In the past three years, my firm has interviewed more than 75 tax and accounting firm owners, and 500 non-accountant business leaders. What I’ve learned I want to impart to you: The top lessons and tips when it comes to offering advisory services.

Here are the ground rules

Before jumping into the tips and tactics, it would be best for us to establish some best practice ground rules:

Ground rule #1—Don’t make it complicated. Many firms struggle to add advisory because they don’t have a clear definition for what “advisory” services are. One of the simplest explanations I heard for advisory services is this: Advisory services are situations where your firm analyzes relevant information and provides a client with “actionable recommendations” that can lead to better business decisions.

Ground rule #2—Don’t put yourself in a box. The second biggest challenge tax and accounting firms have is recognizing that they don’t have to “do advisory” the same way as the big firms. I’ve had firm owners tell me, “If I don’t present my advisory services the same way as the big firms, clients won’t see the value in what I am offering.” Most likely, your potential clients have no idea how these firms handle advisory, so don’t try to force yourself to follow an example that does not make sense for the client you are trying to work with.

Ground rule #3—Stop doing advisory work for free. This is probably the toughest ground rule to follow because our entire profession centers around providing useful information and advice to our clients. I understand the struggle here—and it took me two years to get past it myself. But there is a difference from providing general advice based on observations, and actually analyzing information on a deeper level to provide actionable recommendations.

How to get your first client

Now that we are clear on the ground rules, here are a few examples of tactics I’ve heard and personally seen work when it comes to securing paying advisory clients.

#1: The existing client upsell approach

Wilson ABC Tax Advisory Services just finished preparing the annual tax return for their client and are ready to present the final file. Instead of just sending the file and saying, “Here are you results,” the partner set up a 20-minute meeting with the client.

During this meeting, the partner explained the end result and said something like, “While reviewing your tax position, we noticed there could be some additional opportunities to build a better tax strategy that could improve your end result. We offer tax advisory services if you want to explore what some of your options are.”

This simple strategy is by far the most common and most successful tax advisory approach I’ve seen firms use because it presents that option for advisory services in a non-salesy and very time-appropriate manner.

#2: The social media/content strategy approach

Janet XYZ Accounting works with construction companies, and noticed that several are struggling to manage the timing of cash to cover their expenses and the material cost for their projects. Janet decided to create a short video for social media that discussed:

  • What happens when a firm fails to effectively manage cashflow.
  • Three common reasons why construction firms struggle with cash flow.
  • Two ways the firm helps construction companies avoid the negative outcomes that happen when you fail to manage your cash flow.

At the end of her video, she said, “If you have a friend who owns or works at a construction company, please share this video with them.”

This approach has been the second most widely used approach—and yields great results when accounting firms use it consistently.

#3: The referral source approach

Jesse ABC Advisory provides a range of services that solve accounting, bookkeeping, tax, and CFO challenges for many businesses. The firm struggled to gain more advisory clients, so they used the referral source strategy. They picked two specific types of problems, and started telling other tax and accounting firms that they help businesses solve these two specific problems.

In a matter of months, Jesse ABC Advisory developed a reputation as a solution provider for these types of problem. Other firms continued to refer businesses to them whenever they heard of someone experiencing these types of challenges. While not every referral is a good fit for a client, enough of the referrals were, and as a result,  they developed a new profitable advisory section of their business.

What is your solution?

There you have it: Some clear ground rules for advisory services and three of the top examples I’ve seen work for other firms or could work for our own firm. However, every firm is different, so think about your firm’s strengths and areas for improvement, and come up with your own solutions based on these three strategies.

All the best on your journey to building up the advisory side of your firm.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about how Intuit Tax Advisory can benefit your firm.

Comments are closed.