Generating more referrals should be your primary mission each tax season. Some are uneasy with the process, but integrating a strategy and sound processes can drive a steady stream of qualified new clients. According to the American Marketing Association, word-of-mouth recommendations are about 2.5 times more effective at acquiring new clients than other types of advertising.
The first thing you need to do is look in the mirror. Are your brand message, your office, and your demeanor putting out positive vibes to your current clients?
Are you responsive to client inquiries?
Do you seem to rush clients?
Anytime someone refers a client to you, they are putting their own reputation on the line. If you do not start out with your best foot forward, why would anyone else put themselves at risk?
Asking for referrals can be an uncomfortable experience. Through years of testing, we have found some less uncomfortable ways to ask for referrals and receive them. Referral marketing is more human than other lead-generation tactics. It requires attention to detail, a desire to connect, and a commitment to being valuable and responsive at every turn. Don’t wait for referrals to trickle in. Get proactive.
Develop a referral mindset
Start asking for referrals. Make it part of everything you do. Include mentions that your business is built on referrals on your email footers and in every client interaction.
One of the biggest concerns tax accounting clients have before they refer business to you is confidentiality. The last thing they want is their personal or business details being shared with relatives or business associates. Communicating your policy of confidentiality is an easy way to politely ask for referrals. We developed a set of desktop display inserts that do just that. Simply download our PDF templates, print on your color printer or at a local printer, and insert into our recommended plastic display. Everyone in the office should have one on his or her desk. Clients can’t but notice this soft sell approach to generate referrals.
We’ve found that the best time to ask for a referral is at the end of a successful engagement. The client’s experience is fresh in their mind, and it is at this point that they are most likely to recommend you to others. If you have done a great job for them, they will be grateful and will want to repay you through recommendations.
A common interaction would be:
Client: Thank you so much for helping us solve this complicated tax problem.
You: You are so welcome. I appreciate the kind words that we have earned your trust. Let me know if you have a friend or colleague who might need my help also.
This open-ended prompt will help drive the conversation and make it easy for the client to refer you to others.
A sample referral email might look like this….
I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I've been working with [tax accountant] on helping me grow my business and they have delivered amazing results. We were talking about our efforts recently and I thought of you.
It would be quite beneficial for you both to meet….
So here we go…
[Referral], meet [tax accountant], [with a website address].
[tax accountant ] meet [referral, with a LinkedIn profile URL or website address].
Can I leave the rest to you both?
Talk to you soon.
Marketing is a year-round task
It is no wonder many tax professionals who struggle think they can just turn their marketing channel on and off. They don’t use a year-round email newsletter. Many don’t even have a website. Referral opportunities occur year-round. They may be triggered by a life event, an IRS letter or even a new business start-up. If you are only visible 3 months out of the year, you have no one to blame but yourself if you struggle with client churn and low billing rates.
You need to be publishing valuable articles and tips that your clients and prospects can access and share for free. Your content should showcase your expertise without adding sales pressure. The right prospects will be attracted to you and will be free to engage you on their terms.
Get a boatload of reviews and testimonials
Word of mouth isn’t just spoken anymore, it is posted online. According to a survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Social proof can make the difference in an interested prospect or referral choosing you over a competitor. Try to get as many reviews as possible on TaxBuzz, Yelp and Google My Business. Reviews are in fact the modern-day referral, as they are displayed to web searchers when they are most ready to buy. In addition, you want to showcase the reviews and client testimonials on your website. This will start the trust building seed early on in the relationship.
Motivate your audience.
Depending on your target audience, you will sometimes need to scratch your referral’s back to get some activity. H&R Block seems to believe in this type of promotion so much that they are giving away $1,000 to 1,000 people a day. This strategy seems a little desperate, but the same approach can work for you.
Keep it really simple: Refer a friend and get $20 cash back. Use this type of promotion on your website, thank-you cards, and via email and social media.
Free Website and Email Templates for you to edit and use at your own practice.
Sample Referral Policy copy for your website
Referrals are the cornerstone of any service business.
This firm relies on satisfied clients as the primary source of new business, and your referrals are both welcome and most sincerely appreciated!
Since your referrals are generally individuals with whom you are well acquainted, you may have some concern that your business matters will be discussed with the new clients you refer. This office guarantees the confidentiality of client information. Your personal, financial and tax data will not be shared with anyone else.
An Expression of Confidence
When you refer clients to us, you are expressing your faith and confidence in the services we offer and will continue to provide to you. You may have business associates who need professional tax assistance or family and friends who struggle to do their own taxes every year. No matter whom you refer, rest assured that their individual tax needs will be handled in the same professional manner as yours have been
Ask Them to Call Early
The tax season schedule is a hectic one. Although new clients can always be accommodated, we recommend that your referrals call as early as possible for the best selection of appointment times.
Sample Referral Email Template:
Hi [first name],
I am so pleased you were happy with our [tax planning solution, new business setup, etc…]. I really buy into what we do for clients, so knowing that we earned your trust is my goal with every client.
My firm is built by satisfied clients as the primary source for new business. So I need your help…
It is my goal to help clients succeed in their business and personal lives. Having a partner to help guide you down the best path is my mandate.
I was wondering if you knew of any other businesses or colleagues who could use my help.
I know people don’t like pushy salespeople. So if anyone comes to mind, just send over my website and your thoughts on our relationship. Just ask them to contact me directly.
I assure you I will treat anyone you recommend with the utmost respect and responsiveness. As a way of giving thanks, I would love to give you a [$50 gift card, special offer here] as a way of saying thanks. This is for every referral that ends up engaging my services. So refer away.
When you refer clients to us, you are expressing your faith and confidence in the services that we offer and will continue to provide to you.
Please feel free to share your success stories by commenting to this blog article. We love sharing our best practices with you and hope this tax season is your most successful ever. And if you like what you saw here, please share with your colleagues on social media. We appreciate the support. Attracting referrals shows others that you are a proven and trusted source for tax accounting services. They are worth their weight in gold for your practice.