Now that the extended tax season has ended - and with the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us - tax professionals will be focussed on their post-season client pipelines. But what steps can tax pros take to put themselves on the front foot when it comes to attracting new clients and managing their existing workload? Chances are the pandemic will have already ensured a healthy supply of work for many tax pros, as clients seek guidance regarding Paycheck Protection Program loans and the Employee Retention Credit. However, as any successful CPA knows, it always pays to be looking for the next opportunity.

Loyal Customers

Your existing tax clients are likely to be your first point of contact, so start by asking if there are any additional services they might need – check whether they have recently updated their estate plan, or if their exit plan for the business has changed. Don't be afraid to deploy a bit of marketing flair when contacting existing clients either – sending personalized tax postcards is a good way of getting people’s attention and letting them know they’re a valued client. Asking existing clients for referrals is also a tried and tested route to securing new work. This is especially likely to pay off if your existing clients themselves stand to benefit - consider asking them to send referrals in return for being entered into a prize draw for example. Remember too that word of mouth will always be a powerful tool when it comes to promoting your business. Research by Nielsen has found 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than advertising, while 74% of people base their purchasing decisions on word of mouth.

Bear in mind that prospective clients are bound to look you up online when weighing up your services, so a responsive, user-friendly website is essential – it must be mobile-friendly too, since most people now visit websites on their phone or tablet. Don't neglect social media either - your company's Twitter account is unlikely to impress prospective clients if the most recent post dates back months or even years. Just as important is to monitor and respond to what others are saying about you online - It doesn’t matter how good your website is if the first google hit relating to your business is a negative review. For each negative review, you need somewhere between four and 40 good ones to offset it, depending on which source you trust. So it goes without saying that continually getting positive reviews is good for your business.

Smooth Operator

Make sure your client onboarding process is as smooth and simple as possible - the more streamlined and efficient your onboarding process for new clients, the more likely those clients are to refer your firm to others. Communication is key when it comes to onboarding, so let new clients know when they should anticipate communications and how you will be sharing information with them. Your ability to handle the increased workflow from new tax clients will increase if you have combined your existing tax and accounting software with modern, advanced technology. So, if you haven't already, investigate how artificial intelligence (AI) tools can benefit your business. Not only will technology help increase the accuracy and efficiency and accuracy of your services, it will allow you to spend less time performing tasks and more time growing your business. Another aspect to consider when building a post-season pipeline is the rise of value-added services. Offering services beyond filing tax returns - such as accounting, payroll, bookkeeping, business planning, payroll and audit solutions - will only increase your appeal to a wide range of clients.

Keeping On Top

Irrespective of how much work you have on the horizon, it is always a good idea to document your pipeline of prospective clients. The Association of Accounting Marketing suggests that leads should be classified by stage, according to where they are in the sales process – e.g. proposal stage or final stage. Once these leads are either won or lost they can be moved off the pipeline and into a win/loss report. It is also worth conducting pipeline reviews regularly - reviews of 30 minutes every fortnight will help to keep business development at top of mind and ensure that everyone is moving in the right direction at a good pace. Remember to keep an eye on key performance indicators such as what percentage of current revenue is on the pipeline and what the firm’s average win rate is.

Looking ahead

You’re probably still recovering from the season just finished, with its flurry of last-minute tax changes and guidance on new tax regulations. But while this might have brought a degree of extra stress, it will also have created increased demand for tax professionals. By promoting yourself as a proactive, friendly and efficient service, you can expect to see plenty of demand from both new and loyal clients.

Ian Homerston, Industry Slice

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