If you're like most CPA firm leaders, you value client referrals. After all, according to Annex Cloud, referral marketing generates conversion rates that are three to five times higher than other marketing channels, and referred clients are four times more likely to refer more clients to your firm.
But generating quality referrals can be tricky. How do you ensure your clients are referring people who could benefit from your services? And how do you turn that referral into a client? Here are five tips that can help.
Make asking for referrals part of your business development process
Many CPA firms are happy to take client referrals but rarely ask for them. If they do, it's a one-off effort rather than part of their normal business development process.
But don't wait until you need a referral to ask for one—put a process in place so that referrals are always part of your outreach.
Recently, we started asking for referrals from all of our communities twice a year. We don't just send a blanket email to all community members. Instead, our consultants personalize the email to each member. For example, the email might say, "I know you're working on transforming your firm's business model, and we're excited to work with other firms like yours. Do you know of any forward-thinking firms that would be a good fit for one of our communities?"
Our members are often happy to refer other members because having new perspectives and fresh ideas in the community improves their own experience.
Ask for the right information
People can't refer the right kinds of clients if they don't know who you're looking for, so let them know.
While CPA firms often have a minimum fee threshold, you probably don't want to share this with your existing clients—it should be more of an internal metric.
Instead, let them know the kind of client you're looking for. For example, you might say, "We're looking for other growing businesses in the construction industry with 20 or more employees," or "We're interested in helping more startup businesses get their financials in line so they can attract funding."
Getting specific will help you avoid referrals that don't fit your ideal client profile.
We also ask our community members to fill out a short form to provide the person's name, company, job title, and email or other contact information.
Send a timely reminder
All of our members are busy professionals, so even if they intend to refer someone, it's easy for it to get buried in their inbox or fall off their to-do list. So we always send a reminder if we don't hear back after our initial request.
Of course, you don't want to spam your clients with referral requests. So if you send a reminder and don't hear back, don't continue emailing them. Maybe they'll be ready to refer someone next time.
Follow up on referrals right away
One of the most important things you can do to make sure your referrals turn into clients is to follow up with them right away.
If your existing clients refer someone and later learn that you never followed up on that referral, they might assume you're not interested in referrals and not refer anyone else.
But if you follow up with them within a week or two of receiving the referral, you'll show that you're serious about turning it into a client. And that could lead to more referrals in the future.
We promptly email the prospect, mention who referred them and why, and ask to set up a call with one of our consultants. We'll send a follow-up email or call if they don't respond.
Once again, we don't want to spam people who aren't interested in our services, so if we don't hear back after a few attempts, we send a short "break-up" email confirming we're not going to pursue their business further. If the prospect is interested in our services, this is often the impetus they need to respond.
If a referral prospect becomes a client, don't forget to thank your referral source.
Thanking clients for referring other clients is a great way to show appreciation and keep them coming back with more referrals. Here are a few ideas:
Send a handwritten note. This is a great way to show that you appreciate the referral. A handwritten note lets the client know you took the time to sit down and write them a personal message.
Include a gift card. It's always nice to receive a gift, and a gift card is a great way to show your appreciation. You can choose a gift card that's appropriate for the client's interests or hobbies.
Offer a discount on future services. If the client refers someone who becomes a client, offer them a discount on future services. This shows you're grateful for their referral and committed to providing excellent service.
When done correctly, asking for referrals is a low-effort way to increase your firm's revenue. But it's important to intentionally ask clients for referrals and provide them with the tools they need to send quality leads your way. Referrals are one of the best ways to grow your firm, so start today!
Do you want to fast-track your firm's success in the areas of marketing and business development?
The Boomer Marketing & Business Development Circle is a peer group of top marketing and business development leaders in the accounting profession who are committed to aligning marketing and business development initiatives with firm strategy. Apply now to get plugged into the Circle and start growing your firm.
Parker Bohon, Solutions Advisor at Boomer Consulting, Inc., is excited to work closely with our members. Her primary focus is on our communities, including the Boomer Technology Circles, CIO Circle, Business Transformation Circle, Managing Partner Circle, and Marketing and Business Development Circle.