Category: Newsletters

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Active listening gets results

Active listening skills help to demonstrate a firm’s ability to meet a prospect’s needs. Good listening plays a large role in developing a close personal relationship with a prospective client. The goal of a first meeting with a prospect is to build a relationship by conveying your sincere interest in the person and the issues or problems they face. The best way to do this is through the practice of good listening techniques. Below are some listening tips that can help produce the results that you want at the first meeting.

Be attentive
Pay close attention to what the prospect has to say. If you don’t understand something, ask the prospect to clarify it for you. Let them complete their thoughts, and only ask questions about what they have said. In doing this, you demonstrate that their views are of paramount importance to you.

Pay attention to body language
These observations will help you understand the prospect’s real feelings about the facts, figures and ideas that are being discussed. You also need to be aware of your own body language. As a listener, you will be telegraphing your feelings and opinions to the prospect.

Be open-minded
Don’t let any preconceived notions make you “hear something different” from what the prospect is actually saying. And withhold judgment and comment until you’ve heard all the prospect has to say. Learning not to jump in too quickly turns a good listener into a better listener.

Be empathetic
Express an empathetic understanding of the prospect’s needs and concerns without passing judgment. This will not only show you care and understand the problem or issue, it may help you close the sale.

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Client satisfaction surveys

The success of a client satisfaction program relies on an accountant’s ability to do three things.

  1. Gather qualitative and quantitative assessments of a firm’s service performance from clients on a regular basis.
  2. Report on the results of these assessments to all interested stakeholders.
  3. Act on the information received.

All surveys must include right questions. These questions should be brief, to the point and easily understood by clients.

Mail surveys should be no longer than a single page and include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank or short narrative responses. The mail survey is the least expensive and often the fastest way of obtaining information from clients. The response rate is nearly always higher if a personalised letter accompanies the questionnaire and a postage paid return envelope is enclosed.

Telephone interviews should be restricted to 10 minutes and be structured so that the questions asked will provide the desired information. Firm professionals with a good understanding of the client’s business should conduct these interviews. Greater success can be achieved if your clients are informed of the survey call ahead of time so clients can think about their responses in advance.

Face-to-face interviews, when properly done, allow the interviewer to obtain hard facts as well as client perceptions of services delivered. For these interviews to be effective, careful preparation is crucial. Conducting a client satisfaction interview is different from asking questions on a company’s systems. Most professionals find it difficult to ask the question “How did I do?” When the answer is less than outstanding, it is even more difficult to ask how your services can be improved. Fortunately, most clients are willing to give an honest and straightforward answer when these questions are posed in the right way.

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What is client service?

The answer to this question might not be as obvious as it first seems. It is helpful to distinguish between the product and the service you provide a client. When a client engages you he or she takes the product – the audit, the management accounts, or the payroll work – for granted. That is what he is paying for, and that is what he expects. What makes the difference is the service you provide on top – the personal attention, the timeliness, the extra advice, etc.

Clients pay for compliance work because they have to, not because they value it. What they value is time spent with you – where you provide ‘visible’ services such as an annual consultation, or a business health check. They also value meeting with you personally rather than with one of your staff. This is what makes them happy to pay your fees, and to keep coming back for more.

It is important to take a sincere interest in your clients, beyond their ability to pay your fees. The best way to do this is to put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their way of thinking. Listen to your clients; don’t argue with them and don’t force your opinion on them.

Reply promptly to your clients’ enquiries. Try to take every phone call, especially the negative ones. Indeed, make a special point of taking the difficult calls, and deal with any complaints personally. One sure way to lose a client is to be unavailable when he or she has a grievance to express. On the other hand, a sympathetic response from you will often be sufficient to smooth any ruffled feathers.

Personal touches are important. Find out about your client’s interests, family, etc, and show a genuine interest. Get to know any family members working in the client’s business. Also get to know other accountancy staff who work there. Some of these will have interests outside that business. They might own their own business or have valuable connections elsewhere.

Above all, be consistent. Don’t show a personal interest in the client in one meeting and then revert to cold formality or impersonal functionality in the next. It is also important to maintain this consistency as your firm grows. There is no point in growing your business if the price is increased dissatisfaction among your existing client base. Service is what drives your business. It is what keeps your existing clients happy and coming back for more, and it is what brings in referrals. In the accounting industry it is difficult to differentiate your firm by the products you provide.

What distinguishes you from your competitors is your client service. When an accountant is just starting out in practice, he or she is acutely aware of the importance of providing quality service to the client, but as the years go by this awareness gradually fades, complacency takes over, and it starts to feel as if the client is there for your sake rather than the other way round. Avoid this creeping complacency at all costs!

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Choosing the right length for your emails

Concise emails are generally more effective than lengthy ones. However, there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ email length that will work for every email marketing campaign. Finding the right frequency and length of emails depends solely on the target audience and the value of an email’s content.

Until a firm becomes familiar with the target audience of their emailing campaign, adopting a ‘less-is-more’ mentality is often the best plan of attack. As a general rule, the longer an email’s content, the less frequently an audience will tolerate receiving these emails.

Some ways a firm can reduce the size of their individual emails to make them more engaging include:

Breaking content into parts
Including too much content may overwhelm some readers. Breaking up the content into separate emails can make it much easier for clients to retain the important information. However, remember to include links to all content parts so the interested readers don’t feel like they’re being deprived.

Including images
Images can replace long passages of text, and can help reinforce the messages contained in the body of the email. However using too many images can directly degrade an email’s deliverability, so make sure images chosen are relevant and help to communicate the main message.

Using white space
On average, 80% of people only scan an email’s content. Using white space makes emails much easier to scan so clients can quickly find the information they truly value.

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Finding the right time to send email newsletters

Timing is a crucial aspect of email marketing campaigns.

Firms that send out an email newsletter at a time when clients are unlikely to see it, risk having low open rates and poor firm metrics. But if they send out the same email newsletter at a time when clients are more likely to read it, the results can be exceedingly different.

Unfortunately, there is no one ‘best time’ to send out email newsletters. But there are certain days of the week and times that have been recommended by marketing professionals that should produce some decent first-time results for firms.

The general consensus is that firms should avoid sending out email newsletters on Mondays. Mondays are the start of the working week which means client inboxes are likely to have been flooded with emails over the weekend. Sending an email on a Monday is risky, as your email may get lost in amongst all the others.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the favorite days to send out email campaigns. This standard mid-week time makes sense as the majority of desktop users open their emails at work. Sending emails between 1-3pm or even 9-11am also can produce decent results.

Weekends are usually when people are out of the office, so emails sent at this time tend to have low open rates.

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Drive traffic to your website

If you want your business to be successful online, you need to direct a steady flow of relevant traffic towards your website. The more traffic your website gets, the more popular it becomes, and the more popular it becomes, the more successful your business will be. Or so it may seem.

There is no doubt that website traffic is a very important aspect when determining the success of an online business, however just because a website receives a large amount of traffic doesn’t always mean this is beneficial. Traffic is important, but not all traffic is necessarily good.

What online businesses should be aiming for is retaining relevant traffic to their website. And a sure-fire way of encouraging this is utilising the powerful reach of e-newsletters.

By advertising your online business prominently on an e-newsletter, your website traffic is likely to increase significantly. E-newsletters allow you to include information about your services and products in a way that is so interesting to clients, that they are left wanting to know more. By simply adding a link to the end of each newsletter article, you will then enable the readers to proceed directly to your website. This is why eNews can complement your website, and is the kind of marketing strategy that has the ability to turn more web visitors into long-term clients through persistent follow-ups.

Incorporating eNews into your marketing strategy ensures that you maintain top of mind awareness in your clients even if they don’t currently need your services. eNews means you can rest easy for when clients do need your services, as you will be the name that they will remember.

If you believe you have a great looking website in need of some more client visits, use eNews to drive traffic and encourage more visits to your online business.

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The golden rules for creating an email newsletter

It can be hard for accounting firms who are new to email newsletters to make their mark in the world of email marketing (and their clients’ inboxes).

Here are seven golden rules for firm beginners to help them create a bond with their clients and ensure they remain connected to readers.

Be informative
Being informative and relevant is the be-all, end-all in email marketing. Firms need to tell useful or compelling stories and make sure their email is full of valuable, interesting, educational content. The type of content firms use in their email newsletters could include:

  • new blog posts
  • how-to’s and tips
  • industry or firm news
  • events or reminders
  • client testimonials

Lose the sales pitch
While firms can use email newsletters to inform clients of special offers or sales, selling should never be the primary focus of an email newsletter.

Keep it brief
The average reader will spend around 51 seconds reading a newsletter. Keep your firm’s content scannable by breaking the newsletter content into blocks, short blurbs or bullet points, followed by a call-to-action button.

Give readers with enough information to leave them eager to learn more. Lead readers back to your firm’s blog or website if they want more information. A newsletter’s purpose isn’t to make a sale; it is to build a relationship with clients, to inform and educate them, and hopefully, to get them clicking.

Respond to clients
Providing clients with the opportunity to respond to your firm’s email newsletter, and then responding to any inquiries or comments, lets readers know that your firm is listening to them, which can help build a stronger relationships. It may also provide your firm with valuable insights and feedback that can be used to improve your next email newsletter.

Allow for an easy opt-out
The harder a firm makes it for someone to unsubscribe to their emails, the easier it allows that person to file the emails under ‘spam’. Let clients go easily by making the unsubscribe link easy to find. Sitting in a client’s spam box will only cause your email’s delivery, open and click-through rates etc. to go down.

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Three appreciation emails your firm should send

Sending out a variety of genuine client appreciation emails can help boost a firm’s client retention rate. Good business for accounting firms is all about client retention, as future revenue is far more likely to come from existing clients than new ones.

An easy way to retain clients is to send out a client appreciation email. By doing so, firms not only remind clients about the great value they receive from the firm, but it also can make them feel appreciated and valued.

Using a variety of genuine client appreciation emails can help your firm thank particular clients for being part of your success, break up the routine of newsletters, event emails and offers, while also building a connection and trust with the client.

Here are three examples of appreciation emails every firm can send out during the year to convey their gratitude to clients:

  • An after purchase email

After a client has engaged with your services or purchased one of your products, send them an email thanking them and telling them how they’ve contributed to your firm’s business.

  • An ‘after referral’ email

Sending clients an email thanking them for sending a referral your way is a great way to stay in touch in a positive and appreciative way. Make clients feel even more special by adding in a discount or special offer to the email; this could also encourage clients to continue sending in referrals in the future.

  • Ask for feedback

There is no one better person to provide feedback to your firm about your client service than a valued client. Sending an email to clients that affirms that you’re asking for their opinion specifically because you value them as a client is an effective way for firms to show their appreciation. Soliciting honest feedback regularly also allows firms to keep their ‘finger on the pulse of clients’ needs and expectations.

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Make sure your emails reach your audience

You’ve just put the finishing touches on an email marketing campaign and it looks great. You’re confident it’s going to reinforce to your clients why they’ve made the right decision to stay with your firm, and, with a bit of luck, it may even convince some prospective clients to hop on board too!

However, this brilliant email marketing campaign will undoubtedly fail miserably if the emails sent out are caught in client’s spam filters.

Email deliverability is a particularly hard challenge to overcome for small businesses. This is because most email marketing campaigns are automatically sent out to corporate domains, rather than freemail accounts such as Outlook.com or Gmail. Emails can get caught in multiple places such as gateway filters, email server filters and even desktop filters, and will be branded as spam or junk mail.

This is why the deliverability feature is included in our Announce application, which ensures your emails have the greatest chance of reaching your client’s inboxes. When using Announce, before your campaign is sent out to clients, emails are automatically checked and validated. The process includes checking aspects such as words, phrases, formatting, size and links to ensure that email campaigns meet the requirements to pass most popular spam filters.

To find out more, check out our eNews page.

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Maintaining client relationships

Communication is often said to be the key to forging strong client relationships. However, for many small firms it can be difficult to maintain regular communication with clients in order to build these kind of relationships, for reasons such as too few employees, too little time, or having insufficient funds available. This is where investing in an e-newsletter may come in handy.

Email newsletters are one of the easiest ways to connect with clients, build and maintain valued relationships and attract new clients. They provide regular contact with clients through the sharing of relevant news and information, and give professional firms the opportunity to keep clients informed of all that is happening with their company.

The consistent offering of information gains attention from clients, and may influence them to turn to you first when they are in need of something. The newsletters can be distributed through client mailing lists or groups, which means firms no longer have to waste time manually contacting with clients.

Email newsletters serve to foster the trust needed in client relationships, for they keep your clients’ best interests at heart by demonstrating your firm’s expertise in the industry by sharing help and advice articles.

One of the best kind of relationships that can be forged between firms and clients is one that has regular two-way engagement. This can be done through the client surveys that are included in email newsletters. By making it clear to clients that your firm values their feedback and opinions, a relationship based on mutual understanding and respect for one another can be achieved.

To find out more about the email newsletters currently on offer at Practice Advantage, click here.