Becoming Succession Ready: Client Referrals
Your client base and fee growth are important when contemplating your practice succession.
For most practices, a small amount of client loss each year is an inevitable part of being in practice; clients move away, go out of business, retire, and so on.
Conversely, most practices will attract new clients each year; some will find you from a google search, some will find you from your website, some will be referred to you, etc. From a practice succession perspective, it will be beneficial to show your practice is growing and that your fees and client numbers are increasing.
A proven approach for many practices to attract new clients is via referrals from existing clients. More often, a referred client has a high potential for retention and loyalty as you have been endorsed by one of your existing clients, and typically this client costs little to acquire. It should be noted that the number one source of new clients for most practices is referred clients from existing clients.
A cornerstone of any client referral is acknowledging the service you currently provide to your client(s). A great starting point to increase your practice referrals is to ensure you are providing proactive, quality service to your existing clients. This will go a long way to creating the right environment whereby your current clients are happy to refer their friends and colleagues to you.
So how can you implement a consistent strategy to ensure your clients understand that you are open to receiving referrals?
Each year, aim to have 10+ clients complete a google review on your service. This will ensure your online reviews are fresh and current.
Ensure every email footer in your practice has a message promoting your referral strategy. Sample: "We appreciate your referrals. Thank you for your trust in our services."
Add a 'referral message' to your client documentation for each completed work assignment. Sample: "We appreciate your business and your trust in us. Your satisfaction is our top priority, and we welcome a referral to any of your friends or colleagues who need accounting assistance. Your referral is the highest compliment we can receive, and we promise to provide them with the same level of professional and personalised service that you have received."
When you meet with your best clients, ask them for referrals. You will be surprised how many clients will be happy to refer your clients once you ask. Many of your top 25 clients will likely be your ideal/preferred clients and some of the more successful clients in your practice. A great starting point to increase your referrals would be to communicate with each of these clients, letting them know you would welcome referrals to their friends and colleagues. Sample: "I greatly appreciate your trust in my services and would be honoured if you would refer any of your friends or colleagues who need accounting assistance. Your referral is the highest compliment I can receive, and I would be happy to offer them the same level of professional and personalised service that I provide to you."
For each office meeting, display a simple referral invitation message on each desk: Sample: "If you are happy with our service, we would love to help your friends and colleagues as we have helped you."
Reward those clients who send you a referral—for example, a nice bottle of wine, movie tickets, discount on their next invoice. Whatever your approach, it is important to acknowledge the referrer and thank them for their confidence and support of your business.
A proactive, consistent approach to generating referrals will positively impact your new leads and new client opportunities in the months ahead and create a more favourable impression regarding your practice succession.