It goes without saying that referrals are the lifeblood of any business – especially accountants. It’s been that way for a long time and won’t change any time soon.
But, as with most things these days, you can’t rely on word of mouth alone, especially with the power of the internet at your fingertips.
That’s why we think you should shed the panic and fear of online reviews and embrace the newer ways of doing things.
Referrals vs online searches
In our most recent insight report, we found that the most common method for SMEs to find an accountant was through referrals. Of the businesses asked, 56% said this is how they found their current firm – which probably comes as no surprise to you.
But, a good chunk of people – 33% – also said they’d found their accountants online. So, while referrals and word of mouth are still king, online comes a close second.
What’s more, once people had found an accounting firm, thirteen per cent of them said they would check reviews, while 16% said they would check the firm’s website straight away.
That’s why it’s time to get smart – and think about how you can maximise the power of traditional referrals through your online channels, too.
But, with the number of accounting firms sharing the digital space, you’ll need an extra edge to push people in your direction. A mix of referrals and a strong online presence can do wonders for your firm if you make the most of them.
How to get online reviews and referrals
To fully utilise the power of the internet, you should make sure you’re set up on Google My Business, which provides a free business profile, shows you on a map and gives potential clients all of your information.
Google My Business also allows people to leave reviews and gives business ratings, so if you can nudge your clients to give you a positive referral, it will show up for anyone that Googles you.
Or, if you’re willing to invest, Trustpilot can be a useful tool. You can start with a free service, and if you like, you can upgrade and pay £199 a month for extra features. Adding your Trustpilot score to your website is a great way to show off any positive feedback you’ve received and will be reassuring to potential clients.
Once a client has signed up for your services, you can give them a link to leave a Trustpilot review – or maybe even email existing customers and ask them to leave some kind words about your services.
Lots of accountants we speak to are reluctant to do this, but in our experience, clients are generally more than happy to spread the good word. Remember, if they’d do it in person, recommending you via a review online is no different.
Content marketing and referrals
At PracticeWeb, we value online communication and marketing. They’re vital tools to help build your firm and attract a broader client base.
But with a combination of content marketing and referrals, you’re strengthening your appeal.
Once you’ve built up a bank of good reviews online, you can start to consider advertising your site’s referrals. With the increase in traffic visiting your firm’s website, more people can look through testimonials from previous or current clients, which can sway them to get in touch.
The same goes if you offer more services and resources on your site. By having a regularly updated blog or news section, you’re pushing yourself as a valuable fountain of knowledge that clients will value.
And, when prospective clients come to your site after a referral, you can provide them with a great online experience before they get in touch.
Discuss your referral strategy with us
While we’re big advocates of pushing reviews and referrals for your firm, you want to make sure you’re getting the right kind that will generate more quality clients.
So, letting clients know what you want to be referred for or reviewed is the best place to start. Say, for example, you want to be known for your auditing services: think about asking your audit clients to comment on their experience. By making that visible, new clients looking for an audit will see you’ve helped businesses just like them.
Ultimately, the numbers don’t lie. Referrals are still essential to your accounting practice, but that doesn’t mean relying on word of mouth alone. As your clients move towards a more digital platform, so should you.
For help expanding your online review and referral scheme or with content marketing, get in touch.