Date posted: 22/10/2020 5 min read

How listening to clients helped a young firm find its niche

Targeted marketing may be in vogue, but some firms are taking a different approach to attracting the right clients.

In Brief

  • Most accounting firms want to get better clients
  • Targeting a market without evidence might not be the best approach
  • Client listening could be key to effective niching

Get the right clients. It is the fundamental goal of most marketing plans. But carving out a target market without evidence can be risky, says Ben Farrow, the co-founder and CEO of professional services review platform FirmChecker.

Accounting practices are often told to target their marketing, whether by practice area, industry sector or other demographics. Farrow suggests the first step in deciding your target market should be to look at your existing clients.

With thousands of service-seekers using the FirmChecker site each month, Farrow’s team can analyse what drives purchase decisions in accounting.

“Over 80% of clients repeat-buy with their existing firm or are referred to their firm by word-of-mouth,” says Farrow. “So it makes sense to focus on your existing clients as a starting point and double-down on what resonates with them.

“If you determine your target market before doing that, you may find that your service offering isn’t compelling to your chosen demographic, or that client acquisition is very competitive.”

Start with existing clients

Katie Bryan CA, founder of Melbourne-based firm Propeller Advisory, is growing a niche market that works well for her practice.

“More clients that are joining us are purpose-driven service businesses, from training and leadership companies, to law firms offering alternative service delivery, to ethically focused businesses in fashion and design”, she explains.

This niche was not planned by Bryan. Rather, it grew organically.

“Because [accounting] is so word-of-mouth focused, it’s all about treating your current clients right. They are going to talk to their friends, and you are naturally going to attract more clients that are like them.”

Spot new opportunities

Rigorous client listening also led to a new initiative for Propeller Advisory, ‘Propel Her’.

“I meet with clients so regularly, especially women in small business, and I hear stories of how their business is treated as a hobby, people not taking them seriously and communication being terrible,” Bryan explains.

“I meet with clients so regularly, especially women in small business, and I hear stories of how their business is treated as a hobby”
Katie Bryan CA, Propeller Advisory

“I wanted to create an initiative where our key focus was making sure those experiences don’t happen.”

Propel Her aims to educate and engage women starting businesses with a relationship-driven offering, which includes a community of Propeller’s female clients who meet monthly to workshop ideas about their businesses.

The initiative has led to an influx in enquiries to Propeller Advisory and the benefits have extended to its whole client base.

“Quite a few male clients comment that they are really happy that there are women in finance doing these things because it’s an inspiration for their young daughters, which is amazing to hear,” says Bryan.

Get feedback

Gathering feedback is also a critical part of Bryan’s strategy to get the right clients and keep them.

She found entering the Client Choice Awards, which Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand sponsors, was particularly effective.

The Client Choice Awards process involves a detailed client survey, and has helped Bryan to confront her fear of client feedback. (Not that she should have worried – Propeller Advisory was a back-to-back Client Choice Awards winner in 2019 and 2020.)

“The biggest thing with the Client Choice Awards is that it is scary, because you’re asking for feedback from your customers as to how you’ve performed. Sometimes you may not have performed 100% perfectly, and you need to be ready to take that feedback on.”

“It is so important, and I think that that’s probably where I attribute our success – we consistently and continually ask for feedback and we act on it. It means that we can jump onto a client problem before it becomes a big issue.”

“We consistently and continually ask for feedback and we act on it.”
Katie Bryan CA, Propeller Advisory

The public reviews gathered from the Awards have also removed a friction in clients’ buying process.

“It’s provided credibility that clients want when they are hunting for a new accountant. People can see, just before they make their choice, that ‘yes they are making the right choice moving to Propeller’.”

Find out more:

Enter your firm in the Client Choice Awards

You can enter your firm in the Client Choice Awards via FirmChecker here. Entries close on 4 November 2020.

Register for the Client Choice Awards