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How to build and grow a client base: 7 best practices

August 17th, 2022 by Ignition Team 7 minute read

“How can I attract more business?”

That’s the question on every business owner’s mind as they seek to build and grow their client base.

Whether you’re a startup or established firm, having a healthy client base is essential for running a successful business. Clients bring in revenue and profits, and a growing customer base provides the opportunity to expand a small business.

However, service providers such as accountants need to be careful not to spend too much time finding new clients that they neglect their current clients. Existing clients are the lifeblood of any accounting firm or bookkeeping business, and accidentally alienating them by investing too many resources into customer acquisition could place your revenue streams in jeopardy. With studies finding that it costs, on average, five times more to acquire new clients than it does to retain your current client base.

Let’s examine some of the best practices you can adopt to build and grow your client base while retaining your current clients. We’ll also offer an inside look at some of the best online tools you can invest in to sustain a healthy client base.

Why is it important to build and maintain a client base?

While most small businesses see their core clients as a source of revenue and profits, a properly managed client base provides even more benefits.

According to a study conducted by Bain & Company, a five percent increase in customer retention also caused more than a 25 percent increase in profit for businesses in financial services. This is because loyal customers use more of your services and refer new clients to you.

Sustaining a healthy client base gives you a focus group of people to test new products and services. Your clients will be able to provide invaluable feedback regarding your services and the quality of your products, helping you make smarter business decisions.

The term ‘client base’ also refers to a targeted list of prospective clients your company wants to attract. Thus, building a client base means having a clear understanding of your client demographics and pain points. This is important when you start releasing new products and services and need to determine their level of success within each demographic.

How do you build and sustain a customer base?

So, how can service providers build their client bases while keeping their existing clients satisfied? Both of these goals can be reached with strategies that complement each other. Consider the following best practices:

1. Offer excellent customer service and support

Providing great customer service should be at the forefront of your client base building strategy. Not only does a reputation for providing excellent customer experiences attract clients to your business, those satisfied clients will have more incentive to stay with your company and buy more services.

What should you focus on when engaging with your customers?

Offer multiple communication channels. Availability and effective communication top the list. Learn how clients prefer to reach you – phone, instant messaging, email, Zoom – and make yourself available in the mode each client finds most convenient.

In this age of ecommerce, cloud-based solutions also let you access accounting applications and data from remote areas, allowing you to be available for your clients anywhere. By taking advantage of these tools, you’ll gain the appreciation of your clients and earn more loyal customers.

2. Build partnerships with other businesses

One of the best ways to expand your customer base is to partner with businesses that offer complementary services. In the case of accounting and bookkeeping, this can be a very wide network since all businesses need your services.

Keep an eye on your current clients to see if they could use the services of your business partners. For instance, if you help graphic designers with their books, you can partner with web design companies and refer your clients to them and vice versa.

3. Request referrals from your existing clients and create a ‘fan club’

Likewise, you can request your current clients refer other businesses to you. This can be done through word-of-mouth marketing or writing online reviews. In this digital age, everyone researches service companies online, so getting endorsements from satisfied clients goes a long way toward attracting new customers.

Offer incentives for leaving referrals and testimonials and reward your loyal clients. This might include a discount on future bookkeeping services or a gift certificate that can be used during tax season. You can also offer discounts and special offers to the person or business your client referred, creating greater motivation to use your business.

Get your referral process up and running in no time with our referral email template.

4. Collect and study customer feedback

Listening to your clients feedback will help you to provide greater customer experiences. Create surveys that let your clients assess the effectiveness of your customer service team and the ease of doing business with your accountants and bookkeepers.

Make these feedback forms easy to fill out. You can use a rating scale on your questions (i.e., “rate the ease of scheduling an appointment from 1 to 10”) to collect quantitative data. You can also offer open-ended questions, allowing clients to suggest improvements.

Record your customer feedback in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and study the results. Positive feedback helps identify the type of services and quality products new leads will want to know about. Negative feedback lets you learn what you can do to improve to increase your business’s value in the eyes of your clients.

5. Promote your business and leverage online marketing

If your marketing efforts are currently limited to print, radio, and television ads, start using online marketing strategies. Businesses today find their bookkeepers and accountants through the internet, and developing an online presence helps attract more clients.

This means investing in building a professional website that informs potential leads of your services, hours of operation, and contact information. You can also engage in content marketing by publishing articles on your blog, LinkedIn account, or even Instagram that answer questions clients have about taxes and record keeping. This establishes you as a trusted expert in your field.

For instance, a CPA or founder of an accounting firm could regularly do Instagram Q&As to share their input on commonly asked questions about taxes and business finance.

Social media is an excellent place to advertise your services. Learn the type of social media apps your target clients use and create accounts that let you interact with them and highlight your services. As you build your social networking skills, you’ll be able to reach out to a wider range of clients.

6. Target specific audiences in your marketing campaigns

Knowing who your clients are helps focus your marketing campaigns and makes them more effective. Target clients in a specific geographic area and contact them with direct mail. Include incentives, such as a discount coupon or special offer, which will help you assess your campaign’s effectiveness based on how many leads use your offers.

Pro-Tip: Take advantage of QR codes which can give you insight into the level of engagement from your direct mail marketing efforts.

It also helps to be extremely targeted with the types of clients you serve. Do you specialize in serving law firms? Are you strictly for small businesses and solopreneurs? Identify your target market and speak directly to them in your campaigns.

For example, a financial firm could focus on self-employed entrepreneurs such as freelance writers, graphic designers and creators. As such, the company would always incorporate language like 'freelance' and 'solopreneurs' in its marketing and advertising collateral.

7. Build a customer loyalty program

Create incentives for existing clients to keep using your services, enabling you to improve customer retention. Offering a customer loyalty program with a tiered membership structure provides motivation for clients to stay and a way to measure each client’s loyalty.

Each tier of your loyalty program should offer rewards, such as discounted rates and additional services. Rewards should increase in value as clients keep using your services and advance through your loyalty program. This also gives new clients something to aim for when they start using your services.

Over to you

Ignition provides you with online tools to support you as you build your client base. This includes online proposal software that helps build lasting client relationships from the start. Using accounting and bookkeeping proposal templates, you’ll build impressive proposals that recommend your services and clearly show your pricing structure. You can also build your own custom templates, embed your own videos, and tailor each proposal to your client’s needs.

Client onboarding and invoicing will also be simpler with the ability to connect your apps to Ignition. This lets you streamline your workflow, save time, and avoid tedious tasks and mistakes. Providing excellent customer service is easier when you have Ignition to automate your workflow.

Ultimately, the best way to retain and manage your client base is to stay on top of all your customers' needs. With the Ignition business dashboard, you can view your sales pipeline, upcoming client renewals, and forecast revenue all in one place. This makes it easy for you to make smart business decisions, like which of your business services are best received by clients, letting you know which efforts to focus on.

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