We often introduce the concept of account planning to CPA firms who want to take a more proactive approach to marketing. Account planning describes a process for collecting and sharing client and prospect information in a methodical fashion that can improve client service and strategically grow your firm. Many of our clients report almost immediate results from creating account plans, such as saving an at-risk client or engaging a valuable new client. Here are tips for designing account plans that will provide the most benefit for your firm.
Identify and map key relationships.
People buy from people, not businesses. The relationships that your professionals forge with clients and prospects can increase your odds of winning and keeping a client. For prospects, you can use LinkedIn to identify owners, finance executives and other leadership with decision-making power. As you spend more time getting to know a prospect, you may uncover other contacts that can influence work with your firm. For existing clients, if only one person from your firm has the relationships, a client may be at risk. Be sure to introduce team members to tighten the bond between you and your client. For both prospects and clients, it is important to track relationships and make sure they are being properly nurtured.
Get to know their business and industry.
Taking the time to learn about your client’s or prospect’s business and industry can help you identify service gaps, as well as highlight opportunities to provide new services or make referrals. For an existing client, take time to meet with your clients outside of the normal engagement cycle to ask them questions about future plans for the business, issues they are currently facing or trends in their industry. For prospects, it helps to do your homework through industry networking and online searches before having that first meeting. Document each issue as it comes up and determine what service would best help the client or prospect with that issue.
Design an execution plan.
Gathering information is important, but taking action is even more impactful. When you identify an open relationship or a service need, determine which steps would help to fill that void. Each action should have an owner, a clear description of what needs to be done and a due date. Actions can include scheduling meetings, making introductions, attending a conference or sharing insights. Identify and document the steps that you can take to build relationships or address open issues.
We recommend starting with a small number of account plans for key clients and prospects. Further support this endeavor by creating account planning teams to help provide support and accountability for the process. The team should meet at least monthly to update information and to track progress on the action plan. Whether you use CRM systems, spreadsheets or other documents to hold your account plans, be sure to share plans and reference them regularly. Account planning can be the key to saving or winning a great client!