When I started my first small business, I remember being frustrated to hear marketing advice from marketing professionals who assumed I had a significant marketing budget to make myself known.
Like most people in the early days of getting their businesses up and running, I had a shoestring budget, and I admit even it was frayed.
But I had to promote my business so people would hire my services and survive.
That’s when I learned just how true the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. In fact, many times throughout my career some of the best marketing ideas I have come from a position of necessity. I always find it amazing just how awesome your brain can be if you just give it a chance to work on finding a solution to a problem.
With that in mind I thought I would share some ideas that have worked for me that cost little or no money at all. I would suggest that you try to accomplish one step every couple of weeks and before you know it, you will start to see some impressive results.
Number One: Get a website
With over 97% of all consumers beginning their research for a new product or service online you must be there in order to be part of the conversation. The most useful tool you need to market your business online is an effective website, and you can actually build that yourself for little or no money using tools like Wix or Squarespace to name just a couple of great ones.
Take the time to customize your content to make it clear to visitors what services you offer, what distinguishes your bookkeeping business, the geographic area you serve, and a full description of your special training and experience. Use words and images to illustrate how you help to solve your potential clients problems.
Remember to keep some part of your content changing regularly. If you don’t have the time or resources to do blogs or special reports, you might offer tax tips during tax season or some other type of small note on a regular basis.
If you take nothing else from this post – please get yourself a website – or, at the very least a Facebook business page – also free.
Number Two: Find a way to get more referrals
Referrals can be gold to build your business. After all, someone the potential client respects recommended you so they are already way beyond a “cold” lead.
Two of the best ways I have found to build your referral network is through other Accounting firms and Small business managers at your local banks.
Find a firm in your area that is non-competitive with your services and offer to buy them a coffee, or lunch. Talk about how you might be able to work together to help each other. One caveat here, make sure that you not only have complimentary services but that you share the same values and work ethic.
Do the exact same thing with the local banks. Find out who is the person that looks after their small business clients and take them to lunch. Have a professional brochure outlining your services and explain why they should be recommending you. What makes you different? Why will you take the best care of their clients? Be prepared before you meet.
One of our Kninja members recently shared a great story of how, in her search for new clients, she realized that Small Business Week was coming up and a number of events were going on to celebrate it.
She decided to offer five free business consultations, one for each business day of the week. She promoted the idea at a business expo held by her local Chamber of Commerce and the entry form was simply the entrepreneur’s business card. At her booth, she quickly stapled the card to a wider sheet of paper on which was the option for the entrant to be notified about the winner via email.
In the follow-up email she sent those who gave permission to be notified, she included a great description of her services and she secured four new clients as a result of inquiries that followed that.
Of the businesses who won the consultation, three ended up purchasing at least one of her bookkeeping services.
Essentially, it cost her five hours of consultation time and the time to do the follow-up emails, but she ended up with seven new customers and made her business known to dozens more potential customers.
Number Three: Build your best LinkedIn profile
If you are not on LinkedIn yet stop reading this post immediately and open an account. It is the largest social network for business professionals in the world and you need to be found on there – it can be an awesome source of leads. And yes, it is free to open an account.
On the other hand, if you put up your LinkedIn profile years ago and haven’t really updated it since then, go back now and edit it to ensure that it represents you and the services you offer in the best possible way.
Be sure that the word “bookkeeper” or “accountant” is in your headline, or you will be missed when people are searching for the obvious.
Remember that the services of a bookkeeper are most often purchased by those who have established an element of trust with you, so be sure to include dates and locations of your education, an overview of your work experience prior to becoming an entrepreneur, and some endorsements and testimonials of your service.
Number Four: Begin building your email list
Even if you are not yet doing any email marketing or producing any type of newsletter you need to begin building your list. A good list can easily become your most important marketing asset. Make it easy for people to add themselves – provide a free offer on your website in exchange for their email address – include a signup on your Facebook business page – perhaps even a sign in your office.
When you do begin sending out a newsletter always consider the target customer you want when devising the content for your newsletter. Make sure the content you include is of value to them.
If you rely primarily on local clientele, your content might include one update on what your company is doing, but also shout-outs to local sports teams or heroes in your town, promotion of upcoming local events such as festivals and fairs, and maybe even a bit of local history.
If you offer Cloud bookkeeping services, you might be trying to attract a broader base of clients, so deal with the occasional bookkeeping issue in terms that would be general enough for all businesses to understand and learn something of value.
One great tool for getting started with your email marketing is Mailchimp who offer a free package – up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month – for free! What are you waiting for?
Number Five: Register your business on listing services
Every local business needs to set-up its free listing on “Google My Business”. This free listing can be a very effective tool to help your business get found faster when people search for bookkeepers in your area. You can do the same thing for free on Bing at their “Places for Business”.
The great part of this is that when people start searching for your business or for businesses like yours (bookkeeping businesses) using the Google Search or Maps, your listing will appear and make it easier for people to find you and to get in touch with you.
Number Six: Start today to gather great testimonials
Today’s client, more than ever, is more influenced by what your other clients say about you than what you say about yourself.
That is why it is so important to have a process in place right from the start to gather testimonials from happy clients.
Remember that lots of people don’t mind giving a testimonial, but they don’t have the time to write it or even know what to say. So guide them in the process by including a suggested testimonial and ask if they would be okay putting their name to it.
This type of “social proof” can worth its weight in gold. And, even better if you can get a video testimonial. In my experience, people like to help people that help them. So, if you explain that these testimonials are an important part of your marketing they will want to help you.
And remember, when it comes to testimonials, the most important thing to remember is to ASK.
Number Seven: Follow-up with clients a few months after the job is done
Don’t let your one-time project based clients forget all about you after your first job has been done for them and the invoice has been paid.
Make it part of your routine each quarter to send a pleasant note to former clients to just touch base. Tell them you enjoyed working with them, that you hope things are going well, and that you are just a phone call away if they need additional services.
You will be surprised at how many of them were thinking about re-hiring you and trying to remember what your name was again and how to contact you.
You can do this note in the form of an email, but a handwritten note sent in the mail is far more effective. How did it make you feel the last time someone sent you a handwritten note saying thank you?
There are many other ideas you can implement, but this should be a good start. And you will not be breaking the bank account on any of them.
Thank you for reading this post. Take good care of yourself. Until next time.
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