How to build a customer-centric advisory strategy

Accountant writes in notebook with pen and adds post-it note. Drinking coffee in office sitting at a desk. Creating a client-centric offering for their accountancy firm's advisory services.

On occasion, it's easy to get wrapped up in what we think is the right way forward is, or caught up in the buzzwords of the moment, that it's easy to lose sight of who this is all really for: your clients. And on that matter, sometimes, the industry is just plain wrong.

Let’s take a look at how you can rejig your offering to make it suitable for all of your clients.

What do you stand for?

First off, you need to ensure you have a concrete idea of what you're trying to offer. First action on the list: let's create a value proposition.

What is a value proposition?

 Value proposition: The promise of value you deliver by defining the problem you solve and clarifying why your solution is better than the alternatives.

If you already have a value proposition, consider rethinking it anyhow, or take time to tweak the one you already have. Many build their value propositions around the vision they have for their business. But we're writing one focussed on your clients, so they'll be at the heart of everything you do.

Ask yourself the following questions.

What services do I offer?

Ask yourself this question. This is a good way to discover your intention with your business. And then, ask your clients this question. If they can recall the same list you came up with, great. But, likelihood is, they'll only be able to name the services they receive from you. How are they meant to increase their package if they don't know what's out there?

This is an opportunity to rethink your service offering and decide where to invest your time. Are none of your clients taking an interest in scenario modeling, but most are eager to talk about budgeting? How do you face this? As we see it, you have two options.

  • Dedicate more resource to educating your clients on the benefits of scenario modeling
  • Withdraw resource from scenario modeling, and invest it into widening and bettering your range of services on budgeting

Making the call comes down solely to your judgment. There's no right answer. If you believe scenario modeling is something your clients would take too, given the push, go with option one. If you don't, or you have a shorter supply of resources, opt for option two. Trial both options and see which gives you a better return.

Who is my ideal client?

You know that client that just fits? The one you're never worried about losing, who takes on your advice, asks the right questions and maybe, if you're really lucky, always has their paperwork done on time? Why is that client so suitable for your firm? What can you do to attain more clients like them?

Outline your 'ideal client'. Consider every element of the business: turnover, age, staff numbers, attitude, tech proficiency, industry, business experience.

Once you have that ideal in mind, you can take on clients who fit those dimensions. By building a portfolio of ideal clients, your workflow becomes more streamlined and repeatable, so you and your team can take on a larger volume of clients or enjoy the breathing space and do more for each client you already have onboard.

What makes me stand out from my competitors?

Why should a client choose you over the firm down the road? Why should they stay with you, even when they move the next town over? Uniqueness and service are the two largest contributors to both your client retention and acquisition stats. Do your services have something special about them? Or is it the delivery - excellent customer service, where the extra mile is always doable? Do you offer additional tools to help streamline your clients' workflow? Does your firm have a personality that your clients love? Decide what it is and do it well.

Why do I offer these services?

This question could be the driving force that brings everything into line. Why do you care? What gets you out of bed and to work every morning? That reason is likely to be closely related to things your clients love your firm for, if it's not, then let that come through.

Improve your offering

The best and most straightforward way to target your offering towards your clients is simply to ask what they want. Send out a quick survey, or better yet, have a conversation with your client about which of your services appeal to them, and which don't.

The golden rule

Always put your customers first. You're in the kitchen, cooking dinner and suddenly "Eureka!" you've had an excellent idea for a new service you could provide your clients with. Perfect. The next day, you explain it to your colleagues, they agree it's a good idea and you work for weeks putting it into place. The reaction from your clients when you release it? Nothing. Blank stares, polite refusals.

Eureka moments are hard to come by, so when they do come around, we tend to rush headfirst into them. But it's a business move. And as I'm sure you tell your clients, they always need consideration first. Even the excellent ideas among them could be badly timed, or not applicable to your client base. This might not mean the idea needs scrapping, they may just need stepping back from; editing, refining, repositioning.

Now, our step by step guide to a client-centric customer journey

So you've got the foundations in place, but to get your strategy up and running, there are a few things left to implement.

A customer journey from A to B is rarely a straight line. Especially if you're offering less traditional services, like business development, you're going to need to give them the tools and support they need to navigate their journey, starting as early as your first meeting.

Step one) Start on the right foot.

Make a good impression, some form of marketing medium is likely to be your clients' first touchpoint with your firm. Any kind of marketing material produced by your firm should follow the same golden rule as your services. Put the customer first. In their shoes, what kind of resources would you need and want? Which talking points would make you stop and consider investing in a new service?

Then, from your very first meeting, put your best foot forward. Make yourself valuable and interesting. Discuss what your firm stands for. Discuss how the benefits of the packages you offer could bring reward and insight to your client's business in the future. Getting them excited about your services will help them sustain their enthusiasm through to your next meeting. Having their engagement makes everything you do that much easier and beneficial.

Step two) Find out everything you can about your client's business. 

Listen. Simple enough. Pay attention to what your client says, find out as much about their business as you can. Ask what they'd like to see. Not only is this a great way to drive your firm's direction but with an abundance of information at your fingertips, this will feed your ability to upsell to the business's specific needs in the future.

Step three) Find a package that suits their needs.

As we said at the beginning, advisory isn't for everyone. From the research we've done, we've found that only about 10% of your portfolio are likely contenders for advisory services, heading straight for the big packages and the heavy-duty tools. The remaining 90% are going to need education and a hand to hold through the beginning of their journey.

Our product suite, Futrli Platform, is a tool built to start your clients on their path to better finance. Including, education on advisory services, essential insights into their business, encouragement to form good bookkeeping habits, the lot. And, as a hands-off service, you can leave them to it and jump in when you choose.

As your clients continue to progress with lighter tools, you can work on building a relationship with them, whilst the education piece does its job. As they continue on their journey, they'll become more and more ready for traditional advisory. At this point, you're ready to harness the relationship you've been building and take it to the next level.

Step four) Keep them up to speed with your tech. 

We try, but for those who aren't completely number-literate, fintech isn't always the simplest to pick up. Your clients are going to have questions, and need good onboarding and support services to get them up and running quickly. 

Making sure the tech you choose has a good support infrastructure is essential to ensuring their learning is sufficient, and your inbox is full of questions on their accounts, not their panic about a forgotten password.

A list of what we consider essential:

  • Comprehensive help center
  • Online support
  • Regular webinars
  • Help guides

Step five) Keep them moving.

As we mentioned in step two, it's important to always keep your clients on a path for higher services. As your client becomes comfortable with a level of services, and their business grows, they'll start needing greater services, with more insight.

So keep up to date with their businesses. Keep your conversations looking to the future and in every conversation, marry the growth of their business with the growth of their package with you.

Step six) Improve, improve, improve.

Going hand in hand with step five, keep asking your clients what you could be doing better. You're building a strategy around your clients and that makes them the best people to feed into the direction of that strategy.

Take these steps into account, and you'll be on your way to building an advisory offering your clients love.

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