Many accountants use customer referral techniques as a means of increasing their client base. Referrals require almost no financial investment, but they bring in very valuable warm leads. Here are some tips to capitalise on referrals to grow your Xero firm.

Why should people refer you – Knowing your point of difference

Before seeking out referrals you should be really clear on why people should refer you. If you don’t know – how will your team, clients and network?

You should be able to articulate your point of difference in a short, snappy – under 15 word – a sentence that tells people who you work with and the value you help them achieve. 

Think about:

  • How can you help small businesses?
  • What do you do really well?
  • Who do you want to work with and who don’t you want to work with?
  • What do you do best?
  • What wins have you achieved for clients?

The shorter your statement, the more powerful and impactful it becomes. It also helps others easily recall what you do and who you do it for.

Referrals from employees – creating employee advocates

Don’t overlook activating your team to gain referrals. Happy employees = positive work stories = natural referrals. 

  • No incentive will trump a great company culture – if you’ve got a great culture you’ll automatically have employees that want to talk about your firm
  • Think outside of just your client-facing team. Any of your employees can get referrals for you including your part-timers, any outsourcing staff and even your cleaners
  • Some accountants do make referrals mandatory. However, not all employees will be confident or natural at talking about your firm. Is it better they focus on what they’re great at rather than worrying about what they’re not?
  • Some accountants also incentivise bringing referrals in. Again, think about whether this is unfair on people it doesn’t come naturally to. It could be a team incentive or an individual one. If you do go down the incentive track, make sure it’s something that aligns with your culture. It could be anything from an afternoon off, after-work drinks, a voucher or a cash payment. 

Make sure you equip your team with what they need to gain referrals and it becomes part of your process at your practice. 

  • Right from the Interview and induction process, they should know what your firm’s the point of difference and be able to articulate it.
  • Each staff member should be able to know enough about what your practice does and who your ideal clients are – regardless of who they are.
  • Each team member should know some positive client stories – ensure you share these internally regularly.
  • Look at having something to send or employees to point to online that reinforces what they’re saying – it could be a landing page or just a ‘who we work with’ page on your website.
  • Make it really easy for the team to capture referrals. Have a clear process everyone knows about so everyone is empowered to bring referrals into the firm and know exactly what will happen and who will deal with them.
  • Announce and celebrate referrals. Whether it’s at team meetings, through your internal communication system or an email around the team. Make sure you celebrate any new referrals to keep them front of mind with your team.

Referrals from partnerships – Creating beneficially mutual partnerships and a network of referrals

Partnering with other businesses that have a similar client base as yours is a great way to extend your network and create referrals that work for both businesses.

Develop relationships with potential partners so you can turn chit chat into business chat and then asking for referrals becomes a lot easier. There are a couple of things that often help:

  • Start talking more regularly to people you’d like to partner with
  • Always be on the lookout for ways in which you can help them. If you building a partnership on a good foundation of helping others, they’re going to want to return the favour.
  • Look out for referrals for them Introduce them to people in your network who they would benefit from meeting.

Have a think about what other services do your clients need. Are there some obvious ones you can look to partner with and form a mutually beneficial relationship?

  • Are there any industry groups, community groups, start-up hubs you can be part of and become their expert? This could open you up to have a drop-in clinic there, a regular spot in their newsletter, or even a speaking slot.
  • Can you start an online community to generate referrals?

Think out of the box. Who do you know that is their job to talk to people each and every day?

Does everyone in your network know exactly what you do? Do you talk about how you can help people? Use your soundbite! That’s a really easy way to amplify your message and generate referrals today!

Referrals from clients – Creating client advocates

If you’re keeping your clients happy you’ll naturally generate positives stories and referrals. To increase your chances make it easier:

  • Start by making introductions for your clients. Think of who you know that you could introduce your clients to. Is it another client you have that would be great for them to work with? Or another business that could help them
  • Organise intimate networking groups or seminars for your current clients and ask them to bring a guest they think would benefit from attending. This is a nice way for clients to do something nice for their network while opening up new potential clients for you.
  • There will be a natural variance on how well you know clients. Some you may be more comfortable being a bit blunter with and simply asking for referrals. 
  • Never say to clients you’re “so busy”. Even if you are, it gives off the perception you can’t take on any more clients which would put anyone off referring people to you.
  • Have case studies or testimonials that talk about your point of differences and how you can help small businesses. Not just a one or two-line quote. This makes it easy for anyone that’s referred to you to associate with other clients you’ve helped and translate that into how you can work with them.
  • Make it easy and consistent for clients to make referrals and have constant subtle reminders so it stays in front of mind. 
  • Look at a way to reward or thank clients that do give you referrals. Is there a restaurant voucher you can give them along with a handwritten note? Or even a bottle of wine. Acknowledging the referral and making it known it was appreciated will help encourage that client to refer again.
  • Think about how you can include asking for a referral as part of a process or interaction you already have with clients. It could be when you conduct year-end meetings or client reviews, or when you complete a really valuable piece of work from them. It’s always good to tie it in when they’re on a high from a really good experience with you. 

Once you prioritise getting referrals and educate your team on how to make it happen, you’ll see big results. Build strong habits, within your firm, team and clients and it will revolutionise your firm.