Surge – How to Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

Surge-book-coverA couple weeks ago I hosted a super popular webinar with my friend and mentor, Mike Michalowicz of Profit First fame. It was all about how we, as independent bookkeeping business owners, can specialize our practice and put ourselves in high demand. In that webinar Mike shared some of the methods he’s developed based on extensive research into how to put your business in the right place at the right time for explosive growth.

It’s not about luck. It’s about following a specific process that puts the odds in your favor…. big time!

The class was based on his new book that has been officially released today called Surge. If you missed the webinar, you can still tap into the clear and actionable process by picking up a copy of the book now available on Amazon. I was able to get an early copy and devoured it.

The word Surge is used as an acronym to describe the different phases businesses that are wildly successful go through that can be applied to your bookkeeping practice as well.

S = Separate your business from others – this means specializing (this is where we dove deep on the webinar)

U = Unify what you have to offer with what are the greatest needs in your niche

R = Rally Cry, which is your core purpose that distinguishes your business that your ideal clients will immediately recognize as a great fit for the results they’re after. (Mike’s example is the Rally Cry for Profit First Professionals: “To Eradicate Entrepreneurial Poverty”)

G = Gather, is about gathering the knowledge you need from your niche clients so you can provide a steady stream of new, valuable and relevant information for them (part of your marketing that attracts top quality clients to you)

E = Expansion, which is replicating and expanding what’s working. Refining your unique process. This is how you scale your practice for explosive growth with proven service offerings.

The book Surge shows that taking your business to the next level of your success (and beyond) is not about chance, but about systematically taking action and paying attention to where the next “wave” will come in our industry (hint – technology has a lot to do with it in our world), and “catching the wave.” It’s very doable, if you’re willing to focus and take action consistently.

If you’re wondering why the theme is all surrounding surfing, part of it is because Mike interviewed many business owners while researching this book and was struck with one that is the epitome of the process. It’s the story of Ugg boots. How they started by solving a very specific problem for surfers in an unusual way, and grew (not without a few bumps along the way) to the well-known mega-brand today.

Surge is a book you’ll want to add to your business bookshelf (or your Kindle) and use it as a guide for specializing your bookkeeping practice sooner rather than later. (Surf’s up!) By the way, this is the same process I’ve been using myself, and what Mike has been doing with his own most recent business, Profit First Professionals. If you love Profit First like I do, you can be part of that wave as well!

Pick up a copy of Surge Here on Amazon

Admittedly, I’m a big fan of Mike Michalowicz and all four of his books because of how systematic and actionable they all are, based on his own experience, for growing a true business… not just a freelance job. Have you read any of his books yet? Which is your favorite?

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Secrets to Getting New Clients: TFB Spotlight on Martin Bissett

tfb-star-spotlightHow to find new clients is always a hot topic among bookkeepers.

In this latest TFB Spotlight interview, we get a glimpse into what it takes for us to win new clients from the other side of the table. You’ll hear the true secrets to what clients really want most (and really need) from us so that they will gladly engage our services and pay a premium.

My very special guest, Martin Bissett of Upward Spiral Partnership (USP) will show us the way.

Would you rather listen on the go? Right Click Here to Download the Audio

Guest Bio:

Martin Bissett is a professional trainer, coach and the founder of the Upward Spiral Partnership (USP), an international consulting firm that specializes in business development for the accounting industry. Martin strives to be an accelerant to the untapped potential and powerful force for good accountants and bookkeepers can be for their clients and everyone who is affected.

A Quick Lesson in Networking

How I connected with Martin is a lesson in how networking happens. It’s not from just one method of networking or one encounter that produces results. Much like farming, some of your best connections can come from a series of small actions over time. Here’s how it worked in this case:

A mutual friend (Mark Wickersham) had mentioned me to Martin. He reached out to connect on LinkedIn. That led to a Skype call. Then in time “friending” on Facebook. I happened to see a timeline post by Martin that indicated he was in Philadelphia working with clients. I mustered the courage to reach out to Martin to meet in person over coffee. From there, a true connection was made and this interview is the result (and not the last we’ll be seeing of Martin!)

Interview Takeaways

  • Proactive bookkeepers and accountants are the closest to their clients and in touch with their needs, and therefore in the best position to increase their income and the positive outcomes created for clients.
  • One of our biggest obstacles to success is “winning the first client” (ourselves) so we can be confident in winning new clients proactively.
  • Building our pipeline is an initial building block in constructing a powerful bookkeeping practice. Before marketing, a pipeline can be built to bring in the business that is already available to us, but hidden.
  • Martin has a complete system on doing this, including forecasting when new clients and revenue will come in.

The two most common mistakes accounting professionals make are:

1. Not making a specific appointment for follow-up after the first meeting with a potential client to proactively lead them while their interest is highest. The next step is either an in-person meeting or a virtual, face-to-face meeting (Skype or online meeting). Set a specific appointment!

2. Emailing or mailing a proposal to a potential client after a meeting. DO NOT simply wait for the client to accept it. Instead, bring it to the client in person or in an online meeting and go over it together. This prevents the client from focusing on the price instead of the value you’re providing them.

When marketing is successful, it should put appointments with potential clients on your calendar. When your business development process is successful, it will turn prospects into paying clients.

You can get new clients by starting with the question, “Where is the money coming from?” You should be asking that question based on your pipeline (a system you should have in place). You should be reviewing your pipeline at least every one to two weeks to keep your pipeline moving. With this system, you will know what it takes to get new clients.

We need to make time to work on our business regularly. Once your pipeline is set up, it should only take about 30 minutes per week to keep running.

Martin’s pearl of wisdom: Look at your career history or the greatest accomplishments you’ve achieved for the benefit of your clients, or would like to have for your clients (if just starting out). Recognize the benefits you provide for your clients in tangible ways. Then strive to receive premium fees and gain new clients as a consequence of continually reaching those accomplishments and truly helping your clients succeed in their businesses.

bissett_martin_headshot….Contact Martin at http://MartinBissett.com

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Virtual Bookkeeping Front Lines: 5 Key Takeaways from SNH

virtual bookkeeping takeawaysAs a freelance bookkeeper doing virtual bookkeeping, I think it’s important to stay on top of the trends in our industry. Especially now, technology is driving some big changes for us and how we run our businesses.

But that’s the bright, shiny part that easily catches our attention. What’s the latest app? How can I automate more? Yes, we do need to pay attention to those things (as you’ll see below). But I also think we need to pay attention to how the technology is causing us to change the way we communicate with our clients and beyond. In fact, I think it’s crucial!

We need to be learning more than the technical side of running our businesses. It appears that we are falling behind when it comes to how we connect with our clients and the true value we have to offer them.

So here are the 5 key takeaways I got from attending Scaling New Heights (SNH) this year…

1. Attending the conference is not just about the classes

Networking with peers and industry leaders has been (and continues to be) invaluable for my practice. When you attend these events you can connect with fellow bookkeepers who are where you want to be. You can discuss the issues you’re facing and learn from their experiences (and solutions), which are shared freely. You can also become mentor to those who are facing the issues you’ve already overcome and continue the upward spiral.

In this live environment, we have access to the thought leaders in our industry which can result in opportunities that cannot be predicted. This year, I not only was able to set up two preliminary projects with two software vendors, and reconnect with a couple thought leaders in our industry (whom I now call friends and mentors), but I was unexpectedly asked to join a prestigious group that will definitely lead to some high-end consulting projects.

These opportunities would be nearly impossible if I had stayed home and only watched the streaming main stage sessions.

2. Automation, Integration and Delegation

There are a crazy number of new apps in our industry, many of them designed to “streamline workflow.” In some ways, I think they are giving us too many choices and the vision is muddier than ever! The solution appears to be to move in the opposite direction than I see most of us take.

We need to choose the focused direction we want to move our business in first (see takeaway #5 below), decide on the results, function and workflow we want, and only then, choose the apps that best fit our requirements. That way, we filter out all the noise from apps that are cool, but don’t fit the vision we have and the clients we want to serve.

For me, less is more. The core tools I use in my own workflow are QuickBooks Online > SmartVault > Hubdoc > Bill.com

Once the automation is in place, the next step is standarized procedures and building a virtual team.

3. Value Pricing is now a must

Part of the disruption caused by automation of traditional bookkeeping tasks is that it’s saving us time. The problem? If you bill by the hour, as most bookkeepers do, you will either need to scale your business by becoming a high volume commodity (since automation also drives down our hourly fee), or you’ll need to add more value to the services you offer (again, see takeaway #5 below)

Think about it. Are we selling time or results? Clients value results, and value pricing is the way that we can leverage the efficiencies technology is giving us AND upgrade the quality of our services by doing more than simple bookkeeping for our clients. Yes, value pricing is in line with a win-win virtual bookkeeping practice.

Joe Woodard and Dawn Fotopolous both brought the concept home when recommending that we “charge a percentage under the value you create for your clients” and “get paid for what you deliver – not what you do.” Mark Wickersham taught us how to make the transition both with his main stage and breakout sessions, and far and away his approach is the best I’ve found (and I’ve been studying value pricing for a few years now)

I’ve implemented what Mark teaches with great success, especially on consulting work, but am now determined that ALL my clients, including monthly bookkeeping clients, are being converted to value pricing, without exception.

By the way, if you’ve not heard Mark yet, he will be speaking at QuickBooks Connect again this year, or you can see the webinar we did together if you’re a member of my TFB Packaging & Pricing program

4. Marketing is all about networking and building relationships

Always a popular topic at the conferences, since the never-ending question is always how to find more (high quality) clients (again, see takeaway #5). This year a clear message came through (which I whole-heartedly agree with):

The best marketing is relationship based and we can do that via education and social media.

Clients respond best when we reach out to help them learn what they need to know AND build a reputation as a trusted expert in the process. Providing education, especially through public speaking, is a challenge for most of us. But I can say that it is also extremely effective, based on my own experience, especially online. Social media is a little less intimidating and can, in a more subtle way, be used to attract clients through education as well.

Surprising to me was the success I heard fellow bookkeepers were having with Facebook ads. I’m not a big fan of most types of advertising, but done in a soft-sell way that complements educational efforts, I can see it working win-win. So it’s finally made it to my “try it” list.

5. To truly flourish, we need to advise and specialize

We’ve heard it for years now. We need to become the supportive, trusted advisors our clients need to thrive… and be paid well for delivering that kind of value. As already discussed, automation is now making the bulk of our bookkeeping tasks “push-button simple,” which is and will continue to devalue the services we provide. This will force us, like it or not, to serve clients with higher value services just to maintain the same level of revenue! (See takeaway #3)

Surveys have proved it again and again. Clients want assistance with their business management and planning. That’s because they usually know how to do the technical part of their business, but they are clueless on how to analyze what their financial records mean in order to manage and grow effectively. We have the ability to help them with that, if we’re willing to step up to the challenge of being more proactive.

Specialization is the win-win solution for doing it more easily and effectively. Providing high-quality advisory services to clients requires that we truly understand their business. That’s a tall order when you have clients in all different industries. I attended the sessions for serving legal clients, since I enjoy working with small legal practices, and I’ve found them to be hungry for help on the business side.

Mike Michalowicz both in his keynote session and his breakout shared simple and very actionable steps we can take immediately to identify the right niche to fit your business. He also outlined the 5-step process to follow to minimize the risks. In fact, since this is such a crucial topic for us, Mike has agreed to do a webinar on this topic with me this Thursday, June 9th surrounding “How to Find Your Bookkeeping Business NichePlease join us if you want to move in this direction yourself.

While some or most of these takeaways may not be the first time you’ve heard them (they weren’t for me either) I honestly think they’re all important, with #5 being the most crucial to embrace… and implement… if we don’t want to be phased out by the very technology we use every day. We need to become more consultative and specializing is the easiest and most profitable way to do that.

Were you at SNH too? What key takeaways did you get?

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Why Bookkeepers Who Attend Conferences Thrive

stick_figure_presenter_meeting_400_clr_3268By the end of this week I’ll be heading to Paradise Island in the Bahamas to attend the “Epic Practice” Scaling New Heights conference next week. Do you want to join me… for free?

Before I get to that and how that’s even possible at this late date, let me share why I literally spend thousands of dollars each year, take billable time away from serving my clients, and putting the rest of my life on hold to attend industry conferences.

In a sentence: Attending conferences is the catalyst that helps grow my business faster and more powerfully than anything else I do all year.

It’s true!

The first time I experienced this mysterious reality was back in 1995 when I finally mustered the courage (and scraped together the funds) to travel to a tiny conference in Memphis, TN for administrative freelancers while running my first home-based business.

As a result of that and subsequent annual conferences, I was hooked. I not only tripled my client base and my revenue, but I got inspired to design innovative solutions for my clients, found a lucrative niche, became a nationally published author, wrote my first book, and even successfully sold my business when I was ready to move on.

I’ve heard it said that when you invest in your professional development, you’ll reap (on average) three times that amount in return. In my experience, all things considered, it’s been closer to five times. Talk about a profitable investment!

By attending conferences, starting with that very first one, I’ve been able to not only consistently accelerate how fast I reach my goals, but continue to have amazing and totally unexpected opportunities come my way that I never would’ve been exposed to otherwise.

In fact, at this point, I feel as though I can’t afford NOT to attend at least a couple conferences a year.  And in fact, by foolishly skipping Scaling New Heights a couple times over the past few years, I missed out on at least three key opportunities that I’m aware of. I really regret that loss.

But that doesn’t have to happen to you. Instead, L.E.A.R.N. why attending conferences is so very important to your bookkeeping business success going forward.

Leverage new software skills, get expert certifications, and learn proven best practices for a powerful advantage over your competition

Expand your perspective on what’s happening in our industry, and what new technology is coming on the horizon, so you can stay ahead of your clients’ needs and deliver premium level services

Automate and streamline your service delivery and workflow to increase your efficiency, capacity and profit margin simultaneously.

Cultivate Relationships with colleagues who can become powerful referral partners, inspire your success, and even turn into dear friends for life.

Network with software vendors and gain access to thought leaders to help shape how the tools we use and need most are developed, and find top level mentors who you would not otherwise ever be able to meet in person.

While it’s probably too late for you to attend Scaling New Heights 2016 in person (if you don’t already have your plans set) you can still get a taste of what it’s like by joining us for the free “Live Stream” sessions from the main stage starting Monday, May 23rd.

Included in the lineup are keynote speakers Daymond John from Shark Tank and Joe Woodard, who hosts this Intuit-centered extravaganza and key influencer in the QuickBooks ProAdvisor world.

I think you’ll also recognize two other keynote speakers from the webinars we’ve enjoyed together earlier this year: Mike Michalowicz, the author of Profit First, as well as Mark Wickersham, my favorite Value Pricing expert!

Side Note: Yes, in line with my advice above, I have already made definite plans to spend time with both Mike and Mark at the conference (and I guarantee that you will benefit as a result of those meetings in the months to come too! 🙂 )

Here’s the Broadcast Schedule and the link to sign up (it’s free)

mike-and-mark-at-snh

Do you feel attending a big conference like this in person is beyond your reach financially? Think again! This post and video I did a few months ago proves that EVERYONE can afford to attend at least one conference per year, using the simple plan I outline.

Will you be attending either SNH or another bookkeeping conference this year? If so, please comment below and let’s make plans to meet in person! I’d love to meet YOU either next week, or at another upcoming event.

If you regularly attend conferences, what benefits have resulted for you, either directly or indirectly? If you’re still not convinced they’re worth attending, what’s holding you back?

 

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5 Ways to Get Bookkeeping Clients Any Time You Want

get bookkeeping clientsNowadays, if you want to get bookkeeping clients, running an ad or making cold calls is a difficult and ineffective way to do it. The reason why can be summed up in the well known expression…

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

While it’s not clear who actually said this, it’s definitely true when it comes to successfully marketing bookkeeping services.

Human nature is that when we have a problem, a burning question, or have hit some kind of roadblock, it’s all we can see until we find a solution. This is true of potential clients looking for bookkeeping help. Whatever marketing message you are putting out to get bookkeeping clients, will only be noticed by those who see that you have what they want.

Most marketing bookkeepers try (if they do any marketing at all) does just the opposite. It’s focused almost totally on credentials, a laundry list of services (communicated using accounting speak – which is a foreign tongue to small business owners) and is usually impersonal. To prospective clients, it comes across as noise, so they tune it out.

Truth is, there are A LOT of small business owners who know they need to hire a bookkeeper, and some are desperately LOOKING for help. But they have trouble finding us. Here are 5 ways to help them cut through the noise and find you more easily.

1. Frame a quick introduction on the key problems you solve

Whenever you meet a small business owner (or others who may know small business owners), which is most human interactions, use a simple 10-second introduction that shows (1) who your best clients are, and (2) the biggest benefit you provide your clients.

Formula: “I work with [CLIENT TYPE] to provide [BIG BENEFIT]”

Example: “I work with Independent Consultants to provide Relief From the Cash Flow Rollercoaster of Project Work”

Using a simple line like this will spark curiosity and start a conversation with those who either want that type of service or who may know others who do.

2. Show prospective clients you care by helping them out

Free is powerful. Use it to give away help for potential clients’ most painful problems and they’ll flock to you! Offer a subtle “try before you buy” sample of information that gives “quick fix” tips and hints for solving common problems clients face.

How to do it? Brainstorm the top 10 questions or problems you see most often, and offer easy tips and solutions. An example might be how to keep business and personal expenses separate.

3. Stand out as different than other bookkeepers

Using the first two methods we’ve covered will already help you to stand out. But to get the exact type of clients you WANT to be serving, you need to focus your efforts. How? By specializing your practice.

Offer solutions specific to a certain type of client, and you will instantly get their attention.

An example might be if you specialize in law firms. What are the problems they face to properly manage their IOLTA account (so they don’t get into trouble)? Or offer helpful hints on how to streamline the use of a popular legal practice software. Doing this will quickly make you an in-demand bookkeeper / consultant in the legal community.

4. Listen for what THEY feel is most valuable

Questions are a key way to engage potential clients, wherever you meet them. Show genuine interest in their issues, and they will find YOU fascinating! It goes to the principle from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.”

HINT: If you are an introvert, this is a fantastic way to start networking conversations as well. Most everyone loves to talk about themselves. Ask an open-ended question and then just listen. They will magically become interested in you. If there’s a win-win connection to be made, you will definitely find it this way.

5. Proactively lead prospects to what they want most

Small business owners hire professionals to do what they can’t (or don’t want to) do themselves. Step up as a proactive professional who focuses on getting the client the exact results they seek, and you can command premium fees. Focus your communication on the specific end result a potential client wants, and show how you can lead them to it, and they will see you as a partner to their success. This is as irresistible as it gets.

The key to presenting your services in a proactive way is to play the role of consultant. Ask questions and offer solutions that you can implement for them. Your prospects will see you as the perfect bookkeeper for their unique needs.

The bottom line to successfully marketing your services and getting more than enough new clients is simply getting out of your own way (and your comfort zone) and demonstrating that you care. Listen and show that you can give them what they want most. Use these methods wherever you find small business owners, in person or online, and you will easily get all the clients you can handle.

If you want to polish your proactive skills for both marketing and actually serving your clients, join us this month in the TFB Premium lesson on “The Proactive Bookkeeper: How to Get and Keep Top Quality Clients.”

What “new” ways of marketing your bookkeeping services have you found most effective?

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