5 ways to build your pipeline during tax season

Grow your practice, Practice Management Marketing Pipeline

Tax professionals work a lot of hours the first three to four months of the year. Even with an increased focus on work-life balance, these extra work hours cannot be avoided in most cases. It’s an exhausting time, for sure, but does that mean you get to take a break from marketing for four months? If the growth of your practice is important to you, the answer is a clear “no.” 

The good news: You don’t have to spend hours each week on marketing because you don’t have them to give. So, let’s look at a few simple things you can do to help you add new opportunities to your pipeline. 

1. Content reigns supreme

During a time of year when people expect you to be less visible, surprise them by sharing valuable content. It’s a great way to keep you and your firm in front of clients and prospects. If you don’t have time to write, email something you read that your contact would find valuable, or do something like sending out a short Tuesday tax tip. It doesn’t have to be lengthy; just something people will find useful. You can also share that information on social media. 

Alternatively, consider video. Turn on your camera and share something you know – maybe talk about a unique situation you encountered, or share a question a client asked, stripping out confidential and identifying information, and answer it. Provide a piece of advice you just shared with a client. The options are endless. Then, as long as it’s less than 10 minutes long (which it should be), upload the video directly to LinkedIn. You could also create your own YouTube channel and upload it there, share on social, and even embed it into your website. Videos no longer need to be a high-production, high-cost endeavor. Think of them as a quick way to get information to people they can use.

2. Ask clients for referrals

You will be talking with all of your tax clients over the next few months, but when was the last time you asked them who they knew you could help? While you know you should do this, it doesn’t happen due to discomfort in doing so, lack of time, or simply forgetting to do it.

Consider running a contest instead. Prior to COVID-19, one firm I know put signs up in their lobby and conference rooms asking for referrals. On the reception desk, there are sheets of paper for clients to add someone’s name, and their own, and drop it into a container. For every name referred, the client is entered into a drawing for a new tech gadget. This was a great way to capture names when people were walking into the office and, since it ran through tax season, follow-up could happen when time freed up. Once your firm is back in your office, something similar may work for you.

This concept could work as a digital contest, too. If clients aren’t coming in for in-person meetings this year, email them (even via a mass email) and ask them to send names back for a chance to win something desirable. Doing this electronically may actually work better because they have time to think about whose name to add and can access the contact information for that person. Be sure to send follow-up emails, too, reminding them to get their names in for a chance to win.

3. Identify additional needs

As you talk with your tax clients, it’s a great opportunity to identify additional needs they have for services you can provide. This year, one firm wants its team members to ask all clients at least one of three questions. As a need is identified, it is entered into the firm’s workflow for follow-up later in the year to ensure it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

The questions could include something like whether they have recently updated their estate plan, if their exit plan for the business has changed, or how they are projecting cash flow in times of uncertainty. Focus on those areas that are beneficial to the client and, perhaps, driven by what’s happening in the world.

4. Remind referral sources you’re here

During tax season, it’s hard to find the time to meet referral sources for lunch or attend a community event. Of course, it’s nearly impossible this year with shutdowns and restrictions in place due to COVID-19. However, this situation can be used to your advantage! Consider a virtual coffee meeting with them instead.

Set up a meeting with a referral source and send them a gift card to Starbucks or a local coffee shop. One firm chose to send Uber Eats gift cards, so that the coffee could be delivered to the referral source’s home or office. You then set up a short 30-minute video conference and dial in to chat.

This limits the time you’re investing in a meeting to something manageable, and there is no drive time on top of the meeting. And, if you don’t want to actually go out and buy physical gift cards and send them with a handwritten note – which would be the ideal scenario – you can order an electronic gift card from the comfort of your desk and have it sent to the recipient directly.

5. Build your online reviews

When someone is given your name as a potential tax services provider, the person will check you out online. This extends past your website to see what others think of you. More than likely, they will even type your name, followed by “reviews,” into Google. These reviews impact their decision to hire you. If you happen to have a negative review, you need somewhere between four and 40 good ones to offset it, depending on which source you trust. Continually getting positive reviews is good for your business.

You could do what one firm did and ask your clients for reviews when you see them. They put an ask on the electronic bulletin board in their lobby and on signs in conference rooms. They also stuck a card in the final tax return, encouraging people to go to Google, Facebook, or Yelp to share their experience. 

A little effort now can pay off later

You have probably experienced the rollercoaster effect on business development – you get leads as you work on them and they trail off during times you’re focused on serving the clients. To avoid this scenario, your marketing needs to be more balanced and continual.

Focus on those things you can do while you’re already talking to a client, or those that don’t add tremendous time to your week. This effort now is what will help fill your pipeline the remaining eight months of the year. Your marketing may slow, but this is not the time to stop all activities. The future of your firm is worth the effort.