[IMGCAP(1)]Tax season may not be the easiest time for preparers to develop new business, but it may be the best time, according to Chuck McCabe, president of Peoples Income Tax.

“Finding time to get away from your desk this season to network is important. While it may have been more convenient to do networking before tax season, now is the time that taxpayers are thinking about taxes and looking for a tax preparer,” he said.

One of the ways to expand the number of taxpayers who walk through your doors, according to McCabe, is through the use of gift certificates. “One great way to get the phone ringing is to offer to give out gift certificates at some of the networking events you regularly attend,” he said. “Networking groups are a great place to offer up incentives to potential clients. In some cases you may need to invest in a table sponsorship or a journal or placemat ad to get your promotional materials out on the tables, but if you reach hundreds by doing so, the investment may be worth it. Gift cards that cover part of the cost of tax preparation make a welcome incentive for someone who is looking for a preparer.”

Another opportunity to hand out gift cards is at auctions, McCabe observed. “There’s always someone raising money for something. Whether it’s a silent auction or gift baskets for a golf tournament, offering up gift certificates to include in these types of packages is another way to get the word out,” he said.

Preparers should take advantage of opportunities to reach out to the local business community and form partnerships, advised McCabe. “For example, it can be a combined social media contest where you host giveaways from partner businesses, or a discount for employees at select businesses in your area to have their taxes prepared by your firm. Get creative and reach out to the businesses around you. Even if a partnership doesn’t happen, you still get the chance to meet potential new clients and tell them about your business.”

Referrals from satisfied clients are a typical way that many preparers find their business expanding, McCabe indicated. A way to increase these referrals is to offer discounts to your customers who refer their friends and family members to the preparer. But to generate referrals, you first have to make sure that you are, indeed, offering excellent service, McCabe noted.

“No one will refer you if you offer poor service,” he said. “Offering exceptional service will make your clients want to tell their friends and family about you. Incentivizing them to refer friends and family will make them even more likely to do so.”

In addition to providing great service, let them know that this is what you are doing. For example, a local grocery store makes it a practice of circling your savings on every receipt. If someone doesn’t tell customers, they won’t automatically know, so the preparer should point out the tax savings that were generated due to the preparer’s knowledge, experience and time spent on the return. And remember that people don’t always remember what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel. The process should end with a smile, a handshake, and congratulations on their tax savings.

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