Voices

Art of Accounting: 12 months of client contacts

Last week I posted a 12-month calendar of ways to grow or improve your practice. Here is a 12-month schedule of ways of having a client contact. As with last week’s listing, I did everything in here. Enjoy it and try them — they work.

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Year-round: Send clients a birthday card or an email on their birthday. You should have this info in your tax program. The card can be pre-addressed by an admin person early in the year and ready to mail a couple of days before the birthday. I don’t see any problem using labels for the address, but I like stamps rather than a meter; either way, send it — I count this as a “contact.” I do not consider the Facebook or LinkedIn congrats the same as a “contact” and these actually take more effort than the card. If you want to do something real cool, send a card from the Bureau of Engraving with a crisp dollar bill with a serial number beginning with 2019. You can buy a minimum of 50 cards for $4.50 each here.

January: I know you are busy, but there are many ways of having client contacts without seeing or talking to clients. Also, many of these ideas do not take much effort on your part — they can be outsourced to a local printer, ad agency or office assistant. I suggest postal-mailing a letter to all of your clients welcoming them to 2019. Keep it to one page and give them an update on your firm (similar to the “Christmas letters” many people include with their greeting cards) and remind them they can call you anytime with any tax, financial or business questions or concerns.

Also include for this mailing all your contacts and referral sources. If you maintain your list in Excel, the printer can address the envelopes. I suggest putting a stamp on the envelope rather than running it through the meter machine. This is a little extra effort and will cost 3 cents extra, but I think the effect is worth it. Remember, you would want this to count as a “client contact” and it will, if done properly.

February: Busy, busy, busy. Mail a postcard with a short note that you are open for all your clients’ business and financial needs in addition to their taxes, and they are welcome to call you with any questions or anything else they wish to discuss. Also ask for referrals. Here I don’t think the stamp matters — just get it out. The important thing is the message indicating your availability.

March: You can skip March — clients might think that if you had time to send them something, you are not too busy, so why will they be getting their return at the last minute?

April: At the end of April, send clients a letter similar to what you sent out in January updating them on how you did during tax season.

May: Send an email with one of my “tax season checklists” that you can adapt from my Word file that I distribute at the end of every January. Two that come to mind are “Getting rid of tax preparation clutter” and “Ways to reduce tax preparation fees.” Even more effective is to print the message on your letterhead and mail it with a stamp to your clients.

June: Mail the checklist you did not use in May.

July: Send a July 4 card to your clients. If you want to get a little corny, have a photo taken of you and your staff, each holding a flag.

August: If you take a vacation at an exotic place, send a card with a preprinted message. Have the cards printed and addressed before you leave for the vacation. When you arrive, buy stamps and mail them. An alternative is to write a letter describing your (or a partner’s) vacation to an exotic place, or one of your hobbies or some charitable project you or one of your partners or staff were involved in. Make it personal and share the experiences.

September: I would skip sending something in September since it is a very busy month and you cannot have your staff working the overtime you can get from them in March.

October: Send a letter asking clients if they need any year-end tax planning, or if you should be made aware of anything that happened during the year that would need to be reported on their 2019 return and that it should be worked on now. I have a “tax season checklist” listing a dozen of these transactions from which you can adapt the wording.

November: Send a Thanksgiving card with a message that you made a contribution on behalf of your clients to the local food pantry or a similar organization.

December: Send a desk or wall calendar to all of your clients and contacts. It should be something nice and tasteful. If it ends up on a wall, you have just acquired a 12-month “billboard” for very little cost. If you still postal mail organizers to clients in January, then use December to send the “Christmas letter” update. An alternative is to send an email or postal letter asking clients for referrals. One of my colleagues mails a $100 certificate to be applied against a client’s tax return fee for every new client they refer; and he has received over 100 new clients from this tactic. Another thing you can mail or email is a listing of what records can be discarded and what should be retained.

There are many other ways of keeping in touch with clients in a regular and unobtrusive manner. During the year you can send clippings or reprints of articles or book excerpts or even give them a magazine subscription. You can also call the client during the summer to “check in” and see how they are doing, and if there are any major changes in their lives. Toward the end of the year you can find out if anything happened that might have tax consequences. Notice that I did not refer to any form of social media — this can be integrated into any regular regime.

Use the above as a starting point to develop your monthly client contact schedule. Contacts are “touchy-feely” activities and will strengthen the client’s relationship with you. I will put together a file with the information I referred to above, so email me at GoodiesfromEd@withum.com and I’ll forward to you. I do this myself, so allow me a few days to get this done.