5 things you can do to take client KPI’s to the next level

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When we talk about Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for your practice’s clients; often the first things that come to mind for many are profit, revenue and cost of sales. To a certain extent yes, these are important metrics for any business to measure and monitor, but the harsh reality is they only ever scratch the surface and for some clients’ there may be a disconnect between actions and/or even preventative/remedial measures being put in place. For some businesses, it can be the difference between success and failure.

It’s quite common for practices to work in a specialised niche and more firms are considering leveraging the benefits than can come by showing greater prowess in certain industry sectors.  I remain an advocate that for firms to truly add value, they need to demonstrate more than just a technical competency for producing accounts and tax returns as quickly as possible (technical expertise in my view should be the ‘minimum stake’ for sitting at the table).  The true expertise comes from understanding all of the relevant issues for your client and their sector and then working with your clients to determine and measure the right KPI’s for them.

1. Don’t just go with ‘boilerplate’ KPI’s

Irrespective if your practice specialises in a particular niche or not. A great place to start is with a set of standardised KPI’s (let’s say a maximum of 5) which you can deploy at scale to all of your clients via simple dashboards – which is by far the quickest route to market for this service.  Providing your clients with dashboards as a baseline service demonstrates, as their ‘trusted advisors’ you are thinking beyond the numbers.  You can then use this as a platform to launch a more in-depth business coaching service with more detailed KPI’s once you can establish what it is they want to measure.  We have to recognise, that while there may be similarities and of course standard KPI’s across a particular vertical market; for example, every dental practice you work with may want to track missed appointments. Each client may want to measure things in a subtly different way and what’s personal to them for varying reasons.

ProTip 1 – Have another 5-10 KPI’s in your kitbag, ready to go.

ProTip 2 – Start with ‘Lagging KPI’s’ then introduce ‘Leading KPI’s’

Lagging and Leading KPI’s – What’s the difference?

Think of lagging indicators as the final results.  For example, if your goal was to lose 2 stone (28lbs) by the end of August; your weight on the scale as of 31st August would show you the end result.  Did you achieve it yes or no?. So you can only see the result at the end of the process; weight lost is a ‘lagging’ indicator, as would the profit be at the financial year end. Lagging indicators are by nature easy to measure but hard to influence in isolation.

Leading indicators are those where they can predict the outcome, and you can influence them.  So to lose weight by 31st August, if you measure the calories you consume and calories burned (both of which can be influenced) then, it is more likely to achieve the end goal and the final results (Weight Lost) will also be reflective of this.

Here’s a huge opportunity for you to really differentiate yourselves, businesses to date have focused on lagging KPI’s for the simple reason that it’s safe; it hasn’t required them to do something different; this is where you come in as the trusted advisor.

2. Show your domain expertise

With more and more firms looking at niching, how can those firms look to demonstrate that they have their fingers on the pulse?  Demand is there for you to start to provide more than just monthly, quarterly or annual reports to your clients with the odd few graphs and KPI’s.  

You have an opportunity to include details of reports from the industry, white-papers, produce thought-leadership articles, results from surveys that you have commissioned, which can all lead to events both web-based and face to face.

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A brilliant example of this has been The WOW Company and the annual BenchPress report which they produce.  Now in its sixth year, this has become recognised as the largest survey of independent agency owners in the UK.  Does, it just happen? No, there’s a huge investment in time by the practice both upfront and afterwards to compile the results and distribute the findings. However, it demonstrates domain knowledge and expertise as it covers topics such as agency demographics, growth, recruitment, key financial metrics and other industry benchmarks.  It also shows that they don’t assume anything and actively involve clients and the wider agency community in the process. This is why it makes them the go-to accountants for those clients.

3. Put your client’s results into context

Don’t just provide your clients with their numbers (graphical or not) you need to provide a broader context around those numbers. For example, let’s say your client’s revenue figures are £10,000 a month. They may think that’s awesome and in isolation, they could be right. However, if we overlay what others in the same industry are achieving; again let’s say at one end of the spectrum,  the average revenue is £8,000 per month and at the other, good to excellent is between £15-£20,000 per month, this can present a different perspective to your client.  It also allows you to explore how other clients are achieving those results and how you can help them to achieve the same.

Cue, upsell and cross sell opportunity.

You can be quite creative here by layering data such as average, good and excellent (see below) which adds more context to the discussion and visualises the effect for the client.

You can be quite creative here by layering data such as average, good and excellent (see below) which adds more context to the discussion and visualises the effect for the client.

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4. Question everything

Dive deeper into every single conversation that you have with your clients.  Always be looking to uncover the required outcomes, by when? What do they want to measure? And how will they measure it?

So, consider the following when defining your client KPI’s:-

Is it predictable?

Is it influenceable?

Is it to be measured on-going?

Can it be measured? But also ask, is it worth measuring?

5. Don’t make it a one off exercise

You need to be setting the cadence for this process, as this can affect the monetisation.  Is this a process that needs to happen quarterly,  monthly or for some businesses even weekly?  Who’s going to be involved?  What about roles and responsibilities? All of this needs to be agreed and confirmed with your client.

Productise the service and shout it from the rooftops!

There’s no point in spending time and resource on defining your service, trying it with a few ‘select’ clients and then not following up. I’ve seen too many practices ‘talk-the-talk’ and then not ‘walk-the-walk’ on this. Outside some of the larger practices who have productised services in a platform such as BDO, Kingston Smith and Wilkins Kennedy to name a few, a practice that recently launched a brand new service has been BluSky and their BluPrints offering.  Not only have they managed to come up with an entire theme around their brand, but are creating a buzz on social platforms.  Yes, I admit, BluSky has a slight advantage, in that they can include the practices name in the offering, but you get the idea.

The smarter practices are the ones that have aggregated data for their clients’ industries and are sharing insights via reports like Wow’s BenchPress or by designing awesome infographics and sharing by social media channels.  There really is no limit on how you can differentiate yourselves in a niche market or as a more general practice.

More and more practices are looking at ways in which they can help their clients get more understanding of their numbers, but also look at business improvement coaching and getting better outcomes.  If you want to chat about defining KPI’s for your clients and how you can leverage more, drop me an email darren@wekandoo.co.uk or schedule a call with me here.

Don’t waste time on bad clients

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The best marketing strategy ever: CARE – Gary Vaynerchuk

In an earlier blog post, I explored some of the reasons why practices need to start thinking about the segmentation of existing clients and the role that this can play in helping you convert, onboard, inform, upsell and cross-sell to your existing clients.

Linked to segmentation, the next thing we need to consider is attracting clients to the firm and more importantly the right kind of clients; but what do your ideal customers look like – Are they in a particular industry sector, have a turnover between x and y?

Having a clear definition of your ideal buyer profile can have a profound impact. It helps you identify prospects in a particular niche, but also a process whereby you can review any clients that are ‘falling short of the mark’. You can then persuade to pay more for services, or that they may need to be politely exited from the firm as they are becoming toxic; no one likes to think of losing customers, let alone sacking them, but giving certain clients their ‘freedom’ can have an additional benefit – improving staff morale.

Why create an ideal client profile?

Without an ideal client profile, you are missing the opportunity to engage the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. Sadly, this has become the default for many practices and deploying a broad ‘scattergun’ approach to your marketing and communications in the hope that something – dare I say, anything sticks; I’m sorry but hope, is not a method.

Practices historically have generally, only ever, categorised their clients as A, B, C, or D with A’s being those clients that are paying us the largest fees, or have potential, have been loyal over the years or maybe are just amazing clients you love to work with. D’s however, are always the clients that pay late constantly, moan about everything and aren’t nice to deal with.

While this is a good starting point, it’s limited in scope and I believe is in most cases, two-dimensional at best.  We need to think more broadly and look further to get a more robust accurate view.

How can I start creating an ideal client profile?

One of the best ways in which you can start to think about your clients is to use a Venn diagram (see image below) I prefer to use a minimum of three criteria or ‘rules’ as this narrows your focus slightly more.  These rules define for example how technology centred the client is, are they adaptive to change? What are they like personally – do we think we will get along. You can go quite detailed in this exercise.

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An example worksheet can be downloaded here IDEAL CLIENTS

Within each section, break this into to another three or four additional criteria and then elaborate more on each of them. For example in technology will they be open to using cloud solutions such as Xero or Quickbooks?  Will they be able to use Receipt Bank?  If we are considering how adaptive to change the client is, consider are they willing to work with us on advisory services? Are they focused on profitability or growth?  If we are looking to develop a strategy around a vertical market or niche – do they fit that niche?

Go a stage further – create client ‘personas.’

The easiest way to think of ‘personas’ beyond a client profile is that you are creating a fictional representation of the needs, goals and observed behaviour patterns of your current and potential customers.

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Hubspot provides some useful insights on how to do this in a few simple steps, and you can even get a persona development worksheet for you to get started.

You can also find more information on targeted marketing and buyer personas in this infographic here.

Creating customer personas helps you model a standardised process in your practice which everyone can understand and follow, you need to think of scalability here. Ultimately, identifying these characteristics ensures a good fit for both you and the client. Sadly, not all clients are created equal. Therefore, you need to bear this in mind when creating and executing your marketing strategy.  You have a wealth of data at your fingertips, time to now put that data into action.

If you don’t have a marketing strategy or you want to sanity check your current one – you could consider reaching out to Karen Reyburn of The Profitable Firm or Matt Wilkinson of BizInk.

One final thought……While I may have a natural tendency to position this as a process for accountants and accounting practices; there is absolutely no reason why you can’t have the same conversation and implement a similar process for your clients’ businesses.

If you have any questions about marketing strategy, client segmentation and profiling and how we can make this work for your practice, please do feel free to drop me an email darren@wekandoo.co.uk or give me a call on 07557 441 045.

“It is important to note that while goods are consumed, services are experienced.”
David H. Maister, Managing The Professional Service Firm

Client Segmentation

Over recent weeks one of the key topics of conversation with so many accountants has been the need for better processes around client segmentation.  Driven mostly by the implications and concerns of MTD albeit before the revisions to the finance bill ahead of the general election and subsequent changes in the cabinet reshuffle. More and more practices look to improve their client cloud conversion process, onboarding and upselling of advisory services.

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With most acknowledging that MTD is a case of when – not if, it has highlighted that practices need to dive deeper into their client base to ensure that they’re as efficient as they can be.  Practices need to actually understand their customers, the industries that they are in, the services that they subscribe to and a potential myriad of other elements of useful data. The hard truth for a lot of firms is they’re just not capturing this information in the level of detail that they should be.

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” 
Thomas Jefferson

Why segment our clients?

If we are to be successful, we need to consider ways in which we can gather this information, then find a process whereby data can be interrogated so that we have a much more refined targeted approach to marketing, communication and of course, engagement with those clients. Many practices have historically employed an extremely broad ‘scattergun’ approach which results in increased costs, wasted resources, lost time and less than favourable returns on investment along with unrealised outcomes. In short; client segmentation saves your practice money.

How do you segment your clients?

When we think about customer segmentation, we’re looking beyond the basic premise of categorising as ‘A, B, C, or D’ based upon payment history or any other category that define how we like the client. We need to look for patterns, how are our customers grouped, what are the commonalities that they have?

One of the easiest ways to start segmentation is to use a spreadsheet and think of common elements that your clients have for instance Year-End, Industry, MTD Tranche, Entity type, No of Employees, LTV and so on. You can then start to think about adding in elements of what services the clients subscribe to and fee level. For a lot of practices, your customer data can also be fragmented over several systems and databases even multiple spreadsheets, this is the right time to centralise all of that data and maximise your opportunities.

DIY or outsource the process?

Be aware; it is, of course, possible for you as a practice to undertake this entire process on your own. However, it will take time and will need to be carefully planned and executed – the key here is preparation – this list is as long as you decide you want to make it. My advice to start with – keep it straightforward and elaborate as part of an ongoing process. Plus it makes it easier to spot where the gaps are and fill them in.

I also had a great conversation on segmentation with Matt Flanagan of BlueHub on his last visit to Newcastle – Matt and his team have been working with many practices on Microsoft Power BI and helping them segment and visualise their data as a starting point. For an example of what they can do, please watch the short video here

Summary

There are so many ways that you can segment your data to make your workflows, internal processes and sales and marketing more effective. Tools such as Excel can be a great starting point, or you can look at more functional practice management solutions or indeed industry standard CRM applications such as Insightly, Capsule, Salesforce or even WorkFlowMax. Irrespective of your solutions, capturing all the useful, relevant information must be built into your daily processes otherwise it’s going to be garbage in and garbage out.

If you have any questions about data segmentation and how we can make this work for you, please do feel free to drop me an email darren@wekandoo.co.uk or give me a call on 07557 441 045.

Never turn your back on the ocean

tim-marshall-179371Having been privileged to have worked with thousands of accounting firms over the past twenty years, helping them to navigate the ever-changing software landscape, implement solutions and processes to enable them to achieve more – I’ve found those that succeed, are those that have the desire and have a truly agile mindset.

I was fortunate enough recently, to be given a book by Paul Miller, MD of Cornish AccountingMake Your Own Waves by Louis Patler as we have a mutual interest in surfing and body-boarding. While there are some good analogies between the world of surfing and entrepreneurship, one chapter title in particular really resonated with me; hence the title of this blog post – “Never turn your back on the ocean”.

Surfing, at its most basic, is the art of ‘reading’ the ocean; knowing when to paddle, when to line up, and more importantly knowing the exact time to catch that wave. It’s about planning, preparation and being prepared to adapt to ever changing conditions.

While some make it look all too easy, there are, of course, many cautionary tales of those that just simply get the timing wrong, being caught off guard by the biggest waves. But also, those that prefer to remain in the shallows because it feels safe, it’s within their comfort zone, it’s what they know – only to miss out.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf – Joseph Goldstein

For accountants, adapting to the market challenges you to consider some key areas; function, process and skill set to name a few. The key to success is the same – planning, and preparedness to adapt to the changing conditions – your agility.

Compliance is safe, it’s what you know, it’s your comfort zone, but some small changes can give you greater confidence to define and deploy more of the services that your clients want, confidence to price those services correctly and begin to transform to the role of the true trusted advisor.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/y74zvFZ5mSU