Tax season can be exhilarating for its intensity but stressful if your firm has all of its balls in one court. Diversifying with tax-adjacent advisory services can add value to your existing clients, build recurring revenue streams and increase the likelihood of your tax clients returning next season.
Busy season is prime time for client engagement, which means there’s a major opportunity for firms to position themselves for client advisory services (CAS). You just need to have the right conversations in place to introduce additional value.
Don’t Wait Until Post-Tax Season to Talk CAS
The ideal time to begin implementing a year-round business strategy is now.
Concurrently focusing on your goals and your client’s goals is key to creating an engagement plan that sticks. Synchronizing the two can be seamless when you create the space for deliberate conversations and implement automated communication techniques.
Here are five strategies to help you leverage tax season and increase your client retention throughout the year.
Strategy 1: Ask Probing Questions
Almost everyone loves to talk about themselves. Integrating guiding questions into your tax planning sessions can tease out information that identifies areas where you can offer your client advisory services that help them meet their goals.
- Identify goals: Go beyond standard tax inquiries surrounding historical data. Directly ask about your client’s future. Is expansion, travel or retirement a near- or long-term goal? Is employee turnover their primary challenge?
- Get specific: Ask open-ended and clarifying questions to truly understand what their needs are. Their challenges, pain points and growth plans can give you insight into their need to understand tax nexus, employee benefit options or wealth management strategies.
- Practice active listening: Reading between the lines can be a difficult but eye-opening process. Clients that struggle to get their tax paperwork together for your appointment are illustrating their need for a bookkeeping service that may be more affordable than they imagine. Seeing—and reacting—to this opportunity can expand your business and strengthen your client relationships.
Strategy 2: Make Recommendations
The bane of many tax-only firms is that they often give away valuable insights and resources to clients without charging for them. The years of experience that went into developing your business acumen is something worth charging for.
Transition your attitude about charging for services from being a dreaded sales responsibility to an opportunity to help your clients meet their goals.
- Be concise: After jotting down notes about your clients’ needs, circle back to the topic later in the same conversation. Mention a broad solution (payroll management, for example) and ask if they would like to book an appointment now to work on resolving their challenge after tax season.
- Separate planning sessions from work sessions: Co-mingling tax planning and tax preparation ultimately provides less value to the client and reduced revenue for your firm. Restructuring them to be separately billable activities also allows the planning sessions to occur separately throughout the year.
- Work with fellow experts: If your clients’ needs are beyond your scope of expertise, supplement your team with professionals to bring that skill to your firm. If other trusted providers are needed, such as a CFO, legal experts or realtors, work to build a community of business partners—but ensure that you disclose if the referral is compensated via commission or other obligation.
Strategy 3: Offer Business Performance Insights
Business owners that use external tax preparation services often do not have in-house managerial accounting expertise. Offering these types of business advisory services can lead to significant gains for your clients. Simply making them aware of your firm’s proficiency in this area will often lead to additional engagements.
- Conduct a business health assessment: With as little as two annual financial statements, you can evaluate changes that have occurred in your client’s business. A simple year-over-year comparison can prompt you to show concern about a tightened cash flow situation or excess inventory that you could help them work through.
- Create value-add opportunities: Couple your tax credit knowledge with your client’s business needs to offer a planning session, for example, where you educate them on timing vehicle and capital purchases to minimize their tax liability. They may be unaware of mileage tracking apps that can replace hours of weekly administrative time on assembling manual drivers’ logs and allocating the costs to clients or projects.
Strategy 4: Gauge Client Interests
Serving existing needs—and existing clients—is the best way to use your marketing time. Skipping the new client hurdle of building initial trust is a huge advantage and will increase the likelihood of advancing your revenue growth.
While tax season gives you direct information into the financial health of your current clients, you’ll also need to understand their attitudes towards newer services before going all in. The most obvious way of learning where your clients are is, of course, to ask.
- Request feedback: Contact your best clients and let them know that you’re expanding your services. Tell them that you would like their input about what their future business plans are to learn where they could benefit from more support. If your clients stress every year about sending W-2s and 1099s, it’s an area where you can increase your revenue while letting clients feel heard.
- Gather client industry insights: Spend time focusing on one or two industries that your clients work in and understand the pain points and opportunities that exist. If CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry trends and discussion boards indicate a concern about supply chain issues, use that knowledge to develop an expertise in understanding its software or cutting-edge AI solutions.
Strategy 5: Initiate Continual Client Communication
Staying top-of-mind is critical to increasing client retention. Identify and create natural touch points that will keep your name—and your services—at the forefront when your clients face challenges that you could assist them with managing.
- Establish follow-up Fridays: Schedule a time cadence on your calendar to touch base with your clients on items that came up during your last tax preparation session. Demonstrating that you’re attentive to their business strengthens your reputation and will prompt them to share your name if a referral opportunity arises.
- Showcase your expertise: Publishing a newsletter or creating a YouTube channel are great options, but they’re not for everyone. Sharing an industry-specific article takes just a few clicks and lets your client know that you are thinking about them and their business.
Use Fractional Talent to Support Client Advisory Services
Ultimately, positioning your firm for CAS requires the talent and bandwidth to back it up. Becoming a true advisor to your clients requires expertise in bookkeeping, accounting, controller leadership, financial analysis and even c-suite leadership.
Fractional finance and accounting talent can give you the manpower and the niche expertise you need to drive real value for your clients during and beyond tax season. By working with talent across the country, you can hire for the skills that you need without risking underutilization of a full-time hire.
Paro provides on-demand access to U.S.-based experts to jump start your advisory services and help you deepen your client relationships. Get matched with elite talent in as little as 48 hours and start adding value immediately. Easily scale up your business for tax season, add new service lines and ready your firm for growth.