Most bookkeepers are single shingle or are larger bookkeeping groups. Very few run into the middle group of just a couple of bookkeepers. Why is that? It takes time to develop a client base and get going with the marketing. Most larger firms have figured out how to find customers, so this is really directed at the new bookkeepers.
Paid Google Advertising. Unless you are willing to pay a king’s ransom, don’t even think about it. When I first started out many years ago, google ads would show up in europe if I was advertising in Seattle. They have gotten better, but large bookkeeping firms are likely to outspend you.
Local SEO: This has benefits. However, most people are going to ask their friends to find a bookkeeper instead of randomly googling the service. Make sure your website looks modern, answers questions about your services, and provides background info on your expertise.
Websites are partially judged on how how long they have been around by the search engines. If you have a new website, don’t count on it getting to the first page of google. However, prospective customers that have found you by other means will check out your website.
Google Local. Google has local listings. However, less and less space is given to the local companies. If you are in a large urban area, I would make sure I was listed, but don’t wait by the phone for calls.
Chamber of Commerce: Possible. It depends on your presentation and networking skills to pull this off. Remember that there will competitors that are already entrenched there. Play nice.
Yelp. I was quoted $200 a month to be listed in Yelp as a paid advertiser. Perhaps this might be a good option if you have the funding.
Yellow pages. Who reads them?
Customer referrals. Customers are likely to refer customers who are like themselves. So if you have deadbeat clients who don’t pay on time, you are likely to get more deadbeat referrals. Although, I did have one noteable exception to that pattern.
Referral Groups like BNI and others. This can be good and since they are being referred by trusted advisers this can be a great source of business. However, do some research and make sure that everyone is on the up and up. One rotten apple in a referral group and it can sour your experience.
SBA and other business help places. I found teaching classes can be a great way to meet new people. However, again, not all of your experiences will be positive. I had one lady who attended a beginning QB class then complained throughout the first half and then stormed out just before the break that she learned nothing. It was a train wreck. For her, in my opinion. Just remember that when you give free or nearly free classes, all sorts show up. Including those who you would never do business with in a few million years. LOL.
Linked in: Great for networking with colleagues, posting blogs, and exchanging information. Horrible for customer acquisition. Remember your target market is business owners. It’s unlikely that they will be hanging out on linkedin, a profession resume distribution service. 🙂
Facebook: I’ve heard missed results from this. You can target ads to business owners. However, However, However, However is the person playing candy crush really interested in your bookkeeping service?
Other Bookkeepers! Chances are if you chat with other bookkeepers they might be willing to work with you or refer work. Remember that most bookkeepers work in specific industries. They might not want to work with a pet sitting service.
QuickBooks Proadvisor listings. In a large urban area they can be a waste of time. There might be 200 listings for a large area. The listings at the top are sorted by seniority, certifications and other criteria. If you want the software, go for it, however a marketing funnel it isn’t for most new bookkeepers.
Craigslist: Yes, but you have to be extremely careful. The client quality isn’t always the best because some are shopping on price alone. Ask a few questions to find out more about their business.
Angies List: Possible.
Twitter: No one in the history of twitter has ever searched for a bookkeeper on twitter. Tweet if you must, but don’t expect clients to flood in.
Google Plus: The hangout feature is a great way to network. Other than that, it’s a waste of time. The google plus feature mines your gmail contacts for ‘google plus’ contacts. Chances are that all of those people had google set up a google plus account for them and they have never even looked at it. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever.
Trade groups: A great way to network. Remember though that people have established relationships that go back years. It will take time to get referrals. Try volunteering to get more exposure.
Buying a book of Business: Really good. Remember that the transfer needs to happen smoothly from the customer’s perspective. Once the old bookkeeper leaves, expect 20% of the customers to reevaluate who their bookkeeping service should be. Make sure you spend time with each and every one of them to assure them no drastic changes will be made.
There you have it. Feel free to list any other suggestions in the comments. The comment period isn’t very long because of the spam comments. I can post updates /comments if necessary. I don’t care if the comments are negative or positive, because not everyone has the same experience in acquiring clients.