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A couple of questions

kmbookkeeping

New Member
Hi,

In the past 8 months or so I have noticed a gradual downturn in my workload. A few clients businesses have unfortunately folded, and added to this I am getting fewer and fewer enquiries from potential new clients.

Having asked around I have some evidence to suggest, anecdotally at least, that with the current economic climate both new and existing small business owners are no longer outsourcing the same amount of work they once were, with bookkeeping being somewhere at the top of the list of things they want to try themselves.

If this is the case, I wondered that rather than doing the bookkeeping for this group of people, whether their was any mileage in doing health checks for them instead. This would involve having a brief look at their bookkeeping systems and checking the usual mistakes which are likely to crop up.

My aim is ultimately to recruit new clients by demonstrating the importance of having a strong understanding and depth of knowledge in bookkeeping. And showing that having a bookkeeper can save money rather than costing by highlighting potential items of expenditure that they are not claiming for, like use of home as an office. Or by showing that they are trying to claim improper expenses that may later be picked up on by HMRC.

Obviously this health check will be of benefit even if they decide not to use my services as I should be able to help them streamline their processes and show them how to properly calculate their expenditure or interrogate their figures. To this end, I wonder whether I should charge a small amount for the service.

My questions are:

Do you do your own bookkeeping?
Is this a service you would use?
Would you expect to pay for it, and if so how much?

Thanks

Kris
 
Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

New Member
Kris,

I don't know how typical my business is, but, for what it's worth, here are my answers to your questions:

Do you do your own bookkeeping?

Yes.

Is this a service you would use?

No. But I can seen that others might.

Would you expect to pay for it, and if so how much?

If I did use it, I would certainly expect to pay for it.

Now, having said that, I wonder if there would be any mileage in offering the service for free - perhaps in a limited form - on the basis that it will get you an introduction into companies and give you a chance to impress them with your knowledge. It could well lead to other work.

This is just a thought. I don't know enough about bookkeeping services to be sure. But it might be worth thinking about.

Mike
 

kmbookkeeping

New Member
Hi Mike,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. This is something I am toying with. On one hand I think that offering it free is a good idea in order to recruit new clients. On the other hand I think people would be more suspicious that all the service offers is an opportunity for me to sell something to them, which is not really the case. Although I do want to gain new clients from it, I believe that there is a benefit to small business owners who genuinely want to continue doing their own bookkeeping.

Lets face it, from a purely personal point of view, these are probably people I would never recruit as clients anyway, so to earn a small something from them is better than nothing. I also believe that most people place no value on anything they get free.

Having said that, you have given me something to think about.

Kris
 
poppydesign

poppydesign

New Member
Hi Kris

A lot of companies have/are facing a downturn - now is a good time to step up your marketing on and offline including social media - the worst thing a company can do is stop all marketing (unless they are overloaded with work! but things change for everyone)

Do you do your own bookkeeping?
YES - though everything then goes to the accountant for checking.
Is this a service you would use?
Probably not.

Would you expect to pay for it, and if so how much?
Yes if I used it.
 
Scottish Business Owner

Scottish Business Owner

New Member
Hi Kris,

I can probably come at this from a slightly different angle as I own a business that's in the exact same sector as you albeit we operate on the east coat.

First of all I dont think you should ever fall into the trap of doing work for free. If people see the value in the service then they should be prepared to pay for it. Hand on heart though I dont see demand decreasing at all. Lots of people are deciding to start up their own businesses as a result of being made redundant etc so I think there certainly is business there.

Without giving away too many trade secrets I think you have to identify at what point in the sales process you're actually finding difficult. My view is that a sales process typically goes like this:

Building the Sales Pipeline > Targetting hot prospects > Presentation/Proposal > Sale

Depending on which area you are finding issues in will be dependent on what approach you take. So let me ask you some questions:

How often are you going out and actively attending networking events?
Do you have a system for building a sales pipeline?
Are you making calls each week to both potential prospects and past customers?
Are you blogging regularly and utilising social media?

I could ask loads of questions but I think you get the gist. I think in this day and age you have to go and get the work. Very rarely these days does work just land on your lap. Hopefully some of the above will be useful.

I dont profess to be an expert but given I also work in the same field i'm more than happy to share ideas and stuff with you :)
 
Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

New Member
I think we should to distinguish between two cases: (i) going to a company and say you will work for them for free for a limited period; and (ii) offering a simple, well-defined service - in this case, a simple financial health-check - for which you make no charge.

I would not advocate option (i). As and others have said, if you don't charge for your time, the clients won't value it.

But I think there is some mileage in option (ii). My local bike shop sometimes offer a free safety check for your bike. It costs them time and money to do this, but they get it back by bringing people into the shop, and helping to spread the word of their other services. And of course, if the safety check reveals that you need a new gear cable, the chances are that you will buy it from them and perhaps pay them to fit it.

That said, I wouldn't make this my first line of attack. I think giving away a free sample can be useful, but only as part of an overall marketing plan.

Mike
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

New Member
... now is a good time to step up your marketing on and offline including social media
Poppy Design,

I'm curious to know how socila media would help Kris in this case.

I'm not trying to make a point. It's just that people in this forum often advise using social media in marketing, and I genuinely don't understand how it works. Could you - or anyone - explain in layman's language exactly how a person offering professional services can increase his sales through social media (I assume you are referring to sites like Facebook and LinkedIn?).

I've asked this question a couple of times before in the forum, but never had a clear answer.

Mike
 

kmbookkeeping

New Member
Hi Mike,

I too am curious about this. I do understand how b2c businesses can make use of social media, but I've never really discovered how I could for my type of work.

Kris
 
Adventurelife

Adventurelife

New Member
I employee an in house bookkeeper which is a large expense but I would not change to doing myself as that would be doing work that is not productive to my business and in an area that although I have trained in I would make many mistakes as so out of date. I really think small business owners should focus on what they are good at and get others to do the other stuff.

If you work is declining , and I can understand with many clients going bust, you need to focus on increasing your marketing. I am not 100% sure but I think I read recently that there is growth in new business start ups so the market is there. Also there is many many small businesses doing their books in house that need to be shown how that this is actually a cost rather than a saving if they applied the time doing the books to getting new clients. Therefore your plan sounds like a good one to me as those who are doing it in house needs to see how it can benefit them not to.

To charge or not to charge for the review? Always a difficult one and you will get different views. I would say if you are going for free and I would pick a target ie 20 reviews and make sure you do the numbers to see if it was good use of your time. Maybe focus on a very local small group and do a joint presentation for 5-15 small business people it may work out better use of your time than free individual reviews.

Mike

I know several professional service providers who have dramatically increased their sales by SM.

It is really straight forward.

You demonstrate your knowledge over a range of social media routes by answering questions and helping people. Over time you become known and business follows. ( it is not a standalone it needs to work with your other marketing/sales activities)

Each business professional service provider needs to develop a unique way of doing this and communicating their message.

Downside ? Yes of course, it take a lot of time and time as we all know time is money. Therefore it is your judgment on what you think the future routes of business will be 3 and 5 years hence and where you want to spend your time and money.

There has never been a time where small business has the ability that it does now with all the various routes to market that are getting cheaper and cheaper. No one route is right or wrong for every type of business but an mixed marketing and sales strategy taking advantage of all the routes to market is required.
 
poppydesign

poppydesign

New Member
Poppy Design,

I'm curious to know how socila media would help Kris in this case.

Mike
Hi Mike

The use of social media in business can provide the potential to advertise your product or service to hundreds of people. In Kris's case he could run a Facebook page for his business which could provide his current and potential clients with industry updates, useful articles/tips on bookkeeping, new services offered ie his healthcheck service, details on new contracts won etc - he could place a Facebook widget in his website too which is all linked in so the updates automatically appear there too.

It's really just another tool/method to reach existing and potential clients - it's pretty much free and you have the potential to reach thousands!

By the way our local Business Gateway (and there should be one in your area too!) are offering free courses in social media to business owners - why not check with them and get yourself along to one!

Joanne
 
Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

New Member
In Kris's case he could run a Facebook page for his business which could provide his current and potential clients with industry updates, .......
Joanne,

OK, that's clear enough. But I still don't quite get it.

Please be patient with me. Treat me as someone who knows nothing about Facebook. Let me ask you this:

I understand how a Facebook page would provide a platform for Kris's updates, news, articles, etc. I can see the value of that. But who would actually see the page? Would you have to be a member of Facebook to see it, or is it available to the public? Is the page capable of being found in a Google search? Or it it only Kris's "friends" who would see it?

Assuming the page is available to the general public, and searchable via Google, what is the advantage over a traditional website? After all, you can put all your news, updates, etc. on an ordinary website.


I'm not criticising social media, or anything else. I genuinely don't understand any of this.

Mike
 
poppydesign

poppydesign

New Member
Mike

I am by no means an expert on Facebook (I am a designer!) - however I do have a great chap who works for me doing all this type of thing and he has kindly supplied me with a reply for your question...

"The best way of explaining the advantage of a Facebook page is to give an example.
Don't think of as a facebook page as something which your potential customers are going to be visiting on a regular basis. They may visit it once or twice, but that isn't where the advantage comes from.

Imagine Joe Blogs visits your Facebook page, and clicks LIKE. What does this mean....it means that every time you post an update on your page, Joe Blogs will see it on his personal facebook feed when he logs in to facebook. He doesn't ever have to visit your facebook page again, he will automatically receive updates that YOU post on your facebook page, by the pure fact that he visited the page ONCE, and clicked LIKE.

Now image a few weeks or months after LIKING your page, you post an update on your page saying "we are proud to be launching product X". Your page update will automatically appear to Joe Bloggs when he is next on Facebook, and it may well grab his attention, and he might click on LIKE. If Joe Blogs does click on LIKE, and he has 2,000 friends, all of his 2,000 friends will see "Joe Blogs LIKES product x from company y" with a link to your facebook page.

So imagine you have 500 people LIKE your page, and in total they have 125,000 friends. That means every time you post an update to your facebook page, you have a potential reach of 125,000 people (in the unlikely event that they all clicked LIKE).

This kind of viral promotion simply is not possible from a website."


Hope that is helpful to you - as I mentioned before I would strongly recommend you get in touch with your local Business Gateway to see if they are running any FREE social media courses - that would be the best option for you to go and learn more.

Now I really think we have gone off subject and hogged Kris's post so would advise we get back to his subject and questions on this post!!


 

kmbookkeeping

New Member
Hi Joanne,

Thanks for that. I do actually have a facebook page, but I've found it very difficult to target the right audience. I also, with a partner, run a childcare business which thrives on facebook, but it is aimed at parents rather than small businesses.

I do think this is an interesting discussion, and would like to continue it in another thread maybe?

Kris
 
Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

New Member
Joanne,

First, it was me who hi-jacked Kris's thread, and me who owes Kris an aplogy for that. As Kris says, we should perhaps start a new thread for this.

But before we do, please thank your chap most warmly from me for his very helpful reply. It's the most informatative advice on Facebook I've seen.

I have a couple of follow-up questions, but I'll leave them for now.

Regarding your suggestion about looking for a free social media course. Thank you for suggesting that, but it's exactly what I don't want. I asked my question partly out of curiosity, and partly because so many people in this forum and elsewhere are always saying how important Facebook is for promoting businesses, and I wanted to find out why.

I'm not interested in Facebook for my own business, mainly because it doesn't seem to solve any problem that I currently have. Of course, it might be different for other businesses - I don't know. But even if I was interested in it, I'd be reluctant to attend a course on it. If there's so much to know about it that you need to attend a course, then it's more than I want to know about it.

Thanks again for your help so far.

Mike
 
ScotComp

ScotComp

New Member
I think I'd uses the services, we do our own book keeping using FreeAgent but there are things like car allowances that I'm really not sure of.
 
BioOutsource

BioOutsource

New Member
Kris dont get disappointed, you're doing a business and it goes a flow that brings ups and downs.
When ups come be focused and when down comes you have to have and need to re-organise yourself and have a moment and think what you are doing, may be there is a better alternative approach.
Give yourself some time, do a little effort on marketing and try promoting your business locally. If you can afford go for digital marketing consultant, may be i can give you some references for that. This may take some budget but really is fruitful in the long run.
 

kmbookkeeping

New Member
I'm not really disappointed, more just trying to find some different ways to introduce clients to my services. It seems to have worked in that I have secured 3 clients through these, meaning they have more than paid for themselves so far. I have been offering them for free, but uptake does seem slow, but steady.

Thanks for all the help and opinions,

Kris
 

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