Move Your Practice Online Series: Step 3-Offer an incentive for existing clients to go remote

We already covered how joining the QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program is a great way to get started, and once you’ve established the hardware and applications you want to incorporate into a remote practice, the next step is actually converting existing clients.

As I mentioned in the first article in this series, I used to drive from one client to the next to work with them at their offices. My move to a completely online practice was the result of a number of reasons. The first, and most important, was that I was expecting our second child and knew that I wanted to take time off, but still be able to support my clients. At the time, I was a one-woman show; I had no part time help or the virtual admin that I do now. I needed to convert them to remote, or else refer them to another QuickBooks expert in the area.

The second was that I was almost to the point where I couldn’t take on any more clients, and possibly hitting a cap on my income. Both of these were unacceptable to me. I wanted to diversify what services to offer clients (at the time, more training, support and consulting) and it wouldn’t be possible with the business model I had.

I love what I do – I love the bookkeeping and the payroll part of my job. Sometimes it’s a problem-solving day; sometimes it’s just nothing but data entry, other days it’s helping a client determine how much they afford for a new purchase or hire. I love working with other small businesses, and I wanted to start doing it a different capacity, but unless I found more time, it wasn’t going to happen.

Before I approached my clients, I did that thing I do, pretty much every day. I made a list. I do love lists. I love Top 20 lists of the greatest drummers, random lists of small but deadly animals, and random top 10 lists in general. As big of a gadget dork as I am, I still make a To Do list every night for the next day, using a delicious pink Moleskine notebook. This list had each of my clients on it, in order of which I thought would be most open to moving to working with me remotely to the ones I felt would object heavily. I left off 2 clients: one I didn’t want to move to remote and the other I knew it would work logistically.

The ones at the bottom, the clients I thought would really dig in their heels and object, I put a little star next to, and made a list of 3 possible local QuickBooks ProAdvisors that I could refer them to, should I not be able to convince them of the benefits.

Speaking of benefits, the next bit of the list was to identify benefits that were specific to each client. WHY they should work remotely with me, and how it could help. Some of them were pretty simple – they wouldn’t have to stop working on one of the computers in their office to accommodate me, they would have books that were more up to date because they wouldn’t have to wait for me to come every other week or once a month.

Then I came up with objections these clients might have about the change, and at least 2 counterpoints for each one. I tried to cover each angle, and even called some members of the networking group I had previously been in to ask them what sort of misgivings they would have if presented with my ideas.

My last piece of this list was to come up with what I was hoping would be last resorts – incentives that matched each of these objections. A few examples:

  1. Run parallel books (the original QuickBooks desktop file along with QuickBooks Online) side by side for 30 days so the client could determine if it would work for them – at no extra charge
  2. Reducing my monthly fee. With the money and time I was saving by eliminating HOURS every day behind the wheel, it was easy to pass this along to my clients. I would be able to make it up (and then some!) with any new engagements
  3. Adding services. Because QuickBooks Online has the ability to memorize reports, add them to groups and have them automatically emailed at specific intervals, I was able to offer clients additional reporting. Weekly reports rather than biweekly or monthly

Most of my clients were very receptive to the plan; one long time client even offered to be my guinea pig whenever I found a new program or technology, as long as it didn’t interrupt service or cost him extra. Thanks to him, I was able to determine the best remote login applications, many fantastic add ons, and really fine tuning processes for working with clients. I had a few that were reluctant, and I had to offer one (or more, if they really resisted!) of my “last resort” options. In the end, I only ended up losing one client. I had anticipated an attrition rate of about 15%, so I was quite pleased. Plus, it was the one client I was almost positive I would be referring to another local QuickBooks expert.

The entire process took about 2 months; I first made the list in late October of 2008, approached each client in early November, and had them all converted by the end of the year. I was able to do almost of the year end work in January either from the hospital or my living room while I was recovering from delivering my son, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business.

Read Step 2 – Find the technology that will allow you to work remotely

Next: Step 4 – Bring any new clients on as remote right away



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