Accounting networking events help certified public accountants (CPAs) create professional connections that can boost business prospects. If you’re a new CPA or business owner who needs a CPA, joining networking events is one way to find new clients or connect with accountants. Check out these expert insights on how to participate in CPA networking events.
Here are the top 21 accounting networking tips from the pros.
1. Attend Networking Events With Your Best Clients
Beth Bridges, Networking Expert & Author, The Networking Motivator
The best way to network to find potential CPA or accounting clients is to attend networking events with your best existing clients. They are probably attending events where there are people like you, and they can introduce you to people as their accountant, which provides them with social proof of your expertise. This works well, especially if your client is well-known and trusted in their circle.
2. Be an Educator to Meet Potentials Clients
Tom Wheelwright, CPA & CEO, WealthAbility
The best marketing is always done by educating others. Share what you know with your clients, your market, and the public. This not only gets your name out there, but it also lets your market know who you are and that you want to contribute to their success, whether they ever use you or not. It’s always better to pull someone in than to push out. Success in marketing is about serving others.
3. Seek Referrals From Financial Advisors & Lawyers
Josh Zimmelman, Owner, Westwood Tax & Consulting
The best way to find new people to work with is through referrals. Ask the people you trust and respect to connect you with people they trust and respect. If you surround yourself with a team of all-star professionals, they likely know other all-star professionals and can connect you with them. For CPA’s looking to network, try speaking to financial advisors and attorneys as they are likely to be asked for a trusted tax and accounting professional.
4. Participate in Community Leadership Organizations
Riley Adams, CPA & Owner, Young & the Invested
Be active in your community with various social events and groups. By participating in leadership organizations like the Young Leadership Council (YLC), young professionals’ organizations, and other industry-focused groups, you can network with fellow business-oriented individuals naturally. Assuming leadership roles in these organizations can provide you a platform useful for networking and meeting new people who might turn into clients if you find your service offerings match with their needs. Also, by joining trade associations, you will network with people active in your target industry who may be in need of accounting services above and beyond what they currently have subscribed from another CPA or firm. This could be an invaluable opportunity to meet this person or company and assess how you might best be able to provide your services. This can lead to further word-of-mouth referrals and more business for your practice.
5. Network With Your Clients’ Other Advisors
Daniel Flanagan, Partner, Canby Financial
The best CPAs network all year including tax season. Preparing a client’s income tax return (or projection) provides a wonderful opportunity for CPAs to interact/network with their client’s other advisors. During busy season, this can be accomplished through phone or video calls which can easily be followed up by a lunch meeting post April 15. Your client’s other advisors are a good source of more opportunities and recommendations.
6. Join a Referral Group That Encourages Quality Leads
John W. Reddall, CPA & Enrolled Agent, Larry L. Bertsch, CPA & Associates, LLP
I have always used cold calling and telemarketing, which have become ineffective. I decided to join a referral group against my better judgment, but it has worked very well. The secret is to join a group that doesn’t require a set number of referral leads but, rather, encourages quality leads ― quality over quantity ― and to bring value to the group if you don’t have a lead. I always bring a nugget of information each week that I share with the group instead of making my sales presentation. This has been greatly appreciated, and I have been rewarded with a surprising number of leads which have generated business for me. Pick the group wisely.
7. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Peter A. Margaritis, CPA & Chief Edutainment Officer, The Accidental Accountant
We meet someone, we trade business cards, then input them into our CRM [customer relationship management] system but forget to think about the “follow up.” What should you do if the person you met could be a great fit in your professional network? Get to know them by sending them a handwritten “nice to meet you card” and suggest having a conversation over a cup of coffee. To have a business relationship, you must build trust first so it will grow. Face-to-face interactions are the best and quickest way to build that trust. It might be old school, and it works. Your professional network should consist of, at least, 20 percent of these people who you have met in person as a follow-up strategy. If so, they will provide 80 percent of the value in your network.
Make sure your business card represents your brand well. Check out Fit Small Business’ quick guide to creating a business card in seven easy steps.
8. Develop a Personal Brand
Sheryl Johnson, Founder, BD-PRo Marketing Solutions
There are a plethora of CPAs out there and, for CPAs to get the most out of their networking, they need to develop a distinctive personal brand promise that will differentiate them from all the other CPAs so that they stand apart and are remembered. This involves communicating how they can help, how they specifically add value (different from everyone else) and why they are passionate about what they do vs providing the typical list of facts that make them sound like every other CPA. So my advice to CPAs is, rather than spitting out the typical elevator pitch that is all about you, share an elevator “promise” about how you add value for the person you are networking with, which is a much more personal and impactful approach, creates a positive chemistry with those you interact with and increases the chance you will be remembered over others.
9. Give External Referrals to Build Your Own Referral Pipeline
Joshua Hanover, EA, Senior Manager, Marks Paneth LLP
There is a difference between what you do vs what you’re perceived to do, and it’s essential that you understand the latter to enhance how you market yourself. Once you have that down, join a local organization that will enable you to meet and grow your relationship with local businesses. Relationships aren’t a one-off meeting; they take time to build and establish trust. Once you have trusted colleagues in other professions, start referring business to them and, eventually, they’ll start to reciprocate.
10. Remember the Importance of SCIP
David Gosselin, Partner, DBBMcKennon, CPA
Whether you’re at a conference, mixer, or chatting casually with contacts in the business world, one good networking tip is to SCIP [smile, confidence, inquiry, positivity]. People want to do business with CPAs who are genuine, positive, and caring. Too often, CPAs complain about clients, about not having enough business, or generally project negativity on their situation.
If you start with a smile and a handshake, project confidence in your expertise, spend more time inquiring about other people’s business than telling them about your own, and being positive in your outlook, you will find people become very receptive. Keeping eye-contact is also key to letting the other person know you are engaged. The object is not to get immediate business but plant a seed so that, down the road, you become a trustworthy resource.
11. Know Your Needs & Prepare Your Questions
Jason Patel, Founder, Transizion
Before meeting with a CPA, think about your specific pain points, questions, and other accounting inquiries. You want to not only be aware of your problems but also ask your potential CPA whether he or she has dealt with the problems before. This allows you to have an extended conversation on how the CPA might be able to help you, what his or her history with your issues is, and their method of solving your problems. It is no less helpful to be unaware of your problems as it is to recruit a CPA whose professional skills you don’t know.
12. Join the Organization of Your Target Clients
Michelle Ngome, Connection Enthusiast, Line 25 Consulting
Many times we join industry professional organizations to stay abreast of industry trends and continuing education credits. Rightfully so. It can become difficult to find your USP [unique selling proposition] among other CPA professionals. The true benefit comes by joining the organization of your ideal client. For example, if you are a CPA that specializes in real estate, it is best to join the National Association of Real Estate Agents. Now, you become unique among other real estate professionals. By placing yourself among your target audience, you will be able to extract your ideal client.
13. Attend Local Trade Group Meetings
Betsy Storey-Bono, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Concannon Miller
CPAs can grow their business ― especially their niche business ― by joining and attending local industry trade group meetings. We also regularly sponsor manufacturing trade meetings and have a significant portfolio of franchise restaurant owners and attend their trade meetings around the country. Here is the thing ― we don’t just belong ― we actively participate. Anyone can throw money at an organization to get their name listed in the membership directory. Frequently, because of our expertise, we are asked to provide educational seminars or break-out sessions for the participants. Our approach is to provide good, actionable information, and we never give a sales pitch. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise. We get a lot of new business leads from our speaking engagements.
14. Join Facebook Groups for Small Businesses
Michelle Garrett, Writer & Public Relations Consultant, Garrett Public Relations
Make sure to network with professional groups outside of your profession. You can also join online networking groups such as Facebook groups for small businesses. This would be another place for you to network, albeit virtually. People ask questions in these online groups, and others make recommendations, so they can be a great place to find an accountant.
15. Research Attendees Before Networking Events
Jacquelyn Youst, President, Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol
Preparation is key to any successful networking gathering. Obtain the list of attendees and review. Learn the participants business focus, which will provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate that you are aware of their platform and the firm’s mission statement. A little research ahead of time will go a long way. Time is limited, and managing your time is imperative. Break out of your comfort zone and connect with those whom you have pre-targeted. Position yourself as a connector and provide introductions to others. Be open and approachable and engage others in conversation. Use corporate “social” events as low-key business venues to advance connections. Attend company sponsored outings, charity events, and volunteer outings. Come out of the shadows to show how you conduct yourself with confidence. Your actions will be positively noticed. Be prepared to state your expertise, including what you have done and are hoping to accomplish.
16. Get Referrals From the Top Players in Your Industry
Michael Rogers, Owner, Chandler Properties
Business owners should find a CPA that has niche expertise in the area of their business. Almost all CPAs specialize in one area and only have limited expertise in other areas. It’s best to follow the top players in your industry and ask who they work with. Then research on these practitioners to check if they are a potential fit. Arrange a meeting or phone call to discuss details and determine if the business relationship is a match. In today’s interconnected world of email and Skype, your CPA doesn’t need to be in your community to provide excellent service.
Business cards are a must-have for any networking event. Firm of the Future suggests that you include all the ways to connect with you and your company in your business cards. Make sure to put your email address, website, blog, and other social media accounts for easy reference.
When you attend accounting networking events, Accounting.com recommends that you research about the speakers and attendees in advance. Prepare your questions beforehand, and know how to formulate targeted, well-researched questions in business and networking contexts to maximize your learning benefits during the event.
According to TouchStone, one of the best ways to attend any kind of networking event is to make sure you arrive earlier than the schedule. This allows you to have a calmer and relaxed atmosphere, and it also provides you ample time to speak and get to know your fellow early arrivals before the start of the event.
For new accountants, joining professional accounting organizations is a good way to get to know the people in your industry. These professional accounting organizations can offer great networking opportunities and other potential benefits for you. This is also an effective way to expand your network and learn from the experts.
CPA Alberta suggests that you find a way to connect with people already working at your target organizations. Ask your existing network like classmates, other accountants, colleagues, clients, friends, or family if they know anyone working at those companies. Request to be introduced, even if the potential connections have nothing to do with accounting. That person might be able to introduce you to someone in your field when you get to make a connection.
Building professional connections takes time and effort. You need to be patient and plan ahead to ensure that your network effectively. Having the right network can be very beneficial for your business, so it’s worth the hard work. Use these accounting networking tips to help give your firm the referrals it needs to establish your place in your industry.