Building a Client Pipeline for R&D tax services | Your questions answered

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Thanks to everyone who joined us at our “Building a Client Pipeline for R&D tax services” webinar on Monday 22nd February. In collaboration with Mike Crook of PracticeWeb and Phil Sayers of Proten Sales Development, we covered a lot of ground on various R&D-related Sales and Marketing aspects, before opening up the floor to questions which we’ve transcribed below.

For those who prefer the original, we’re attaching a recording of the webinar: click here to access the password-protected recording (Password: #=i2t.HB).

If you’d like to attend future webinars run by WhisperClaims please subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of this article for notifications on when we’ll be running our next events, and where to register.

If you’d like to get in touch with any of the panelists for further questions, we’ve included their contact details below. Now without further ado…

Your questions answered

“We have a high percentage of clients who recommend our services to others.  What is the best way to maximize this within the R&D Service we provide?”

Phil S: Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals! If you’re doing a good job for your clients and they recognise you’re doing a good job, don’t be afraid to say, ‘do you know of anyone else who you think we might be able to help in a similar way?’ OR ’have you seen anyone else recently who is facing the same sort of challenges you are?’- just don’t be afraid to ask!

If they offer to make referrals for you, ask them to do a personal introduction. Ask them to send an email to their contact that cc’s you in because then it opens up the conversation with the new prospect far more easily than you cold calling them.

Incentives are sometimes offered to stimulate referrals although Phil does not recommend you do this on a finder fee basis. Make it more personal, for example, a box of chocolates. Use emotionally high value gifts to say thank you to anyone who makes referrals to you.

“I am thinking of setting a landing page for R&D services with the different name to my company (my practice has a name linked to my location and I feel like the R&D offer shouldn’t be location based). Would that be a good idea or will I be spending double the amount promoting my practice AND R&D services separately?”

Mike C: It goes back to how you are positioning it. It sounds like you want to position it as a separate business. If so, then a new website that explains the proposition, has dedicated advice and can be optimised specifically for R&D would be best. You’ll likely find that having just a landing page won’t really make you visible in market (especially in search) or demonstrate your expertise.

“What advice would you give to someone who is starting out as an R&D service solely (and accountancy services on the side)? I have a specific niche. What marketing advice (either organic or paid) would you give to them with limited paid marketing budget?” (1/2)

Mike C: If you have limited budget, you want to be scrutinising where you are spending it and if it is working best for you – you want to let the data tell you! Try some paid media and see what happens – it doesn’t just have to be PPC in Google. Try some social media paid advertising as well. Find out what is working and what is generating the enquiries and then test other options – perhaps search engine optimisation (SEO). This can take 4-6 months to get some serious traction if you are working from a standing start but it is certainly worth the investment. Pay Per Click (PPC) will get you a visible position on Google immediately but as soon as you stop paying for it you’ll disappear, whereas SEO is an on-going game, but you are there without continually paying to be visible. Again though, just test whatever you do, as with a smaller budget you have got to be really key on the statistics.

“Lastly, Is it good to make your price visible for R&D on the website or brochure OR mention the price only on the strategy call/diagnose call?” (2/2)

Mike C: This can be complex…

Yes, because it will stop the window shoppers! You can qualify prospects in or out pretty quickly. However, they are going to ask the price at some point in the journey. The key is to ensure that you have a strong value proposition because otherwise it will just be based on price. If you just have very thin content and not a lot explaining it and just a price – especially if it is a high price – prospects are going to be turned off as they will not see the value.

The key take away is to make sure you are explaining the value and what they are getting for that price. Also test it – make the price visible and see what happens, remove it, and see what happens…

Phil S: Pricing has to be put within the context of the value you are delivering and the best way of proving the value you are delivering is with client testimonials. If you can talk about specific cases where you’ve done an R&D tax claim i.e. you’ve generated a tax credit of say £50K for ‘Client A’ and your fee was £5K – even though the new prospect may see £5k as being a relatively high fee, in the context of the £50k claim that they would not have otherwise been awarded, it becomes a no-brainer. So, use your clients to help sell for you. If they are happy, then it’s the best possible source of marketing content.

“As an accountant, if we want to compete with the competitors who provide R&D-only services, then from a client perspective where would we stand? Or how can we (the accountants) position ourselves in the R&D market?”

Mike C: We see the position of the accountants as a great opportunity – you know your client from an accounting perspective and a numbers perspective and the advice and how ingrained you are within their business helps you to spot opportunities that perhaps an external R&D service wouldn’t. You are in a prime position to spot those opportunities over and above an R&D company, when all they do is R&D. They have to get to know the business, understand the ins and outs of it etc. Where you, as the accountant, already know the challenges and issues from a complete business perspective and not just an R&D one.

Mike D: Just to add to that, if we are talking about an accountant with existing customers, then remember that the accountant is already a trusted adviser and has a relationship with the customer, and that is actually something to really play to. Clearly a third-party walking through the door doesn’t have that relationship so there’s a sort of soft aspect to that, that needs to be ‘exploited’ (for want of a better word)!

“To Phil; talking of journeys, I have created an infographic roadmap detailing all our services, creates a good talking point for starters.  Just looking at the best ways to push this out. What would you suggest?”

Phil S: It’s a great thing to do, but without seeing it, it is difficult to comment on. The thing to remember with your services is, the services themselves are not what is important. What’s important is the value that the client gets from having your services delivered. The services themselves are sitting on the periphery but what you really need to be focussing on are, what are the particular problems and challenges that you are helping your clients address and the way that you help them is services. So, make sure you focus everything around the value that you deliver, not what you are doing.

How to write an R&D tax relief technical narrative

With HMRC’s new mandatory requirement for project descriptions on all submissions, we wanted to share our experiences to help others to write their best possible technical narratives.

Available to download here.

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