Question: I've been researching the idea of starting a homebased bookkeeping service for the past few months. I have more than 15 years of banking experience and currently work for the seventh largest bank in the United States, primarily helping senior citizens with their banking needs over the phone. I want to help potential clients balance their statements; obtain information on their CDs, IRAs and loans; and organize their bills and financial planning information. I don't have an accounting background and I would definitely advise a client if they needed an accountant. I'm so excited and eager to get started and I have the support of my family, but I definitely need to work on sales. Any suggestions?
Answer: There are really two key issues here-your concerns about selling and the necessity of developing a marketable business concept. Good prospects for your business must meet three criteria: They should have a need for what you market, be able to afford it and be willing to pay for it. Your direct experience demonstrates that a senior target audience needs what you offer and can afford your help. But are they willing to pay for it?
Seniors are careful spenders and, like the rest of us, rely on free services first, such as the one you provide now as an employee of a major bank. Are there other businesses you can point to that offer these services to senior citizens which can provide successful pricing and service models? Before you launch your business, you must be confident you can create a package of marketable services seniors will be willing to pay for.
I suggest you take courses and get certified in financial planning, and then market yourself to accountants and estate attorneys who work with seniors. They will constitute your primary referral audience. Set up a sales and marketing program to help you build relationships with these professionals over time through a combination of sales tactics, including networking, meetings and telephone calls, and marketing tactics such as direct mail.
Also, look for every opportunity to meet members of your senior target audience. Establish yourself as an expert they can trust by volunteering to speak on financial topics at senior centers. Since you've been helping seniors with their financial challenges for some time, you should have a few good stories you can weave in to demonstrate your ability to manage and organize their accounts effectively. Just let your passion for what you do and your own natural personality shine through. One-on-one communication with your prospects is paramount, as seniors put great stock in personal service.