10-step checklist for targeting trade clients in your accounting business

With booming housing markets across the world and an ever-increasing demand for practical skills, the trade and construction industries present an ripe opportunity for accountants. Tradespeople may know their way around a blocked toilet or blown fuse, but when it comes to their accounts and paperwork, they’re often struggling.

Here’s how your accounting or bookkeeping firm can reach and appeal to small trade businesses:

1. Create a trades-focused landing page

Show potential trade clients what you can offer by creating a dedicated landing page on your website. Here you can outline your services, showcase an industry case study, outline your skills and expertise, and promote a trade-specific package (see below) that meets their business needs. Use this landing page as the basis for your advertising to this sector.

2. Package it up

Trade business want a simple, transparent pricing structure without any nasty surprises. As tradespeople often struggle with cashflow, they appreciate fixed monthly costs to cover returns, GST, payroll, and compliance.

You may also include other software subscriptions or curated suggestions for industry add-ons as part of your package. This adds value to your service by enhancing your client’s financial and business performance. Familiarise yourself with the top construction industry add-ons for Xero, which tradespeople use tools for things like job management, payroll, and debt recovery.

3. Cut the jargon

Trade businesses want to know they can talk to their accountant without having to learn new buzzwords and concepts. So keep your communication to plain English with short sentences – get straight to the point. Don’t be afraid to be casual and friendly.

Learn as much as you can about the trade industry so you can understand your client’s problems and questions. If you’ve got a sparkie talking about an eight-metre ferret, it won’t do to assume they’re opening an exotic zoo!

4. Be easy to contact

You may like to use email for client communications, but you may discover your trade clients are slow to reply.

Tradies prefer to conduct their business face-to-face or over the phone so they can talk through problems or concerns. Give them a number where they can call you and schedule time in their plan for a couple of face-to-face meetings each year. Make sure when they call your office they have a centralised point of contact so they’re not talking to someone different every time.

5. Preach the cloud

How many times have you received shoeboxes of receipts from your trade clients? Tradies are notoriously slow to adopt the cloud, but you can be the evangelist who transforms their business.

Create short guides and leaflets you can give to tradespeople outlining the advantages of moving their accounting and other admin tasks online. Trade businesses often struggle to get their accounts done, usually doing them at nights and one weekends. So the time-saving aspect appeals just as much as the money they’ll save.

6. Join forces with other trades-focused service providers

With the industry boom in full swing, lawyers, business advisors, bookkeepers, and other service businesses are all trying to find opportunities to serve trades businesses. You can create a joint marketing campaign or partnership with other local firms to reach more trade clients, where you cross-promote your services.

7. Visit them on-site

Schedule a visit to one of your client’s work sites to see what goes on in a typical tradeperson’s day. You may be shocked at how much they’re juggling at once. By looking at their business from an outsider’s perspective, you may have suggestions to improve admin efficiencies and save them time and money.

Familiarising yourself with your client’s businesses also helps you to understand the industry quirks and common struggles trade businesses face. Their expense claims can look drastically different to those from a typical 9-5 office job, and they have unique compliance requirements that complicate matters further.

The more you understand, the better you can serve and the more value you can provide.

8. Share on social

Use your social media platforms to post information relevant to the trade and construction industry. Talk about compliance changes, industry trends, and other news that may be of interest to your clients.

This helps tradespeople view you as a source of useful information and raises your profile as trusted industry experts.

9. Attend trade shows

Industry bodies and suppliers often host events where trade businesses learn about industry trends and new developments. Having a presence at events like this – whether it’s a stand or a keynote speech – will enable you to reach tradespeople as they’re looking at making changes in their business.

Even if you don’t come out with new clients, you’ll get a close look at the state of the industry. You can ask questions of your core audience and learn more about the problems they face. Use this research to better structure your services to meet their needs.

10. Love the trades!

Tradespeople are used to being maligned by the business community as being “not that bright” or “old fashioned” or “afraid of change.” The more tradespeople you meet and work with, the more you understand how unfair these stereotypes are.

Become an cheerleader and an advocate for the trades. Support the industry by sponsoring awards for your local trade associations, lending your voice to trade business issues, and keeping your clients informed about changes that impact them.

Show your clients you truly believe in the amazing work they do, and you want to make their lives easier and more fulfilled.

If you follow this checklist and focus on adding value for your clients, your firm will be well-placed to bring in new trade and construction business this financial year.