Practice Strategy Social Media

Google reviews for mid-market accounting firms

Dean Blachford of Blachford Tax Law explains how and why accounting firms in Ottawa and Toronto pursue client testimonials on Google Reviews

Author: Dean Blachford
Dean Blachford
Dean Blachford is a senior tax lawyer at Blachford Tax Law, which specializes in helping individuals and businesses resolve significant tax disputes. He is on the Programs Committee for the Ottawa Chapter of CPA Ontario and previously participated in the Tax Court of Canada’s Law Clerk Program.

SHOULD mid-market accounting firms seek out Google reviews from their clients? Most of the firms I work with have fewer than 20 reviews despite having thousands of clients, so I guess the consensus is, “No.”

It’s easy to understand why. Your firms are already busier than ever. Finding capable people to do the work can be harder than finding the work itself. Moreover, leads from referrals and word of mouth are far more valuable than cold calls from people on the internet.

Nonetheless, I still believe that soliciting Google reviews from satisfied clients is worth it. In this article, I share data on how many Google reviews your competitors have, assert why Google reviews should matter to your firm, share Blachford Tax Law’s experience with Google reviews, and provide you with a plan for quickly boosting your firm’s Google reviews.

The data from mid-market CPA firms

The 16 mid-market CPA firms in Ottawa that we work with most have an average of 16 Google reviews and 4.5 stars.

The Ottawa firms with the most reviews are McCay Duff (80), Paterson & Company (or more specifically Sarwar Qureshi) (70), Andrews & Co. (39), Crowe BGK (27), and Lekadir LLP (24). The remainder each have fewer than 20 reviews.

The results are similar for the firms we work with in Toronto: an average of 18 reviews per firm and 4.5 stars. Likewise for the firms we collaborate with from Vancouver: 16 reviews per firm and 4.1 stars on average.

Why CPA firms should seek out Google reviews

Perhaps the most compelling reason why CPA firms should ask their clients to provide them with a review on Google is … why not? You do not have to pay Google for reviews and the work to solicit them can be led by an up-and-coming young manager during a down time in the year. To use a favourite expression of my former boss, Hugues Boisvert, “There’s no downside!”

But there are also several affirmative reasons to solicit reviews.

Support referrals

First, while referrals are far more likely to lead to high-value clients, Google reviews can help you secure the potential clients who have been referred to your firm. Consumers are increasingly relying on Google reviews to support their purchase decisions. It’s no longer just young consumers. Research shows that 82% of consumers aged 45 to 60 rely on Google reviews and even 75% of consumers aged 60+ rely on Google reviews. These are the cohorts that own the established businesses that your firm covets.[1]

Crowd-sourced data from a large sample size is particularly important for business owners seeking tax and advisory services. Astute business owners know that neither they nor the person who referred them has the technical knowledge to evaluate whether a CPA firm’s tax and advisory advice is sound. The more people attesting to the firm’s work through Google reviews, the more confident the potential client will be.

This additional confidence is particularly important if the fee quote your firm gives is more than the client was expecting. Many positive Google reviews — in addition to the initial referral — may prevent the client from shopping for a cheaper, lower quality alternative.

Brand consistency

Second, having few Google reviews smacks of brand inconsistency. A firm with many positive Google reviews appears well established, yet progressive, with clients who are so pleased with the service they take the time (even if solicited) to publicly share their gratitude. Many firms covet this type of brand image, using language on their websites like “forward-thinking,” “trusting relationships,” and “client care.” Yet many of these firms — who have existed for decades — have fewer than 20 Google reviews. That’s hard to reconcile.

Hedge against negative reviews

Third, soliciting Google reviews from satisfied customers is a hedge against negative reviews. Many business owners do not value Google reviews until they receive a bad one. Then, they beg their best clients to leave positive reviews to dilute the impact. Avoid this by being proactive — just like you are with every other aspect of your firm’s business — and get a solid base of positive reviews now.

Employee recruitment

Finally, having many positive Google reviews suggests good vibes. This reassures potential clients, but also potential employees. Priya Bhaloo is the COO of TAG HR, which connects job seekers with top employers. She says that job seekers definitely review a potential employer’s Google reviews. She encourages her corporate clients, as part of their recruitment efforts, to ask their clients and team members to post reviews on Google.

Consider the positive impression these reviews will have on the recruits who receive job offers from these firms:

5-star review of McCay Duff LLP, 6 months ago:

“Dianna [Larkin], Jennifer [Wakeham] and their team have been a treat to work with — very knowledgeable, professional, and easy to work with. I have been very pleased with the work they have done and the advice they have provided, and I recommend them highly.”

5-star review of Paterson & Company Chartered Accountants, 1 year ago:

“Our accountant Sarwar Qureshi is a trusted source of valuable information and generous advice for both business and personal financial issues. It is an added bonus to follow his community involvement on LinkedIn, he supports local businesses and is a true cheerleader for seeing his clients succeed and thrive!”

5-star review of Andrews and Company, 4 years ago:

“I can honestly not say enough good things about Andrews & Co. They have been my accounting firm of choice for 15+ years, helping me with my corporate and personal accounting needs — all with customer service that can only be described as "Above and Beyond" … The entire staff is highly professional, courteous, and extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields.”

The young, keen individuals who you are recruiting are going to research your firm online. Ensuring they have plenty of positive reviews to read can help tip the scale in your favour.

Blachford Tax Law’s experience with Google reviews

Part of the reason that Google reviews are on my mind is that, as Blachford Tax Law arrives at its 3-year anniversary, we just received our 50th Google review.

Like you, we do not rely on Google reviews to attract cold calls from people searching the web. Ninety-six per cent of our clients come from referrals from accountants, lawyers, and financial advisors. That’s how we like it.

But we value Google reviews because people embroiled in a tax dispute are already facing tremendous uncertainty. We want them to feel 100% confident that they are choosing the right firm to represent them.

Indeed, several of our clients, who were referred to us by their accountant, still mentioned reading our Google reviews before contacting us. Reviews like the two examples below corroborated their accountant’s referral:

5-star review, last month:

"Dean, Ella and the team at Blachford Tax Law were wonderful to deal with. They are subject matter experts and the service is outstanding. All of the parties working with Blachford Tax Law on this file are very grateful for their assistance and counsel."

5-star review, two months ago:

"Dean Blachford and his team in particular Ella Sui were outstanding. Ella was thorough and so helpful in handling details. Many thanks to you both."

Boost your firm’s Google Reviews:

Again, this is a great project for an ambitious, young CPA who is interested in business development and keen to impact their firm with tangible results.

Start by making a list of 100 clients who you know love your firm. Either ask each partner for a list of 20 or, if they are too busy, generate a list of clients who have been with the firm for more than 5 years. Obviously those clients are satisfied.

(Do not worry about potentially soliciting a review that turns out to be negative. The probability of that is very low. If your client cared enough to leave a negative review, they would have done so already.)

Then, create a template email that includes the following:

  • The client’s first name. Not just, “Hello."
  • An explanation that your firm is conducting a project to get X# of Google reviews by Y date. Sharing your goal generates buy-in and including a deadline creates urgency.
  • A request for a detailed review. I ask people to leave a review that “shares their experience of working with Blachford Tax Law” to encourage written reviews as opposed to just five stars. Detailed reviews are significantly more impactful than just five  stars.
  • An explanation that their review will provide assurance to future clients, and help the firm attract more great clients, like them.
  • The link that takes them directly to where they can leave a Google review for your firm.
  • Assurance that it will only take them a couple minutes.
  • Perfuse gratitude.

Some businesses offer incentives like gift cards or discounts. We never have and do not recommend it for your firm. It feels tacky.

For many clients, you will have to send a follow-up reminder email. Make sure to follow up after one week, then again after a second week. If you do not hear back from them after that, let it go.

When you do receive a review, I recommend you respond publicly through Google, thanking the client and telling them it was a joy to work with them. Your response will show future clients how much you care.

Finally, adapt this project so that you are requesting Google reviews from your clients sustainably as part of your annual process for engaging with your clients.

For those of you who decide to take on this project, please measure your results and let me know what you accomplish. 


Dean Blachford is a senior tax lawyer at Blachford Tax Law, which specializes in helping individuals and businesses resolve significant tax disputes. He is on the Programs Committee for the Ottawa Chapter of CPA Ontario and previously participated in the Tax Court of Canada’s Law Clerk Program.

Top image licensed by EmbedSocial on Unsplash. Author photo courtesy Blachford Tax Law.

Canadian Accountant logo

(0) Comments