The hidden power of tax-season video recaps

Accounting

I’ll bet your most successful clients rarely have time to meet with you or even attend a Zoom call.

A few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time preparing for an hour-long Zoom session with one of our clients, a top surgeon in the area. We’ve been working together for a long time, but this year he had some complicated tax issues we needed to review.

I waited and waited, but he never logged in to our Zoom call. He never called, emailed or texted to reschedule. I know he often has life and death situations (literally) that come up at the last minute, so I didn’t get annoyed. Instead I simply recorded a four-minute video of what I hoped we would talk about during our Zoom call. Basically, I walked him through the PDF I had prepared with my observations, suggested next steps and action items that needed to be taken.

Later that day, I sent the surgeon a video with a short note saying, “Sorry you couldn’t make the meeting. I went ahead and recorded an executive video summary of what I planned to talk to you about. I hope it’s helpful. Here are the key action items you need to take.”

Radio silence for two more days. Suddenly I received an email from the surgeon: “Kyle. I just got my head above water. This video is amazing! It answered every one of my questions and it took a lot less time than a one-hour Zoom meeting. I’m working on my action items right now. Thanks for everything.”

This experience got me thinking. How often do we spend an hour shooting the breeze with clients, when we can get the same thing accomplished in five minutes via “asynchronous” communication? Asynchronous is not a real-time conversation. It means I’m delivering information to you and you’re absorbing it on your own time and schedule and then only responding when you’re ready to do so.

I know this hasn’t been an easy tax season, but don’t just send clients a bill after you’ve completed their returns. Instead, include a brief three- to five-minute video that explains the highlights of their return, your personal observations about it and suggestions for big-picture things they should consider for reducing their tax obligations in the future.

The video executive summary will make a great foundation for things to talk about in a few months when you meet with clients to do mid-year planning. I like to include a short note with the video, explaining to clients what they’ll find when they click on the video player.

With today’s smartphones, camcorders and apps, shooting recap videos for clients is a snap. If you’re not sure, try it for your best clients at first. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the feedback you get.

Video executive summaries as a planning tool

A video executive summary will position you as a consummate professional who is really different from other CPAs. It shows you are thorough, forward-thinking and really care about your clients. The other reason I like video executive summaries is that recording them forces you to recap for clients what happened on their return. It doesn’t take much time to record each video, and clients will appreciate having a concise, engaging summary of the past year, with your suggestions for moving forward.

I know this may be hard to believe, but most clients really don’t want to look at their completed returns. To non-accountants, a tax return just looks like a maze of rows, boxes and numbers that the government needs from them. However, by explaining to clients what’s most relevant on their return, and how that information will help them make better financial decisions, you create real value. I’ve found that clients pay closer attention to video explanations than written ones.

Another reason I like doing video executive summaries is they’re a great refresher tool. When you reconvene with clients to do mid-year planning work, it can be hard to remember what you discussed during the previous tax season. But after reviewing the video you recorded for them at tax time, everything will come back to you quickly. Isn’t that better than sifting through a pile of handwritten notes and Post-Its in the client’s folder?

Successful clients tend to be super-busy people. They don’t really need an hour of your time; they just need your professional opinion about what they need to do to make sound financial decisions. As entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn liked to say, “Time is more valuable than money. You can always get more money, but you can’t get more time.” I couldn’t agree more.

A video executive summary is a modern version of Cliff’s Notes. After a few tries, you’ll probably find it faster to explain things via video than by writing it out. And with video, you can deliver a lot more color because you’re essentially scrolling through the return side by side with your client. It’s like a video guided tour of their financial life — and they get to see your smiling face, which they probably haven’t seen in a while.

Wrapping up

Wrap up your executive summary video with the following:

  • Here’ s what’s most important on your return.
  • Here’s what we can be thinking about moving forward to reduce your taxes next year.
  • Thank you for your business and I appreciate your trust.

Trust me, video executive summaries will cement your client relationships for years to come. Video summaries are valuable, highly engaging, and no one else is doing them. All you need is a webcam, a microphone and decent lighting to get started.

Next time I’ll talk more about best practices for recording executive summary videos.

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