Recognizing the importance of standing out begins by understanding the competitive landscape. A study by IBISWorld reported over 110,000 accounting services businesses in the U.S. alone as of 2021, each providing a spectrum of services. By 2023, the global accounting services market is projected to reach $574.2 billion, indicating the growth potential but also the intensifying competition. Clients, amid an abundance of choices, often find it daunting to choose the best fit.
In this scenario, a firm's ability to successfully attract and retain clients hinges on demonstrating what differentiates its accounting services. A survey conducted by Sage showed that 67% of clients believe personalized service is the top factor that makes an accounting firm stand out. This highlights the importance of innovative marketing, showcasing the unique aspects of your firm, and providing client-centric services. By effectively communicating these differentiators, your firm can carve out its unique place in this competitive market.
5 strategies to help your firm stand Out
1. Know Where Your Stand
Before you can stand out, you need to understand if you're already distinguishing yourself within the accounting market. Monitor client feedback, conduct regular SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, and keep a close eye on the competition. Knowledge of your firm's unique selling proposition (USP) is a key quality of a good accounting firm, so understand what sets you apart and leverage it to your advantage.
2. Specialise: Choose a Niche
Rather than being a 'jack of all trades,' consider specializing in a specific industry or service. By establishing a niche, you're showing potential clients that you're not just an expert in accounting, but also an expert in their specific needs.
Tips to Build a Niche
When creating a niche, it's essential to keep in mind a few factors:
- Adapt the Way Your Brand Speaks: Ensure that your branding, messaging, and communications reflect your chosen niche. This means tailoring your content to address specific needs and pain points your target audience faces.
- Network Where You Actually Need to Network: Attend industry-specific events, join relevant online groups, and engage with individuals in your chosen niche. This helps build your reputation as an expert within the niche and can lead to valuable connections and opportunities.
- Adapt Your Website to Reflect Your Target Audience: Your website is often the first impression potential clients have of your firm. Ensure it effectively communicates your specialization and how it can benefit your target audience.
- Make Sure the Niche is Looking for Your Expertise: Before finalizing your niche, ensure there's a demand for your services within that industry. Conduct market research to understand potential client's needs and ensure your expertise aligns.
- Invest in Creative and Ground-breaking Marketing Campaigns: To further solidify your position within the niche, develop marketing campaigns specifically tailored to your target audience. This not only raises awareness of your firm but also establishes you as a thought leader within the industry.
Accounting doesn't have to be an impersonal, numbers-only business. Every firm has a story that can connect them to their clients on a deeper level. How your firm was established, the struggles it overcame, and the successes it has achieved all contribute to your unique narrative.
Your clients are the heroes of this story. They face conflicts – their pain points – and your firm provides the resolution through your value-added services. This narrative framework helps clients relate to your firm on a personal level and fosters loyalty.
3. Find Your Story
Every accounting firm has a story. This story can play a pivotal role in distinguishing your firm from the competition. The narrative includes your firm's history, mission, values, and vision. More importantly, it includes your clients - they are the heroes of your story. Their conflict is the financial challenges or pain points they face, and the resolution is the exceptional service your firm provides.
Your story communicates what makes your accounting services stand out and how your firm adds value to its clients. It humanizes your brand, resonates with your audience, and establishes a connection that goes beyond the professional level.
4. Add-Value Service
In a competitive market, providing exceptional service is key, but it's the added value that truly sets firms apart. This added value could take several forms: perhaps you provide financial planning advice alongside your accounting services, or maybe you offer your clients exclusive access to cutting-edge financial tools.
Remember, every client interaction is an opportunity to deliver added value. A good accounting firm recognizes this and uses it to its advantage. By demonstrating your willingness to go above and beyond, you’re showing clients why they should choose you over competitors.
5. Make Yourself Necessary
The final strategy to differentiate your firm is to make your services indispensable to your clients. By positioning yourself as a trusted financial advisor, rather than just a service provider, you'll be the first point of contact for all their financial needs.
Here's how to make this happen:
- Identify and focus on a few key financial metrics relevant to your clients. By monitoring these KPIs, you can provide targeted advice and recommendations, thereby demonstrating your value.
- Make the difficult, easy for your clients: While numbers and spreadsheets are essential in accounting, not everyone is fluent in this language. Visual reports can help your clients better understand their financial position and the value you're providing.
- Keep your clients updated on Industry Benchmarks: By keeping track of industry standards and comparing them with your clients' KPIs, you can provide them with insights into how they're performing relative to their competitors, and more importantly, how they can get ahead of the game.
Standing out in the highly competitive accounting field requires a blend of understanding your unique qualities, and specialization, telling your story, adding value, and making yourself necessary. Remember, what makes your accounting services stand out isn't just about the services you provide. It's about the value you deliver, the relationships you build, and the unique approach you bring to the accounting field.
Kevin Mitchell, CPA
Senior Manager and CPA with over 20 years of experience in accounting and financial services, specializing in risk management and regulatory compliance. Skilled in managing audits and leading teams to deliver exceptional services. Proud father of two.