Focusing on a specific niche rather than trying to accommodate the needs of every business could help your accounting firm better serve its clients.
In this episode of Pulse of the Practice, Paul Miller, Owner of Business By Design, and I are joined by Rachel Clark, Client Director at All About Accounting. We had an interesting conversation about how the firm found its niche and built its business model around specialization.
Finding your niche
The six-person team at All About Accounting comprises a tax advisor, an onboarding manager, two bookkeepers, Rachel, and a part-time employee. Rachel looks after the front end of the business, including lead qualifying and client onboarding. She explained how the company’s thorough lead qualifying process starts by making sure the client fits a specific niche. Rather than taking on anybody who needs bookkeeping, focusing on a specific niche helps All About Accounting to reduce the number of variables in play. This approach is beneficial to their clients because it allows for targeted services that result in a more personalized and efficient experience.
The niche client that All About Accounting aims to service is virtual education sellers, specifically in the ‘teachers pay teachers’ sector. This highly specialized niche is one few people have even heard of, further highlighting how fine-tuned their selection process is.
Paul agrees with the approach, noting how too many accounting firms are “come one, come all” operations and that there is a lot of value in being highly specialized: The firm already knows a lot about its client before the initial meeting. And there is a built-in understanding of the client’s dynamics, personality traits, and business models.
Paul observed, however, that it could be daunting for a firm to limit itself to such a niche clientele and asked Rachel how All About Accounting dealt with those concerns?
“That was definitely a very big mindset shift that we had to make,” she responded, explaining how the company initially started with too broad of a niche. She explained that, as a result, they found delays in the onboarding process due to an overly varied pool of clients. Any attempt to apply a standardized process was met with significant hurdles, something that would have been tough to manage while trying to grow their accounting firm.
Reaching valued clients in your specialized market
Rachel noted how social media helped them overcome the “come one, come all” obstacle by creating videos that caught the attention of specific clients that fit their niche. “People share it with one another,” she explained. “It gives you credit in that space immediately. And so we saw a lot of growth from that.” Social media opened up conversations with clients already in that niche, which resulted in more well-qualified prospects coming their way.
All About Accounting positions itself as an accounting firm that also offers tax services, as opposed to a tax firm that also offers accounting. In response to a question I asked about the enjoyment of working for clients that they serve well, Rachel highlights the firm’s dedication to year-round involvement in the accounting process. This helps the firm to avoid common mistakes, such as expense claim miscategorizations, which subsequently delivers greater value to their clients. She points out how teachers are the perfect fit for the firm as they find value in learning:
“Somebody once said to us, don’t pick your niche based off what you think is going to be a really good niche for you. Focus on where you think that you’re going to be able to become an expert and be able to anticipate that group’s needs.”
A specialized market strategy facilitates client personalization
At Business By Design, Paul described how his firm discovered its niche in real estate by a slightly different method. “I didn’t plan that,” Paul said. “That was just purely by accident. It just ran across that way and I learned more and more and more about the real estate business.”
He went on to explain how this kind of niche discovery through pure experience is something seldom discussed but is often a way in which a firm finds the expertise to command a certain price point. Knowing what the client needs, the type of trade shows they go to, or the conferences they attend, can all add value to the services you offer. “Advisory is about knowing people’s needs and predicting their future ones,” he concluded.
Following on from my segue into whether lead qualifiers help to free up time for tax experts to optimize their output, Rachel confirmed the hypothesis. When putting out a video that focuses on a particular niche, she says, you deter inquiries from prospects that the firm was not ideally positioned to help.
All About Accounting focuses on small-to-medium-sized businesses which they can serve on a personalized level. For newer businesses, they feel this model is perfect to support the growth of the company through a more direct hands-on approach.
“Our goal is to be very anticipatory with our clients, with each deadline. We want to make sure that they’re clear what their expectations are, and we’re clear what our expectations are,” she concludes.