That slight movement you’re feeling under your feet? It’s a shift in the accounting profession landscape, as millennials step up and take control of the business world.
While many millennials own successful small businesses, all too frequently these young business owners don’t work with an accountant, preferring to handle the work themselves. It’s usually just a simple financial decision, made because they’ve never had the chance to understand the value an accountant brings to the table.
With the latest census data showing almost 30 million small businesses in the U.S., and a study by America’s SBDC (the network of Small Business Development Centers) indicating that half of millennials intend to start a business in the next three years, it’s clear there’s a huge untapped market just waiting for the right accountant to come along.
To help you grow as a tax and accounting professional, we’ve identified what small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) are looking for in an accountant — and how to market yourself and explain the value of your services. We also have some tips to help you engage a millennial audience.
Here’s what SMB clients are looking for in a tax and accounting professional
- A strategic partner and advisor — When you focus on financials, your clients are freed up to devote their time to their business operations. Accountants who partner with their clients have the opportunity to advise them in a number of areas, such as financial planning, technology, business structure development and forecasting and projections.
- A centralized workflow — Clients want a system that allows them to access and connect with you from anywhere. Technology that allows them to share data, review information, allow mobile access and is certifiably secure will be very appealing to your clients, especially the millennials.
- A good reputation — Make sure you’re consistently providing good service to all of your clients, and that your social media accounts and websites display positive business representation. Ask your clients to review your firm on websites like Yelp or Google Reviews, and monitor those sites to see what’s posted. That’s the first place many potential clients will look when they’re searching for a new partner or advisor for their own business.
- Communication and response — Not having a timely response — or not responding at all — to your clients is a common reason clients cite for leaving an accounting partner. That kind of non-response can give you a bad reputation. SMB owners want to communicate primarily through email — their highest-rated method of communication, with phone and in-person meetings rounding out the top three.
- Multiple Service Options — SMB clients would like a one-stop shop to help them with their multiple service needs. This includes offering tax preparation and planning services, audit preparation and representation, bookkeeping services, regulation updates and payroll services.
How to market your accounting services to small business clients
Marketing doesn’t automatically equal a large cash outlay. Even if your marketing budget is on the smaller side there are ways to attract new clients — specifically SMB clients — that don’t require a lot of money.
- Partnerships — Partner with other local businesses your clients may already patronize. Legal offices, investment brokers, recruiting offices, technology firms — there’s strength in numbers, so make your name more recognized by partnering up.
- Referrals — Word of mouth is one of the most common and effective ways to grow your business. If your clients are happy with your service, they won’t hesitate to recommend you to friends and family, or even their own clients. And don’t be afraid to ask for more business! There are many ways to ask for referrals without verbally asking: add a note on your invoices, include a blurb in your email signature block and mention it on your website, social media and even on your office signs.
- Upsell/Cross sell — Upsell complementary products for services your clients may be receiving elsewhere. You can do this in casual conversation, at client meetings, in presentations or workshops or in an email or letter to your clients. Make sure to highlight the benefits your client would enjoy by taking advantage of these products: improved productivity, lower rates, more accurate and reliable data, better service and a partner and advisor who can help manage and advise their business, thanks to the clear view you have of all their business data.
- Networking — Be present on social media — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are among the most popular social media channels — and have a user-friendly website. Go to local events, meetings and seminars and be open, honest, and genuine about your business. These events are not for closing sales, but for building your pipeline and letting your community know who you are. Blogs and content marketing can help you explain your skills and expertise without preaching or making a sales pitch. You can link this information in your social media channels and website to help drive awareness.
Understanding what the new generation of business owners want, and following these marketing techniques, will help you engage all types of business clients, help your business grow and set your firm up for success.
Now that you know, time to get out there and bring the next generation of service to a new generation of customers!