“You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” In an era when pretty much everyone looks online first for answers, that advice is more meaningful than ever. Especially when the information is critical, we as professionals can’t believe everything we read—and must keep our guard up for unsubstantiated sources, scams and conspiracy theories.
But there are factual data sources available that can help your firm leadership make better decisions and build a strategy that can keep your firm ahead of market changes. There are also innovative tools to monitor, compress big data and present vast amounts of information in a digestible, meaningful way—for instance, Google Trends, which analyzes internet activity.
One of the trends we at Thomson Reuters are closely watching is what individuals are searching for online come tax season. The searches for “pay my taxes” have been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, while the term “CPA” has been in a steady decline. Searches for “Turbo Tax” have increased 13% year over year. We’re seeing that the market is looking for self-service capabilities, and I only see this trend increasing over the next several years as technology continues to evolve, allowing for more complex situations to be handled with ease.
So how do we combat these trends, which have turned complex work into a commodity that can be done with the right software? First, we need to recognize that there is a part of our work that can be handled successfully in a DIY way—and then we need to focus on the areas from which we can derive real value.
The Wasp Barcode Technologies Small Business Report – Accounting reported that business clients ranked accountants as the most important professional to their business. In this same report, they also listed their top three complaints as:
- More reactive than proactive
- Doesn’t provide advice
- Lack of guidance
Businesses are looking for a more consultative approach—seeking out more specialization in services and industry experts. The result is driving our industry professionals to become less generalist in tax and accounting, and more proactive strategists with a specialization in a type of service or industry niche.
Do you have a way to evaluate your client base as it stands today? Have you been growing into an industry niche based on referrals without realizing it? When was the last time you took a fresh look at your current book and the services they’re engaged with? Answering these questions is important to evaluating your business and strategically moving it forward.
Hopefully, you have all the tools you need to quickly give you these answers so you can make a plan. However, if that’s not the case, I recommend you take some time to consider investing in a practice management tool. Staying relevant starts with the evaluation of where you’re at, and requires that you produce a strategy and continually evaluate your strategy moving forward.
Once you’ve evaluated your current client base, you can then start targeted marketing campaigns to showcase your expertise and services. In this stage, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your firm is trained to position your services and sell your distinctive competencies.
You’ll also want to share your vision with your current clients, so they can properly position your firm when they refer your services, post online reviews of your business or contribute testimonials for your website.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Are you kidding me? There isn’t enough time in a day—a week—a year to pull a plan like this together!”
This is where having the right tools to gain efficiencies and automate your office workflow comes into play. If your firm is operating at peak efficiency, you’ll find you can spend less time in the business and more time working on the business.
Look for tools that will solve problems in your workflow—tools that integrate together to reduce the amount of time and the number of tasks it takes to complete the job. Tools that integrate with your workflow management and practice management to ensure you have not only the information you need to evaluate and create a strategy, but the ability to capitalize on increased productivity and efficiency to take on more business, without adding new staff or forcing existing staff to work additional hours.
Need help finding a partner that can help you remain relevant in the industry today? Look no farther than Thomson Reuters. We have the tools and knowledge to help your business grow. And that's something you can believe!