The Top 5 Accounting Services Clients Need You to Offer
Do you remember when Amazon just sold books?
Seems improbable now, but when they launched in July 1995, Amazon’s creator Jeff Bezos built it to be as “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” This was before ebooks and Kindles, when it was hard to imagine not holding a book in your hand and skimming the paper pages. My, how the world has changed.
Bezos had a bold vision, however, that Amazon could be and should be more. They quickly expanded into more and more product lines until it became the true embodiment of their name today: Amazon (of all things.) Their disruptor strategy then moved from offering product delivery into becoming a value-based subscription model business - think Amazon Prime or Subscribe and Save to name a few.
When it comes to accounting firms expanding into more value-priced client services, it’s easy to see the parallels and to see the opportunities that arise in taking that disruptor strategy for yourself. So how do you make that shift from being a product provider at a fixed price to a year-round subscription service based on value? How do you convince clients they need to have their tried-and-maybe-not-so-true ways disrupted?
One of the key steps in building that strategy is to understand exactly what clients want and need from you. So we asked them. 1700 small business owners who are engaged with an accounting firm, in fact.
This post is the first in a series of three that breaks down the steps of expanding into client advisory services -- what you should offer, how to sell it and then how not to get fired once you do. Want all the insights now? They’re yours for free in our 2018 Client Advisory Services Report.
Building a Year Round Business with Your Clients
How often do you talk about Amazon with someone? Chances are, if you’re a customer, a Prime member, probably often. When companies make our lives easier and save us time and money, we talk about them. That’s human nature.
The same is true of accounting clients. In fact, 79% of the SMBs we surveyed who receive client advisory services from their accountant told us they were likely to recommend them to someone else - almost a 20% increase over those who do not. The marketing value is undeniable, as well as extending the value of what each client means to your bottom line.
One key strategy to expanding the right services is understanding what customers need, then find a way to meet those needs and create a higher lifetime value of each customer. That can mean turning that once-a-year job into recurring revenue or adding a regular service, such as bill pay, to your general ledger management offering.
Start by taking stock of your existing clients, what services you provide, how often you engage or interact with them. Do a review of your offerings and estimate the engagement each requires throughout the year as well as the cost structure and fees associated.
Consider Amazon’s subscription model. Subscriptions are monthly or annual spends: with Amazon Prime, you pay an annual fee to gain every-day access to movies, music, discounts, free shipping and more. Determining the right service fit for your clients can be thought of in the same way.
The 5 Key Services Clients Need
The five services your clients need come straight from them -- 1 in 5 clients surveyed want to outsource these—which is great news for you. You can build a year-round strategy of engagement and deeper value with your client, and they reap the benefits of better processes and more efficiency.
Financial Statement Preparation
Time engagement: Once a year
As you know, end of year is a critical time for businesses. When you handle their financial statement preparation, you provide an invaluable piece that allows them to make decisions based on real-time reports and analysis.
Time engagement: biweekly/monthly
By taking over the management of payroll, your firm can improve and automate the process and workflows of getting employees paid. That means you take on the complexities of proper payroll management, and your clients can focus their time on their business.
Time engagement: Continual
When finances are the number reason businesses fail, having up-to-date books is imperative to making the right decisions for the future. Clients want to trust that their books are accurate and organized on a regular schedule -- and this puts you in the position to provide valued insight into your client’s business health and performance.
Time engagement: Continual
Accounts Receivable (and Accounts Payable) came in as two of the top services businesses want to outsource. With services such as Bill.com, taking the workflow online has the ability to transform a business. And with you there to keep a close watch on the accuracy and timeliness of payments from customers, you’re able to ensure cash flow as the fuel for the business engine.
Time engagement: continual
Reputations matter to business, and a part of that is insuring healthy relationships with vendors. When you take over the AP for your clients, you can set the right systems in place to ensure vendors are paid timely and accurately, which means your clients can gain the confidence that business is running smoothly.
Benefits for both you and your clients
By offering these key services, the benefits are high for both you and your clients. Inaccuracies that come with manual data entry are reduced, the time savings from automated workflows and technology to streamline process can be significant.
The bottom line is that your client’s bottom line improves: in our survey, clients receiving advisory services from their accountants saw increased profits and increased revenues. That’s not surprising: When the flow of money is efficient, secure and trustworthy, your clients can focus more on improving their business, and you can extend your value into helping them plan for growth and future success.
What are Your Next Steps?
Want more insights? Grab our Client Advisory Services Report and see the survey results for yourself. And stay tuned for our next post that gives some key tips on how to win over those new clients.