Technological advancements have lead to a dramatic change in:
- customer expectations,
- nature of work and
- the type of knowledge and skills required to boost efficiency and defend the bottom line.
Firms have no choice but to adapt to these changes. For being inflexible would mean losing business to competition or even going out of business completely.
Accounting industry too has felt the impact of emerging technology.
Cloud accounting is automating routine bookkeeping and administrative tasks and connecting bookkeepers and accountants to their customers anytime, anywhere.
Further, customers no longer prefer walking into your offices by locating your signboards. Rather, they are seeking professionals like you on the web.
So, if your accounting firm isn’t placed well digitally, (CA forums, via your own website etc) you are giving every reason to your customers or prospects to approach your competitors.
Therefore, it is necessary for accounting firms to catch the wave in order to be future proof. Accountants are expected to be trusted advisors.
Accordingly, they are recognized for their knowledge and keen business sense apart from providing return filing and other traditional services.
Needless to say, accounting firms need to have an understanding of what future demands and how they can create value for customers in the times to come.
So, let’s have a look at some of the key points that accounting firms must do to grow their CA practice today.
1. Develop a Niche
It is critical for accounting firms to identify the differentiated services they can provide to their customers. This is because stiff competition is a major challenge faced by the accounting industry.
Thus, identifying differentiated services not only helps in getting new clients but also helps you earn increased profit margins.
Customers today come to you for your knowledge, expertise and the value you create for them. This gives you room to charge higher on value based pricing model.
Further, having a niche gives you an opportunity to build knowledge and expertise for a particular segment of customers you prefer to work with. Further, it makes you efficient in that work.
2. Go Beyond the Industry Core
Today, customers look up to accounting firms not simply for the conventional auditing and taxation services. They want you to act as their trusted advisors.
As trusted advisors, small business owners seek your assistance for a variety of other avenues. These include
- availing loans from banks,
- company valuation,
- cash flow projections,
- devising business plans,
- setting up new businesses,
- succession planning etc.
Thus, modern day accounting firms are expected to render value added services. These firms help customers to undertake informed business decisions. Such decisions can range from formulating growth strategies to identifying risks and helping customers set prices for their business offerings.
3. Go for Value Based Pricing Model
Your accounting firm must act as a trusted advisor rather than just a firm that assists its customers in tax preparation and return filing. When this happens, you get an opportunity to charge for the value you create for your customers.
Value based pricing strategy keeps your customers at the centre. This is because you set the prices of your services to a particular business segment based on your customers’ perception of the benefits of your product or service.
Prices are fixed based on your
- customers’ perceived value of the benefits they derive out of your business offerings and
- the premium price they are willing to pay for the same.
Therefore, this pricing strategy gives you a room to charge more for the value you create for your customers. Such a pricing translates to higher profitability for your accounting firm.
4. Have a Web Presence
With the advancing digital landscape, customers no longer prefer locating the signboards of your accounting firms and walk through the front doors of your offices.
They rather seek accounting firms like yours on the web. So, you need to be digitally savvy and have a strategy for building your web presence. Otherwise, you are bound to lose some potential business to your competitors.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) restricts Chartered Accountants in India from soliciting clients or professional work directly or indirectly via advertisement, circular, personal communication, etc.
This certainly limits the scope of accounting firms for getting new clients and growing their consulting business.
However, there are certain marketing strategies for chartered accountants that can help them to promote their work within the code of conduct set by ICAI.
One of these includes having your own website. ICAI has specified rules in respect of the same which allow you to have web presence based on the pull model.
Accordingly, you can create valuable content with regards to auditing, taxation business advisory etc on your website.
Further, you can also contribute relevant content on various CA forums. Through such content, you can help small businesses owners and fellow professionals resolve their queries with regards to their business, auditing, taxation etc.
5. Hire People who Help you to be Future Proof
You must have talent pool equipped to help you act as trusted advisors to your customers. This is because customers seek value added services from accounting firms.
Being trusted advisors to your customers means a paradigm shift in the functioning of accounting firms. Therefore, having a talent pool on board with just the traditional accounting skills won’t help in living up to the changing business outlook.
Hence, apart from routine accounting and administrative skills, future accountants need to have a diverse set of skills to remain relevant in the ever changing market.
After all, customers expect chartered accountants to be technologically competent, possess soft skills, provide business advisory, build deeper client relationships, possess management skills, etc.