You’ll no doubt have noticed that your clients’ needs are changing fast. Businesses are increasingly wanting much more than traditional accounting help, such as for tax returns and VAT.
Small business owners are now used to having the facts at their fingertips via smartphones and tablets. This is a generation of entrepreneurs who demand access to information about their business in a similar way. And it’s all possible because of cloud accounting, such as QuickBooks Online.
But to take full advantage of this, it’s crucial to understand your customer. This has to be your first priority. If you know what they want, and what they will pay for, then you can build your services around that.
Most importantly, your clients are working in the cloud. So if you’re not, you won’t even be able to start thinking about understanding where they’re at. Intuit’s Cloud Partner Program is the ideal way of keeping you and your clients in close touch.
So, here are some of the key things small business owners want these days:
Real-time information. Up-to-date information allows them to make informed financial decisions.
Mobility. Now smartphones and tablets are the norm, they want to be able to manage their business on the go. Add to that cloud tools, and viewing information from multiple devices is high on the list of “must haves.”
Autonomy. A lot of businesses don’t want to simply hand everything over to their accountant. They want to understand their books – and be able to pull out key pieces of data themselves without having to rely on their accountant every time.
Easy-to-understand financial information.
Collaboration with their accountant. Both parties working from the same data makes collaboration much easier, as well as much more efficient. Your clients don’t want to be emailing multiple versions of data or entering information time and again.
Adapting to change – new opportunities
All this means that the role of accountants and bookkeepers is evolving. With clients now expecting more, so new opportunities for accounting practices are opening up.
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There are lots of ways accounting professionals can add value in the digital age. You could start by looking at the consultancy services you can offer. You’ll have expert knowledge in specific industries, for a start.
Although data is instantly available to a small business owner, do they know what it means in practice? Are they using reports that really help them understand the key performance indicators for their particular industry? Since you’re able to interpret your clients’ data in many valuable ways, this is something you can help develop for them.
Your role as an advisor becomes increasingly important in areas such as analysing the growth areas in your clients’ industry. Identifying the most profitable parts of their business, and looking at how they can exploit opportunities, are areas where you can add significant value. These are typically higher cost services, which will give you better job satisfaction as well as pay more.
Cloud applications mean you and your client always have the latest figures at your fingertips.
Knowing where your client is financially at any given point allows you to offer advice and guidance on a huge range of issues. As the person who understands the figures, you can advise clients on better financial management, and what changes should be made to improve their bottom line.
Recent research from the ICAEW shows that out of all the professions, the small business class their accountant as their most trusted advisor. In fact, 48% of respondents stated this compared with 6% for their bank manager and 3% for their lawyer. Not all accountants realise the power they hold. Any sales person strives to build trust, yet here’s a profession that’s extremely trustworthy, without any arm twisting or clever tricks.
Using cloud tools like Intuit ProCloud Partner Program means you can easily take on functions that small business owners may neglect because they’re too busy concentrating on the day-to-day running of their company.
With all your clients’ data stored securely in the cloud, you can review and update it no matter where you or your clients are, provided you have an Internet connection and a smartphone or tablet.
So, engage with your clients more. Ask where and how you can help. Ask what challenges they faced last year, and how you can help resolve them this year.
Because if you don’t, the competition most certainly will.
There are also other ways of engaging with your clients. Intuit ProCloud Partner Programme offers a package of benefits and support to help accounting professionals work with their clients online. The ProCloud Partner Programme benefits are even free to accountants with at least one QuickBooks Online active client. Join now.
Feel better informed about the Cloud Partner Program? Why not take a closer look at what it can offer.