Do you feel like your clients are slow to adapt to new technology and, because of this, you are reluctant to move your firm to new cloud accounting technologies? The truth is that small business owners and consumers are moving to cloud technologies at a rapid pace. Just look at the rapid growth of Xero and Quickbooks online: Xero saw 12x growth between 2012 and 2016 and Quickbooks is now used by over 5.6 million businesses. Consumer and small business behavior is changing, and many potential clients are actually starting to trust technology as much as humans. They want to utilize all of the technological advancements we have seen in the accounting industry in recent years. If your thought process continues to be “My clients do not want to work with me virtually because they do not trust the cloud,” then what is holding your practice back may not your clients – it may be you. Sure, some existing clients may want to continue working with you exactly as they have done in the past, and that is a perfectly acceptable business relationship as well. However, it is your potential client who is very ready (and often expecting) virtual technologies and “the Transformation Economy” that you need to connect with. As the behavior of your prospects changes, you either change with it or get left behind. These potential clients are searching online right now for their next accountant or tax professional and if your practice is not visible, you are losing out on major growth opportunities. Are you ready to be a professional of the future? In this article, we'll give you a few easy ways you can differentiate your practice from your competition.
Clean up your own “cloud” presence The first step toward showing clients you are keeping up with the times from a technological standpoint is to ensure that your digital presence is modern, secure, consistent, and effectively showcasing you and your practice. Whether through your website, blog, email newsletters, secure client portals, social media, or building high topic authority, you cannot present as a “firm of the future” if your digital footprint says otherwise. Reviews You may already be sick of hearing us (and many others) reiterate the importance of generating lots of five-star client testimonial reviews. Well, the gravity of this simple fact cannot be overstated: without having lots of testimonial reviews, potential clients are unlikely to trust you with something as significant as their finances.According to a Small Business Trends infographic, consumer reviews are trusted nearly 12 times more than descriptions that companies write themselves. Rather than just writing about your practice's use of technology on your website, make sure you ask clients that you work with via the cloud to write reviews and include information on the tech aspect of your business relationship. Not only will reviews generate valuable SEO benefits, they help you to convert more prospects into clients – helping your practice to grow and thrive in the long-term. For every star your practice earns, there will be approximately a 5 - 9% increase in revenue. This is an ideal way to give your earnings a boost while building out your digital presence. Social media There are many reasons why 95% of business decision makers use social networks to some extent. This is one of the easiest ways for you to meet potential clients where they are, and to build valuable social proof while doing it. Without utilizing social media for your practice, there is little chance that potential clients will believe that your practice is keeping up with technology. Plus, research shows that your potential clients might find you via social media (meaning you must ensure your social media presence is strong). Sure, you can run ads on social media, but that is not what we recommend (at least not to start). There are a few other simple steps we recommend that can really boost your social media, helping you to become an accountant of the future. Make sure to claim and update social profiles for your business on LinkedIn on Facebook (and then maybe others later on like Twitter, Instagram, etc). Email and ask your current client base to follow you on these social media profiles. Follow other small business owners who may be in need of your services and also potential referral sources. If you are keeping up with new technology and have the ability to work with clients via the cloud, then feature those possibilities in your social posts. Social media is a huge part of modern life, even for your most “old school” clients and potential clients. Over the last decade, social media has developed into being an integral part of any business's digital presence -- as it should be for yours.
Use the cloud to generate more revenue There are always new buzzwords popping up in technology, but one that can sum up many of the technological developments we have seen in the last decade is “the cloud.” Although many get annoyed with how overused this phrase can be, we cannot deny its significance to accountants and tax professionals. The cloud refers to any software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. The good news is that tech companies are not the only ones who can make use of the all-powerful cloud. Cloud-based small business platforms Even if you are just starting your “pro of the future” initiative now, there are already countless platforms that live on the cloud and can quickly catch you up to the competition. Here is the best part: many of your clients may already be using some of these cloud tools, which means that your willingness to integrate them into the business relationship can help them create valuable synergies and save time and resources. Platforms like Receipt Bank, Quickbooks, MileIQ and more can simplify expense tracking and bookkeeping, making your job easier and less risky (no paper to keep tabs on). Perhaps you can even use your cloud platforms and extra capacity to take on new roles like advising clients as a virtual CFO (a trend we are already seeing in the industry). Your clients will appreciate the “anytime, anywhere” aspects of any cloud-based platforms you implement, along with other benefits like automatic backups and no long-term commitments (as these platforms usually are rented, not purchased). Online onboarding tools So you have showcased your “future professional” status and have new clients to welcome. Why not use cloud-based tools for onboarding as well? Offering ways for people to join your client base quickly and easily will set you apart from the professionals who still ask clients to onboard in the old ways (and do not offer alternatives). Your goal should be to make it as simple as possible for clients to start an engagement with you. This can be accomplished in many ways, such as digital engagement letters, secure document sharing, online signatures, and VoIP calling so you can access client calls from anywhere. As an example, our secure electronic signature technology (E-Sign) allows you and your clients to sign documents from the convenience of your computers, tablets and even right from your smartphones. This means no more faxing and no more sharing confidential info by email. Your clients will thank you! Security As with any Internet-based operations, security should always be an integral part of your processes. Make sure that your website has an SSL certificate and uses HTTPS in order to ensure that your clients' personal information (e.g. social security number, business details, etc) does not fall into the wrong hands. Use Knowledge Based Authentication tools to help you verify that your remote clients are who they say they are.
Automate your marketing We hear from thousands of accounting and tax professionals about how busy and overwhelmed they are, especially during tax time. Pros often say that they are far too bogged down with client work to dedicate any time to marketing their firm. At the same time, marketing and reputation building is not really optional, especially for a practice of the future. Marketing and reputation building should not just be saved for your slow season or as preparation for a busy time (i.e tax season). Marketing is truly a year-round affair, but there are easy ways you can automate various tasks to lighten the load over time. The most important thing is to have consistent contact with clients and prospects throughout the year, whether that be through monthly newsletters, social media, birthday and anniversary e-cards, or a weekly blog. All of these will keep you top of mind for your clients while also keeping you top of mind for the search engines crawling the Internet to calculate your page rankings. The good news is that cloud-based marketing automation tools like our CountingWorks PRO system can help you to easily automate your website, blogs, social media, client management and more. So, you don't have to go it alone. While all that goes into becoming an “accountant of the future” may seem like a lot of work, the sooner you take these steps, the more your practice will grow and thrive. Any accounting practice that is slow to adapt may soon find itself left out in the cold with its clients and revenues going to competitive firms who are future-thinking. If you are not sure where to start or would like to learn more about bringing your practice into the future, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. We're here to help!