Ah, millennials. The elusive generation. Everyone wants them, yet no one seems to be able to fully define how companies can resonate with the group and win their business.
Millennials (also known as Gen Y) make up a quarter of the global population, translating to about 1.7 billion people (approximately 73 million of whom reside in the United States). By 2020 they are forecasted to make up 35% of the global workforce, a figure they already surpassed in the US as of 2017.
Gen Y is a whole new breed when you contrast them with previous generations. Just check out Nielsen's 2016 study on millennials and their habits in comparison with Baby Boomers:
It's clear to most people that millennials are a mobile generation, but it goes beyond that; they've grown accustomed to—and therefore now expect—extreme convenience in everything they do.
Some of the top things Gen Y-ers value are flexibility, accessibility, and usefulness, and more than any generation before them, they embody the mindset of “Work smarter, not harder.” This is often misinterpreted as laziness, but it usually comes down to this: if choosing to work with you forces them to expend extra effort, time, or money that is 1) unnecessary or 2) not required by competitors, you will lose their business.
You need them, and they (probably) need you
Why are millennials so important for your tax and accounting practice? There are several reasons:
- There are a lot of them — At 35% of the workforce, Gen Y is your biggest potential source for new tax and accounting clients.
- Many aren't using a tax or accounting pro currently… — A recent study found that 80% of millennials worry about their taxes. However, despite these worries, millennials are less likely than other age groups to turn to professional tax advice: only 17 percent of millennials hire a tax professional, compared to 29 percent across all age groups. According to data from advertising technology company Exponential, “online tax filing and tax filing software is on the rise, while retail and walk-in tax services are declining in popularity.” This is most prevalent among young taxpayers, as the age groups of 21-24 and 25-29 were more likely to file online by 82.4 percent and 24 percent respectively. (For some perspective: Baby Boomers were 31.3 percent less likely to use online tax filing services.)
- …But they should be — The finances of millennials look different than generations prior. For starters, they are more likely to take part in unconventional types of work like the gig economy, whether it be as their primary source of income or a supplement to a full-time job. Meanwhile, traditional financial milestones (like purchasing a home) may come later for them (or not at all) due to added complexities like higher student loan debt—all the more reason why they should be enlisting the help of a qualified professional.
So, how can your accounting or tax practice earn and retain the business of millennial clients? By meeting them where they are—online.
Join the digital age
Tax and accounting professionals who utilize technology both to find new clients and to improve their client experience will see much greater success in the digital age, especially with the millennial generation and those who come after them. Take it as a challenge for your practice: how easy can you make it for clients to work with you online?
We may not have all the answers of how to win over Gen Y, but one thing is for certain: without embracing technology across the board, you (and your accounting or tax practice) won't stand a chance.
Start from the beginning
You have probably already noticed the changes in your referral pipeline and the way potential clients find you due to the increased importance of review sites and the emergence of social media in recent years. This is even more prevalent with younger generations, who expect you to meet them where they are—online.
Because millennials are accustomed to having easy access to information and being able to “shop around,” the digital environment has never been more competitive. Prioritizing your digital footprint means having an optimized website, active and engaging social media channels, five-star reviews on various sites (like Google, TaxBuzz, and CountingWorks), and plenty of social proof. Make sure that when a young person does start seeking tax or accounting help, your practice is the one they find.
Adjust your message
The things that matter to Baby Boomers may not matter to younger taxpayers. Meeting them where they are most comfortable means having a digital presence, but it also means speaking directly to the values and issues that are important to them.
One example would be the nontraditional forms of work that younger people are skewing toward: freelancing, home offices, and others. Ensure that your marketing and content are properly targeted and offer solutions to their biggest frustrations (e.g. owing self-employment taxes at the end of the year, missing out on deductions, having to meet in person with an accountant, etc).
Why will their lives be better and easier if they become your client? Tell them!
Look for opportunity areas
Is there an underserved market that your practice can tap into? While many tax and accounting pros probably work with quite a few boomers and Gen X-ers (whether individual taxpayers or small businesses), there are plenty of young startup entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and gig economy workers who are not currently utilizing the services of a tax or accounting professional.
Where is the disconnect?
Two major pain points: 1) many in the gig economy will resist paying for accounting services, possibly because they want to do it themselves until it becomes too overwhelming; and 2) gig workers “tend to believe accountants don't understand their needs.”
To bridge this gap, accounting and tax pros need to prove their worth—both in time and money saved—and showcase their knowledge of nontraditional career paths and the needs that accompany them.
Integrate technology into your client experience
The fun doesn't end once you've signed that sought-after client. The entire life cycle of your client relationships should effortlessly weave in technology to make things as easy as humanly possible.
Can your clients communicate with you through simple and secure channels? Do you have a way for all documents to be sent electronically? Do you offer the option of teleconferencing instead of asking clients to come to your office?
Younger generations demand convenience and flexibility from their services. If working with you creates unnecessary friction in their lives, they will look elsewhere. With more boomers retiring every day (and Gen X-ers inching ever closer), it's never been more important to start building out the younger part of your client base.
The opportunity is there—can you adapt to take advantage of it?
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about reaching new markets with your tax and accounting practice, 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!