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Creating a Specialty Niche in an Accounting Firm, Part 1

Creating a Specialty Niche in an Accounting Firm, Part 1

Nov 11, 2020 | By Isaac O'Bannon | 0 Comments

Topics: Firm Management, Accountants, Featured

 

By definition, accountants are experts at the numbers behind running a business and (in some cases) in taxation, planning, and finding efficiencies. But with dozens of accountants and firms in your own area and thousands nationally, this field of expertise isn’t exactly narrow. So what is it that will attract clients to your services over that of your competitors?

As a firm grows and becomes a presence in a community over time (even an online community), it is natural to develop broad specialties without necessarily focusing on it or putting any effort into it. These specialties are often developed while working with clients who are serial entrepreneurs: individuals who have a knack for starting businesses, setting up franchises, or having partnerships with other like-minded people. After they’ve established a business relationship with someone who knows the needs and of themselves and their business, they naturally return to the same accountant when they have future business needs.


Specialty Niche

When your firm has multiple clients in the same general field, you can easily turn your work into a firm specialty or niche. For instance, a firm that is adept at serving medical clients (such as the offices of various types of doctors and health professionals), franchisees, the restaurant industry or other channels will soon find that having familiarity with common transactions in these industries is an advantage. 

As the firm becomes more experienced in working in client industries, their expertise leads to greater efficiency- both for the firm in general and for the work they do with the client- leading to the firm better serving businesses in that industry. It also makes it easier to attract new clients in these industries because the accountant’s experience allows him or her to speak the language of that business (think SKUs, other units of measurement or specialty reporting).

However, just having a niche doesn’t automatically result in growing the firm. It takes marketing and (sometimes) specialized branding to really start achieving growth. For instance, an accounting firm with a payroll niche may brand this part of their firm to highlight it, even going as far as setting up the payroll service as a separate business entity with its own website. As an example, check out Dental CPAs or Only For Dentists both of which offer accounting services for dental practices and promote the fact that they have deep experience with the industry and financial management processes unique to those clients. Both websites are run by accounting firms with more clients than just dental offices; but they’ve developed focused branding for that market in addition to their traditional firm website. Accounting firms have created specialty websites or  have devoted major sections of their primary website for niche industries like legal, construction, real estate, retail, franchisees and manufacturers. 

A niche-focused website should be a part of the firm’s overall marketing plan and should include search engine optimization (SEO)  strategies. 


How to Create an Accounting Firm Niche Specialty

  1. Review your current clients – Is there already a pattern? If you are already working with several clients in the same industry, you have a niche just waiting to happen since you already have the expertise. Explore this further and see what you can develop.
  2. Which industry clients do you prefer? Whether you enjoy working with clients in one field more than those in other fields or there are fields that are more profitable to serve, this can help you focus on the clients you want to build a niche for. 
  3. What businesses thrive in your area? If you’re in Silicon Valley, you may have a lot of startups. On the other hand, your community may include tourism, hospitality, arts, agriculture or manufacturing. Building a specialty for a thriving business scene will help your firm grow and expand. 

Take advantage of your own specialties. If you grew up around farmers, you’re more likely to understand and serve those clients. The same goes for any other field: if you have close connections or previous experience working with a certain industry, it’s a natural fit for your accounting firm to serve those fields.


Recent Trends and Legal Changes

As with any business, keeping up with emerging trends can help you stay competitive and even grow into new markets. 


Marijuana?

The emergence of legalized marijuana has resulted in a wave of new businesses who need guidance on everything from day-to-day operations to taxes. In 2020 (prior to the election), 33 U.S. states have legalized medical use of marijuana and 11 states have legalized recreational use. Five states are voting on some form of legalization in 2020.  While selling of cannabis is still a federal crime, the AICPA defers to state boards of accountancy when it comes to whether CPAs should provide services to these businesses. However, there are many related businesses that do not directly involve cannabis, such as equipment suppliers, logistics companies, and consulting firms- all of whom also need business and accounting experts to help them.


Micro-Specialties

With social media network, and general website interaction leading to an increase in the use of professionals regardless of their location, there are more options for additional specialties that would not have been viable if a firm was limited to clients only in their geographical area.

For instance, here’s an example of an accountant who specializes in serving veterinarians. If it weren’t for the internet, such a specialty would likely be limited to the half dozen or so veterinarians near her practice, making it not much of a niche. But through effective online marketing, the practice can offer its expertise to similar veterinary clients all across the country. Similarly, here’s an article about a firm that is thriving by serving franchisees.


Fringe Benefits of an Accounting

Firms with strong niches often find that their practice is more attractive to young and experienced accounting professionals. As a leader in serving a few specific industries, your firm will stand apart from your competitors. Here’s a firm that specializes in serving the financial needs of professional athletes and is sure to attract professionals to your firm.

A strong niche not only solidifies your current client base, it helps you acquire new clients as well./ It can also benefit your current clients by providing you the experience to specifically help them grow, as you know their unique needs as a business. 

Developing these niches gives firms the ability to have greater control over their own business and clients and master the accounting needs of each while implementing uniform processes to better serve each one.

 

The Author

Isaac O'Bannon

Isaac M. O’Bannon is the managing editor of CPA Practice Advisor and has been advising accounting and technology firms for 20 years.

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