AAM Session Overview: The Accounting And Consulting Firm of The Future
Another successful Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) conference has concluded in San Antonio, Texas. This conference opened with a war cry by VeraSage Institute founder, Ronald J. Baker. Baker, a CPA and marketer, has shed some light on what direction the accounting industry in heading. He has challenged us to see beyond the present atmosphere of the tradition accounting firm and reach for excellence in our industry.
Many marketing coordinators and directors are now evaluating where their firms have been, where they are currently, and where they are going. The desires and goals of today’s accounting and consulting firms, according to Baker, have changed and an evolution is apparent for the future.
“Differentiation is a marketing concept that has been applied in the past mainly to product markets, but the challenge now is to apply this concept of differentiation to the service market we are currently in,” says Baker. Differentiation cannot easily be applied to an audit or a tax return; therefore, the challenge must be to differentiate our firms through exceptional client services.
The subtle shift from being a service-oriented business to a customer service oriented business has begun to swing the pendulum the other way. Accountants cannot be viewed, and should not be viewed, as merely a commodity. Baker suggests, “We (accounting firms) need to express to our clients the value of an audit and not just how good an audit is.” Accounting firms do not sell audits nor do they sell balance sheets. Rather, accounting firms sell the value of an audit or the value of a balance sheet. Clients are not simply buying our “expertise” - they are buying solutions to their problems and the experience of how well they are served. All in all, clients are not price sensitive, they are value sensitive.
Accounting firms are reevaluating the perception in which they view their clients’ needs and, more importantly, their wants. We say it’s an “80/20 relationship”. The relationship had 80% technical or expertise and 20% emotional satisfaction for our client, but, as we grow into a customer-service business, we recognize that the “80/20 relationship” is reversed, 20% technical or expertise and 80% emotional satisfaction for our clients.
Firms have shifted their values. Past models have been: Quality-Price-Service (quality being the priority). Today our models express Service-Price-Quality, where service has now become the priority. All three elements are extremely important and valued, but we have come to understand that the exceptional service our clients experience should exceed all other goals of the firm. Baker emphasized that firms “should not focus on the technical, but rather on the benefits” that we provide to each client.
As we evolve into being the “firms of the future”, we hone in on the emotional satisfaction of our clients. We not only strive to provide exceptional accounting and consulting services, but we also strive to exceed our clients’ expectations, anticipations, and ultimately what they actually receive. Accounting firms are changing; current events demand it and we have accepted the challenge and opportunity to change.
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” - Thomas Paine
Ronald J. Baker started his accounting career in 1984 with KPMG Peat Marwic's Private Business Advisory Services in San Francisco. Today, he is the founder of the VeraSage Institute, a think tank dedicated to teaching Value Pricing to professionals around the world. For more information on Ronald Baker or VeraSage Institute contact 770 Tamalpais Drive, Suite 221, Corte Madera, California, or 415.927.7114. Web site: www.verasage.com 
This is the fourth of a series of articles  on sessions presented at the 2002 AAM Conference.
The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM), headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, is the leading trade/educational organization for individuals working in marketing, sales, and communication for accounting firms. Since 1989, AAM has provided members with the information, resources, and market intelligence needed to excel and grow in their careers.
For more information about joining AAM or to be placed on a mailing list for next year’s Marketing Summit in Boston, MA in June 2003, contact Lisa Daniels at 816.221.1296, or firstname.lastname@example.org .