Do Bookkeepers Really Need a Niche?by
Bookkeepers are inundated with offers from coaches and consultants with programs to help us make our businesses better. These coaches offer everything imaginable: marketing advice, sales strategies, pricing help, workflow management – you name it, and someone is offering a program for it.
There is one common theme to nearly all the services offered to us, and that is the importance of specializing in an industry niche. But is focusing on a niche really necessary? Can you have a thriving, profitable bookkeeping business without “niching down”?
Niching your practice
There are many arguments in favor of specializing in an industry. When you specialize in an industry niche you:
- Maximize your marketing efforts. You know exactly who you are marketing to, and you can focus your efforts – and your dollars – for the best possible ROI.
- Position yourself as an expert. Focusing on a specific industry affords you the time to learn the nuances of that industry. You are able to learn the lingo and identify – and solve – the challenges facing that industry, making you a go-to expert in the field.
- Streamline your workflow. Businesses within an industry usually have common bookkeeping needs. This lets you set up a workflow which will work for most of your clients, leading to greater productivity and profitability for your practice, not to mention less stress for you and your team.
- Command better prices for your services. Not only do you understand what the industry you are serving can bear in terms of pricing for bookkeeping services, because you position yourself as an expert you can also get paid more for the results you help your clients achieve.
With all these arguments in favor of choosing a niche focus, some find it difficult to believe there are bookkeepers who deliberately choose not to focus on an industry niche.
The Downsides of Niching
The arguments against niching can be as compelling as the arguments in favor of it:
- What if my niche experiences a downturn? This is a common concern for bookkeepers, especially those impacted by the recession in 2008. Many bookkeepers fear focusing on one industry will put all their proverbial eggs in one basket, spelling possible disaster for their practices if the industry experiences a downturn.
- I would get bored. Many bookkeepers thrive on the variety that comes with having clients in a range of industries. These bookkeepers often resist focusing on a niche, because they don’t want to lose that variety.
- I’m hesitant to call myself an expert. Part of a niche focus is positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. Some bookkeepers shy away from the term “expert,” feeling they are underqualified or that putting themselves out there as an expert would be arrogant and off-putting to clients.
- What would happen to the clients outside of my chosen niche? Many of us get attached to our clients, and the thought of excluding them if we choose to focus on a different industry is painful. Some bookkeepers are also concerned a niche focus would “drive away” great potential clients outside of the bookkeeper’s chosen industry.
Dispelling the Fears Around Niching
Niching down your business doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Many bookkeepers who have an industry niche focus keep existing clients outside their chosen niche, and some even take on new clients who are in different industries. This helps them keep some of the variety they enjoy in their non-niched practice, and it also provides protection against industry downturns.
As bookkeepers, we are also uniquely positioned to see downturns coming before they impact us. This not only helps niched bookkeepers help their clients weather the economic storm, it also helps us pivot and gain traction in a different industry before the situation becomes dire for our practices.
Finally, there is no requirement for you to call yourself an expert if you choose a niche. Chances are good your clients will do this for you when they see the value you bring to them.
Choosing a Niche
Maybe you want to niche down, but you don’t know where to start. If you want to explore focusing on a niche, take some time to analyze your current client list. See if there are multiple clients in one industry who you really enjoy working with. This can be a great way to start exploring a niche. If you don’t see any similarities among your existing clients, that’s okay. Give some thought to industries that interest you or even those that support a hobby or passion.
If you’re still feeling some hesitation about declaring a niche focus, start slow and give yourself some grace as you figure things out. Don’t feel like you have to stick with only one industry. Although it’s best to focus your efforts on one industry at a time to maximize your marketing and workflow efforts, you can easily switch niches or add new ones as your business grows and changes.
To Niche or Not to Niche?
Having a niche focus is a great way to grow and streamline your business, but there’s nothing saying you have to focus on a niche at all. Although there are numerous benefits to focusing on an industry niche, many bookkeepers choose not to take this direction in their businesses. As long as this decision isn’t based in fear, there is nothing wrong with keeping your practice generalized.
Billie Anne Grigg will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Summit this May. She has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century (this one, despite what her children think). She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, and a Mastery Level Certified...