How Bookkeepers Can Set Themselves Apart from the Competition
Many bookkeepers find they can charge MORE than their competitors once they identify the things their clients value most and position themselves as the experts in those solutions.
Have you ever had a prospect call your firm and immediately ask how much your services cost? This is a common occurrence, and – aggravating though it is – it’s not really the prospect’s fault. For years, all bookkeeping firms were basically the same. They provided the same services, made the same promises and gave the same guarantees. The only real differentiation between bookkeeping firms was the price of their services.
To make things more challenging, today’s bookkeepers and accountants find themselves not only competing with other service providers but also with artificial intelligence. To the prospective client, this is just one more reason why your prices should be low.
Fortunately, the days when price was the only differentiator between firms are gone. You can find numerous ways to set yourself apart without competing on price. In fact, many bookkeepers find they can charge MORE than their competitors once they identify the things their clients value most and position themselves as the experts in those solutions.
Better isn’t Always Better
Many bookkeepers make the mistake of claiming their services are “better” than their competitors’ services. Others claim to be faster, friendlier or more conscientious.
The problem with being better, faster, friendlier – or any other “er” – is that everyone else is saying the same thing about their own firm. This makes your claim nothing more than another level of noise your prospects are already trying to sift through. And this puts you back into the position of competing with other firms.
Instead of focusing on ways you are better than other firms, look for ways you are completely different from them.
Ways to Set Yourself Apart
There are a number of ways you can go about setting yourself apart from other firms without competing on price or one-upping them. Some of them are:
- Niche specialization – When you become really good at serving a particular industry, business owners in that industry want to work with you. They actually seek you out! An industry specialization can quickly set you apart from your competition and let you command premium prices.
- Offer unique solutions – What unique problem do you solve for your clients? If you don’t think you have one, think about the questions you are often asked and that you enjoy answering. This can be around “routine” services, software or complementary services. Discover what you offer that is unique – or come up with a unique way of doing something seemingly mundane – and you can easily differentiate yourself from other bookkeeping and accounting firms.
- Offer complementary services – Are there services you offer that are complementary to what people typically think of as bookkeeping services? Think about the things you do for your clients “just because.” Do you do pricing and margin analysis for your clients? Cash flow consulting? How about workflow analysis to help your clients improve their efficiency (and profitability)? These services could be what sets you apart from your competitors.
- Become known for something – Similar to niche specialization, you can set yourself apart from other bookkeeping firms by becoming known for something. Seek out opportunities to write guest blog posts, appear on podcasts or even write a book about the unique solutions you offer or a topic you are passionate about. You can become known for something you do for your clients – like special gifts or educational opportunities – but be careful about coming across as “gimmicky.” What you are known for needs to be authentic.
Marketing Your Uniqueness
Once you decide how you are going to set yourself apart, you have to market your differentiator and – this is important – how this differentiator will solve your clients’ unique problems. This means telling your prospects and clients what you do that is different from your competition WITHOUT comparing yourself to them.
Your marketing needs to go beyond your website or LinkedIn profile. You must be able to easily talk to prospects and clients about your uniqueness and how it serves them, too. And your whole team must be on board, or else your clients and prospects will get different messages, which leads to confusion.
Accountants and bookkeepers aren’t known for being natural marketers, but a wonderful resource to consult is Donald Miller’s book Building a StoryBrand.
Be Different and Stop Competing
When you set yourself apart from other bookkeepers or accountants – be it with niche specialization, unique solutions, complementary services, expertise or something else – you actually stop competing with them. You become the go-to provider for what your prospects want and need.
This doesn’t mean you can ignore the areas where bookkeepers have traditionally competed. You’ll still want to provide top-notch, timely and friendly service, but these things will be a welcome bonus for your clients, not the primary things they seek.
The main benefit to setting yourself apart is the ability to command a premium price for the solutions you provide to your clients. There will always be certain prospects and clients who are price or value sensitive – this is inescapable. But when you set yourself apart from the competition – rather than comparing yourself to them – the clients who value the results you can give them and are willing to invest in those results will find you.
Billie Anne Grigg 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 Profit First Professionals. She is also a guide (coach) for the Profit First Professionals organization. Billie Anne started...