Regardless of the service a company provides or the product it sells, one of the most important market segments for everyone are millennials. This is especially true for companies that are aimed at B2B services, such as accounting firms. For them, a segment that is as business-focused as millennials is a potential holy grail. When we say that millennials are business-focused, we are not kidding – they start their businesses much earlier than boomers and at twice the rate.
But, is there something special accounting firms can do to attract and retain millennial business owners as their clientele? What exactly is that?
Expand Your Marketing
In order to best cater to your millennial clients, you first need to make sure they can find you and the good news is that they can be reached in a more diverse manner than business owners over the age of 40.
According to the 2017 Millennial Business Owner-Accounting Firm Survey by Bill.com, it is clear that millennial business owners can be reached in more ways than older business owners, opening up certain marketing channels that have been all but pointless in the past.
For example, while only a mere 2% of business owners over the age of 40 use social media to find accounting services, this rises to 13% with millennials. Advertising and internet searches are also more effective when targeting millennial business owners. In other words, doing a mix of paid digital, social media and content marketing can be a great way to attract millennial clients, especially if you have the knack for providing them with the information they might need.
Diversify Services Provided
Even though we are well into the 21st century, there is still a relatively large number of accounting firms that handle taxes and little, if anything, else. For some, this choice made sense because the vast majority of their clients in the past wanted only this type of service. For others, this is less of a choice and more of a lack of expertise.
If you and your accounting firm are after millennials, this will simply not suffice. According to the aforementioned survey, millennial business owners are more interested in different types of accounting services than any previous generation. When compared to the age groups of 40-55 and 56+, more millennial business owners are interested in all of the following accounting services:
- Sales tax
- CFO services and consulting
- Accounting technology recommendations/training
- Bill payment
- Budgeting and forecasting
Sometimes the percentage of interested business owners is only negligibly larger and sometimes dramatically. The important thing to remember here is that millennials are looking for a wide array of accounting services for their businesses and you would do better to branch out if you haven't already.
Before you commit your accounting firm to diversification (which can cost money), you should ensure that the millennial business owners in your country or area are interested in a specific kind of services. For example, in Ireland which is famed for being startup-friendly, a good idea would be to focus on company formation services, providing advice and assistance to fresh new companies.
Every generation is more tech-savvy than the last. There will come a day when millennials will be seen as the generation that new tech has passed by, but at the moment, they are the ones who are in the loop when it comes to being digital.
When Bill.com asked millennial business owners what they would like to see their accounting firms include as part of their services, more than 55% mentioned cloud-based technologies, more than 45% mentioned online invoicing and about a third mentioned digital payments. They were also quite clear about the importance of their accounting company being paperless, meaning that not everything is printed out. Moreover, only a very small fraction of millennials said that adopting new technologies is a challenge to them.
It becomes clear, therefore, that going tech-heavy is the way to attract millennial clients and the best thing about this is that it can really be a wake-up call for accounting firms that have grown accustomed to doing stuff the old way and refuse to update their practices.
Of course, it has to be pointed out that this emphasis on digital can also have its downsides, as millennial clients might expect round-the-clock availability across a variety of channels such as email, chat, various messaging software, etc. It can be a challenge to find a balance between being there for these younger clients and drawing a line somewhere.
Give Them the Big Picture
Perhaps the most interesting find in the survey that we have mentioned a couple of times already is the fact that a large percentage of millennial business owners are looking for accounting firms that can help them with the Big Picture stuff, the strategic level of accounting and finances in general.
This is perfectly understandable considering the relatively young age and the variety of educational backgrounds of these business owners. They are looking for someone who will be able to tell them (and in clear language) what problems they can expect down the line and how they can expect their company to behave financially-speaking in the future. This goes beyond mere consulting.
If your accounting firm doesn't have the people or the capacity to provide this type of service, it is not the end of the world, but it is definitely something that millennial clients may be looking for.
Instead of a Closing Word
While millennials definitely make up an interesting segment (the result of a particularly massive jump in technology and worldview), you should avoid lumping them in a single homogenous segment that will behave the exact same way every single time.
Millennials come in all shapes and sizes, so to say. You will find introverts and extroverts among them. You will find demanding clients and those who are happy just to get some assistance. You will find people who get everything the first time you explain it to them and those who might need a bit more.
In the end, don't be surprised to find out that millennials want what everyone else wants – a good service at a reasonable price.