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How to Offer Advisory Services to Midmarket Businesses


Growing businesses are also faced with many components or moving parts, each one constantly changing and becoming increasingly high-tech. Business advisors can also be experts in these areas. 

Feb 3rd 2020
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Small businesses don't always stay small, and as their accountant you may have been with them since the beginning. It stands to reason they would want you by their side as they move to the next level, but that usually means they will demand more of you.

Increasingly, as businesses reach the next phase of their growth they have questions that go beyond compliance that you are uniquely prepared to answer...or are you. In this final installment on engaging with and ultimately advising midesize businesses, accountant and educator Erin Walsh Dyer directly addresses the need for adviosry services for growing businesses and how you can take that crucial step into this role for your businesses and your clients.

As a business advisor, you are equipped to monitor the components and offer advice so that clients have the freedom to focus on what they do best.  So why should CPA add advisory services?

I see it as a natural evolution in the role of the accountant. Due to the rapid changes in technology, including AI, our daily tasks have been ushered away from keystrokes and footing a table.

Apps and cloud collaboration tools have been automated and have replaced what we used to do by hand.  All this manual work used to take up the majority of our time each day. Not anymore.  So, what do we do with all this extra time? Advisory.

Our clients need help to interpret the results of all these moving parts. If we become that person overseeing all the components and interpreting results for them, we are now a valued member of their team. Even better, midmarket clients are willing to pay very well for advisory services.

So, what exactly are advisory services?  According to advisory service (noun) a consulting service in which (accounting professionals) develop findings and conclusions and recommendations that are presented to the client for consideration and decision making.

I recently did a webinar on growing your firm by focusing on the midmarket.  Afterward, I had a CPA reach out to me with these very practical questions.  I'll try to give some really simple and sensible answers:

1. In your experience, who are the clients that typically need to use an enterprise-sized accounting solution? 

This can be difficult to identify. Generally, it is midmarket.  But, it’s hard to put all those clients in a box.  At the risk of skirting around this answer, I believe that you must be an expert in an enterprise-level accounting app or software.

Know the specific features and solutions it provides to the midmarket.  If you know the solution you can identify which potential client needs it. 

Choose an enterprise-accounting product you will use and support in your firm, then become an expert in it. The potential clients who need it will then become obvious.

By the way, choosing the right accounting solution for your client does not only help the client but helps you manage and automate.  The proper choice can save your firm the time you need to now focus on the advisory role.

2. What are the best strategies for marketing to a midmarket business? 

Selling advisory to the middle-market is actually selling a comfort level. It’s that warm fuzzy feeling, so your messaging has to reflect this.  In this age of easy access to information and increased expectations, we must focus on customer experience. 

In your marketing, explain how you solve pain points, help plan for the future, and have their back.  So how do we get that message out to them?

 • Data-Driven Marketing: Social media has replaced the “yellow pages.”  This is where almost everyone is searching for help. If you are not comfortable with managing this, hire a contractor who loves social media. Tell them about your messaging strategy, and use their expert advice to get your message out there. 

Experience Marketing: Get yourself out there.  Speak at a chamber of commerce meeting, SCORE, or anywhere you might find a midmarket company in need of your help.  Or, host an event yourself.  Have a free training day and market it on social.

Tech-Based Marketing: I mentioned before you should become an expert in the accounting solution of your choice.  Well, become an app expert too. It’s time to geek out!  Begin posting about features that solve problems and how you can set up, fix, and train. You have the technology.

Now that we know what advisory means and how to attract your new midmarket clients, let’s find out where it is you fit in.  My advice is; do not try to do everything all at once.  You need to look at where you are thriving in your practice right now.  

Ask yourself, “What makes me excited about what I do?”  Is it troubleshooting technical issues, explaining financial reports, or knowing exactly what to do when a client has a problem with their workflows?  Where do you excel? 

Once you know this, you can decide what areas you should be advising on first.  You may have to do some more research and training to up your game.  Start where you are comfortable and add from there.

Personally, I went from a bookkeeper to an expert in advising. I love advising clients regarding solutions and doing personal coaching.  I have a colleague who loves to help in the boardroom. His practice helps plan and advise on the executive level. 

He actually runs board of directors meetings on behalf of his midmarket clients.  Guess what, the clients feel great, well served and pay him a premium for this elite service.

Where does your expertise fit in?  If you need help taking those first steps, get advice. We are all making this change together. Seek out advisory experts or colleagues going through the same journey and start helping the midmarket.

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