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Accounting Technology helps accounting firms effectively record, process, manage and analyze financial data for their clients. A number of stakeholders are impacted by the technology that an accounting firm chooses, as end-users or consumers of the services and information the solution is capable of providing or producing. The primary stakeholders for accounting firms are:
CPAs and Accounting Partners
As experts on accounting rules and accounting systems, and as the controllers of an accounting firm's purse strings, CPAs and accounting partners are the most relevant group for IT channel companies who provide outsourced accounting technology solutions. However, it's important to note that there is a great divide among the profiles of CPAs and accounting partners to be aware of.
Many small accounting firms have been around for decades and are operated by seasoned veterans, many of whom are nearing retirement age. Conversely, there's also an increasing number of accounting firms in the business start-up category to take note of, as there's been an influx of CPAs entering the accounting services market in recent years.
This trend has been driven in part by the need for an alternative to traditional employment, as many layoffs were initiated across a number of top accounting firms earlier in this decade, leaving many CPAs without a job in a contracting labor market. Now, as partners in their own accounting firms, a younger and more tech-savvy crop of CPAs are ripe for the picking, in terms of marketing accounting technology and services.
There are also several other important market factors driving growth in the marketplace, based on an analysis of the input provided by the top 100 most influential people in the accounting industry, as published in the article Top 100 Extra: The Biggest Issues Facing the Profession:
The increasing wide-spread adoption of cloud-based software across all industries has triggered an increase in the demand for cloud / SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) technology.
Increasing globalization and complexity have created a need for accounting firms to migrate to accounting technology that addresses international accounting rules, different currencies, and a host of other globalization-related issues.
Changing technology has increased the level of pressure on accounting firms to provide access to the latest in web applications, mobile applications, and social media tools, to meet the expectations of clients in the digital age.
There are also several factors restricting growth, as revealed in the same Accounting Today article, as follows:
An increasing segment of the accounting profession responsible for making technology buying decisions (i.e. CPAs and accounting partners) are nearing retirement age and frequently lack the impetus and motivation to focus on making technology changes that are critical to the future relevancy and survival of their accounting firms.
Decision makers do not understand the impact of cloud-based technology on the future growth and survival of their accounting firms.
Decision makers do not understand the opportunities that cloud adoption offers to grow revenues when offering services such as financial statements or payroll, by enabling data collection and reporting services to clients in real-time.
Decision makers assume that making changes will be costly to implement and maintain, based on past experience with traditional accounting software pricing models and services.
According to the 25th Anniversary North American Top Technology Initiatives Survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) in 2015, securing IT is the top technology priority of accounting firms today, which is a trend that should continue, as more accounting firms migrate to cloud based accounting technologies, which are more vulnerable to security risks than their traditional counterparts, in a number of ways.
Moreover, the increasing prevalence of BYOD (bring your own device) scenarios that allow access to client data on mobile and tablet devices further increases the IT security challenges that accounting firms currently face.
Security-, privacy- and compliance-related accounting information technology issues are a top priority for accounting managers and accounting partners today. These should be taken into consideration when developing your company’s marketing strategy when targeting small to medium sized accounting firms or CPAs without an in-house IT staff.
There are also several important market factors driving spending:
Increased competition caused by lower-priced accounting services directly marketed to consumers, by accounting, payroll and tax preparation software firms (e.g. QuickBooks, Intuit Payroll, TurboTax, and Bill.com just to name a few)
Increased competition caused by lower-priced accounting service options, such those offered by walk-in tax preparation franchises (e.g. H&R Block and Liberty Tax for example)
The need to use technology to enhance marketing of the firm's accounting services in the digital age (e.g. digital marketing and social media)
There are several reasons why accounting managers of small and medium-sized firms (without a dedicated on-site IT staff), may delay investing. Some of the key reasons are:
Lack of a formal technology plan
Lack of insight regarding changing business needs
Lack of interest, where they don’t see the need for newer technology like SaaS
Lack of understanding regarding the true cost of implementing new technology -- and the belief that making a change is not within the accounting firm’s budget
Lack of time as decision makers believe they would be unable to meet the time demands of migration, implementation, and training associated with upgrading existing technology
It’s important to analyze and address the motivations of evaluators and decision makers to devise a sales and marketing strategy that can effectively shatter the resistance that marketers face. Proactive measures are required on a pre-sales and post-sales basis, to attract and retain clients in the accounting technology arena, as with any other vertical market.
As recently as 5 or 10 years ago, a company’s marketing activities and spending would have been highly concentrated in the following outbound channels:
Direct response marketing using rented mailing lists
Running ads in trade journals
Attending trade shows and conferences
While these methods of reaching accounting decision makers and buyers may still work on some level, they are generally more costly to execute and fail to produce the desired ROI or sales conversion rates that marketers seek. This is because consumer attention has turned to digital media for investigating products and staying informed.
Today’s marketer faces the following challenges that effectively allow consumers to completely screen and tune-out their marketing campaigns and messages, in the following ways:
It’s common practice for consumers to throw away direct mail unopened, also referred to as “junk mail”, eliminating all chances of influencing a buying decision of a recipient. Moreover, most consumers today never make a buying decision without first doing research online, checking reviews and ratings, and a company’s reputation prior to a purchase, which is making direct mail marketing increasingly less viable.
Many consumers today rely on Caller ID to screen out telemarketers, to protect their time from long-winded sales scripts. Today's generation is more comfortable with less direct and less time-consuming communications or marketing methods, like email, text messaging and web chat – that allow greater control and mobility, while enabling multi-tasking.
The availability of web-based meeting tools and VoIP services, and the need to cut administrative costs in businesses across the board, has made on-site conferences and trade shows a less favorable channel for marketing products and services.
Marketing products and services via print newspapers, magazines, or trade journals is also falling by the wayside due to the increasing reliance on digital media by a younger generation of consumers, with many publications shutting their doors for good, due to declining readership and subscription levels.
“On-demand” digital media, including streaming music services, satellite radio broadcasts, digital cable with digital recording services, and podcasts have all empowered the consumer to effectively filter or tune-out commercial advertising on a massive scale.
The rapid expansion of mobile device use and social media services has permanently transformed the way that people make buying decisions today. In close to 60% of cases, the typical B2B sales cycle is essentially already over before a potential client contacts a single vendor (Source: CEB on “Why Solution Selling No Longer Works”), which is due to the greater level of influence that digital marketing has over buyers, as compared to traditional marketing methods.
Your company has already significantly lowered its chances of closing sales, by failing to implement an inbound marketing system. Regardless of the specific digital channels involved, inbound marketing provides the best opportunity to capture the attention of prospects, nurture leads, and close sales in the marketplace today, allowing your firm to virtually engage with potential clients on a 24/7/365 basis.
Inbound marketing helps accounting technology vendors do all of the following:
Attract the right visitors to your company website
Convert visitors to leads
Close sales with new clients
Build customer loyalty and increase customer retention
It’s time to transform the way that your accounting technology firm markets IT services in the digital age.
Download your free IT Channel Inbound Marketing Planning Guide today, to unlock the secrets of inbound marketing success for your business.