Posted in: Growth, Mark's Insights, Value Pricing,

In Part 1 of our series on CAAS, I noted an interesting phenomenon: as the pandemic sparked new interest in client accounting and advisory services (CAAS), the gap between the “haves” and “have notes” in CAAS continued to grow. As we’ve seen throughout 2020, firms who were already committed to embracing the cloud and transforming their practices are thriving. But it’s not just the technology that sets these firms apart—they are thinking about their services in a very different way.

So, how can you set your firm up for success with all the new opportunities available in CAAS? In our previous post, I outlined two foundational characteristics of successful practices—a clear strategy for your business model and a standardized tool set for your industry vertical. But what’s next after you have these items in place?

3. Pricing. I find pricing to be an art form, rather than something scientific. The challenge for most firms is trying to use an antiquated way of pricing CPA services with an innovative and forward-looking service like CAAS. I can’t tell you the number of firms that try to count the number of transactions and multiply by the time it takes per transaction to come up with a daily, then weekly, then monthly “estimate.” Blah. The client doesn’t care.

Successful firms in this category have thrown that all away and developed a three-tier pricing system. Typically, the lowest price in the system would be no less than what the client would pay for in-house services. So if the client wanted to hire a full-time bookkeeper who may or may not have the skills necessary to provide a reliable financial statement, that’s an option at about $40k per year, plus benefits, time off, etc. Alternatively, they can hire the firm for, let’s say, $3,500 per month, and the client will get better information, with full financial statements, KPIs, and a dashboard they can see 24/7. And if you’ve chosen your industry vertical judiciously as indicated on my previous blog post, each new client you onboard becomes more profitable than the one prior because you’ve already established a standardized chart of accounts, GL, financial statement package, etc. That’s the base price. We’ll discuss the next two price points in the advisory discussion.

4. Incorporating advisory services into CAAS naturally. CAAS is a natural fit for advisory, which is why I like two As in CAAS, not just one. Sure, the accounting is important, but it’s the advisory that truly makes this viable and incredibly profitable. And if you’ve chosen your industry vertical wisely and priced strategically, the advisory can be incorporated into the service in a seamless way.

Focusing on an industry niche gives you all kinds of data that can help you be smarter about what’s happening in that particular market. What one client does well can be shared with another client who may be struggling in that same area. And as you shift to three-tier pricing, you can naturally incorporate the advisory into the engagement. So if your base price includes the transactional activities, financial statement, and dashboard, the middle tier can include a planning day up front as well as regular check-ins that you and the client determine—I’d say at least twice per year, but most likely quarterly. Then the top-tier price can include everything we want to offer, plus monthly check-ins, budgeting, sales goals and systems, expansion initiatives, and so on—the possibilities are endless. You will typically see about 70% of your clients choosing the middle tier, so make sure that’s the tier with the highest profitability.

Some firms may feel hesitant about the advisory space, but it is the wave of the future. At Allinial Global, we’re working with third-party providers to give firms the tools they need to feel completely confident about moving forward. In addition to our CAAS firm assessment, we will have pilot programs from Sage, as well as a CAAS workshop on transforming your practice. I hope you’ll consider joining us in May for our CAAS workshop so we can start turning your CAS practice into a true CAAS practice!


      
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Posted in: AG Events, Growth, Value Pricing,

Last week, Allinial Global hosted over 50 business developers, marketers, and partners-in-charge of marketing on Zoom for the annual BD/Marketing Conference. While all of us missed the magical moments that inevitably happen while connecting in person, our members, presenters, and staff made the most out of two half days together and even set a record for the longest continuous Zoom session here at Allinial Global. On our first day, we went from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. EDT!

If you weren’t able to join us last week, I’ve shared my top three takeaways below. Most of us are familiar with the 3 Cs of marketing—company, customer, and competition. But have you noticed what I’d like to call the 3 supplemental Cs of accounting marketing—courage, collaboration, and community? Please allow me to explain.

1. Courage. As accounting marketers, most of us are in a team of one or a few, outnumbered by accountants who think quite differently from the way we do. This means that we face many opportunities to convince our executive team—with moderate to high risk-averse tendencies—to try something new for the firm, such as social media, Google Ads, or video. And here’s where our first supplemental C of marketing comes in. We need courage to question and change the status quo. Testing new approaches is a critical component of digital transformation. We can’t rely on Excel spreadsheets to keep track of prospects and clients forever. Sooner rather than later, we need to identify and implement affordable CRM solutions for our firms. We can’t rely on outdated websites and anemic social media presence if we expect to recruit the brightest young talent and win next-generation clients. We need to continuously update and enhance our digital presence with the help of different groups of stakeholders. Future-ready firms are transitioning to value-based pricing and leveraging three-tier pricing and subscription models for their services, especially for Client Accounting Services (CAS), and we need to find allies within the executive team to move the pricing needle. This point leads me to the introduction of our next supplemental C: collaboration.

2. Collaboration. For accounting marketers, collaboration with your internal stakeholders is obviously important. No marketing initiative—whether it’s a virtual or in-person event, email campaign, or new niche/service line—can be executed without collaborating with your practitioners. Depending on the project, you may also collaborate with other departments as well—IT, HR, and so on. In fact, we had a panel dedicated precisely to this topic for this year’s conference! But in a post-pandemic world where the pace of change is accelerating and unpredictable, collaboration with your external team is also critical. How do you pivot to virtual events when you’ve never even hosted a webinar before? Do you proceed with strategic marketing projects during uncertain times? How do you get into video marketing with zero budget? If you’re a member of Allinial Global, you’re in luck! You can connect with a virtual team of marketers who will not hesitate to share their insights and experiences to help you make an informed decision.

3. Community. Last but certainly not least, community is the third and perhaps the most important of the supplemental Cs. Whether you are a member of the Association for Accounting Marketing, Allinial Global, or some other alliance, having your own community of marketers is invaluable—regardless of your experience level in accounting marketing. At Allinial Global, we have a formal system to create and cultivate this sense of community by segmenting marketers beyond just firm size. Recognizing that the marketing tech stack is playing an increasingly important role for the accounting profession, I will be creating a HubSpot mastermind group, for example. I believe that we learn best by executing, not just attending a class or reading a book, and we improve the fastest by connecting to a community of peers who share similar goals. Cultivating and improving this type of community within Allinial Global is one of the things that I LOVE about my job, and I can’t wait to share my future plans with you all.

If you are interested in joining the extraordinarily talented and generous marketers and business developers of Allinial Global, please reach out to me anytime.