19 Ways to Differentiate Your Accounting or Tax Business from Your Competition

Competition is heating up in the tax and accounting profession. Every year, more individuals are doing their own taxes as the software gets better. New chains like Bench.com are grabbing more of the bookkeeping market, and Intuit has even joined the fray with its Live service. New generations are entering the market with great new ideas and tech-savvy skills that previous generations don’t have.

If you’re worried, you probably should be – at least mildly concerned. The good news is that you can still do a LOT to differentiate yourself from your growing competition. Here are 19 ideas to get you started.

1. Year-round availability

Are you open year-round? Then call it out, since H&R Block and other tax chains may not be.

2. Years in business

How long has your firm been in business? If it’s been longer than your competitor, make that known in your marketing material.

3. Years of experience

Do you have more experience than your competitors? If you do, this can be a distinguishing factor. If you have Big 4 experience, name it in your bio or on your About page.

4. Professional credentials or certifications

Have you earned your CPA? That’s no small feat! (That was six months out of my life; I will never forget that investment of time and energy in my career.) Definitely make it known that you are certified and mention which states you have licenses in.

If you have an EA, mention it and include a page on what it is. Many people haven’t heard of it before, and the education will help your prospect understand what it means to be one.

Other certifications? Be sure to spell them out, let people know what you’ve earned, and in some cases, explain them if they are not ubiquitous. As a bonus, see our article on professional certifications.

5. Client reviews

This becomes more and more important every year as digital marketing expands to just about every industry. Businesses that have more reviews online generate more income.

The reviews clients leave you on your Google My Business listing, Facebook business page, LinkedIn recommendations, and other profiles distinguish you. Reviews add third-party credibility and often include adjectives about your personality and service features that prospects can benefit from.

6. Professional memberships

Belonging to a professional association takes you a step above a competitor that does not invest in themselves. Mention professional memberships such as AICPA, NAEA, NATP, state societies, AFWA for women, AIPB for bookkeepers, and any others you’ve joined.

Also list general business associations such as NAWBO, Vistage, and Chambers you have joined or participated in. If you are an officer or serve on a committee, be sure to mention that in your bio.

7. Superpower

Everyone has a superpower. What’s yours? Mine is being able to step into other people’s shoes to see what they are thinking. It come sin handy for marketing purposes, that’s for sure!

8. Customer service response time

How quickly do you respond to client requests? If it’s faster than your competitors, then that’s an advantage. If you guarantee a response by a certain amount of time, such as 4 hours, then that’s even better.

If you can’t afford to give all clients the same level of customer service, make service level be part of your package that you quote to clients. Clients that spend more with you should get a better response time, but it should also be factored into your prices. It might be that clients who spend less with you want a higher level of service. If so, they should have to pay more for it.

9. Industry expertise

If your firm specializes in a particular industry or type of business, then you can easily differentiate yourself. Specializing means more than choosing a niche; it means developing deep experience in the software, terminology, workflows, common pain points, metrics, and financial issues of businesses in that industry.

10. Community involvement

One of the most common ways to attract new business is connecting with them when doing volunteer work. Serving on a nonprofit board not only distinguishes your firm as one who cares about their community, it is also good business.

11. Soft skills

Are you a great listener? A good communicator? Able to take the complex and explain it in simple terms? These soft skills can differentiate your firm’s employees from others when they have superior soft skills.

12. Newsletter

Sending clients a newsletter can set your firm apart from others. It can provide your clients with interesting value and give them ideas about how to use more of your services.

13. Passion

What are you passionate about? If you love working with clients, solving their puzzles, cleaning up a mess, or finding new ways to make money, tell them. Enthusiasm is contagious, and most clients would much rather work with someone who is excited about their work rather than burned out.

14. Awards

Has your firm or its employees won any awards. Of course, you have to apply to win! If you’re a winner, flaunt it. Try to find a logo of your award that you can display. And if you’re wondering where to apply to get an award, check out our handy list.

15. Staff availability

Does each client have a key contact person? Are they readily available and easily accessible to answer questions and help with services? If so, you’re ahead of other firms.

16. Software certifications

Is your team tech-savvy? Have they earned certifications for their software knowledge? If so, display those badges front and center and let people know your team has been through training and certification on the software they use.

17. Complimentary resources

Providing resources that educate clients and improve their financial literacy can be a win-win. These can be as simply as providing a link on your website to the IRS’s refund status page or as complex as developing a thorough report on when to incorporate a business.

18. Owner/Partner availability

How available is the owner or partner to the client? This can be a differentiator for many firms. The more available, the better, but this is also costly to the firm if it’s not billed. So a happy medium needs to exist.

19. Problem-solving capability

One of the best differentiators is to simply be really good at solving clients’ issues. This requires problem-solving skills and strong accounting and tax knowledge. But it also requires an ability to read between the lines and acknowledge clients’ emotions about their financial situation.

When you can reduce your clients’ thought of uncertainty, project confidence, and deliver results, this is the best differentiator of all.