Distinguish Your Practice 

    If you run a humdrum practice, you can add more luster to your practice with these four facets. 
    by Vikram Rajan 
    Published May 17, 2010

    Alan Haft
    Vikram Rajan

    On May 11, 2010, I was a panelist on AICPA/PCPS’ webinar: The Future Is Write Now: How marketing your expertise must change! I previewed the webinar in my April column. Pithy writing sparks more referrals when your practice is already distinguished.

    More and more CPA practices are becoming specialized and focused. Thus, many accountants are enjoying the same peer-to-peer referrals as attorneys have for decades. Moreover, distinguished practices tend to be more profitable and fulfilling. If you run a humdrum practice, you can add more luster to your practice with these 4 facets:

    1. Specialized Credentials

    Beyond CPA, what other specialized designations enhance your name? The AICPA offers many accreditations, including Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) and Certified in Information Technology Professional (CITP). Likewise, many CPAs are also attorneys, MBAs and more.

    Specialized credentials help to fortify your experience and showcase your expertise. Like jewelry, the letters after your name make you stand out. Of course, don’t have alphabet soup after your name; that’s just gaudy. Also, be sure to explain the meanings of your less well-known designations (on your website).

    2. Service Focus

    You may already see how these facets fit together: Often, specialized credentials focus your service offerings as well. For example, CPA, CFFs may find financial forensics more lucrative than churning out tax returns. Likewise, CPA, PFSes may find financial planning more rewarding than general accounting.

    It is difficult to be great at everything. Worse is to be perceived as a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. By choosing to focus on one or a few accounting services, you are able to understand the subtle nuances of that practice area. You’ll be able to produce a variety of client examples within a narrow slice of expertise. By implication, you are apt to do a more thorough job than full-service accountants.

    3. Target Market

    Nearly always by extension, specialized practices (by credential and service) tend to target specific markets. However, any practice can divide and conquer a niche. Many CPA practices target by industry, e.g., construction, restaurants, or service professionals. Other practices target by income, e.g., high-net-worth (HNW), blue collar or freelancers. Still other CPAs may choose to target families by lifestyle, e.g., those divorcing, gay couples, Spanish speakers or even family businesses.

    Like focusing on specific services, targeting select markets help you to understand the clients’ nuances (unique challenges, overlooked and foreseeable issues). Again, you will be able to showcase a variety of case examples within their world. Moreover, you can translate your lingo into theirs. This builds greater rapport, loyalty and referrals to more clients like them.

    4. Title Enhancements

    Finally, your bio or résumé can be a place to find something remarkable about you. Your personal brand helps to distinguish your practice or firm. Even large firms benefit from the personal brands of its partners and associates. Notable CPAs and other Branded Experts™ often gain title enhancements because of the first three facets.

    The best titles include Founder or Director: If you haven’t started an organization, promote your leadership position with the AICPA or your local State Society chapter. Serving as treasurer on a charitable board or chairing committees at other professional or civic associations can provide you referral sources that say something about you (other than, “he’s good, trust me.”)

    The best title enhancements are Speaker on (xyz topic), and even better: Author of … After a few blog posts or articles, you have the makings for a book. While I’ve helped many clients publish their books, you can start with an e-book. Available to download on your website, an e-book positions you as an author, brands your expertise and collects the e-mail addresses of those visiting your site. Get started now.

    Conclusion

    A few decades ago, being a Certified Public Accountant was enough to attract attention in the marketplace. While CPAs still garner respect, you must distinguish your practice from your peers. By distinguishing your practice with one, two, three or all four facets, you’ll enable more of your clients and colleagues to refer the right type of clients to you.

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    Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for CPAs. Have a marketing question? Post your question at www.PracticeMarketingBLOG.com.
    © 2010




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