What Do CPA Firms Say to Differentiate?

What does a CPA firm say to differentiate itself in the market? Which words a CPA firm uses to differentiate?

One word that you will always hear as a CPA firm owner or partner is “Differentiation”. Your business coaches, advisers, consultants, friends and even clients will ask you to differentiate yourself in the market.

Being “valuably different” is what CPAs want to do and communicating that differentiation is another challenge altogether.

Merriem-Webster defines a “Customer” as the “one that purchases a commodity or service” and a “Client” as the “one that is under the protection of another or a person who engages the professional advice or services of another”. When CPAs use identical softwares, the only thing that really differentiates them is their intellectual property. What probably gets CPAs the “clients”, not just “customers”, is the intellectual property. And this fundamental reflects in what CPAs are “saying” to depict this “superior intellectual property” in their communications.

A simple web search “how are we different CPA” gives over 66 million results in 0.63 seconds!! Here is a quick snapshot on some interesting things that CPAs are saying to communicate how they are different:

  1. No other CPA firm that provides the level of personal service that we do.

  2. We have expertise in fixing tax issues that no other CPA firm could.

  3. Does your accounting firm really understand your business?

  4. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (Albert Einstein)”.

  5. We are focused on your business in a very different way, which may not be right for everyone, but for those whom it is, we can make a meaningful difference.

  6. We work with our clients on all aspects utilizing resources typically available only to much larger businesses.

  7. At X & Y Company, we’re different because we’ve been where you are.

  8. No other CPA firm as knowledgeable and successful as we are in understanding legal recourse available to…..

  9. We are revenue building specialists.

  10. We help uncover and develop your key profit centers.

  11. No other CPA firm has more than one member in the XYZ Hall of Fame….

  12. We are involved, proactive, fully committed.

  13. We dig for tax deductions. We don’t just fill out forms.

  14. Our goal is to decrease your taxes and increase your net worth.

  15. You will never be surprised by our bill.

  16. No matter what the issues, no matter how complex, or mundane, or convoluted, we always bounce back with a solution.

  17. It’s not just about the numbers…

  18. At the XYZ CPA firm, the difference is relationship.

  19. Reducing taxes by minimizing profits is not what we do. We help you become more profitable.

And so on…

What are the most common approaches to differentiation amongst CPA firms? What exactly CPAs “say” to convey the differentiation to win “clients”? How do CPA firms demonstrate that their “intellectual property” is superior than competitors and hence they would serve the clients better than others?

It appears that majority of CPA firms are conveying intellectual property to their prospects in the following three ways :

  1. We have better expertise than competitors.

  2. We understand your business.

  3. We help you grow.

Ironically, CPAs deal with numbers all the time, yet, what is interesting is that there is a conspicuous absence of substantiating measurability in the differentiation efforts. For most, intellectual property is an abstract concept. Measurability of the “impact” that the intellectual property can make is something that can help CPAs differentiate better. It is hard to find CPAs that say something like “We help our clients save an average of 5.4% in taxes compared to previous year” or “We help add 2.3% more to our clients’ bottom lines, every year”. While it is understandable that the complex data mining tools may not be readily available to CPAs to provide such precisely measurable benefit statement, potential clients may be confused how to select a CPA for themselves.

If YOU have to tell in three sentences “How is your firm different?”, what would those three sentences be?

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