Don’t hide your strength – promote it!
Few CPAs are true generalists. Far more commonly, accounting professionals and their firms are broadly competent but take a deep dive into one or more areas of special focus. Many choose to keep this niche knowledge under wraps, fearing that identifying as an expert in this area will limit their appeal to potential clients who need more generalized help – or who don’t know themselves that they could benefit from a niche-specific focus.
Defining yourself as a one-trick pony comes at a cost, but completely ignoring your depth of knowledge in specific areas isn’t a smart choice either. By becoming more visible as a resource with deep understanding in a particular accounting issue, you have the opportunity to stand out and gain much more business than you might lose through a perceived narrowing of focus.
Perhaps even more significant is the enhanced potential for referrals. When you demonstrate deep niche expertise, you’ll gain respect from colleagues as well as clients and significantly increase the likelihood that they will make referrals based on your knowledge and experience in your chosen focus area. Few CPAs will make a referral to another firm for general purposes, but it’s standard practice and a responsible act to send your own clients to a known expert when their needs call for specialized skills.
Taking advantage of your niche knowledge doesn’t require you to give up more general work, nor must your marketing ignore the fact that you can help a wide variety of clients. Rather, the goal is to claim your territory as an outstanding resource in one area, while keeping the doors open to everyone else. (To begin with, anyway. Once you’ve discovered how much business you can gain by sharing your niche expertise, you may well want to focus exclusively on your area of specific interest.)
If your firm hasn’t yet capitalized on your particular strengths, start by taking every opportunity to share your wealth of knowledge. This might include:
- Updating your website – Don’t trash all your existing copy that touts the benefits of your broad service areas but do add a paragraph or two (complete with examples, where possible) detailing your depth of knowledge and how it has benefited clients. If you can create one or more case studies that showcase your niche-specific contributions, by all means do so.
- Adjusting your blog strategy – Go in-depth to address issues within your field of specific expertise, even if this means skipping some of the more general topics that other firms are writing about. With so many sources of content already, your posts wouldn’t add all that much to the discussion anyway. Your specialized articles, however, will be welcomed enthusiastically by the folks who need that less-available information.
- Being active on social media – Talk about your niche issues on the usual channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) when new developments happen or laws change. More critical, though, is that you find the narrower forums where participants are talking about concerns in your focus area. This might be a LinkedIn group, and industry forum, or another more niche-specific site. When you regularly answer questions, offer explanations and share your knowledge here, you earn recognition as someone who understands the topic and can be counted on for sound advice. Referrals come quickly for those who achieve that kind of reputation.
- Publish in niche-specific channels – Submit articles to online and print publications that are heavily focused on your area of interest. Here, you can delve even more deeply without fear of losing your audience. It’s a great way to reach potential clients while establishing your credentials as someone who truly understands the issues, and can easily lead to referrals from readers who appreciated your offerings.
- Search out speaking opportunities – Once you’ve been recognized as an expert in your area, you may find other forum participants coming to you with requests for presentations. Don’t just wait for it though; contact the groups, conferences and companies that are active in this area, and offer your services as a speaker. This is another great way to generate a plethora of client referrals.
Claiming your turf as a niche expert doesn’t have to mean closing the door to other work. Go ahead and reveal your expertise so that clients who need it can find you easily. Hiding your light under a barrel may feel more comfortable, but it doesn’t benefit your firm or the clients who need the specialized knowledge you possess.