Why do clients leave their current CPA? With the birth or virtual accounting firms, several clients shift to it because they see some value, especially in the pricing comparison. Dominique Molina, the President of the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, reveals what’s going on with all the competition and the cannibalism in the accounting industry. A firm believer that understanding the buyer’s journey is crucial, she unravels the three areas to focus on so you can protect and arm yourself from the rise of online competitors. Hit the books and learn the value of creating pricing lists and the two wow factors that will outwit competitors.
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Why Do Clients Leave You? Stop Losing A Sale & Only Competing On Price Alone with Dominique Molina
Welcome, Dominique to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Michelle.
Thank you for being back here on the show. It’s always awesome to have you here. We always get great reviews because you’re always so entertaining.
I think I’m home.
Hopefully, everyone reading feels like it’s their home for them too because you’re always so insightful and you always know all the hot topics going on. I know that one of the hot topics that we were going to chat about is why do clients leave their current CPA? What’s going on with all the competition and the cannibalism in this industry? I know you have so much insight into it. I thought we would just dive right into that topic and see how we can support all of your fellow CPAs, accountants, EAs and bookkeepers out there. What do they need to do differently?
Everybody is talking about and starting to experience the pushback that we’re getting from clients because of companies like Intuit. They’re the parent company of QuickBooks online and TurboTax. There are a whole bunch of other new competitors that are the new kids on the block offering bookkeeping services for as little as $125 or $150 a month. That’s a great thing to be covering in your show. More importantly, talking about the impact that this can and will have on our industry and how to protect yourself and arm yourself against being impacted negatively from this.You want to get the maximum value you can for the cheapest price possible; that's human nature. Click To Tweet
I’m excited to talk about how everyone can protect and arm themselves. That’s important so they can keep their power and do something a little different with your knowledge and your wisdom because this is harming the industry for sure. Do you think this is competition though? What’s your take on that?
That’s a mistake that I want to help everybody avoid. If you think that this isn’t going to impact you, let’s say that you’re reading the start of this conversation and you’re saying, “That doesn’t impact me because I’m not in competition with QuickBooks. I don’t do people’s QuickBooks files. I don’t do bookkeeping. I don’t do accounting.” Be careful because it does impact every single one of us even if they’re not your direct competitors. It’s helpful to understand how people make their buying decisions. We’ve talked about this that it is all about perception. What happens is you have a very well-known reputable company that’s now taken a step forward. In April 2019, they launched their pricing tests on QuickBooks.com through the product so that they could reach directly out to their users and they’re able to purchase these QuickBooks Live. They’re able to participate in these services for as little as $150 per month.
I received a text from a friend that said, “I’m paying $327 a month. Do you think I should be looking at this because it’s cheaper?” That’s human nature. You want to get the maximum value you can for the cheapest price possible. It does all come back to what do people know about what we do. Unfortunately, they don’t get the nuances of our work. They stick a label on us and either call us an accountant or a tax guy or gal. In their mind, “My tax girl is going to take care of it, so I don’t have to worry.” When something like this comes out, they think, “Here’s another accounting service or another tax service. That’s a good deal. My person should be able to compete with that.” You may find yourself getting asked questions.
I know an awful lot of accountants are getting questioned right now about, “Is there any flexibility in your pricing because I’ve heard that Intuit is now offering this for a service and they’re a little bit less? I can go directly through QuickBooks online. Let’s go ahead and cancel our appointment.” It all comes back to what do people believe about what we do. Even if you’re not in direct competition with QuickBooks or an Intuit, it is a problem for you because it does shape what people expect to pay for a service. They have an expectation in mind of what they think the going rate is for these types of services. When we come back with something much higher than that, we now have to get over that hump with the shock factor.
I know that people are comparing their services to Intuit and all these other things where it’s $100 cheaper. One of the most important things to realize is that if you’re a business owner and you own an accounting firm, we do have to do something different. It’s the only way that you’ll be able to keep your clients instead of having clients leave you. It’s about why selling your value is so important. What’s the first thing that you think a firm owner should do to protect and armor what they have and to explain to their clients how these different services that are popping up aren’t a competition? How do they explain that?
The number one thing that you can do if you’re in this industry is to understand how our clientele makes their buying decisions. That does start with embracing and accepting the fact that they do lump us all together and acknowledging that they don’t understand what we do and put yourself in their shoes. I refer to this as taking their perspective on something. We always have to take their perspective because we have to understand their mental thought process in this exchange in what we’re doing. One of the things is looking at the nature of the product. What we sell is highly personal and private information that requires a high degree of trust. One of the ways that you get over that barrier or you get somebody to trust to and it takes time to build trust. You have to be able to give your word and keep your word for somebody to learn that they can trust you. Intuit does have an advantage over us on that because they’ve got this name brand recognition.
They’ve got bigtime celebrities doing commercials. They bought Super Bowl ad time and they have the budget that we do not. What can you do? We have to find ways to build trust and other ways, and that means that it’s going to take a little bit longer. Typically, expensive engagements are going to be a longer buying process anyhow. A lot of times I’m meeting somebody who is charging premium fees for the first time and there’s a little bit of fear or frustration like, “They didn’t buy right then. I suck at this. I’m stressed because this didn’t work out.” What I have to say is be patient because it takes longer to build up that trust. There’s far more trust required in a $30,000 tax planning engagement than there might be in an $800 tax return engagement. It’s a far easier choice for someone to decide to spend $800 than it is to spend $30,000.
Number one, understand how your customers make their buying decisions. Put yourself in their shoes, take their perspective to say, “If I was a customer and I’ve got a low-value item here,” I’m talking about bookkeeping and accounting. You may have a Master’s degree in bookkeeping and accounting, but the problem is clients don’t understand what that gives them. We know that it gives them access to somebody who’s got a lot of experience and knowledge who’s going to get it done right where it doesn’t have to be redone and all the old work thrown out, but they don’t get that.
What’s the second thing that you would recommend they do? Number one, how your customers make buying decisions and being patient and building that trust because an $800 engagement versus $20,000 to $40,000 is very different. What’s the second way to protect and armor their firms so they don’t lose clients and they’re able to do something different?
That starts with distinguishing yourself. Make it very obvious how you’re different from Intuit. Offer a different service. I can stick a label on bookkeeping or accounting services, for example. I can call it the financial dashboard service for entrepreneurs or I can call it a business owner’s financial plan. I’m thinking off the top of my head. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the same underlying service. You want to be able to instantly and obviously make that distinction in how you do something completely different. It might be through your process of how you intake work. I don’t know too much yet about the bots that are coming in and doing some of this work using automation. Maybe have a different type of service where if Intuit wants everybody to scan everything, maybe you do something a little bit different so that when you describe this service with a different name, people can see right away how you’re different.
Distinguishing yourself and creating differentiation in your services.
That could also include maybe even looking at a software change. Everybody uses QuickBooks because it’s been the leader in the industry and had a monopoly on the industry for a long time, but there are other solutions out there. I know a lot of people right now are looking at Xero as an option. There’s a lot of automation built in. If you can go through that educational process with your audience to say, “Here’s why I don’t use QuickBooks. Here’s why I don’t use Intuit for this, this and this. Here’s why what we do is better and different.”You have to be able to give your word and keep your word for somebody to learn that they can trust you. Click To Tweet
Not only on the software side but also on the process side and the intake side. There are so many variations on how one can distinguish themselves differently and differentiate themselves. It’s their D and D. What would be the third way for a firm owner to protect and armor so clients don’t leave them and they can do something different and focus on the value and their D and D?
If you do offer these types of services, connect them to something else that adds tremendous value. I’m going to give you an example here. For all of your audience, Michelle, that offers financial advisory services in addition to accounting or tax work, this is a great strategy. What you’re able to do is to show the value, “This is your return on investment for the work that we’re doing together,” but you don’t isolate the pricing. You bundle it together so that people don’t know exactly what they’re paying for. What that does is it makes it difficult to compare apples to apples because you’re not piecemealing it.
Let’s say you do sell bookkeeping or accounting services by including it with a list of other services that you offer. They’re not able to say, “I think I’m paying $327 a month for that bookkeeping service and here comes QuickBooks online and it’s $150. Now I’m going to go to QuickBooks because I recognize the name. I know I can trust them.” They don’t know exactly what they’re paying, but they do know that they’re getting a whole bunch of stuff from you being that Intuit is still dipping its toe in the water and experimenting with this stuff. You’re creating this perception of, “We do all this other stuff for you.” In that way, it’s obvious to the customer that they’re not going to get the same service by switching just because of money.
Not having it listed a la carte either. If you are offering ten services with your accounting or with your bookkeeping, you’re not going to itemize it so someone could go, “You’re charging $275 where with Intuit it’s $325.” You want to have a bundled package price on something like that.
Here’s another way to have that work in your favor. Let’s say that you have a pricing list on your website ten times those prices. When I say that, I imagine that makes people nervous because the first thought that might run through your mind is, “That means people aren’t even going to give me a shot. They’re not going to call me.” Think of the people who do. What you’ve done is you’ve created the expectation like, “You’re going to be expensive.” By the time the people do contact you who’d seen that are very highly qualified to sit down with you and have that conversation. In some ways, pricing lists can be helpful in that. They are helping to create an expectation. In doing so, you want to think about what expectation you are creating. Are you creating the expectation that you’re offering the same service as someone because you use the same language to describe it or because you’re selling it piece by piece? On the other hand, are you creating a perception like, “You’re not cheap, you’re expensive. You must be worth what you’re selling here?” You’re then offering additional things that your competitors are not.
Is there anything else that may be a bonus tip? I always know you’ve got something up your sleeve. Do you have some other bonus or some other tip that we could leave them with on how to do something a little different? Focus on the importance of value, focus on these three areas of protecting armor so clients don’t leave you as the CPA, as the accounting professional, so they don’t lose clients.
I would focus on the experience. That’s the new fad right now with everything going to automation and so many emails and so many automated text messages. It’s noise. People aren’t even hearing what we do anymore. What that’s doing is it’s making the experience much more valuable to the user. Think about what kind of experience someone gets when they’re interacting with your firm. Are they just getting emails? Are they getting texts? What you’re doing is lumping yourself in with those competitors there. What can you do to wow the client? How can you create that wow experience? It might have to do with what happens when they walk in the door. Are they met with a fancy coffee maker and they can get any kind of coffee flavoring they want and all the toppings? Did they come into a standard office and they’re asked, “Do you want to drink water? Please wait for the next available agent.” There are little touches that you can do to create that wow experience so that it leaves people feeling good about the fees that they pay you.
What would be a wow experience? I know there are a lot of people reading that have a business where it’s all 100% virtual? They’re meeting on Zoom and they’re doing 100% virtual business. What would be a creative wow factor that Ms. Molina knows in her head that would just be a great thing for someone reading to implement?
Two things come to mind that are especially important with virtual businesses. What we miss out on the virtual side, we need to try to make up the best we can and that is that we don’t have face time. I do think there’s some value in seeing somebody and looking them in the eyes and being able to shake their hand. We don’t have that in a virtual setting, to the extent that you can adopt technology that allows you to do this. That might include sending a web camera to your clients. If they’re going to sign up for my premium fee service, they’re going to get a wow package in the mail from me that has things that demonstrate our firm personality.
It has my favorite candy bar in it because that makes me happy and I want to share it with other people. It includes things like the webcam so that when we go to have our meetings, we can have that face to face. Do I care about a $40 webcam when I’m charging somebody $30,000? No, but it does create this wow factor for them so that when they get that package in the mail from me, it’s impressive. It leaves a very lasting impression and it allows me to recreate looking into their eyes through that virtual experience.
What is your favorite candy bar? Maybe the audience is going to send you a candy bar. I will put all of Dominique’s contact information and you can send her favorite candy bar.
Have you had those Take 5s? They’re amazing little candy bars. It’s a candy bar, but it has a pretzel in it, and the pretzel is a normal pretzel with salt. There’s something about the saltiness, the caramel, the chocolate. It’s all together in one bar. It’s called Take5 bar. I’m sure the five means something, but I can’t get over the salt and the pretzels. It’s got crunchy. It is savory.
Pretzel, chocolate, caramel and then there’s one other ingredient. That’s how you get Take5. We will make sure to go on Amazon. Thank you so much, Dominique, for being here with us on the show. It’s always an honor to have you.
Thank you so much, Michelle.
About Dominique Molina
Dominique Molina has long been passionate about helping small businesses pay less tax. Unlike other CPAs, her practice, beyond annual tax return preparation, also emphasizes proactive tax planning strategies to help small businesses leverage the tax laws in the same way that large corporations and the wealthy do. Unsatisfied with bringing her tax-savings approach only to clients her own practice could reach, she created a company that trains and certifies CPAs to develop special expertise in tax planning in accordance with her own high standards for advisory excellence and tax reduction goals. The result is a growing network of CPAs who are successfully reaching some 90,000 small businesses throughout the country.
Molina’s mission to save clients from overpaying their taxes led in 2009 to her founding The American Institute of Certified Tax Planners (AICTP), a company she presides over as CEO. Certified Tax Planners are a leading group of tax professionals who are specially trained in the art of long term, proactive tax planning. AICTP trains and certifies CPAs to develop special expertise in tax planning, and it provides ongoing education, information, and other resources for accountants, advisors, and small business owners. Molina and the company provide a valuable service to the small business community, because AICTP member CPAs, as proactive tax planners, are advising their business owner clients throughout the year on strategies to minimize their annual tax liability by putting tax laws to work for them. By capitalizing on the wealth of tax-saving resources in the U.S. tax code, she and they are helping small businesses pay less tax in April, and retain more revenues for growth.