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Marketing your accountancy firm prices

Aug 14, 2015

Whether you’re looking over your shoulder at the prices other accountants are using, or staring at your website and wondering whether you need to have “three packages”, pricing for your accountancy firm can be confusing and concerning.

Fortunately, you are far from alone.

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We ran a webinar yesterday on pricing for accountants along with Steve Major of Pricing Power , and there were so many pearls of wisdom that my marketing tip today is to share these with you!

Pricing your accounting services 

The most important conversation to have is the ‘value conversation’ with a client or prospect.

Accountants like to come up with a price and then talk to the client (or, ideally, not talk to the client at all – just submit the price and get paid!).  That’s backwards.

Value is not always (or only) a number.

“It includes that touchy feely stuff that accountants aren’t as comfortable with.”

Whatever we’re delivering is solving a problem.  

The questions to answer are:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the cost to the client of not having that problem solved?
  • What does success look like in the eyes of the customer?

Certainty adds value. Ask the question, “How do we remove surprises for our client?”

  • The client wants to know, “When will the work be done?”  This is not the same as how long it will take you to complete the work.  It could take your team three weeks….but the work will be done, reviewed, and finished in a month. Or two months.  Make sure they know that.
  • If there are too many surprises, this results in a perception of lack of care.  You may care: but your client has to know about it.

When it comes to Xero, we’re not delivering a product (that’s what Xero does). We are delivering outcomes. What are they?

Distinguish between ‘magic work’ and ‘logic work’.  (At this point Steve reiterated that he himself is a chartered accountant, just in case any accountants listening were rolling their eyes and thinking ‘Oh here we go with the magic and the sales-y talk’).

“Magic work” is that work which accountants are highly qualified to do – such as taking all the information that is sitting in Xero, and doing something with it.

Helping the client to make sense of it.  Setting up a system by which they can track their profitability better.  Helping them automate bad debt chasing.

That’s the kind of work that they find it hard, or confusing, or so time-intensive to do that they need you to work a little magic. It may seem easy to you, but it often isn’t to them: which makes you the accountant magician.

There’s a big difference between pricing and payment terms.

Always price up front: but you can separate when you price from when you collect the money.

“The big problem with fixed pricing is that it’s actually hourly billing, dressed up in drag and pretending to be fixed prices.”

The real culprit is the timesheet.  (Steve pointed out that he has an entire workshop called “Kill the timesheet”.)  If we have a mindset around time, we look purely at how much time it will take – which very often leaves a lot of money on the table.

Have you ever bought a product or service and you found yourself caring about the cost to the supplier?

Of course not. That’s not your responsibility.  That’s theirs. What you care about is the result to you, and what you’re receiving for that price.

Offer options instead of ‘packages’.  

The difference is that the options aren’t showcased on your website or provided after a short conversation – they’re shared after you have established value.

Steve gave the example of a firm in Canada who have a 3-part value approach:

  1. Online interview – understand needs
  2. 2nd meeting (also online) – demonstrate what the accountant can do (no proposal or pricing)
  3. Present 3 options with pricing & get commitment

He mentioned that having three options (of the 1-2-5 variety) allows the client to compare – not with other accountants, but to compare within your own offering. That way they’re comparing your option 1 to your option 2, not accountant A to accountant B.

We accountants are often our own worst enemy when it comes to pricing.

It’s not the clients – we’re either accepting clients who are not a fit for us, or we’re shortchanging them by keeping prices at a level we think they would never go beyond.

You need to present a high price and then keep your mouth shut.

(What more is there to add?)

Marketing tips on pricing your accounting services 

When it comes to marketing your pricing, here are a few tips from me:

  • Choosing a niche or expertise area means you can command prices that are 14 times higher than your competition.

It’s true, Hinge told me. Download the full report in our free stuff.

  • Choosing a niche also means that you streamline your processes – because there are some elements that you do over and over again, and therefore you’re more efficient. Which means that if your prices are higher, your profits are higher. (Recognise anything in here from what you’ve been telling your clients lately?)
  • Using a content marketing approach means that you’re sharing helpful, relevant information that is useful to your prospects – and it means they come to you when they’re ready to buy.  So there’s no pushy selling required.
  • Putting ‘bronze, silver, gold’ packages on your website is beginning to fall out of favour – because accountants are discovering that it skips the value conversation.  This is fine if you’re selling a product (non-time-based), but most of you are selling services.
  • Copying how other accountants are pricing their services is the worst possible way to set your prices.  Not only does it bear no resemblance to your firm and systems, it encourages your clients to see all accountants as the same.