In almost every mid-sized town across the country, CPA firms dot the landscape, and business owners can’t tell the difference between one and the next. It’s easy for a CPA to become commoditized. It’s hard to stand out in the crowd where everyone is offering the same services and potential clients might not know what a good relationship with a great CPA can do for their business. However, there is a secret to capturing clients and keeping them—being the best CPA firm in town. Any CPA can buy ads, sponsor local community events, or attend networking sessions. If your CPA firm is in a community of very engaged CPA firms, it might feel like you’re not doing much to differentiate your CPA firm from everyone else’s—and you’re not. Strong referrals make the difference.

Business owners want to know they’re doing things right and they need to know how to make their businesses run more smoothly. The best CPAs help business owners achieve this goal by sharing valuable insight, rather than just dealing with the books. As a CPA, you have expertise that a business owner doesn’t — for example, in sales tax filing. Instead of fixing mistakes time and time again, working with business owners to fix the problems will turn you into a valued confidant, rather than just someone who crunches numbers. Becoming an asset to a business owner takes time and effort but leads to conversations that business owners really value. When a business owner is thinking about expanding and is concerned about financial and sales tax repercussions, they’ll turn to opinions they value—and pay for them. So how do you become a valued CPA? Don’t just gloss over issues when a client has the same sales tax issue time after time and you’re spending hours fixing it every year, it’s time to sit down with your client and explain the issue and how it can be resolved.

Explaining that they can save money on CPA services by taking your advice will make them happy. Plus, it’ll give you more time to put towards other clients. Be thoughtful about life events and accomplishments. People like being told they’re doing great and being recognized for meeting goals. If you know a business wants to make a certain sales goal for the year, send them a formal congratulations when you see they’ve met it. Taking the time to remember birthdays and important holidays with handwritten notes goes a long way to creating a strong connection. Help them streamline processes When you give advice to business owners and they don’t know how to apply it, it’s an opportunity for you to provide the support a business needs and become a vital part of their business.

Never pass off a difficult job to another CPA because you just don’t want to deal with it—instead, earn the trust of clients by being there for them when they need help. Do something out of the ordinary CPAs who do something that’s different will be well remembered—and talked about. Try holding an annual picnic for your clients or starting a special annual lecture series about business issues that your clients are concerned about. Providing value outside of your normal offerings will make your firm look even better. Give these different techniques a try and see if it helps improve your relationships with your clients.

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