We know all of the stats about how Client Accounting Services (CAS) practices are the fastest-growing service lines in accounting. A CAS practice's average growth rate is 12-15% per year, but what if your firms' CAS practice isn't performing to expectations? If your existing CAS practice isn't measuring up to industry benchmarks, it's time to dig into the factors affecting its growth. Start simple - go back to basics and assess the business plan. Don't take anything for granted; question each of the underlying assumptions the firm made during the planning process.
As you dig into why your CAS practice is experiencing sluggish growth, make sure to review and rethink each of the four key areas listed below.
Is the firm targeting niches that align with existing strengths? At the start of a CAS practice, it can be difficult to turn down business when it comes through the door – after all, revenue is revenue. However, the more diverse your client base – in terms of industry and market – the more your CAS practice loses efficiency and a clear direction. Without SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and standardized processes to clearly define and direct the practice, your CAS profit levels will decline.
Start by focusing on existing clients, and see where the firm has existing SMEs. Currently focused on tax returns for dental offices? Consider targeting that same industry for your CAS practice. By refocusing your target to industries, markets, and product offerings the firm considers successful, efficiencies and profit levels will increase.
Menu of Services
Make sure the CAS menu of services is clearly defined and of value to the client. If your firm realized it wasn't targeting the right niche and pivoted, it might not be targeting the right services for the new niche. Ask existing clients what services they would find valuable, simultaneously educating them about your CAS offerings. Take this feedback into consideration when revamping the services being offered.
Don't just rely on client feedback, however. Utilize the experience gained from prior engagements, such as completing tax returns, to identify the services existing clients need the most.
Existing Client Communication
How are you communicating with existing clients? Do they know the firm has a CAS practice? How is your team discussing CAS offerings with them? When communicating with clients, keep your message clear, consistent, and focused on educating them about CAS's importance. Often clients hear CAS and think bookkeeping. Regardless of the benefits of well-organized and balanced books, the typical business owner doesn't value bookkeeping as a stand-alone service. The prevailing attitude is that they do just fine on their own.
Reframe the conversation around common pain points that CAS solves. Highlight cash flow visibility, making educated and data-driven decisions, and the availability of on-hand formal financial reports. Ensure every communication with existing clients provides a clear and concise value proposition – educate them on how CAS helps them run their business more efficiently and profitably.
Once communication with existing clients has been polished and refocused to communicate the value of CAS clearly, it's time to review how the firm communicates with prospective clients. Educating potential clients on how CAS can help them run their business will be essential to long-term success.
Similar to existing client messaging, don't focus on bookkeeping or how CAS can clean up their books. Instead, highlight how your CAS practice can supply cash flow projections, forecasting services, and provide reliable, up-to-date financials. For many small businesses, having formal financials and payroll information would have been very helpful during the early days of the Paycheck Protection Program.
While we listed four common pain points for CAS practices, this is by no means an exhaustive list, which is why including your CAS staff in these conversations is critical. Your CAS practice's sluggish growth is most likely due to a combination of all of the factors above, in conjunction with something not covered in this post. Maybe your staff isn't correctly trained to take advantage of the productivity efficiencies that help make a CAS practice profitable. Maybe pricing isn't in line with your target niche. Your CAS staff will be able to provide client feedback, including why a client discontinues service(s).
These insights about what your clients are – and aren't – looking for are potential gold mines, so make sure to include your customer-facing CAS staff in conversations. The demand for CAS services is only going to increase. In a recent poll by Capital One, 61% of small businesses said they needed more practical advice and tools to weather current and future economic disruptions. Don't fall behind. Review each of the points listed above, loop your CAS staff into the conversation, and reposition your CAS practice for long-term, sustainable growth.
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