How to Identify Your "Right" Clients to Start on QuickBooks Online

In the Ultimate Client Onboarding Guide to QuickBooks® Online (QBO), we mentioned that there are some ideal clients to bring to QBO. Specifically, I mentioned the types of clients who fit the following general criteria:

  • Are comfortable working online
  • Want to grow their business
  • Value working with their accounting professional frequently

Let’s take a moment to dig into these criteria and a few more, as we think about clients that will be a good fit for QBO.

Working online. If your client is working online already – perhaps doing online banking, storing files online such as Dropbox or Box, or using Gmail or Yahoo! for email – then your client has already decided the internet is at least somewhat secure, reliable and where business is happening already. While I realize that other clients will eventually “get there,” I would encourage you to get started with the ones who are already moving (or have moved) in that direction.

Want to grow their business. Most small businesses that want to grow are willing to invest in that growth. They may be considering marketing and sales improvements, investing in a product or service offering, and training their teams. In order to understand the return on those investments, their accounting system needs to be kept up to date in order to provide information to them in a timely manner. Business happens quickly now, and if they want to grow, they can’t expect that pen, paper and spreadsheets will provide that insight fast enough.

Value working with their accounting professional frequently. When clients realize they can outsource their bookkeeping and accounting to a professional and receive better insight and advice than what they can do themselves, they’re going to understand when you say that you can keep their books up to date in QBO easier and with more real-time information. If they still want to provide check stubs/registers and see you more as a data entry, “get my taxes filed” person, then they may not be an ideal client for QBO right now.

Security. This often comes up when talking about the cloud, but thankfully much less than even a few years ago. When I think of some clients’ software and hardware “hygiene,” it makes me cringe. They haven’t updated anti-virus, malware, a firewall and other basic protections in too long, haven’t done backups properly in ages, and yet live in fear constantly of being hacked! The security measures adopted by Intuit® are far better than any security that we can even do. Clients that understand this should be looking to QBO.

So, now, let’s talk about industries. Again, we spoke in some broader categories before, being service-based businesses, medical professionals, retail and ecommerce. Let’s get into these and a few others.

Service-based businesses. There are many varieties of service-based businesses, including lawyers, assistants, construction contractors, graphic design artists, consultants and many more. While these clients want to be more efficient and make the accounting and bookkeeping as automated as possible, they also need good reporting to track profitability by client or project. This is a great fit for QBO and the apps that help to automate and streamline their processes. For example, TSheets by QuickBooks integrated with QBO Payroll to give your client a great way to see the labor costs for projects, ensure payroll is processed on time, and display everything for reporting without a ton of intervention. There are classes and locations to use in QBO as well, if you also need to categorize transactions more specifically. For billable expenses, Expensify is a great tool to use, for example, and for industry-specific apps, you’ll find many for the legal industry and contractors.

Medical professionals. Most doctors, therapists, counselors and medical professionals need to utilize a system that integrates with insurance companies for billing and for HIPAA compliance; however, their expense tracking can be done in QBO efficiently and effectively. And, since many of these professionals are unable to drastically increase revenue (other than through productivity, since many have a fixed fee they can charge), their expense management and reporting is more important than ever. QuickBooks Online can make that process easier and less expensive for their staff, and allow you to provide real-time access and more timely advice. Again, TSheets and QBO Payroll can be a great option, and depending on the complexity of reporting requirements, there are many tools to look at that can provide high level analysis, with a click-through look at details when (and if) the owners have time.

Retail and eCommerce. It is so easy to start selling online, and many retail stores with a physical location are now selling online, too. These business owners often have slim margins, so reporting and inventory tracking is very important. A quick search on inventory management in QBO will identify several apps that are great for these businesses, such as SOS Inventory and DEAR InventoryShopify is an extremely popular app for ecommerce, and so of course, they have an integration with QBO as well.

We can get into dozens and dozens of industry types that work well with QBO, and yet you are the one who knows your clients best. Your insight into the types of things they want to know and the information they need to know, is going to be your guide. Here are a couple additional tips:

  • Take time to research any app – speak to the app partner and gauge their service and support. Ask for referrals of clients and other ProAdvisors®that can speak to you about what it’s like to work with them, convert to them and more.
  • Be sure to use QBO in your own firm. It will give you such a different perspective on how to use the program when you are running your own firm through it. 

This article would not be complete without a mention of choosing a niche. While there are many apps that are “universal” across industries, such as TSheets, Receipt BankHubdoc or Expensify, there are many that will be used for specific industries (or types of industries), such as Clio, DEAR Inventory and Harvest. Having a niche narrows the search dramatically and makes the process less overwhelming. Check out this article for more information on deciding on a niche.

Finally, for those of you that can’t wait until QBO can “do it all” like QuickBooks Desktop did, I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think it ever will. The days of a one-size-fits-all accounting program is long gone. The world of app partners whose entire company wakes up thinking of LIFO, FIFO, physical inventory, serial number tracking and bin locations (for example) is here to stay. They are creating formerly mid-market level applications that are now available for startup businesses at a fraction of the cost. Businesses can start their journey without the huge financial outlay for their accounting application, and can be profitable more quickly. Your role as accountant can expand to include business coach and advisor, as well as accounting professional, and provide more value than ever before!