How to Stand Out in a Crowd of Accountants

In the past few weeks, my travels have taken me to two distinctive destinations with some amazing options for great hotels: Seattle and Palm Springs. Both cities are filled with quaint little boutique hotels that are not your average Courtyard by Marriott or Hilton Garden Inn rest spots. Each one may have their own unique style, but for the most part – a hotel is a hotel, right?

In a similar way, living and working in Orange County, Calif., it’s hard to go more than a block or two without seeing a sign for an accounting firm. In fact, I have numerous clients that are actually located in the same complex or even the same building.

So, what do you do to get noticed when you’re surrounded by other accountants? After all, aren’t all accountants pretty much the same? They all offer similar services, at similar prices, and all have similar credentials declaring them qualified to assist small businesses with accounting and bookkeeping needs. So what makes an accountant stand out in a crowd?

Traveling as much as I do, I have my favorite go-to spots that I have come to find over my years on the road. Most of these have come from referrals or simply because I’ve previously enjoyed my experience at the property. Neither of these things, however, would prevent me from venturing to another hotel, nor make me feel any obligation to continue visiting the same property. Although, every once in a while, I get that little something extra that reminds me why I keep coming back … which brings me to my challenge:

What do you do to show your clients that you value their business and you want them to come back?

On a recent trip to Seattle, after arriving late one night, I called in a quick favor from my hotel concierge to assist with a reservation at a local restaurant where I planned to take a client the following evening. At dinner, I was blown away when an appetizer arrived at our table with the explanation “compliments of your hotel concierge.” Wow – what a way to make a big impression!

I realize that sending crab cakes to random business dinners isn’t always feasible, but think about the endless possibilities of ways you can do something special for your clients to remind them they are more than a name and a number. When a client calls with a question or request, how can you turn a simple answer into a truly great experience that not only answers their question or solves their problem, but makes them feel like you really care?

I recently celebrated my birthday with a weekend getaway to Palm Springs. One of my favorite hotels, The Parker, rarely disappoints with their customer service. This particular weekend, they really outdid themselves. Everywhere I went all weekend, I was greeted with “Hello, Birthday Girl” and shown the royal treatment, right down to the bottle of Champagne and handwritten birthday card that was left in my room while I was away at dinner.

In today’s world where handwritten mail seems to be a lost art, I always smile when I receive a hand-addressed, signed birthday and holiday card from my CPA and his staff each year. Sure, it takes them a little time – and even some organization to remember to do so – but that’s what makes it special.

Whether it’s a simple gesture of a signature or going the extra mile to provide value as a trusted advisor instead of simply a yes or no answer, it doesn’t always take a lot of effort to make a big impression. What it does take however is the mindset that your clients want to feel valued. By providing that experience to them, they’ll likely be singing your praises and referring others your way.

That is the best way to stand out in a crowd.