Supercharging Sustainable Long-Term Growth

To achieve sustainable long-term growth in bookkeeping, put the product before the marketing.

Recently, I attended a tech talk by Kim Kaplan, vice president of Revenue Optimization & Strategic Growth for Plenty of Fish (POF), during which she reflected on how, through sustainable long-term growth, POF was transformed from a one-person start-up into an international, publicly traded company.

Kaplan’s role with POF is unique in that she manages marketing, as well as product development. In most tech companies – in most companies, period – these roles are separate, so why did POF choose to combine them? According to Kaplan, the biggest increases in user engagement and paid user subscription are driven by product innovations. Marketing helps in the short term, but delivering a better product has a far greater impact on sustainable long-term growth.

So, what does this mean for you? How might this message apply to individual bookkeepers and firms offering outsourced bookkeeping services?

Ensure the quality of your product and services. The only way to achieve sustainable long-term growth is to ensure you have a top-notch product. POF’s products are their apps, website and matching tools, which provide a service – matchmaking. Bookkeeping starts with a service that results in a product – completed financial records. So, first and foremost, improve the quality of the client files and accounts you handle. Be accurate. Be precise. Eliminate mistakes.

Good work encourages referrals from existing clients and their accountants.

If you work independently, your work reflects directly on yourself. If you run a firm with a team of people like our team at Legacy Advantage, it’s more challenging because now it’s not just you and your work, but also your team and your team’s work that reflects on them, on you and on the business.

There’s not one way to manage this, but I can tell you from experience that at Legacy, we learned the truth of the adage “quality over quantity.” Our company grew from one to 15 people in just two short years. During that time, we were also taking on more and more clients, and the pace of our client growth began to outstrip our ability to train our staff or review their work. This posed some quality control challenges, and even though 90 percent of the time there were no problems, the 10 percent resulted in some client turnover.

Recognizing this, we righted the ship. We made changes to our leadership team, doubled down on file reviews (don’t underestimate these – they are an important part of the process!), increased employee training and tied a portion of our associate’s income to the quality of the work they produce. These measures have prevented further loss of clients, and, in fact, have even brought in new clients who are confident in our quality management process.  

Create an outstanding client experience. Bookkeeping is a back-office service, almost like a utility, and the better your service, the more invisible you are. Therefore, it’s up to you – the service provider – to ensure that your clients have an amazing experience each time they interact with your business.

For example, a friend of mine runs an auto body chain called Colorworks. After my stolen car was recovered, I took it in for service and picked it up a week later. So far so good … an overall bland experience. A week later, I got a call from a Colorworks employee, Patricia, asking me how things were going and how the car was doing. I was ecstatic! No auto body shop had ever called me to check in before. It was a very memorable experience – a WOW moment.

Ask yourself, is your firm delivering any WOW moments? Are you even thinking about it?

To be honest, Legacy Advantage is just beginning on this journey. We’ve mapped out our “Customer Experience Journey” and identified “Customer Interaction Points” where we can do better or show more care. Here are some areas that we’re working on:

  1. Onboarding. Whether they’re switching providers or simply unsure of the new processes, this is a very emotional time for clients. We provide an onboarding process checklist and offer weekly updates by phone or email. We also send them a gift basket and card thanking them for their business.
  2. Major fiscal year events. From annual taxes to audits and end-of-year fiscals, there are plenty of financial milestones that cause anxiety for our clients. On these occasions, we send them a gift basket, treat or other indulgence, and offer some words of encouragement.
  3. Client anniversaries. It sounds simple, but it’s important – recognize and thank your clients for their ongoing support. We send a card, email or even pick up the phone to acknowledge their client anniversary with Legacy. Personalized acknowledgements are also great – we send “Happy Birthday!” notes.

Add fuel to the fire with marketing. One of my mentors told me, “A good product makes marketing super easy. A bad product makes marketing almost impossible.” So, to be clear, product = fire and marketing = fuel, not the other way around. For bookkeepers, this doesn’t mean your files must be 100 percent correct and your clients 100 percent satisfied before you engage in marketing. Let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen. But, as you make progress in these two areas, you can increase your marketing spend and start building momentum.

How do you handle quality control? How do you make your clients feel special? Connect with me to let me know.