Running a business

How to Measure the Value of Your Services for Accountants and Bookkeepers

How do your clients measure the value of your services? Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder. In an attempt to understand what consumers value, Eric Almquist and his colleagues at Bain & Company spent three decades on consumer research and observation. Their research identified 30 separate elements of value, which you can explore here in an interactive graphic.

Bain’s research found that companies that scored high on four or more elements demonstrated four times the revenue growth of companies that had only one high score. These elements can be arranged in a pyramid resembling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with lower-level value items at the bottom and higher-level items at the top.

When your services satisfy more needs, they’re perceived as more valuable. The higher up the pyramid these elements are, the more valuable those services are – and the more valuable your services, the higher the price you can demand.

Let’s explore how this can be applied to an accounting or bookkeeping firm.

Basic bookkeeping, accounting and tax prep services fulfill many of the bottom level, functional elements:

  • Saves time: Clients have more time to focus on their businesses when they hire you to do their bookkeeping. Cloud technology can save them even more time.
  • Simplifies, reduces effort and avoids hassles: Outsourcing bookkeeping, payroll and tax preparation reduces the administrative tasks they need to take care of. You also want to make it easy for clients to do business with you.
  • Makes money and reduces cost: You’re always on the lookout for tax-saving strategies and ideas to boost their bottom line.
  • Quality: You demonstrate this by doing good work, being professional and keeping your word.
  • Reduces risk: Hiring you to prepare their taxes keeps them out of trouble.
  • Connects: Your online portal gives clients 24/7 access to their data.
  • Informs: Your newsletter keeps clients informed about the latest tax changes and gives them business advice.

Simply fulfilling these needs is the basic level of service for bookkeepers and accountants; it’s what the public expects of us. Excelling in these areas will set you apart from the competition and increase your perceived value.

To move higher up the value pyramid, you need to also satisfy emotional needs:

  • Reduces anxiety: Outsourcing payroll gives clients peace of mind that this complex task is taken care of. Handing over IRS or state tax authority notices for you to deal with is a huge relief. Regular meetings and financials, updated in real time, eliminate tax bill surprises.
  • Provides access: Transferring documents via your portal, and using Skype or other online communication platforms, make it easy to stay in contact. Establishing a relationship with a group of accountants who share their expertise means that a small firm can provide the expertise of a much larger firm.

Giving your clients peace of mind is a chief reason they hire you and keep coming back to you. Are there additional ways you can boost that?

When your services move into the life-changing realm, they get another step-up in value.

  • Motivation: Business coaching helps your clients achieve their goals.
  • Heirloom: Estate planning and succession planning enable your clients to create a legacy for future generations.
  • Self-actualization: Guiding your clients to achieve financial, business or lifestyle goals will make their dreams come true.

Fulfilling these needs means stepping off the hamster wheel of compliance work and into transformational work. This may be a challenge for those of us who have focused on getting the debits and credits lined up, and the right numbers in the right boxes on the tax returns.

At the top of the pyramid, your services have social impact and provide your clients with self-transcendence. An example is helping a client develop a charitable gifting strategy that extends and multiplies their values through organizations performing the work that supports those values.

It’s unrealistic to excel at all 30 elements. Choose a few elements that form the core values of your offerings, and perfect those. Keep these elements in mind when you consider adding additional services. When your clients perceive a higher value in your services, you’ll increase their appreciation for what you do, and they’ll be willing to pay you more.

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