There is no doubt in my mind. The more focused you can be as regards your ideal clients the more chance there is that they will recognise you as an accountant they should approach. And, if you have a clear focus, the easier it will be for other people you know to recognise when they can recommend and refer you to people who need your services. But having a niche or specialist area is not the only route to success.
You are not alone if you find the idea of focusing on a single niche or target audience too limiting. Perhaps you feel it would be premature or that your existing client base is too varied to fixate on just one type of future client? Or maybe you don’t want to be restricted to one target audience? You might also be concerned about alienating existing clients who do not fit that niche?
I have seen how referencing a niche or specialism can be a successful strategy for many firms and many accountants I know. I have also shared insights and ideas, as to how you can identify your niche, in numerous blog posts and articles over the years. But I also accept that not every accountant is comfortable with the idea.
There are many reasons for resisting the advice of those who would have us be more focused than feels comfortable. Not all such reasons stand up to scrutiny but many do so in my experience.
However, I have also worked with plenty of successful accountants who run practices or businesses that have a pretty generalised approach. Others appear to have a focus that is, in reality, very non-specific. Many years ago I was a partner at BDO when they claimed to be ‘Expert advisers to Growing Businesses’. It sounded like a specialism or niche and most decent clients had growth aspirations – so it only excluded those who were happy as they were – which meant they probably weren’t ideal target clients anyway. So this general approach served its purpose!
Many accountants and firms only pay lip-service to the concept of focusing on a niche or having a specialism. This applies to anyone claiming to specialise in SMEs. By definition this is NOT as specialism as over 99% of all businesses in the UK fit the definition of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises). So the claim to be specialising doesn’t work and may suggest the accountant or firm is confused as to what SME stands for. It’s not the same as OMB (Owner Managed Businesses) which is also an unhelpfully broad ‘specialism’.
It is clear to me that some accountants and firms don’t want to limit themselves to a niche or specialism. Even if they understand the logic and potential benefits of doing so, they are reluctant to do so. This is typically a mistake but it’s a common one and, in many cases, it is possible to compensate for this by choosing to STAND OUT from the pack in a different way.
Regular readers will know I have identified and reference my 7 point framework of fundamental principles that individual accountants can use to win more work and to be remembered, referred and recommended. No one needs to apply all seven. But it’s clear to me that the more principles you adopt the more effective will be your efforts.
Plenty of general practice accountants and those who work in larger firms are reluctant to reference a specific niche. If this applies to you I suggest this means you need to work harder on applying more of the 7 principles. This is more likely to be a successful strategy than claiming to specialise in a whole list of business sectors in which your clients operate. This approach tends to undermine the meaning of the word ‘specialise’.
By they way, the focus of this blog post is on those accountants who do not want to focus on a single niche target audience. Is this you? Do let me know what you think.