Redefining Competition: Why Your Peers Aren’t Your Biggest Threat

Feb 27, 2024 | Accountants, Business development

Have you ever wondered why you worry about the competition? Those rival accountants, service providers, bookkeepers, tax advisors, financial advisors, business and management consultants who seem to want the same clients as you? And why they occupy so much space in your mind?

There is an old adage: Worry is like a rocking horse; it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

I know it doesn’t work for everybody but I always try to keep that old adage in mind. To stop worrying and, instead, to think about what actions I can take to improve my situation.

And when I’m working 1-2-1 with my mentoring clients this is something we may focus on too.

Worrying about the competition is a very unsatisfying. It doesn’t help move us forward unless we are inspired to do things differently, better and more productively.

And what if I told you that your true competition might not be who you think it is?

Your true competition is NOT every accountant around. And it’s not even every accountant who would welcome the same clients as fit your ideal client profile.

But here’s the twist: perception isn’t always reality.

One of my mentoring clients felt outmatched by a competitor—until he discovered he was actually outperforming them.  More on that later.

The Illusion of Competition

Who do you see as your competition?

  • One or more of the other accountants who are local to you?
  • Larger firms?
  • Independent firms?
  • Online only providers?
  • Accountants who attend the same networking events as you?
  • Accountants who YOU see as being very active on social media and/or on Linkedin?
  • Those whose appear in the same online search results as your firm does?

If you see ALL of them as your competition you may have unrealistic expectations as to your potential and your reach.

What about your ideal clients?

I often encourage accountants to think carefully about who they want to attract as new clients. What subset of ALL the businesses in the world or the UK do you really want to have as clients?

There is ALWAYS a subset. And once you have some idea at least of who might be in that subset, you are better placed to consider who is your real competition for winning those people as clients.

In the same way that not all business owners are your target clients, so not all other accountants are your competition. In fact, in most cases very few other accountants will be seeking to provide the exact same services, on comparable terms to the exact same clients as you.

I suggest that it can help to divide those people who are genuinely competing for the same clients as you and who may be trying to win clients away from you, into one of three categories :

The Weaklings
There are always some accountants who are not as good as you. When you’ve taken over clients from them or talked to people who have been their clients, you are reminded of how good you are. This can be quite a nice boost for your ego.

The key is to consider how you can better evidence your superior service to anyone who might be attracted to work with a ‘weakling’.

The Equals
There are often plenty of accountants who seem to be just as good as you. This is where most accountants get stuck. Fearing that they are all the same. It’s not true as you are all different. You need to recognise that you each have different backgrounds, skills, talents, experiences, style, approach, preferences and fees.

When these differences are apparent, you must accept that some people will be attracted to you and others will prefer someone else. That’s life. We cannot expect everyone to want to work with us.

The Titans
Finally, there will be some competitors who you feel are genuinely better than you. You may have a crisis of confidence when comparing yourself to what you see of their marketing. Do keep in mind that this may not reflect reality as I explain below.

Misleading marketing activities

There are plenty of apparently successful and popular accountants posting daily content all over social media and Linkedin. Some may be genuine but I know plenty who are struggling more than you might imagine.

One of my mentoring clients tells me how he was approached by one of his competitors, whose firm my client believed was much more successful. In conversation, it transpired that my client was the more successful of the two despite his competitor’s marketing material and apparently higher profile.

It was an important lesson for my client.

It’s worth accepting that some people will be better than you. Acceptance of that can prompt us to want to improve – which is a good thing.

Instead you could choose to see them as inspiration and motivate you to do things in a different way. You could also look at how you could better distinguish the benefits of working with you and your firm. This should make it is easier for the right type of ideal clients for your practice to choose to work with you rather than with your competitor.

Embrace your uniqueness
Do you not fixate on any of your competitors as that will distract you from focusing on how you can improve your own service, marketing and messages. Don’t try to be them or to copy them. Focus on your own strengths and what makes you special and different.

Acceptance breeds improvement. Instead of fixating on rivals, let them inspire you. Highlight your strengths, embrace your uniqueness, and make it easy for your ideal clients to find you.

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