Cloud accounting is the most fabulous thing to ever happen to small business owners and financial professionals. As it becomes more mainstream and the novelty wears off, cloud accounting companies need to find creative ways to carve out their unique niche in the market to continue to stay relevant. Read below to hear why, as a girl who loves celebrity gossip, I'm obsessed with this new industry and my advice to them as they grow their businesses.
I remember the first time I heard of "cloud" accounting. I was at my desk, buried under a million spreadsheets and trying to make sense of a thousand invoices and contracts and systems that didn't talk to each other. At the time I was at a ski resort and in charge of making sure our group visitors paid "accurate" invoices. Accurate is the operative word when I had to reconcile lodging, restaurant, ski and Food/Beverage systems that did NOT integrate. At all.
It was during one of those days that I wanted to throw my desktop out onto the ski hill, that I came across a company that had an interesting name.
I looked up their website and it was love at first sight. Beautiful accounting software with Tiffany blue all over their marketing material. I literally heard the angels singing and realized this was the only way to get me, or any other accountant who actually liked having a social life, to begin to enjoy their job.
Their name was Xero.
I immediately became a fanatic about cloud accounting and researched all of the other companies within the space. I literally stalked Xero on social media, frantically researched the online version of Quickbooks, Sage, Wave... Kashoo...Freshbooks (btw, why is Canada so obsessed with accounting? ...hmmm...a peaceful global takeover is brewing. You heard it here first).
All of these companies were popping up and I wanted to tell them all how much I loved them.
Strange coming from a girl who loves watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. But, I've always wanted to work with numbers since I realized at the age of 5 that money could buy me all the Barbies in the entire world and by the age of 8, I was creating budgets and projections for the fun of it.
If you've never been an accountant that knows that they love what they do, but HATES how they have to do it, it would be hard to understand my seemingly manic obsession with these companies. I literally wake up in awe, every single day, about the powerful way these tools are integrating data from various sources and doing it in such an aesthetically pleasing way.
When I wrote my first post about the future of accounting a little over a year ago my poor little site crashed and I was contacted by Thompson Reuters because "for an accountant, you write really well."
I knew I was onto something. Because for me, cloud accounting is not just a means to make a TON of money (read here how I scored my first 6-figure client), it's about a lifestyle.
Cloud accounting is a lifestyle that allows someone, who in the past had been forced to be in the background and hide behind computer screens and tax returns, a life of luxury and freedom.
Finally, financial professionals can be jet setters and the trusted go-to experts for small businesses and corporations everywhere.
And it allows young finance professionals to immediately make their mark without waiting for some thirty years to pass before someone finally realizes that they have something fabulous to offer.
As small business owners and accountants become more comfortable using cloud accounting, and the novelty wears off, it's important that these companies find ways to differentiate themselves.
You can't be everything to everyone. And as soon as you try to be, you'll lose the loyalty of your die-hard fans.
I get questions daily about which accounting program is best for such and such business; and if I wasn't so obsessed with these programs it would be hard for me to share which one is best for each unique business.
As an accountant, I started off by marketing only to beauty and fashion professionals. Why? Simply because I liked fashion shows and was the only financial professional attending these events. A clear brand identity was key for me to make a name for myself as a young professional.
Having a strong brand identity is essential to making sure any company stays relevant. Especially accounting tools that, on the surface, seem to do the exact same thing.
How should they create a solid brand? Check out my 7 tips:
- Get clear on what makes your product different- if you need an example, check out my post on Kashoo. Their partnerships with Paychex and Liberty Tax are fabulous. And they allow an accountant to "copy" a business file just in case a new small business client didn't create theirs correctly.
- Get clear on what you're not- Wave is a free solution and an excellent introduction for business owners. I've recommended them to entrepreneurs who are not quite ready to hire my services or feel that they can handle it themselves. However, Wave does not, and should not, include an eco-system of integrations and sophisticated accounting functions. It's clean and easy, not full of fancy accounting options.
- Get clear on who you're speaking to- Freshbooks is a fab example. They are known for invoicing and clearly state that they are for companies with under 9 employees. Genius.
- Develop a unique online presence- Xero's website is absolutely gorgeous and speaks to those that are design minded. They also offer a TON of free content supporting small business owners and accountants looking for ways to grow their business.
- Capitalize on your established community- Quickbooks clearly has the upper hand and rightfully so. Continue to build with those that already love you. Whether it's sponsoring events put on by your accountants or spotlighting them on your site or social, show them that you LOVE them.
- Have a social mission- Sage is a huge supporter of businesses owned by women. They make this very clear on their social media and events they choose to sponsor. Your users want to know you're human and care about what's going on in the world.
- Find unique ways to engage your accountants- Sorry, but a free accounting profile is boring and everyone does it. Get creative.
- BONUS: Contact me!- HA. But for real. This isn't even a shameless plug. Just a plug. Have you seen my portfolio? Click here. If you want to have longevity, start tapping into the 20-something accountant generation. Just sayin.
Danetha Doe is a product launch strategist and total geek about cloud accounting. She likes giggling, champagne and playing with money. She has worked with brands such as Google and Neutrogena.
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