How To Differentiate Your Accountancy Practice

by Paul Simister on July 20, 2011

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Roszak July 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm

EXCELLENT article – thanks Paul! Matthew Roszak


Paul Simister July 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

I posted a link to this article on differentiating accountants to a LinkedIn discussion on “Differentiation: The Key To Success For Accounting Firms” at

One of the points that came up in discussion was the role of branding in differentiating an accountancy practice.

I have mixed feelings about this because I think the branding concept is often misused.

There are three aspects to building a brand for an accountancy firm:

1 – to be well known
2 – to be respected
3 – to stand for something

In the accountancy world, the big 4 are extremely well known and respected. I’ve been shocked at how much they can charge for a mediocre report to be sent to a financial institution because it’s got their name on it.

But I’m not sure that they stand for something individually. The Big 4 are differentiated from the other firms of accountants but I’m not sure how well differentiated they are from each other.

Leading authors on branding Jack Trout and Al Ries very much define branding as owning a position in the mind of the market – it’s an idea, image, emotion that is associated with the brand.

Coca Cola and Pepsi are differentiated because they have different associations and that’s why Coke stayed the market leader, even when repeated blind taste tests showed a preference for Pepsi.

You can be famous and not respected and not have a clear positioning. If so your brand is well known but it doesn’t do you much good.

On the other hand your accountancy firm can have a very clear message and be respected but only known to a few. I’d say that is a stronger position because it is easier to get better known than it is to
a) create a clear positioning; or even worse
b) change the positioning that people already have

A great example is Skoda cars. They used to have a terrible reputation but reliability is much improved since the VW takeover but I still think there’s a stigma about buying a Skoda.

Branding is part of differentiation. There are plenty of examples where customers will buy a better known brand purely because they know the name but it’s often because they can’t discern any other differences which matter to them.

In marketing there is a big division between institutional advertising which is designed to push a brand and direct response which is intended to get the phone ringing.

Most small businesses including accountants are better focusing on direct response with a differentiated irresistible offer than pushing the name without any clear message. Repeat exposures will increase name familiarity anyway but you’ll also establish a clear position.


Paul Simister July 22, 2011 at 9:27 am

One example of an accounting firm which is well differentiated is Mazuma

I heard about them from one of my coaching mastermind buddies Lee Duncan and he loves the concept that Mazuma project.

Their tagline is “Low cost, hassle free accountants”.

It will resonate with many small businesses who are looking for a low cost, easy, efficient, on-time, reliable accountancy service.

Personally I think small business owners should look for more from their accountants than the basics done well and for a bargain price but there’s no denying that the Mazuma offer will resonate with many.


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