Niche Accounting Firms Vs Generalist Accounting Firms: Let’s Talk Strategy

When it comes to deciding on marketing for accounting firms, one of the biggest factors that’s going to determine which tactics work best is figuring out if you’re a niche firm or a generalist firm. It might sound funny, but most of the rest of your marketing strategies will ultimately flow from that decision. 

What ‘type’ of accounting niche are you? Or are you a generalist firm?

  • An accounting firm can be niched around an industry. You could say, “We work with dentists or doctors.”
  • A niche can also be a philosophy. You could say, “We work with EOS companies as their fractional CFO.” 
  • A niche could also be that you have a really unique approach. “We don’t work with clients who don’t do X.” 

Ultimately, that means that you’re saying no to a lot of clients who don’t fit your specific criteria. When we say criteria, we mean a NARROW criteria. You can say, ‘We’d like to work with anyone in the professional services, trades, and restaurants – and we don’t work with lawyers.’ that’s great. 

“We work with ALL small businesses,” unfortunately, is not a niche. We hear this a lot. Businesses will tell us, “Yeah, we don’t have to be limited to just our city or state. We can work with anyone anywhere” 

This tactic does not work for most accounting firms. 

Here’s the reality from a marketing perspective: It’s EXTREMELY difficult for a generalist firm to compete in a wide geographic area. It’s also a waste of money. The tactics needed, the taxes you would pay, and the amount of money, time, and energy, you would spend to compete nationally make it not worth it. 

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If you’re a generalist firm, your local area is your niche

Now for the rest of you: you’re a generalist firm. We’re going to say this again in case you weren’t paying attention: If you’re a generalist firm, your local area is your defacto niche. That’s the reality. Stop looking sad! That’s actually a good thing! Now you know and can act on it. The tactics you pursue are generally going to be more in-line with local SEO work. 

You want to show up in searches for ‘accountant near me’ or ‘accounting firm in X city.’ It doesn’t make any sense for you to try to show up for ‘best bookkeeping practices for dentists’ on a national level. There’s just too much noise and you don’t have enough defined expertise. Or maybe you do, but the point is the internet doesn’t see it that way. No one is using your page as a resource for dentists, you don’t have tons of dentist traffic coming in. 

Be focused locally off-line as well

So, in that way, you’re better off focusing on local SEO, getting involved in local networking events, or even connecting with the chamber of commerce to speak to folks in your area once a quarter. There are tons of ways for you to approach marketing from a local perspective. 

Marketing tactics for niche accounting firms

If you’re a niche firm, you can compete on a much wider scale. Let’s stick with the dentist example: we do accounting for dentists for the purposes of this exercise. We want to compete nationally for this term. So, in certain circumstances, it may make sense for you to double niche and say that we work with dentists in California because there are a lot of dentists in California, but if that niche doesn’t have enough people in it, it may not be a good place to start. 

The rule of thumb for defining an accounting firm niche 

There are two things you want to make sure of when defining your niche

  1. Are there enough potential customers in your niche?
  2. Are there competitors in your niche?

Let’s define that a little more. For us, that means we want somewhere between 2,000 and 20,000 potential customers. If you have more than 20,000, well, that’s really not a niche anymore. It becomes too big. Between 2 and 20 is the sweet spot. 

The other thing: we need to know how many competitors you’re dealing with. If it’s between 20 and 200, that’s a good number. If there are NO competitors, like there would be no one competing in accounting for dentists or whatever niche, it may be an indicator that it’s been tried and there’s no money to be made there. It could mean the niche is too hard to approach so those folks are using different tactics. 

If there is MORE than 200 competitors, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to break through that white noise very easily. At best, it’s going to take a very long time. 

You have your niche, what now?

You can use SEO tactics around blog articles. You can go on podcasts for your niche. You can go to conferences. These should all be based on your niche, especially if it involves a specific industry. Now, a market is not the same as a niche, so there are ways to build a niche that isn’t just as simple as ‘we do accounting for dentists’ but for the purposes of this article that’s the classic way to build a niche. 

If you DO end up going in a different direction, it will take more thoughtfulness about how you’re going to market yourself. This is the balancing act. And for that, you’ll want to talk to a marketing professional. Now, if you could only find one that specializes… where where where would they be?