How do companies differentiate themselves? What are their unique value propositions that attract customers and keep them from defecting to competitors?

Business models and strategies are continuously changing and evolving as companies try to carve out a niche, expand their offerings and customer base, and defend against existing and new competitors encroaching on their territory.

How do CPA firms differentiate themselves? Here is a fun experiment. Go to the website of any 10 well-known CPA firms. Or even 10 of your local competitors. Print out their “about”, “services”, “insights”, etc. pages and redact all traces of the name of the firm. Put them aside for 5 – 7 days. Then compare them and see if you can identify which firm is which based on their “industry expertise”, “client-centric approach” or any other attribute. Good luck.

In life, being the same is familiar and comfortable. In business, being the same is doom. “Tastes like chicken” isn’t a compliment.

The purpose of the experiment isn’t to be cynical. It’s to highlight the difficulty of standing out in an industry that was built upon compliance and compliance related services. No one wants an innovative tax accountant or creative bookkeeper.

When CPA firms are viewed as an undifferentiated mass, it is natural for prospective clients to force firms to compete on price. And that’s a race no firm wants to win.

How should CPA firms differentiate themselves?

  1. Be remarkable to your existing clients. Remarkable is noticed. And remembered. And talked about. And hard.

  2. Imagine what remarkable would look like to a single client, from their perspective. Brainstorm five ideas that have the potential to “wow” them. How you are remarkable is up to you.

  3. Heighten your awareness of the remarkable when you see or experience it. And notice opportunities when it is missing. Take notes. Schedule and commit to time each week to reflect on how you can incorporate those remarkable occasions into your own service to clients. To paraphrase many people – thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits, which become character, which become destiny.

There is no foolproof way to create remarkable. No secret formula or “5 easy steps” snake oil. Being different is hard. And worth it. So start.

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