In Search of the Right Niche

To be competitive today, many CPA firms increasingly find they need to specialize in particular industries, such as construction, real estate, auto dealerships or hotels and restaurants. Successful firms cite industry specialization as their main growth area, and client surveys say that industry knowledge is one of the main reasons for selecting a CPA firm. The benefits of niche marketing are many, including increased profitability, ease of identifying prospects and work that is not seasonal.

The most difficult step for some firms is selecting the right industry niche. A firm can analyze its existing client base, current service offerings and the skills of partners and staff and use the results to plan its next move. Here are some questions a CPA firm should ask itself when considering a particular industry specialization.

Is pursuing a particular niche consistent with the firm's mission?

Is the market large enough to provide sufficient revenue?

What are the industry's current growth rate trends?

Is there a "champion" within the firm to lead the "charge" into this niche?

Can the firm meet the market's perceived needs? If not, what additional
resources—including staff—does it need?

Do the partners and staff have the necessary knowledge about the industry?
If not, where can they get it?

What kinds of clients do partners and staff like spending time with?

What fees will engagements in this industry generate?

What steps should the firm take to reach the target market?

Do partners and staff have the necessary referral network to obtain work in the targeted industry?

What other firms in the area currently serve this industry?

What marketing efforts will be necessary to enter this particular market?

Will the firm's size have any impact on its ability to serve the industry?

Are there any other obstacles to expanding into this field?

Source: Max Messmer, chairman, Accountemps, Menlo Park, California.


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