TFYW #006: Picking and Advising on Apps

Oct 21, 2022

Today I will get into a few key tactics to win the app game – both in implementing tech in your firm and advising your client.

But first, a quick story. 

During college, I applied to work at an electronics store as a part-time salesperson pushing iPods. 

At the final stage of the interview process, the store manager asked me to explain the difference between a device feature and a device option.   

For whatever reason, I vividly remember saying that options are everything a device can do, but features are the unique reasons customers buy that device. 

I can’t remember how the manager responded, but I started my short three-month tenure in sales a week later.

More on options and features in just a sec.

Resistance To Tech

In the crowded space of accounting and business tech, getting started or making a change can be overwhelming. A change can cause frustration for your team and your clients, even at the best of times.

However, your firm tech is a crucial puzzle piece to building the firm you want.

It opens doors to offering higher value services, getting the best from your team, truly working in a niche and reducing the hours you pour into your firm.

If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:

 

Your firm strategy must include a progressive approach to regularly reviewing and updating your tech strategy.

 

The actual tech you use is less important than the consistent focus on leveraging tech in your firm.

There is probably a bunch of you nodding your head in agreement.

But why the hesitation to move forward then?

What’s holding you back?

I know for me, I hesitated when trying to commit fully to a new tool. I had concerns.

Was I making the right decision?

If I invest months implementing it and it doesn’t work, what’s going to happen?

How long will I be able to use this tool?

Will it make my clients leave?

So how did I over these legitimate concerns? I jumped in hard.

Here’s a brief history of the apps I used in my firm.

 

Email + Document Management

Gmail / Gsuite. I used it from the start. It is the best for connecting to all my other tools.

Also, if it’s good enough for Deloitte, it’s good enough for me.

 

Accounting Software:

I started on QBO but switched to Xero after about one year.

I had to move about a dozen clients but I’ve never looked back.

 

Firm management

Started on Teamwork. Tried Jetpack Workflow. I really liked Asana, but ultimately landed on a hybrid approach with Karbon and SuiteDash.

 

Billing + Proposals

I started early on Ignition.

I’ve used proposify and pandadoc along the way, but never gave up on Ignition.

 

Automations + Workflows

Zapier and Gravity forms are irreplaceable for me.

See TFYW #003 for more on Gravity forms.

 

CRM

Dabbled in Nutshell and Convertkit but landed on Suitedash and ActiveCampaign.

 

Funnel Builders

Swipepages was my first, but Clickfunnels is powerful.

 

Social Media Scheduling

I used Buffer and Loomly, but now I am hooked on Hypefury.

Don’t let the long list impress you at all. It was compiled over many tedious years and included many wasted hours.

After trying over 100 apps, I’ve learned a few things and discovered how to beat the overwhelm of new firm technology.

Picking Your Firm’s Apps

1. Know Your Needs

Back to my commission sale interview:

Every app has options and features. Pick apps based on the key features, not the long list of options. Focus on the vital few, not the trivial many.

If you don’t know what you need, do the task manually to learn what is essential. Prepare an engagement letter or proposal in a word doc. Prepare management reports manually in google sheets or excel. Manually post on social media for a week.

A clear picture of the desired final result will make your decision process faster.

2. Pick Apps That Integrate With Your Other Tools

Apps that integrate well with other tools will always be more valuable to me than standalone apps, regardless of advanced functionality.

Remember, it’s data flow, not data entry. Reduce errors, increase efficiency and grow faster with connected apps.

For the big guys like QBO and Xero, app marketplaces are available on their websites. You can search/sort by function all their natively integrated partner apps to learn about the best options.

3. Pick Apps That Have An Active + Responsive Development Team

Apps that publish and frequently update their roadmaps will evolve and improve over time. Apps that are consistently releasing new features listen to their users. I love these types of apps.

Apps developers understand what makes their app a good choice and what is needed to improve it.

During live demos of a prospective app, ask what the next feature release includes. Ask how you can send feature requests or where you can find their product roadmap.

If you’re looking to get some help with integrating a new firm management system, book a time on my calendar, and we can walk through it together.

Advising Clients On Apps

1. Manage Your Client’s Expectations

Apps can easily solve many business issues, but don’t tell your client that an app will be perfect for their need without doing the research.

At times, to appear knowledgeable, I would suggest a solution after only a quick google search. Sometimes the app would work as initially thought, but sometimes it didn’t. Do not overpromise in this area.

Building and maintaining systems for your clients can add high-margin services for your firm. However, this expertise is learned through experimenting and trial and error.

However, working with a narrow niche will shorten the time needed to become an expert tech advisor, as you will only learn about the apps for a particular industry.

2. App Advisory takes time and resources

App advisory is the fastest-growing service offering for firms.

If you decide to offer it as part of your services, ensure you include the cost of research in your proposal.

Whatever you decide to charge, add an additional 30% on top.

You may be very familiar with a group of apps, but businesses are unique, and clients may have a distinct way of tracking projects or inventory.

Ensure that you can deliver on your client’s expectations.

3. There Are Native And Third-Party Integrations

Native integrations are direct links from one app to another made possible by an API (application programming interface) connection.

Native connections/ integrations are very stable. There is also support available from either app to ensure the api connection is fixed if there are issues.

Third-party connections usually include Zapier or Make (formerly integromat). They offer connections where native APIs do not exist.

There is little to no support from the app developers for these connections. So if you have created an automation for a client and something breaks, you will be on the hook to fix it.

Generally, third-party connectors are dependable. However, something as simple as changing a column name for an integrated google sheet can cause an automation to stop working.

Bonus!

  • There is no silver bullet. An expensive app won’t transform your firm. It takes commitment and a plan from the top to fully integrate and adopt a new technology.
  • A cheaper app that is fully adopted in your firm is more valuable than an expensive app that is only partially integrated or used. Fully inflated cheap tires are better than expensive flat tires.

That’s it for today. I am confident that an integrated system of apps and tools will help transform your firm.

Build The Firm You Want,

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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