TFYW#081: The Bait and Switch with Compliance

Mar 29, 2024

Why Clients Buy

When I started my firm, I didn’t understand ‘why clients buy.’

I came from a large firm where I was assigned work, and that was my only responsibility.

I didn’t see the sales process at the front end of the engagement or the wrap discussions on the back end.

So, when I left to start my firm, I struggled because I was trained as a compliance hammer, and everything was a compliance nail.

I underpinned all my marketing with the ‘compliance need.’

I made little distinction between how I sold a simple personal tax return and advisory engagement.

I didn’t understand the fundamental reasons why clients buy.

I knew that everyone needed a tax return.

I knew every business needed bookkeeping.

I assumed the same thing about advisory services—if a person owned a business, they should know they needed advice.

I thought revenue levels or headcount would be a clear trigger for a client to need advisory support.

Wasn’t it apparent that a CPA partner would help ease the pains of navigating a growing business?

Nope – definitely not.

Plenty of small and midsize companies don’t lean on a financial function, either internally or externally, to help manage their business.

So, what are the reasons that someone would want advisory?

We have to back up for a minute.

There is a core set of reasons why clients buy:

    1. They want to make more money
    2. They want to save money
    3. They want more time and flexibility
    4. They want to stay legal/ onside with the government

These seem basic, but all motivations can be distilled to these ideas.

Making that connection between what you do and what they’re trying to achieve is the fastest way to get them to buy.

For all compliance work, staying legal is number one.

It makes sense in marketing compliance work to stoke the fire of being offside with the big bad government. Non-compliance is the fastest way to get shut down, right?

However, for all things non-compliance, one of the other core reasons to buy has to be leveraged.


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


If you combine two or more core reasons to buy, your offering will not resonate.


If you hope to attract prospects with compliance services but then switch to offering advisory services, you will probably sell neither.

Your market message and offer have to align with the same core buying reason.

Advisory to Compliance

Just because you shouldn’t combine multiple reasons to buy in one offering, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide compliance and advisory services.

The order in which you communicate what you do will determine how successfully you sell your combined service packages.

If you intend to offer advisory alongside compliance, lead with advisory.

Lead with it in your market position, messaging, and offers.

When you speak to prospects, do not jump into listing off all the things you do; rather, lead with questions about what the ideal outcome for the prospect would be.

Match the ideal outcome for the client with the advisory offer you have.

Then, when it comes to adding either bookkeeping or tax compliance into the conversation, lead with questions like:

    • Does your current bookkeeping provide segmented financial results?
    • How frequently does your bookkeeper provide updated financial results?
    •  Does your tax preparer understand the special rules for [insert your niche here]?

All of these questions lead the client to how your team could support the client so you can deliver better advisory results.

If basic bookkeeping data goes in, basic financial information comes out – like garbage in/ garbage out. Basic financial information makes crafting a strategy difficult.

If your tax preparer is a generalist, you’ll get general results in the return. Tax strategy is born out of projecting the future and knowing how to adjust the variables to get there.

It is not pulling a fast one on the client by proposing that your team handles the compliance work to deliver a better advisory solution.

Advisory + Compliance In Action

One of the Firm Nexus community members works with construction companies. His advisory offer is called Constructing Cash Flow. His marketing message revolves around making money with a tech and advisory solution.

With his prospects, the conversation included better systems to achieve better visibility on projects, pipelines and profitability. With new systems, it’s very common to then talk about bookkeeping and better inputs.

There is no bait and switch involved.

Another community member is honing a message for Online Beauty Brands, leading with an advisory offer focused on brands that manufacture their product.

The offer includes understanding product profitability, margins by marketing channel and ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).

As soon as these problems are discussed with the processes to get better clarity, the client quickly sees that their current booking and systems are inadequate.

Leading with advisory and then backfilling with compliance is a more natural approach.

You position yourself as the expert of the whole financial system, instead of ‘just a bookkeeper or tax preparer’ trying to punch above their weight class.

Build the firm you want.


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

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