Twelve (or so) steps to starting a vertical accounting firm

We recently got an email from a customer of ours in response to Ian’s newsletter regarding specialization for an accounting firm.

Twelve (or so) steps to starting a vertical accounting firm

The email read:

If someone gave you ~100k and said, “start a non-income-tax-related accounting firm or accounting related business that provides the a ton of value to customers but is also scalable”, based on the current market, what would you do?

Since this concept is something that you guys seem to know, I figured I’d ask since you’re in a unique position to perhaps know of what the market is in need.

Our CEO wrote the steps he’d follow if he were an accountant looking at targeting a niche.

Firstly, you don’t need ~100k, you would take $25k and put the rest away for a rainy day.

Pick a vertical you love, are passionate about, or have knowledge in. Something that you can completely get your teeth into. Did you have a passion before accounting, or what are you hobbies now? It might be animals—choose vets. It might be beer — choose craft brewers. It might be wine — choose vintners. What about the sharing economy? There’s an accounting firm that devotes itself to that (expanding) vertical.
Estimated cost: $0.

Involve yourself completely in that vertical. Understand the language/ jargon your target clients use. Just by way of example, I always remember as a young salesperson at Oracle selling into the local Police force — their users were “members”; not “customers”, or “resources” or “personnel”, but “members”.
Yours might be “drivers”, or “doctors”, or something other than the generic “clients”.
Estimated cost: $0.

Write more content than you can poke a stick at about accounting in that vertical. What are the accounting and business implications for doctors dealing with Medicaid? Uber drivers have depreciation benefits they can claim. Craft brewers must have all kinds of local community organic benefits or similar — I’ve no idea, but you can find that stuff if you’re passionate about it.
Even better, utilize Scripted or a similar service to help generate your content — as long as you provide a strong and comprehensive brief. On my commute in the car I used to blog every day by talking into the phone and getting that transcribed.
Estimated cost: $0-$5,000.

Buy 2 or more domain names that target your vertical like no other. is still available as I write this!
Estimated cost: $11.99 on GoDaddy

Get a Wix or Squarespace site and have a designer and builder put it all together for you. Make it stunning, but easy to add to and operate without their involvement.
Estimated cost: $5,000

Become a Quora expert. Find everyone and everything about your vertical or niche on Quora and be the go-to-accountant for that vertical. There are 903 questions in the Craft Beer topic.
Estimated cost: $0

Become a software expert in that industry. Find all the software that your vertical might utilize on any given day. Partner with those providers as an implementor and expert, they are usually keen on partnering with business advisors like yourself!
Estimated cost: $0

Outsource your SEO “Search Engine Optimization” and SEM “Search Engine Marketing” to an expert and drive your inbound lead generation as hard as you can.
Estimated cost: $5,000

Recommended reading: How to get leads for accounting firms

Join LinkedIn Sales Navigator and build a killer list (~$100/m) and target that list with outbound campaigns using Cirrus Insights Campaign functionality.
Estimated cost:~$500/year

Implement a killer CRM and Task Management tool built entirely for accountants to manage all your leads and members/ clients/ customers/ brewers/ vets.

Join their industry associations (eg Brewers Association/ California Veterinary Medical Association) and network, repurpose your content from above, and provide that to their publications.
Estimated cost: ~$500/year

Attend, sponsor and offer to speak at their industry conferences (eg ‘Craft Brewers Conference’), go nuts. Be the expert at each event, talk to every attendee, take their business cards and scan them, network, network, network. Just show a modicum of personality and you will stand out at this type of events. We have killer event techniques to attract attendees to our stand, but that’s for another day.
Estimated cost: $1,000-$10,000

Own social. Grab your handles across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc (get them to all be the same!) and find someone to help you populate all your content throughout. Get Buffer or Sprout Social to populate all platforms at once with your content.

So, as you can see you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a big impact. Find an area you are passionate about. You already know the accounting, so just be inventive on how you spend your money on the other stuff. You’ll find there are clients everywhere waiting for an accountant that understands exactly what their industry needs.

A version of this post was originally published by our CEO Stuart McLeod on his Medium account on Thursday, March 3rd 2016.