The global accounting services industry is expected to reach $735.94 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 6%. As more players enter the market, accounting firms need robust plans and strategies to help them stay competitive and attract more clients.
Market research can equip accounting firms with critical information about the industry and how the company is perceived by the target clients you want to reach. The data can help firms connect with their audience and communicate their competitive edge more effectively. Moreover, market research plays an important role in developing new services and marketing them to clients.
This article will explore market research for accounting firms, run you through research methods, and explain how to transform your newfound insights into actions.
Market research is the process of gathering information about your target market and how your firm currently fits into it. Accounting firms can conduct market research to either verify the success of a new service offer, support the iteration of an existing service, or determine how clients perceive the brand in general.
Typically, market research consists of primary information gathered directly from clients or secondary information collected from existing sources. Your firm can either conduct your market research in-house or outsource it to a specialist company.
Market research allows accounting firms to define their target audience by uncovering insights such as:
- Who is most likely to use the firm's services.
- What the audiences are looking for.
- The kind of lifestyles your audiences lead.
- What influences conversions among your target audience.
- Unaddressed or underserved customer needs that can be turned into selling opportunities.
Accounting firms can then use this information to create ideal customer profiles or customer avatars. These are essentially fictional characters created from the data gathered through market research. Putting a face on your target audience makes it easier to put yourself in their shoes and determine what will ultimately attract them to your firm.
Conducting market research also helps firms create more effective marketing materials by identifying essential information around what to publish, where and when. The data from the research will answer important questions, such as:
- What marketing channels do audiences use?
- What marketing channels do competitors use?
- Which channels suit the firm most?
This insight provides a foundation for your accounting firm to base your marketing materials to ensure your target audience sees and engages with them.
Competitor research is an important part of any market analysis as it enables you to understand how the firm measures up to its competitors. Researching your competition uncovers key insights, such as:
- What these firms do well.
- Areas they don’t do well.
- Which marketing channels they use.
- Which marketing methods appear most effective among their audiences.
When you have a deep understanding of your competition, you can use that knowledge to define the unique selling point (USP) that makes your firm stand out in the industry. You can also take inspiration from what your competitors do well and use it to influence your own efforts.
When conducting a market investigation, companies can gather data from first-hand field research and second-hand desk research. We’ll explain how each method works below.
Field research is a primary research method in which companies collect first-hand information about the accounting market and its clients.
Common examples of field research methods include:
- Surveys and questionnaires.
- Focus groups.
Using these methods, accounting firms can gather insights to benchmark competitor services by testing them against their own.
Field research can be either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research focuses on the subjects’ thoughts, feelings and opinions around particular topics. On the other hand, quantitative research typically gathers information from a large number of people to provide data that can be counted or measured in numerical values.
Accounting firms can also conduct secondary market research, or desk research, to find information through existing sources. Here, your firm will research data and public records already produced by others and draw conclusions based on your findings.
Secondary sources might include:
- Online journals and directories.
- Statistical analyses.
- Accounting and finance articles.
- Competitors’ websites and social media.
Desk research can also include internal data, such as:
- Client databases.
- Sales records.
- Marketing reports.
- Profit & loss statements.
A combination of field and desk research is the most effective approach as it allows you to create a comprehensive picture of the market as it looks for your firm today.
Conducting market research can be an eye-opening experience for accounting firms. Desk research can uncover previously unknown truths about your competition and how your firm measures up against other accounting firms. Internal resources also provide crucial insights into the firm’s recent performance. This insight enables you to define areas that your firm does well and areas that need improvement.
Moreover, conducting interviews and focus groups with clients allows you to get inside their heads to understand their wants and needs. Knowing what clients expect from a firm like yours empowers you to create service offerings that appeal to them. As a result, you can present your firm as the best option in an increasingly competitive market.
Ultimately, market research helps accounting firms eliminate bias and assumptions to make business decisions that drive the company forward.
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