Having been immersed in the accounting technology space for quite a few years, I always find it interesting to see how different software companies encourage participation, education, engagement, and frankly, sales around their products.
As you might expect, accounting technology depends largely on accountants to recommend and sell their products. As such, pretty much all of them have designed “partner programs” that carry different benefits. Some provide badges or other marketing collateral based on the levels they have achieved. Most provide referral fees or discounts on the products. Some provide an accountant directory which connects small businesses with “partnered” accountants who can serve them.
The most successful partner programs create a massive following that makes it feel cool to be part of an elite group of accountants. (Yes, I used “cool” to describe accountants… stay with me.) People who are in this group wear their designations (Platinum Partner, Advanced Certified ProAdvisor, Guru, etc.) as a badge of honor. It’s (arguably) proof that they’re successful, they know what they’re doing, and they’re in with the cool kids in whatever club they’re a part of. And they get seriously passionate about the whole thing.
Within the past couple of months, I’ve seen a couple of shake-ups in some of our partner programs, and I’ve seen some people getting downright irate about some of the changes as prices have jumped or as some people got bumped from Gold down to Silver (with a grace period presumably allowing them to work back up).
In any case, accountants have been upset about many of the changes… but mostly about not feeling the love. Some have felt it to such an extreme that they have threatened to start looking elsewhere for the appropriate amount of adoration from other software vendors.
Now, I get it. The accountants have been adoring fans, and they want to be loved back. But… umm… here’s where I encourage these accountants to take a step back and rethink what they’re doing.
You Are Not a Sales Rep.
What are you doing? You’re an accountant, not a frickin’ sales rep. You should be choosing the tools based on how they can improve your business, and how they can improve your clients’ businesses. If the tool can improve the workflow and quality of the accounting, those should be your primary concerns. Period. Remember that these programs are, at the heart of it all, a way for a software company to increase its sales. You are just a cog in the process, and there is no requirement for you to go pitch their product… or any other product, for that matter. Just pick the tool that works for your company and call it a day.
Do Your Own Marketing.
Honestly, the only people who really understand most of the badge-y stuff are other accountants in your space. In my experience, small businesses care most about reputation and referrals, not about the sticker you posted on your website. I doubt a single one of our clients knows (or cares) about our partner level with Xero, Gusto, Hubdoc, etc. You know why? Because it’s irrelevant to them. And if our clients don’t care, neither do I.
Now I hear all of you disgruntled accountants out there saying… but a “Gold” status gets more directory exposure than a “Silver” status. And my response is, “Why in the world are you relying on your accounting tool to do all of your marketing for you?” Instead, you should be focusing on your own website, SEO, nurturing your own referral relationships, developing a social media plan, and so on.
You are running a business, and waiting for clients to come to you based on a directory on someone else’s website is not the way to go.
Mind Your Own Business.
I encourage you to not get so wrapped up in both the community and competition of your partner status that you lose sight of what your purpose is. I doubt you started your own business with the primary purpose being to collect high-level partner badges.
Think back to when you first started your business, and I suspect your goal was something like “to provide quality accounting services to the masses.” The tools you use are a footnote. Don’t make it the star of your show.
In short, just don’t get distracted. Mind your own business, and I suspect your partner status will organically grow as a result. But when it does, hopefully you’ll have discovered you don’t care much about them anymore anyway.