insight magazine

6 Reasons Your Professional Services Firm Needs an App

If you haven’t accounted for the boom in mobile and internet-based tech, it’s time for a reality check. By Derrick Lilly | Digital Exclusive - 2017

Business App

Back in 2014, business and accounting software company Intuit predicted that nearly 80 percent of U.S. small businesses would be fully adapted to cloud computing by the year 2020. At the time, mobile app usage had jumped by 76 percent from the previous year.

Only two years later, ProFirm Apps points out that 90 percent of smartphone usage time is being spent on mobile apps, and 85 percent of people prefer native mobile apps over websites. Oh, and, 57 percent of users won’t recommend companies that have poor mobile sites—hint, hint.

If that weren’t reason enough for your firm to develop an app, here are six more.

1. Consumers expect it and prefer it

Having a mobile app “is going to become more important as your client base becomes more dependent on their mobile devices and their expectations start to include the ability to easily interact with your firm through those devices,” writes Jim Boomer, CPA.CITP, CEO of Boomer Consulting, in “Should Your Firm Make an App for Clients?” Plus, apps mean greater interaction with the rest of your marketing tools: Mobile engagement on social media grew by 55 percent over the last year; U.S. adults spend an average of nearly three hours a day on their mobile devices; and the average user downloads nearly nine apps per month. Simply having an app listed in an app store that users will see as they browse through options is a strong marketing tool in itself.

2. It’s a differentiator, for now

Boomer also points out that “the number of firms that have explored developing mobile apps is still relatively small and the number that has successfully completed this initiative is even smaller.” Of course, interest is ramping up. App developers like ProFirm Apps are now specifically targeting accountants and CPA firms to help them bring their services to the mobile business world. Before long, having a mobile app will be less about standing out from the competition and more about just keeping up with it. Pursuing an app sooner rather than later, though, can still help to position your firm as a thought leader in the industry, now and into the future.

3. Google says to do it

As of April 21, 2015, websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are “penalized” in Google Search rankings, and Google continues to push users to focus on improving mobile content and search experiences. Just last August, Google announced that “after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” So at the very least, your website needs to be responsive and mobile-friendly to rank well in search results, and even better would be having a complimenting mobile app that’s easily viewed on all devices.

4. It increases engagement

From accessing their accounts and paying their invoices, to signing documents or subscribing to your newsletter, mobile apps can be used for any number of things. But, most importantly, they put you and your services at your clients’ fingertips. Instead of having to set up appointments and head into the office to fill out forms and exchange documents, etc., all they should need to do is launch your app and go about their business. The easier and more convenient it is for clients to communicate and collaborate with you, the easier it is to engage and retain them. Plus, apps make it easier for you to reach clients—“push notifications” send app users instant alerts and messages that trigger reactions and interaction.

5. It’s customizable

From simple financial calculators to complete overviews of client data and accounts, mobile apps can be customized to do and automate as little or as much as you or clients demand. Some of the features ProFirm Apps suggests having in a CPA firm mobile app include an information tab overviewing the firm and its people and services; a direct appointment booking tool that shows staff availability; voice and text memos so users can quickly send messages to staff; an email/newsletter subscription option; a calendar of important events, deadlines and alerts; a referral area to share contact info; and, obviously, all of the accounting and tax tools that support the firm’s services. Think bill paying, finance and tax calculators, tax refund trackers, secure file-sharing portals, e-signature capabilities, and more. The point is to add convenience and value.

6. It boosts firm value

Optimistically speaking, one day your firm is going to be put up for sale, passed on to the next generation or positioned as a takeover target. Having a solid brand and clientele is important, but having a strong Internet presence and a mobile app that accompanies the firm’s other benefits “has the potential to add major value,” according to Ryan Gripple, principal of Berkshire Business Sales & Acquisitions. “Any business broker will tell you that positive distinguishers make it easier to more quickly attract a buyer who is willing pay what your practice is worth.”

Whether you’re looking for a compelling way to connect with clients, or a way to stay relevant in an increasingly commoditized industry, mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites are no longer a differentiator, they’re an expectation. Without one, or both, built with a clear strategy and purpose, your firm is bound to be left behind.

“What you don’t want to do,” says Boomer, “is turn a blind eye to this trend.”

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