Convincing Accounting Clients to Move to the Cloud

Grow Your Firm

If you’re a cloud bookkeeping or accounting firm, you already know the many benefits of using technology to make your job faster, more efficient, and more user-friendly. However, you might have trouble saying the same of your clients. For some clients, new technology can be daunting, and for you, this shift may even change the way you interact with and engage with those clients.

As a result, migrating clients to the cloud can be a tricky process to say the least. In fact, the 2018 Intuit Rate Survey found that:

While 62% of respondents have their accounting data in the cloud, “only about a quarter said they have their clients’ data in the cloud.”

If you find yourself faced with clients who are reluctant or downright opposed to using new technology, you’ll need a solid strategy to persuade them otherwise. To convince bookkeeping and accounting clients to move to the cloud, follow these strategic steps.

Step 1: Become an Expert

In order to educate your clients about the benefits of the cloud, you’ll have to understand the subject inside and out. This means not only understanding how different tools make your life easier, but also what these tools actually do for your clients. Whether it’s QuickBooks Online, Xero, or a payroll platform like Knit, you need to understand not only how to use a tool, but also why you are using it.

Better understanding the tools you’re using will also help you combat common fears clients have about using the cloud. For instance, the 2018 Intuit Rate Survey found that:

The most common reasons that clients avoid the cloud include security fears, cost, and simply being unsure of how to convert to the cloud

With a more in-depth understanding of these issues, you’ll be better equipped to answer your client's questions and specific concerns.

Step 2: Start the Conversation

While you may want to get your clients up and running with the latest software as soon as possible, you probably won’t be able to dive right in. Instead, start with a conversation. You can start small by introducing the idea over email and then move on to calls or meetings. Remember that you may have to clear up some of the basics right off the bat, like “what is the cloud?” In this case, it can be helpful to use examples that clients already understand, such as online banking, which uses the cloud for secure data storage.

With each conversation, you should explain how new technology compares to the old way of doing things and how it will make your client’s lives easier. Some benefits to highlight may include:

  • Data flows automatically into the software from bank accounts and other sources.
  • Data is accessible anytime, anyplace with an Internet connection.
  • Data is always backed up externally, making it significantly more secure than paper files or external hard drives.
  • No need to worry about outdated software, system upgrades, or IT costs.
  • No payments for infrastructure needed.
  • No need to send files and spreadsheets between clients, bookkeepers, and accountants.
  • Makes compliance easier, therefore less risk of audits.
  • Clients can access up-to-date information on their financial position allowing them to make smarter business decisions.

Of these benefits, perhaps the most important one to emphasize is security. As the 2018 Intuit Rate Survey found:

A whopping 81% of clients cited security as their primary reason for avoiding the cloud.

Luckily, the cloud is actually one of the most secure ways to store information. When data is stored on a local hard drive, it is vulnerable to natural disaster, theft, or operating system crashes.

Step 3: Show Rather Than Tell

Of course, like anything, real-world demonstrations are always more impactful than a simple conversation. To help your clients better understand the new tools at their disposal, set up a time to show them how things work. It doesn’t have to be a big affair, just a simple one-on-one meeting or a get-together with a small group of clients. At this meeting, you should be sure to cover the following:

  • Show a live demonstration of the software and how to use it.
  • Point out the benefits of each feature.
  • Offer examples or case studies of how other clients use the technology. If possible, you can even invite a customer who uses the software to share their perspective.
  • Cover everything the client will need to do on their end and give them a timeframe for implementation.
  • Address questions, concerns, and fears head-on.

This is the exact approach used by CPA’s Marco D’Ercole and Mohammad Bajwa of the Toronto based firm CloudCPA. D’Ercole and Bajwa always show clients the software they use in person, even going so far as to project the platform onto a larger screen to do a step-by-step walkthrough.

After meeting with clients and showing them the software, you should also send a follow-up message to see if they are ready to proceed. They may commit right away or they may still have questions about the transition. Whatever stage they’re at, make sure to capitalize on the momentum generated by the meeting.

Step 4: Start Small

Just because a bookkeeping or accounting client has been convinced about the benefits of the cloud, it doesn’t mean they’ll be experts right away. Start with a gradual transition and introduce different solutions one by one. Most importantly, don’t overcomplicate the process. Though there are many benefits to cloud-based software solutions, it’s often the simplest features that will change your client's lives. Start with these basic functions and then gradually introduce different functions as clients become savvier with the software.

Step 5: Address Issues as They Occur

No matter how enthusiastic a client is (or how user-friendly a software is), there will always be issues along the way. The key is making sure that these issues don’t derail a client’s entire transition process. To make sure that problems don’t build up, address each one as it pops up and reiterate the benefits to the client. With each client you move to the cloud, you can find out what tactics worked and what didn’t, thereby allowing you to refine the migration process over time.

At the end of the day, you already know that cloud software helps you do excellent work for your clients, so it makes perfect sense to share these tools and help make their lives easier as well.