Several years ago, firms used to look ahead to the day of zero data entry – a far off dream that we were collectively waiting to realize. And, now we have!

Zero data entry is possible using tools such as QuickBooks® Online, Receipt Bank, Bill.com and digital banking. We use these tools to aggregate data and to produce financial statements for our clients, but is a physical financial statement still the ideal deliverable? Given the nature of the clients we are serving today – and those we want to be serving tomorrow – I’m not sure it is. When it comes to truly winning the trust and loyalty of the new breed of digitally savvy clients, we need to paint a bigger picture that reaches further than one single output (the financial statement) and encompasses the entire client relationship.

Why? Consider the process that the typical CPA firm uses to “win” a new client. There’s a meeting. There’s a presentation. The focus is on providing concrete deliverables, like financial statements. We do this and bring in another ,000 in monthly revenue. Then, we move on to the next potential client. The problem with this approach is that it’s a short-term one. We forget that each new client represents not only an immediate benefit to our bottom line, but, if nurtured appropriately, they can also bring significant lifetime value (LTV) to our firm.

Think about it. Each ideal client worth ,000 per month, or ,000 per year, that has a relationship with your firm for twenty years has an LTV of at least 0,000, plus the cost savings of not having to prospect to replace them. That’s a lot of recurring revenue – enough to make it worth your firm’s while to actually try to retain them. Yet, most firms are still focused on the here and now – the ,000 fee in exchange for the financial statement. It’s not that looking at the front end of a client relationship is bad; it’s placing a higher emphasis on the end product that represents a true commodity, instead of starting with a discussion about the client’s key performance indicators (KPIs), what they mean and how to monitor them using the tools you provide, which leads to a huge missed opportunity.

Why onboarding is essential for retaining the new breed of client. When it comes to the new digital-savvy client, creating an onboarding process is one key to ensuring that the technology infrastructure and business model that you use to serve them are fully implemented. Not only will this make it easier and more profitable to serve this type of client, but it will also help to protect the initial investment you made to “win” your client, as well as the LTV you are hoping to generate from the relationship.

The onboarding process must include steps to ensure that your new client will “buy-in” to the technology ecosystem that you are using. Therefore, you will likely need to provide clients with training (and perhaps even the equipment they need, such as a scanner or video camera) to secure their proficiency in using the specific solutions your firm uses. This onboarding process may take some time. Your clients may need ongoing support, so that they know not only how to functionally use the digital tools in your ecosystem, but also how to derive true value from them, which can be achieve through time savings, accessibility, insights and the information about KPIs that is important to their business.

Onboarding supports the success of your technology ecosystem and the LTV of clients. If this seems like a lot of work, it truly can be. And, it’s certainly different than what many of us are used to. The old school approach is to “get” the client and move on to the next prospect or back to production. This simply isn’t an effective strategy for attracting and retaining clients in the future.

If we don’t take the time to make the relationship work and to provide a deliverable that’s more valuable than a set of papers the client may or may not read (financial statements), these digital savvy clients will become disenchanted, moving on to a firm that is willing to invest the time to properly onboard them and make sure that the client can work effectively within their technology ecosystem.

When you consider the hard and soft costs of implementing your business model, setting up your  technology ecosystem, and prospecting for clients and the potential client LTV that’s at stake, the time spent developing and implementing an onboarding strategy is a sound investment that will help your firm succeed in serving the new breed of digitally savvy clients.

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