The Commoditization of a Profession

In business literature, commoditization is defined as the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers.  -Wikipedia

In this blog, I’ll attempt to discuss what I personally experienced recently on how the once conservative and traditional accounting profession has become another “commodity” in the open market, in which digital or online marketers peddle the profession as just another business or service to sell.  I find that LinkedIn is the commonly used avenue to connect or network with professionals to drum up such business for their business.

This blog came about after I was approached by several online marketers thru LinkedIn then thru phone calls. I was intrigued by the idea at first as it was new to me. The premise, or rather the “promise,” was that they will market my business and bring in new leads through “spray and pray” digital marketing tactic that one had described on a post comment as “ineffective.” In turn, I would have to pay them a monthly fee for software and digital mailing services plus a revenue percentage if another lower monthly fee option was chosen. After entertaining the proposal, I asked if she could connect me with a few “happy clients” or provide me with client testimonials. She replies by saying, oh maybe in 4 months or so as it’s busy season, you know? I replied by saying – and no one knows about busy season more than I do being a CPA. That was the end of that.

Another one calls directly after his email solicitations were ignored and tells me how he knows all about the business having worked in accounting for 8 years. I listened to his pitch and after awhile of talking he says to me, so tell me about your business. I replied by saying wait a sec! – you call me to tell me how you can market my business as you found me on LinkedIn but you haven’t even bother to know a bit about me nor do you even know in what way my business aligns with your service? I added by saying, nowadays it’s a common practice that before we even meet anyone in person, we’ve already googled or searched him or her somewhere. After hearing that, he started reading about my profile and experience out loud while on the phone. And that was the end of that!

This current trend of marketing and outsourcing of the public accounting profession reminds me of what has happened to the medical industry.  Traditionally, patients grew up knowing their family and/or town physician.  Nowadays, with insurance companies or health care providers, once a patient signs up into their program, s/he is provided a network of service providers to choose from or worse, gets directly assigned a personal physician without even having met one another first.

But I find that such business arrangement cannot easily be done in a client-CPA relationship which seems more complex than a patient-doctor relationship though both are very personal in nature.  A professional CPA would have the prospect-client come in for an interview to discuss what the needs and goals are – be business or personal or both.  Likewise, the taxpayer or business owner would want to know the professional’s credentials and whether there’s the right fit from both sides.  No marketers (thru their fancy “digital marketing” tactic, which is a euphemism for solicitation) can do that kind of “client-matchmaking” nor can they close the deal for a CPA, or anybody for that matter.

But how would the profession respond to this current trend when a marketer or rather a self-proclaimed “client-matchmaker” makes these kind of claims and statements?

It’s more than just words. This industry isn’t changing, it’s already changed. You don’t need a license, degree, or certification to become ANY one of the above value creators for your clients. You only need 3 key things…
That’s how someone without even a degree in accounting can do over 860k/yr on their practice while an “experienced” CPA can’t break 50k/yr in sales.  Why? Because the industry is changing. Authority is no longer as important as VALUE. But you might be saying…. Isn’t accounting just some stuff old boring business? Well ya, if you’re thinking of the old way practices used to run. Not the new way. The internet has changed literally everything for the Accounting, Tax, and Financial Consulting industry. You can now work 100% remote and never meet your clients in person. You don’t actually need a license, degree, or certification. With the outsourcing opportunities available, you don’t have to do the low end grunt work that can literally suck the life out of you.  And the best part is…. The industry establishment hasn’t caught on. So for the few in this new frontier, it’s created an entire valley of golden opportunities. All the money in this industry used to be in COMPLIANCE, but now it’s moving to VALUE. You used to need a degree and a license to be successful. Now all you need is a commitment and laptop.”

Ok, really? In some aspect, a license or a degree is indeed not necessary for a job such as tax preparation and bookkeeping.  But what about a license or certification for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?   In public accounting, the profession’s licensure process is very rigorous in which many don’t even manage to attain.  First of all, one must pass the difficult CPA exam but before that, one must have at least 150 hours which is now equivalent to having a Master’s degree.  A State license ensures that only qualified and vetted professionals serve in the function where accountability, high integrity and public trust are important.

Sure, I agree, the accounting industry has evolved.  But can anything truly replace or dismiss personal connections based on the commitment to represent the profession with regard to competence and adherence to code of ethics? Yes, tax and accounting are all about compliance but the inherent value of the profession is its commitment to integrity and professional standards that no amount of money could measure.

So I say no.  Unlike the health industry, the public accounting profession is not just another commodity that can be sold or peddled easily as just another commodity in the open market. So with all due respect, I beg to differ that “Now all you need is a commitment and laptop.”

I’m a CPA who assists individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses navigate the complex world of tax compliance along with other business issues through planning strategies or ideas.  It’s essential that entrepreneurs stay focused on their own key craft and achieve a more balanced approach to any pursuits.

Besides helping clients, I’m a blogger who enjoys writing useful and relevant contents (see my other blogs).  You can also Connect with me here. #JustGetLeads #SanDiegoCPA #JustGetBalanced!

Guess the “spray and pray” tactic didn’t work.

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