How to Implement Subscription Based Pricing for Accounting Firms

14 Jul 2021  |  704
How to Implement Subscription Based Pricing for Accounting Firms

The CPA firm's business model has been "effort determining value" for decades, but now we have to look for a more subjective model of value that allows for various levels of services.  

What is Subscription Pricing?

In the subscription-based pricing model, customers pay on a regular basis for a service or product. Subscription pricing differs from traditional product pricing in that it is frequently based on the length of the subscription, with longer subscriptions being the cheapest option.

Subscription revenue is central to the DNA of SaaS companies. This model is no longer monopolized by gym memberships, satellite television, and mobile phone contracts. Microsoft products and Quickbooks have also shifted to subscription pricing. The rule to implement subscription-based pricing are:

  • If the customer is here to stay,

  • And services required are recurring.

Accountants' services stand true to both the tests mentioned above! And Technology is the main driving force behind the Implementation of Subscription-based pricing! Let’s look at some of the benefits of Subscription-based pricing!

  • Removes Ambiguity or Assumption of Services.

  • Automated Billing.

  • Differentiate Each Service Level.

  • Scalability and Replicability

  • Transparent Pricing!

  • Easy Budget for Client.

However, be cautious when implementing subscription-based pricing. Sometimes you price it too low, and you end up giving everything away for free, and your margins shrink!

Subscription-Based Pricing

Technology is driving the need for subscription billing because it has rendered several steps in the delivery of bookkeeping services obsolete or ineffective. Take into account bank reconciliations and coding. That service used to take a lot of time and effort. However, most businesses now digitally capture and code bank transactions.

Reconciling bank accounts takes little time or effort, and the service is not valuable. Tax preparation and audit sampling are following in the footsteps of technology, which is destroying the old business model for many CPA firms.

Collecting fees is difficult because invoices often do not reach the client until the firm has completed the work, and the invoice may be higher than the client expected. Most professionals have worked on a project that required more hours or effort than was initially quoted, and they had to figure out how to add those extra hours to the bill. Rather than charging clients after the work is completed, why not charge a flat monthly fee that covers all of your work for the entire year? In other words, offer your customers a subscription.

How to Get Started?

Firms that charge their services per hour often react to customer problems rather than address their needs proactively. The reason is that when a client would like to advise you, they don't know if their problem is a 15-minute problem or a 15-hour problem.

No matter how often you remind clients to call you before they make any major moves, they inevitably inform you of significant transactions after the fact. As Ed Kless, Senior Director of Partner Development and Strategy at Sage has mentioned, subscription pricing removes that perceived barrier to contacting you. Instead of putting out fires, you offer fire prevention, he says.

Among firms that have been hesitant to transition to fixed-fee pricing, one of their main fears is agreeing to a fee, then winding up doing more work than initially agreed upon. With subscription pricing, instead of setting a flat fee and then dealing with scope creep, you establish levels of service and let the client decide what they want.

Step1:  Service Levels Should Be Created

According to behavioral pricing research, having three options makes it easy for clients to understand, and it also anchors the conversation around the middle level rather than encouraging the cheapest option. Begin by considering the various levels of service you can provide to your clients.

Continue down the line, making a list of all the services you currently offer as well as those you don't but would like to and are capable of delivering now. Avoid including "fluff" that does not add value to your client's experience.

Step 2: Set the Price

Not every client wants or needs the best-level service. Some are happy with good service. The key is, you’re not providing the best-level service at a good-level price.

  • Always keep your leverage. Before the work is completed, set a price.
  • Lowering the price requires no talent, but increasing the value requires talent.
  • In most cases, pricing quickly results in a lower price. Create a well-thought-out pricing strategy. Plan out the scope.
  • Low prices demand low respect.
  • The higher up the organizational chart you work with, the less price-sensitive the individual. People at the top do not have the time to investigate all possibilities. They typically have more resources but less time.
  • Pricing for value requires confidence and courage.
  • The presence of an undesirable option influences the buyer's behavior by allowing them to choose between two desirable options. The concept of “anchor pricing” has a halo effect on other offerings. Offer the most expensive option first, and you'll usually sell more of the middle option.
  • A good price is one that is set for the client rather than the service.
  • Price competition benefits only the weakest competitors.
  • There is no way to value the wrong client.
  • When it comes to pricing, not all partners are created equal. Appoint a Chief Pricing Officer or a pricing task force to ensure that pricing is consistent throughout the organization.

Step 3: Implement Pilot test with 10-15 Clients

Step 4: Improvise and Perfect

Step 5: Communicate in Advance to clients before Implementing

Step 6: Explain Rationale

Step 7: Expect Some Resistance

MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue)

Firms must concentrate on achieving and tracking Net New MRR or Net New Monthly Recurring Revenue. This provides a calculation for practices to work with: Net New MRR equals New MRR (new revenue from new customers) plus Expansion MRR (new revenue from existing customers, such as cross-sells and upsells) minus Churned MRR (revenue lost due to customer cancellations, etc.) plus Contraction MRR (revenue lost due to a price decrease) or as a simplified equation

Net (New MRR + Expansion MRR) - (Churned MRR + Contraction MRR) = New MRR

We can also multiply MRR by 12 to get our Annual Run Rate (ARR), which is a simple multiplication of current Net New MRR.

How does Offshore Hiring Fit Here?

Building an offshore team can help you scale your business and implement Subscription-based pricing in your organization. Firms will see significant margin expansion after integrating offshoring, which will allow you to price your service levels more cost-effectively while maintaining good margins.

In an idealistic situation, you would package the regular compliance work, assign it to your team, and then go back over it for review purposes only. But first, you should take a look at your team's structure. More work requires the use of more people, which results in a lower profit margin from revenue. So relying solely on building local teams will only limit your MRR.

Because talent is valuable, it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to find local talented people in developed countries. All you have to do is look outside of your own country for a high-performing, low-cost workforce. Since the offshore staff can be hired at a fraction of the cost you can bring in more people for the same price as what you would hire locally and your A-team will have all the support it needs to focus on delivering exceptional value to the clients. While this does not imply that the local team is no longer required. Instead, the offshore team is intended to assist them with the back end and administrative work, allowing your local team to focus on what they do best.

Conclusion:

Although packaging and pricing services may appear to be a difficult task, it can be broken down into simple, straightforward tasks. Take your time and concentrate on developing your subscription tiers and prices. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. With each failure, you get closer to finding the ideal balance of service and price that works for both your firm and your client.


Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 550+ accountants, CPAs, and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model helps firms of all sizes hire staff for accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation, or any other task for 75% less cost. As a firm 'run by accountants, for the accountants', Entigrity captures the hiring needs of accounting firms most precisely, providing staff that works directly under your control and management, still, you are left with least to worry about compliance, payroll taxes, overheads or any other benefits.

About The Author
Director, Client Relations

Christopher Rivera, Chris serves as a Director of Client Relations and Business Development at Entigrity. He is an expert at leading and managing teams actively from the front. His expertise in sales, training, coaching, mentoring and influencing combined with his competitive nature makes him a strong leader.  Chris has traveled through the length and width of the country and has spoken with more than five thousand CPAs, understanding their challenges and limitations. On the grounds of that, he can now easily provide opinions and solutions that can be immensely helpful to the professionals. He has also represented Entigrity at a number of major accounting conferences and networking events.

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