Market Focus: Accountants: Play the Numbers Game
Accountants are the best of both worlds: As affluent consumers, they are a great target market—but they also influence the purchasing habits of millions of clients, making them doubly valuable as prospects and customers.
The Money Market
In the U.S., there are 425,000 certified public accountants (CPAs) who passed a certification exam. If you add in non-CPA accountants, that number is much higher: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors held about 1.2 million jobs in 2004.
The most popular segment of accounting is public practice: 134,000 CPAs own their own business or work in firms serving mostly small and mid-sized businesses, says Melissa Rothchild, vice president of marketing for CPA2Biz, the for-profit subsidiary of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Other popular segments are business and industry, government, nonprofit, and education. Within these segments, CPAs can specialize in anything from tax work to business valuation to mergers and acquisitions.
Many CPAs also do financial planning. “In our studies in 2004, only 34 percent of our audience was involved in financial planning, but in 2005, 47 percent of our audience did financial planning,” says Jack Lynch, advertising sales director of SourceMedia’s Accountants Media Group, which publishes Accounting Today, Accounting Technology, Practical Accountant, CPA Wealth Provider and SMB Finance, and hosts WebCPA.com. “I would anticipate that would probably be in the high 50s to 60 percent now.”
CPAs are an affluent and educated market. The vast majority have four-year degrees and, according to Lynch, his magazines’ readerships boast an average annual household income of about $134,000. The average age of a subscriber to an Accountants Media Group publication is 54, and 70 percent are male.
CPAs see themselves as trusted advisors. “They hold themselves up to a high ethical standard, being a steward to their clients,” says Lynch. As such, CPAs are very choosy about who they do business with. “They won’t sell themselves to a vendor if they think it will jeopardize their standing with their clients,” Lynch says. “For example, at one time, it was taboo for a CPA to collect commissions or even additional fees for doing financial planning, but now that’s changed. But when they do get into financial planning, especially the older CPAs, it’s a fee-based or billable-hour arrangement so they’re not perceived as trying to sell to their clients on a commission basis.”