26 Aug, 2020
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So if you’re not sure quite how or when to introduce Fathom to clients, and perhaps start a conversation about advisory services, don’t worry, here’s what you need to know.
Thousands of accountants across the US and around the world use Fathom with their clients every day, providing insights and advice to guide their decisions. And what’s more, they charge for it, because clients see the value in that advice and service.
And, like you, every one of those accountants had that first client meeting. So by speaking to established Fathom customers in the US, as well as using our own inhouse experience, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to getting ready to show clients what Fathom can do. That way, you can start to have a deeper relationship, tackle problems and plan for the future.
Meet the accountants
Brittany Stugard is the Assistant Controller at mAccounting (Indianapolis, IN) and has been using Fathom since 2015, and the firm now has over one hundred clients using Fathom.
Joe Montgomery is a former partner at Montgomery & Company (Greenville, SC), and is also the founder of GroupUp, which offers coaching for accounting firm leaders. Joe used Fathom extensively at the family firm, and continues to do so in his new business venture.
They both took time out of their busy schedules to share their real world experiences and advice on using Fathom with clients.
Choose your point person
Take a look at your team and assign a ‘Fathom champion’ as a point of contact. They need to understand and use the platform, so will need a good technical mindset and be a problem solver. They should also be a good communicator, as they will be sharing knowledge with the rest of the team and clients. It’s not all them though! Having one point of contact also helps Fathom's customer success team to connect on a deeper level, sharing more relevant resources and better supporting you. We’re here to help with any issues or queries you may have.
Real world example: How important is having a dedicated Fathom point person in a firm?
Brittany Stugard: “I find that in the first year that we roll out any new tool to the team a point person is crucial. I also have found that most of our team focuses on day to day tasks, and therefore don't know the limitations or the behind the scenes settings for the tools they use. Therefore it is nice to have a team member dedicated to this tool who can jump in and assist.”
Of course if you’re a bigger firm, or have other applications you want to offer your clients, you might consider expanding this function from a single person to a small team. Which is what they do at mAccounting. “Our firm uses what we call an implementation team. The team is responsible for three main functions: onboarding new clients to our tools, vetting new tools to roll out to our clients, and offering training and support for both clients and our internal teams” says Brittany.
You might have lots of different sized clients on your books or several clients within one sector. Spend a little time drawing up a list of potential clients who you think will best suit meeting Fathom for the first time. Questions to ask the team might be things like ‘Who has asked for more reporting? Who’s asked for dashboarding? Who’s been asking us about cash flow?’ Hone in on clients that are not only of the right size and stage in their growth but that you also have a good relationship with.
Real world example: how do you introduce Fathom to clients?
Joe Montgomery: “At Montgomery & Company every new client gets a Fathom template. Our average fee per month for Fathom is $300 and some of our higher-end clients pay $700 per month for their Fathom report. We pair Fathom with monthly or quarterly fractional CFO services and financial reviews. The stories in these meetings are real and deep. We've helped to save our clients' businesses using Fathom”.
Double check the numbers
Fathom’s a powerful tool for insight and reporting, but it derives those things from the client’s financial data (in Quickbooks, Xero, MYOB, etc). If that data isn’t clean and correct, any advice isn’t based on the real information. So spend a little time checking everything is up to date and A-ok.
‘Keep ‘em awake’ KPIs
Here’s where you can explore what really keeps your clients awake at night. Are they a SaaS business concerned about Customer Churn Rate? Are they a non-profit worried about the Donor Retention Rate? Determine which KPIs might be relevant to track as a starting point, and remember different sectors and clients need to track different things. Don’t set these in stone however, rather keep this an open dialogue between you and the client. What you're after first is a kick-off point for the initial conversation so you can add a wow factor to the initial presentation, when you can show the client the types of analysis possible.
Real world example: How much research do you do into things like specific KPIs for clients?
Brittany Stugard: For our complex clients (i.e. those who want custom KPIs), we will work one-on-one with the controller on the account to set the KPIs up in Fathom. Depending on the industry of the client we have a general idea of the KPIs that will need to be added. However, by the time we get around to the Fathom build, the controller has usually been on the account for a month or two and has already worked with the client to determine these KPIs”.
Free e-book: Your Guide to Tracking Essential KPIs
How to compile a management report for a client
Off the back of KPIs, you also might want to think about determining what you would like to include in a management package, as well as how frequently you deliver that report. Fathom comes with a host of pre-prepared templates around common areas such as ‘Cash Flow Analysis’ and ‘This Month v Last Month’. Choose one or two you think your client will find the most useful. And of course you can customize them to bring in specific KPIs.
Free resources: Download a Zip of sample reports
Final questions to ask yourself before speaking to the client
With the above ticked off, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to speak to clients and have something concrete to show them. Think about what you are currently providing to your clients that they’ll want to keep and that you can build on by enhancing that service.
Scheduling the meeting with the client
Schedule a specific catch up meeting with the client during which you can show how Fathom can help, rather than squeezing it in in the last five minutes of another meeting when the client's head might not be in the right place to absorb the information and you’re running out of time.
Double-check the tech
If your meeting is happening virtually, make sure your hardware/computer/technology is up to it and won’t let you down. We’ve more on using Fathom virtually with clients below. Down the line you might want to set the client up within Fathom so they can see the analysis and dashboard for themselves, rather than just viewing PDF reports.
Be prepared for the money question
Be upfront about future costs. Some firms pass on the cost of a Fathom user seat to their clients, others roll it into their general monthly fixed fee. You decide what works best for you.
Real world example: At what point in the conversation do you mention fees?
Brittany Stugard: Fees are part of the initial quote we present to clients. They can opt to have Fathom set up or not, just as they would with any other tool. If for some reason the client decides at a later point that they want Fathom, we would quote them an hourly rate for the build and adjust their monthly fee accordingly.
Prove your worth
We know that one of the real values of using Fathom is finding and proving dangers to businesses that are often hidden in plain sight; a percentage point here, a day’s delay there, all buried in the numbers. Over time, these can build up and cause real problems for business owners. Fathom can help accountants find these operating inefficiencies and bring to the top of the pile.
Real world example: Can you give an example of when Fathom has saved clients’ businesses?
Joe Montgomery: I have three stories I can share.
• We used Fathom to show a dental client how their billing to collection percentage was 10% lower than the industry average. This equated to a $200k annual difference in profit. We worked with the owner and office manager over a year to improve this % and close the lost profit gap.
• Using Fathom with a veterinarian business proved her prices were too low. We worked with her and her office manager to increase prices and generate an additional $100k in profit.
• Fathom highlighted to a contractor client how his business was costing him $50k in cash per year. We helped him reduce expenses and raise prices to generate $50k in positive cash flow per year.
We’re here to help
Clients want advice, analysis, and guidance about their business almost weekly at the moment – as accountants, you and Fathom can provide it.
If you’re still not sure quite what to do next, or have a question about using Fathom with clients we’ve not covered above, we want to help. Our US Customer Success team is there to do just that. Get in touch via our support pages or email email@example.com.
Written by Andrew Webb
Andrew is Fathom’s Content Strategist based in the UK. He has a background in journalism and has worked for companies like the BBC and HuffPost, as well as start ups in education and technology. Andrew has also published 5 food books and makes a great pie.