New buying service promises accountants projects and ongoing assignments.
By Hitendra Patil
The shared economy, contingent workforce, millennials’ preference for work-life balance, the cloud, artificial intelligence, big data. Everything is converging to disrupt traditional business models of many industries and professions.
And accounting is not immune to disruption. On the contrary, accounting is ripe for disruption. Note carefully. It is all only “disruptive.” NOT “destructive.”
Riding the new reality, the undisputed leader of business social media – LinkedIn – is now leveraging its platform to help shared economy workers get new clients.
Meet ProFinder: Accountant’s New Opportunity (and a New Threat?)
“New customers are waiting. We'll help you reach them” - That’s how LinkedIn tells you what its new service will do for you.
And LinkedIn’s new offering has picked accounting as one of the first of only 13 professions that are currently available on this platform.
According to LinkedIn’s terms, "ProFinder provides a platform for LinkedIn members working in certain professional fields ('Service Providers') to connect with other members who are looking for professional services ('Interested Members')."
LinkedIn ProFinder is not an invention by itself. If you're familiar with TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance), freelancer.com, or even Craig's List, you'll understand the market LinkedIn is joining. Within the accounting profession, there are already some talent bazaars to choose from – Sage Match, QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Xero Adviser Directory, VouchedIn, CountUp.io, AccountingLeap, AccountantsWorld and the first of the bunch dating back to the early days of the Internet, cpadirectory.com. In 2013, Intuit acquired three-year-old startup Teaspiller to create the TurboTax Select referral service.
So what makes LinkedIn ProFinder something to sit up and take note about?
While there are endorsements and recommendations that adorn LinkedIn profiles, as a service provider you need to register”with ProFinder. And then LinkedIn’s concierge team will vet your application. And thereafter you can start responding to the “projects” posted by those who need the services you provide. In other words, the ProFin der takes effort to reduce the anxiety levels of hiring unknown service providers. And it does not let anyone “spam” the prospective buyers. Unlike a shopping mall where sellers set up their shops and wait for buyers to come in, ProFinder is where buyers (you can call them pre-qualified leads) let the system bring pre-qualified sellers to them.
When they have projects that need services of, for example, a CPA, the “Interested Members,” need to provide many details up front, which makes it easier and faster for both the service seeker and the service provider to close a deal when they actually connect.
Let’s say you register as a ProFinder and the platform takes your profile to a potential buyer whose project needs match the services you provide. ProFinder will display your profile to the potential buyer in a new way (not your usual LinkedIn profile).
According to LinkedIn, with ProFinder, you:
- Get leads in your Inbox. LinkedIn members will make a request for services they need. Once we find a request that matches your expertise, we'll send you an email.
- Respond on your terms. If you're interested in their request, respond to the member with a short proposal. They'll also get access to your full LinkedIn profile.
- Get hired. If your offer fits the member's needs, they'll reach out and start a conversation.
Does that sound like Uber?
While these are new opportunities to get inbound leads, it also means a new threat as your competitors can be hundreds or thousands of miles away. But, the opportunities can far outweigh the threats.
A quick search on LinkedIn’s platform shows there are over 9 million profiles of business owners and CXOs on LinkedIn who could be the potential buyers of accounting services. And this number will keep growing. That is the real power of this new service. The sheer numbers could tilt the game heavily in favor of LinkedIn.
The number of new clients you can get from ProFinder will depend on how much LinkedIn succeeds in getting its users to post their accounting projects on its platform.
Nonetheless, it is definitely an inbound lead generation technology that builds upon your strong LinkedIn profile. Now get your LinkedIn profile all spruced up and shiny again.