While firms that are pioneers in adopting technology outpace their peers in other ways, too, according to Wolter Kluwer CCH Tax and Accounting president and CEO Teresa Mackintosh, accountants don’t necessarily need to be on the cutting edge in all things to grow.

“Firms that proactively pursue the right technologies are clearly winning over firms that don’t,” Mackintosh told accountants in a keynote address at this week’s California Accounting and Business Show. “It pays to be agile.”

That said, she added, “Everybody doesn’t need to be a pioneer. You can think of one thing that makes a difference to your firm. ... Pick just one or two things and push them forward.”

“You can’t grow simply by producing more tax returns more quickly,” she explained. “And incremental changes bring incremental results.”

Not every firm wants to be among the small group of pioneering firms that are willing to take lots of risks with new technologies, but she urged firms to at least try to get into the larger group of early adopters who are willing to try things once they see how the pioneers do with them.

Both groups are doing better than the vast majority of accountants, who tend to be late adopters, she said, citing results from CCH’s “Leaders Now and Next Survey,” which found that pioneers and early adopters consistently outperformed late adopters in growth and revenues -- and that the gap is growing. (See “CCH Sees 'Pioneer' Accounting Firms Standing Out.”)

And while Mackintosh urged attendees to consider adopting technologies like client portals, scanning and OCR, integrated workflow, document management, digital signatures, and cloud computing, she also pointed out other ways they could move forward, including using more sophisticated marketing and social media tools to engage with clients. (Several shows of hands revealed that the audience was, by and large, not particularly adept at this.)

She described a number of methods that forward-thinking firms were using to engage clients, from social media and creating webinars that address client concerns, to content marketing on the firm Web site and white papers.

“You, too, can write a white paper,” she encouraged the audience. “Just put your thoughts down on paper and share it.”