Sales & Business Development
The traditional business development model for tax, accounting, and bookkeeping firms is broken.
Networking events and evangelist networks may not come back online for several quarters or longer as the pandemic lingers. Outbound advertising has a limited reach, costly and low ROI. Professional services firms across the spectrum are recognizing the need to pivot to a new sales model based on a digital-first strategy.
The accounting profession has a unique advantage as a knowledge business. Enterprising firms can position themselves as subject matter experts, which works well with a content marketing strategy where lead magnets like e-books and case studies are used to attract and nurture new clients.
Digital marketing is no longer the exclusive domain of Big 4 and national tier two firms, with their vast resources. With lean content creation strategies and affordable marketing automation software, small-medium businesses can assimilate the components necessary to pivot to a digital-first client acquisition strategy.
In this article, I highlight how accounting firms can pivot to a digital-first client acquisition strategy.
1. Assessing the situation and understanding how the pandemic is impacting the B2B sales process for professional services firm.
2. A Simple 4-Point Plan: Pivoting to a client acquisition strategy based on content marketing and automation technology.
3. Turning subject matter expertise into digital marketing assets like case studies and playbooks to use as lead magnets.
4. Optimizing your website to serve as a knowledge hub and integrating automation software to capture buying signals.
5. What is marketing automation software, and how it drives sales enablement to help busy firm owners and partners win new clients?
6. Measuring marketing performance, calculating ROI, and doubling down on high performing campaigns to maximize business outcomes.
From Zero to Hero
Help accounting and bookkeeping firms pivot to a digital-first client acquisition strategy.
Imagine our hero, Bill, who is a Partner in a successful accounting firm. The company has a staff of professionals who provide tax, tax planning, compilations, and outsourced accounting services.
Leading up to the pandemic business had been brisk with a healthy client roster and predictable growth over the last three years. However, things changed quickly.
The firm scrambled to help clients obtain PPP loans and put financial plans into place. Some clients have been OK, but others are struggling to survive, and some percentage will not make it through the recession. Clearly, the firm needs to address client atrophy and find a way to replace business that goes away.
As a Partner with principal responsibility for business development, Bill has been thinking about improving his firm’s digital footprint. He recognizes that as companies lay off full-time employees, there may be an opportunity to capture new clients looking for monthly financial statement services. However, his challenge was where to start? Not to mention where to find the time when there is still so much client work to do.
Thankfully, Bill found a partner with the expertise to combine all the necessary elements with helping the firm pivot to a new sales strategy. One built for a more virtual world.
The game plan began with translating the firm’s subject matter expertise into marketing assets called lead magnets. For example, they developed an eBook entitled 5 Ways Financial Statements Help Run Your Business, designed to offer advice for companies shopping for these services.
Secondly, they revamped the firm’s website and positioned it as a knowledge hub rich with content and integrated it with marketing automation software to begin capturing buying signals from prospects.
The result – a permanent digital asset is producing a pipeline of prospective new clients!
A simple 4-point plan.
Pivoting to a digital-first content marketing strategy for client acquisition doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re looking for a place to start, we’ve organized the primary elements into a concise 4 point plan.
We begin by explaining how to implement content marketing by translating your subject matter expertise into high-quality lead magnets. From there, we discuss positioning your website as a knowledge hub designed to serve as a resource center for existing and potential customers.
Marketing automation software is the glue that ties everything together from helping deliver your content across multiple channels to tracking prospect behavior and measuring campaign performance. Read on to learn how your firm can pivot to a digital-first client acquisition strategy and take advantage of the hidden opportunity.
All of the components for your digital-first client acquisition strategy work in concert with one another. Your website is the central hub for hosting your content. Marketing automation software runs behind the scenes and is integrated with your website. Content, in the form of lead magnets (e-books and case studies), blog articles and social posts, is the fuel that powers your sales and marketing engine.
1. High-Quality Content
Knowledge workers like Accountants have a built-in advantage in that your subject market expertise can easily be converted into high-value content that attracts potential customers by addressing the questions they are trying to answer as they move through the buyer journey. With a lean content strategy, one long-form piece of content, like a case study, can generate multiple blog articles, social posts, and email marketing campaigns.
2. A Sales Oriented Website
Your website should be the hardest-working member of your sales team.
Reconstructing your existing website or building a new one from the ground up with your unique customer acquisition process in mind is a smart investment. It represents an evergreen asset that will continue to produce a return on investment year after year as your domain authority increases, and you attract more and more visitors.
3. Marketing Automation Software
Marketing Automation Software (MAS) integrates with your website and delivers your content with segmented, scheduled email marketing campaigns.
Automation recipes are used to track prospect engagement and provide you with buying signals that prioritize sales follow up activity. Automation represents a considerable ROI because a single automation can be used repeatedly.
4. The Right Business Development Partner
There are a lot of “digital marketing” firms in the market. I recommend finding one that approaches sales and marketing as an integrated unit and has a background in selling professional services. Catchy email headlines are only one part of the equation. You need a partner who can think through your business model, competitors, buyer journeys, buyer personas, and sales process.
93% of B2B companies say that content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing tactics. – Forbes
Content marketing is a natural dovetail for professional services firms with deep subject matter expertise within their field of practice.
This provides an excellent opportunity to translate knowledge into lead magnets like case studies and playbooks. By offering useful information for potential prospects who are self-educating as they move through the buyer journey, firms can attract, nurture, and convert prospects.
Using a lean content strategy, firms with limited resources can generate multiple assets. For example, one e-book can spin off smaller, short-form content like blog articles, social posts, and email marketing campaigns. Each channel drives traffic back to the lead magnet and establishes your brand as an industry thought leader.
Why content marketing works for accounting firms.
Convert your knowledge into content.
Content marketing offers some of the highest available returns on your marketing investment. Content like e-Books, case studies, and blog articles are permanent digital assets that continually attract and engage prospects. The cumulative effect of building content not only positions you as an expert in the marketplace, but it also helps increase your website domain authority and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Over the long haul, this increases organic website traffic from potential prospects.
The information your prospects want.
As prospects move through the buyer journey (awareness, consideration, and buying decision), they consume an ever-increasing amount of content. Content marketing keeps your firm front and center as prospects search and self-educate about potential solutions.
Position your firm as a thought leader.
Accounting, tax, and bookkeeping firms are built on reputation. Creating content is an excellent way to validate your expertise within specific niches and service offerings. For example, case studies demonstrate how your services solve problems for real-life clients.
Permanent assets with evergreen ROI.
From a financial perspective, content marketing is a fantastic option because content like case studies and eBooks are evergreen assets that continually attract potential prospects. A blog article discussing cash forecasting will be as relevant two years from now as it is today.
71% of B2B businesses think a simple-to-use website is a valuable selling feature. – BigCommerce
With its suite of features, marketing automation software is a revolutionary asset in increasing sales enablement. This means giving busy Partners and salespeople the tools to deliver targeted messaging to a broad audience with insights on which prospects are actively engaged with the firm’s messaging and have the highest potential to become customers. Think of marketing automation software as next-generation CRM that serves as the backbone of your combined sales and marketing effort. This software does everything to help you manage the sales funnel, lead velocity, prioritize selling opportunities, and determine which marketing channels drive revenue. And which channels to stop wasting marketing spend.
Measuring marketing performance.
Measuring marketing performance gives you hard data to support decisions about future campaigns, marketing channels, and market niches. This optimizes new customer acquisition and ultimately drives revenue growth.
Professional services providers like accounting and bookkeeping firms need to understand a handful of fundamental conversion ratios to calculate ROI on marketing activity. This includes lead conversion ratios like email open rates, click-through rates, and how these translate to converting unknown contacts into qualified prospects, often called Marketing Qualified Leads or MQL’s. It also is relatively easy to set up and put on business development auto-pilot to free up your accounting and booking keeping team to focus less on prospecting and more on the business.
Lead Conversion Rate
In a given email marketing campaign, tracking email open rate and click-through rates will tell you what percentage of prospects qualify as a lead. This can often be measured by using automation software and assigning a minimum lead score as a benchmark.
Your close ratio is the number of new customers you capture based on how many leads you develop. For example, assume you generate one new customer for every three leads you conduct an initial meeting with. Your close ratio would be 1/3 or 33%.
Average Deal Value
Another important metric to define is your average deal value. For example, assume that you sign on a new customer who pays you $1,200 a month for outsourced Controller and monthly financial statement services. Your average deal value would then be $14,400 or $1, 200 X 12 = $14,400.
Marketing ROI is the total of new revenue won divided into the total marketing investment. Assume you generated two new customers each month for a total of $28,800 and invested $3,000 into marketing. Your ROI would be 960% ($28,800 / $3,000 = 9.6 X 100 = 960%.).
One of the benefits of utilizing modern digital marketing is the real-time feedback you get on campaign performance.
Understanding which emails, social media posts and blog articles are getting the most traction allows you to double down on creating additional content to address the most prominent pain points your target audience is experiencing. This helps maximize the ROI you get on marketing investment by continually testing, evaluating, and tailoring your messaging. Creating lead magnets that address relevant topics can also spin off job aids to help salespeople.
For example, an e-book that addresses a broad theme might generate several different cut sheets with telephone scripts that help salespeople articulate talking points and improve important conversations.
All of this together helps increase the close-ratio when converting interested prospects into eventual customers. This alignment between marketing and sales helps professional services firms maintain a steady stream of qualified prospects at the top of the sales funnel.
Peritus Marketing helps accounting and bookkeeping firms with client acquisition by implementing marketing automation software and fueling it with the right targeted content to grow sales.
ABM requires tremendous collaboration between sales and marketing, but the results can be substantial for your business.
Twenty-Twenty-one is going to be challenging, but optimism will help fuel our endeavors to achieve success! With that in mind, it is time to get more out of your email marketing program
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