(Note – this is part 3 of a 3-part series looking at the 3 most common weaknesses practices have admitted to having after doing hundreds of strategic plans in the last 7+ years with practice owners all over the world. You can check out part 1 here and part 2 here)
Where do most of your new clients come from?
I’m going to take a guess and say that word-of-mouth referrals is the answer.
You see historically, most accountancy practices all over the world are built on and have grown from a solid foundation of word-of-mouth referrals.
In fact, many practices today still grow primarily using referrals as their primary method.
(It’s worth noting at this point that although many practices get a good number of referrals, there are lots who don’t have their referrals process systemised – which means they’re actually limiting the number of referrals they could be getting – but that’s another blog post entirely…)
And if this is your current strategy then this is fine…
But depending on your goals, and the level of growth that you want to achieve in your practice then relying solely on referrals probably isn’t the best approach.
In fact, I would argue that as more and more practices become marketing savvy with a strategy that uses…
- content marketing
- social media marketing
- event marketing
… and other tactics to target specific people with specific pain points (aka niche marketing) – relying on referrals as a strategy will become increasingly more difficult.
So why don’t more practice owners have a marketing strategy that consistently generates them new business?
Over the years I’ve found that the answer is two-pronged:
- They don’t understand it – I mean why would you? You trained as accountants not marketers…
- They don’t know where to start…
And what usually happens is that as a result of the above, practice owners will try a type of marketing that I like to call ‘throw-money-at-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks marketing’.
Guess what usually follows?
“Marketing doesn’t work”
“Marketing is an expensive waste of time”
“I wrote 3 blogs and I haven’t had a single client from them!”
Yes, marketing is an expensive waste of time that typically doesn’t work if you don’t have a proper strategy in place…
So, what might a marketing strategy that works look like?
In this article I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of different marketing tactics…
I’m also not going to touch base on every single aspect of what a complete marketing strategy might look like.
I want to give you the bigger picture concepts that will hopefully help you to understand better and know where to start.
Here are what I believe to be 5 vital components of a successful marketing strategy:
1. Target specific people with specific pain points
Generic marketing will generate generic results.
Which means you really want to be specific about the people that you target and the message that you target them with.
Yes, if you haven’t guessed already I’m talking about niche marketing here.
I can already hear you saying, “But Rudi, I don’t want to niche my practice”.
That’s fine, you don’t have to niche your entire practice, you just have to niche your marketing.
My good friend Amanda Watts refers to this in her book ‘The Pioneering Practice’ as picking a ‘hunting niche’. This is where you create content (blogs, ebooks, events etc) for a specific niche, whilst keeping your practice and website homepage more generalist (in order to still attract normal clients).
And the best part is that you can have multiple hunting niches, whilst still running a generalist practice.
2. A method for generating leads
Once you’ve decided on your niche(s) you need a method for generating leads.
Now there are lots of different tactics that can be used here: Facebook ads, Linkedin, exhibitions etc but at their very core they all have one thing in common…
You’re looking to capture somebody’s contact details in exchange for something valuable.
Lead generation ultimately comes down to a value exchange.
You give me your contact details and in return I’ll give you something appealing and exciting that you perceive as being more valuable than giving away your information.
So how do you do this?
The best method by far is to create content in the form of ebooks, downloadable guides, checklists, calculators, video training series – the list can go on – the point is that it meets the following criteria:
- It’s valuable – not just something that’s been half-heartedly thrown together
- It’s for a specific person + pain point
- It’s easy to digest
Once it meets all of the above criteria, then you want to host this piece of content on a landing page.
This is a page that is separate from your main website (so ideally doesn’t have any of your websites normal navigation options) and has 1 single purpose…
To capture their contact details.
They enter their details – and in return you send them the content.
Voila – a lead has been generated!
3. A method for nurturing leads
Every man and his dog has an accountant, so just because you’ve added some leads to your database, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to become a client… right now.
This is where a method for nurturing leads come in handy.
Check out this graph below…
The line represents a prospects desire to change accountant over time. Sometimes they’re really not that bothered, and other times they are more bothered for whatever reason.
The dots represent the touch points they have with you as part of your nurturing method.
And the green tick represents the time when they are most likely to want to change.
Which means that unless you have regular touch points with your prospects, you could end up missing out on the best opportunity to convert them into clients…
So how do you do this?
One of the best ways to nurture prospects over time is to be emailing them on at least a weekly basis. This email is really about doing the following things:
- Adding value to them
- Building the relationship with them (in terms of ‘know, like and trust’)
- Moving them further down the marketing journey
4. A method for converting leads into clients
Ok, so you’ve got some leads in your database, and you’ve been nurturing them over time adding value, building the relationship and move them further down the marketing journey.
So what next?
How do you convert these leads into paying clients?
One of the best ways for doing this is to run live events.
Live events provide prospective clients with the opportunity to experience you, and to make the leap from being a lead into a client.
Aside from that, you want to make it easy for the warmest leads to be able to take the next step. This is where the discovery call/strategy session/triage call works best.
Offering a 20-30 minute telephone conversation with the purpose of figuring out IF you can help them (note that this call is not about the HOW), is a really powerful conversion tool. It also helps you to disqualify any time-wasters or people that might not be the right fit for you early on, without wasting a few hours in a face to face meeting.
5. Consistency and rhythm
Marketing is not a one-off event.
It’s an ongoing process and journey which means that in order for it to be successful, it needs o be consistent.
Now whether at this stage of the game consistent for you is doing something once a month vs. doing it once a week, then that’s fine. It’s a starting point.
But understand that marketing isn’t a tap that you can turn on and off as and when you please.
It takes a lot of hard work, effort and consistency to turn the tap on and have the leads flowing through regularly, and once that tap is on, turning it off is not a good idea.
Find your rhythm, be consistent and the results will follow.
So where do you start?
I’m hoping that from reading the above you have a clearer understanding of what makes marketing successful, and what doesn’t.
But the question still remains, where do you start?
For me, the answer is not so much where you start, but just starting in general.
It doesn’t matter whether you start first with having an all singing all dancing website before running events, or you start running live events with a terrible website – the point is that you’ve started.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.