Every Accounting business needs new clients every year. You need them to replace departing ones, to keep your business fresh and to grow your business.

But how do you find them?

You can employ what most firms do and waaaiiiitttt. Painfully waiting for new clients to show up via referral. I have heard firms proudly say – ‘we have grown our business entirely on referrals’. That’s great for the ego but very unpredictable and slow when it comes to growth.

Now I am not saying referrals are unimportant. They absolutely are. You should always be asking for them. However, this should not be your only lead generation method. The issue I have with referrals is you are not in control of the process.

What you need is a predictable lead generation. A steady flow of quality leads coming to you from your proactive marketing strategies.

With predictable lead generation the first thing to ascertain is WHO is it you want as a client. You must know exactly who it is you’re after. Imagine you are pitching to 50 prospects at a seminar. The entire audience is 100% your ideal client – your best buyer.

You need to know the industry (preferably a niche market), the exact demographics (size, location etc) and behaviour traits before we even begin. Describe your absolute ideal client.

An example is my target market for my personal coaching. Not a product buyer or a seminar attendee – but a firm that I will personally coach. I could just say ‘Accountants in Public Practice’ but that is too broad. It takes into consideration solo operators right through to the ‘Big 4’. That equates to 1.3M possible firms in the world.

My ideal coaching client is an Accountant in Public Practice who…

  • Has revenue between $500K and $5M (I will go larger if there are less than 4 Partners)
  • Less than 4 operational owners
  • More than 4 employees
  • Has more than 100 business clients
  • Is a ‘GP’ firm mainly serving business clients
  • Is very ambitious.

By getting very specific on who it is I want as a client I can get very targeted with my marketing. For example:

“I’m looking for 8 Accountants who have revenue between $500k to $5M and want to earn >$1M profit per partner while working less than 5o0 client hours. Would you like to join me?”

OR

“I’m looking to help 8 Accountants this year who want to increase revenue and dramatically reduce personal time by offering new value-added services to business clients. You need to have existing revenue of $500K to $5M and want to take your firm to the next level.  Would you like to join me?

Based on the examples above the only people who reply are those that want what you’re selling. It’s better to have less enquiry but higher quality enquiry.

The more specific you are in WHO it is you’re targeting the easier it is to find them.

Let’s go and find them.

There are 3 key components to predictable lead generation.

  1. Community of followers
  2. Brand development
  3. Direct response activity

Community of followers

Firstly, you have to remember that not everyone you want as a client is ready to switch Accountants when you want them to. You have to be consistent, persistent and patient with your marketing approach.

Unless your ideal client is a start-up, most likely your ideal client already has an Accounting firm looking after them. Like you have over your clients, the other Accounting firm has ‘Financial Intimacy’ over their clients.

Financial Intimacy is where you know financial matters about your clients that no-one else does. The other Accounting firm (where your future client is) knows financial matters about their clients as well. It is an emotional right royal pain in the butt to switch Accountants. The profession has got the market bluffed that it is hard to change Accountants. You can dish up really crappy service and they still stay. Better the devil you know etc etc.

A client does not switch Accountants that easily. It’s just the way it is.

Now, the trick here is to break financial intimacy. If you can break financial intimacy by proving you’re better than the one they’re already with, then you’ll win the client.

Breaking financial intimacy starts with a very large (preferable massive) list of names who MAY be interested in switching at some point in time in the future.

The list of names can either be a physical database where you have access to all of their details and you can write to them. It might people who follow you on social media – your followbase™ or those that like you on social media – your likebase™.

There are many ways to build a community of followers.

The names may connect with you because they heard about you. They may opt in to your free report download on your site, follow you on LinkedIn / Twitter / YouTube or simply ‘like’ your company Facebook page.

You could go to someone else who has the same target market as you and do a joint venture of some sort where they write to their list and offer something of yours (some value) to them in exchange for their client opting in to your database.

Or you can go hard core (aka old school) and obtain (buy a list), curate (develop from the internet or roadside) or even just call them up and see if they want to receive something from you.

There is not one way to obtain a name. There are many and all methods should be applied.

Whatever size your community of followers ends up being it is a list of suspects. You suspect they may be interested. That list needs to grow every week based on your marketing activities. Ideally more than 10,000 names and growing.

 

Brand development

If I go to your web presence (not just your main company website) am I blown away by what I read/hear and see or is just downright boring? Often the website looks like it was done more than 3 years ago and it reeks of ‘we’re old and tired’.

Most Accountants brands are about outdated pictures of the Partners (too often male, pale and stale) and the services that they provide. We do tax, bookkeeping, audit, compliance and business advice. Yawn yawn and more yawn.

There is limited social proof (case studies and wins), limited value-added content where I can taste you (try before I buy), boring content and hardly any reasons why I should switch to you.

Just for a bit of fun search for Accountants in your area and check out their web presence. It can sometimes be a cure for insomnia!

To build a brand these days it’s very easy and very fast. The internet has removed all the barriers to brand development. With a smartphone, a computer and a contractor from upwork.com, 99designs.com or fiverr.com you can make your brand come alive very quickly and inexpensively.

Before you start building your brand you need to answer these questions:

  1.    What do you want your brand to say about you?
  2.   What do you want to be known for?
  3.   What do you want to be the experts in?
  4.   How, by switching to you will I be better off?

The answers to the questions will become your ‘Brand Promise’.

In my case when an Accounting firm is coached by me, I’ll show you how to earn >$1M profit per partner, work less than 500 client hours and build an amazing Accounting business.

That’s my brand promise – what’s yours?

My brand promise is everywhere. My email footer, my LinkedIn profile, my content I produce and most importantly front and centre on my website(s).

Other than shaping your web presence to be outcome focussed, sprucing it up so it looks modern and most importantly appealing to your target market (using their specific language) there is one word that builds a brand – CONTENT.

The objective of your brand development is to build your credibility in the eyes of your suspect. You do that by providing content. Valuable content where (as a suspect) I can experience you before I buy you.

You see, you break financial intimacy one content interaction at a time. You chip away at financial intimacy with valuable content that appeals to your target market.

Your content can come in many formats. It could be a written article, a voice-based podcast, a video interview of a successful client, an Instagram picture, a Facebook rant, a written case study, an opinion paper, a webinar, a YouTube video or a downloadable .pdf tool.

Because you can build a brand based on content and the delivery mediums / platforms are free or close to it your branding costs will be negligible.

All content works as it appeals to different ways people consume content. Some will like something, share the next one, open some of them and comment occasionally. Or they may be a voyeur and just look and you have no idea what they’re looking at.

The more content you put out (on a weekly consistent basis) in a variety of formats on a variety of platforms will speed up your credibility, likeability and trustability.

Some of your target market will see it, they’ll try before they buy and you’ll chip away at the financial intimacy of their current provider.

Direct response activity

You’ve got a large list of names, your brand appeals to your target market and you’ve been ‘warming’ your list up with valuable content.

Now it’s time to get assertive. You know you’ve got something great to offer, you know your suspects are currently poorly served. The problem is they’ve never been invited.

It’s time to invite, offer and ask.

It’s time to generate some quality leads. It’s not about ‘getting your name out there’ – although that’s important. It’s about getting ‘their name in here!’

It’s about your target market responding (not buying – that happens later) to your invitations and offers. Putting their hand up and saying ‘I’m interested’ or ‘let’s talk’.

Here it is.

When you’re ready for new leads you do loads of direct marketing activity (in multiple ways) to get them to put their hand up. If you do enough direct response marketing to a large enough list you’ll find people who want a new Accountant – when you’re ready!

You turn the ‘lead generation firehose’ on when you have sales capacity to follow up and delivery capacity to onboard and deliver on your promise.

As you get involved in lead generation activity you have to remember the following truth – there is more than one way to get a lead and not everything works.

You need to direct your energy to ‘where they hang out’ not where you think they hang out. For example my target market hangs out on email but not Twitter. They can be found at seminars and webinars. They read direct mail and go to Facebook and LinkedIn.

Your target market may not read email, they may not sit at a desk, they may not go to LinkedIn or attend seminars. However, they do hang out somewhere and respond to some mediums.

The trick is to work out which mediums work for your target market. You do that by testing and measuring. Don’t get despondent if LinkedIn doesn’t work – direct mail might. Don’t be despondent if a webinar doesn’t work – a live seminar might. Don’t be despondent if email doesn’t work – a phone call might.

Here are some examples of direct response lead generation activity.

  • Emailing – asking using short text-based emails – no HTML!
  • Webinar – asking in an online environment
  • Direct mail – asking using a personal letter
  • Texting – asking using a short message
  • Social media advertising / posting – asking through low cost ads
  • Phone calls – picking up the phone and asking
  • Seminars – asking from front of stage
  • Speaking at some else’s event – tick in the box for a lead

They all work however they all have different open rates, response rates, attendance rates and differing cost of lead.

You need to have an ‘allowable lead cost’ which is how much you’re prepared to spend to get a quality lead in front of you for the first time. Let’s say a new client is worth $10,000 per year to you and you don’t want to spend more than $1,000 to get them as a client. You convert 1 in 4 leads (to a client) so your self-imposed allowable lead cost is $250. Stay under that amount per lead and you have an endless marketing budget.

In my list I have avoided TV, Radio, Newspaper, Billboards, Sponsorships, Exhibitions and Magazines. They sort of work but the cost of lead is very high and typically they are branding activities rather than direct response marketing. All direct response marketing can and should be measured back to an allowable lead cost.

So there you have it. If you want to get predictable lead generation then build a community of followers, enhance your brand so it means something to your target market and be relentless in asking.

Once you get in front of them, you have a discussion, make them an offer and then get a resolution – yes, no or not now!