By Brett Owens
If you're like most busy accounting professionals I know, you probably aren't able to devote as much time to marketing your firm and as you'd like. I'm going to highlight a strategy that can help you achieve significant leverage from whatever amount of time you can carve out for new business development.
Solution: You Do Everything
What kind of a time management piece suggests you delegate nothing?!
It's the right way to go . . . with one very important catch. You do everything only once.
We're going to have you set up a marketing machine that captures new leads, follows up with them, and moves them through your sales process. Our goal: By the time a prospective client is ready to speak with you, he or she is presold on your credentials, expertise, and ability to help.
Win Google via "The Long Tail"
Getting your site ranked on the first page of Google for "California CPA" would be an extremely formidable task. Getting ranked for a longer-tail search term, such as "small business accountant Sacramento" is not only more likely to generate actual business for you, but it's also an order of magnitude or two easier.
Research has shown that people who type in longer search phrases are also closer to making an actual purchasing decision – which makes sense, because it means they've already done their research.
It's also easier to rank for a longer term than it is for a short one because there's less competition. In these cases, we don't have to pay exorbitant fees to an SEO consultant in hopes of getting our website ranked high. All we need to do is create one page of good content that's relevant to the topic for which we want to be found.
My favorite trick is using a simple WordPress blog for this. I title the post based on the topic and search term I'm after. Then I start writing.
Win the Review Sites
Here's an even quicker marketing win than a good blog post – the review sites.
This is an area that most accounting professionals still aren't paying a lot of attention to. If you pay attention to them, you can do very well.
Start with Yelp – which started out as a site for finding a good nearby restaurant – and has quickly evolved into a resource for finding professional service providers.
Many accounting professionals are leaving review sites on the table. Just encourage your clients to leave you reviews on Yelp, and you'll quickly find yourself at the top of the rankings in your area.
Google LOVES review sites because they provide impartial, third-party content. It's another way to get on the front page – and to have a client presold on you by the time they contact you.
A Word on Social Media
Using social media to acquire new customers hasn't yet been figured out in a cost- and time-effective manner. Of course, hundreds of thousands of new customers are just waiting to be found through social media, but a proven, repeatable methodology hasn't yet been established.
If you're dead set on spending some time on social media for business development, please do me a favor and focus your efforts on LinkedIn. Out of the "Big 3" (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), LinkedIn is the preferred hangout social medium for grown-ups. And, as a result, it consistently ranks highest when scored by marketers.
Setting Up an Autoresponder
"If only I could clone myself!" is a popular cry in our profession. Imagine all the business development you could get done if there were two of you!
When it comes to follow-up marketing, I have some good news to share. You can actually do better than cloning yourself when it comes to scheduling e-mail follow-ups.
You do this by setting up an autoresponder sequence in your e-mail marketing software, which is an e-mail, or series of e-mails, that you write once (and only once - this is the key). Then you schedule the e-mail to be sent automatically to new leads based on a timeline you set – and they're sent out over and over again on your behalf, without you having to lift a finger.
For example, say you have a "Contact Us" form on your website. You probably make an effort to reply to inquiries sent in via this form as soon as possible.
But since the form is visible on the Internet, which is open 24/7, it's not always possible for you, or your staff, to send an immediate reply.
So, you set up your autoresponder to send an e-mail back immediately from you that contains the basic points of your normal lead follow-up. The advantage is that your prospect has an e-mail immediately, with useful information and your contact information. They are one step further along in the presold process.
Pull up some old e-mails you've written as a starting point. They could be e-mails you sent directly to a prospective or current client. It'd be a shame to let the knowledge you shared fade away right there. Let's get that expertise into an autoresponder sequence.
Recommended Tools for Getting Started
For my own e-mail marketing and follow-ups, I use a product called Infusionsoft. It's the most advanced product on the market for e-mail marketing.
If you're just getting started, I'd recommend looking at MailChimp, which allows for basic follow-up e-mails. It's easier to get started with because it's user friendly.
Finally, we use a tool called LeadDyno to manage our online marketing efforts. Using LeadDyno, we trace every lead and customer back to the original click source so we know where to devote our efforts and expenditures going forward.
Like a good reference book, these steps don't need to be taken in sequential order. Start today and start scaling your business development efforts – while actually devoting less time to them!
About the author:
Brett Owens is CEO and Co-Founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, California-based provider of time management software that accurately records and reports back how you spend your time. Previously marketed to only the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett is also a blogger and founder at ContraryInvesting.com, as well as a regular contributor to two leading financial media sites, SeekingAlpha.com and Minyanville.