Rebuilding Your Business Development Program for a Virtual Worldby
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business world is shifting to online-only more rapidly. Accounting firms must ensure their marketing plans are able to account for this change so you can continue reaching current and prospective customers.
The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how the world does business. One growing trend is the continuing virtualization of many professional services, including accounting, as more and more firms shift to a remote workforce.
A recent study conducted by the Hinge Research Institute found that not only are accounting practices migrating to a virtual and online environment, clients are, too. Instead of relying on referrals, print advertising and other traditional forms of finding and qualifying accounting firms, companies are increasingly turning to the Internet—not word of moutht—to seek out potential providers who can help them navigate today’s uncertain economy.
The study also revealed that the most profitable, high-growth firms put significantly more effort into their digital and content marketing activities to help make their firms more visible and attractive online. By creating free content that provides valuable information on topics of interest to their target audiences and making it available on prospects’ channels of choice, these digital-centric firms are able to engage prospects and turn them into clients faster and more easily. In fact, almost 95 percent of professional services firms are now generating leads online and the ones that generate more business online also tend to grow faster.
Research: The Secret Weapon to a Stronger Online Presence and Faster Growth
Understanding your target audience and the topics that concern and interest them will put you on the fast track to greater growth and profitability. Research results are the fuel that runs the content engine, providing the information and insights needed to create valuable, visibility-raising blog posts, videos, podcasts, webinars, white papers, online articles, social media messages and more.
As you generate new, research-based content for your new online digital marketing efforts, be sure to create it to address the three basic stages of engagement. Here are some valuable tips for creating new content for each stage:
Being Found: Use your research to determine the interest and needs of your target audience and identify where your firm’s expertise and experience best fits those.
- Identify relevant keywords that prospects would use to search and tie them in with your content
- Communicate your expertise based on target audience wants and needs
- Develop helpful content that shows you can offer more value than your competition
- Focus on providing insight and valuable information, not asking for an order
- Tailor your messaging to your segments to demonstrate how well you know what they need
Establishing Trust and Building Relationships: Use your content to build and support the four pillars of trust on which relationships are nurtured:
- Demonstrate relevance by becoming associated with other high-credibility people and organizations; build trust over time by developing and promoting co-branded content, utilizing shared contacts, and creating industry recognition
- Prove that your expertise and credentials are trustworthy by demonstrating the right skill set and providing evidence that your credentials are credible
- Recognize prospects’ challenges and use your content to demonstrate that your firm has the industry knowledge and perspective to understand their challenges and is empathetic toward them
- Display your helpfulness by freely sharing your knowledge, expertise and insights to show that you can be a helpful and reliable partner. Full transparency goes a long way in proving that you’re honest and realistic.
Closing the Sale: After gaining the interest and engagement of your prospects, it’s time to re-evaluate and update your value proposition and the tools and content you’ll need to close the sale. Focus on collaborating with prospects to provide the most effective solutions to their problems. Be positive, empathetic, and focused on results.
Some of the preferred tools for providing content to help close the sale include:
- Video conferencing to further demonstrate industry knowledge and provide a brainstorming platform to solidify engagement
- Case studies to provide helpful examples of best-practices and solutions you’ve provided to other clients with similar challenges
- Video testimonials from loyal clients to help “seal the deal”
- Multi-channel touchpoints to help ensure they’re getting the information they need when and where they need it
Putting Everyday Technology to Work for You
Gearing up to go digital doesn’t necessarily mean having to invest heavily in all kinds of sophisticated new technology. Sometimes, the simplest things we use every day get overlooked and yet can be turned into highly effective marketing tools.
Take email signatures, for example. Think about changing the signature banner at the bottom of every email to contain specific content to engage a target industry and audience. Use it to promote a new video, webinar or eBook. Leverage employee email as a new ad channel to promote relevant content that will promote engagement and generate new revenue streams using a tool that everyone looks at every day. You can integrate email with CRMs, marketing and sales automation platforms, content platforms and more to build awareness, reveal buyer intent, and achieve relationship goals.
And let’s not forget the power of video. There are a number of online video platforms that enable you to upload, store, and deliver video content to generate and convert leads. They can be integrated with your email to put a face with a name and provide a higher level of personalization and human engagement – in fact, video provides an 8 times higher open and click-through rate than standard emails.
These are tools you can put to work every day, humming along quietly in the background, delivering targeted content to leads, prospects and clients alike. It’s like adding to your marketing staff without the additional personnel overhead.
As the economy slowly reopens and businesses in every industry and market segment start to adjust to the new reality, demand for services such as accounting will grow. As the business world becomes more virtual, isn’t it time your marketing program did, too?
Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high-growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to...