Over the last few years, I've been regularly invited to speak to small and large groups of accounting professionals. I speak about their online marketing and prospective client follow-up -- and how critical it is for those in our profession to get it right.
(Consider: Aside from purchasing a bookkeeping software online, do your best clients EVER pull the trigger on a service plan upon first contact? ... No? Exactly.)
So, before one such talk, I decided to play "prospect" with websites of some selected attendees. Sure, many of these websites looked nice and "pretty" -- impressive, even. But the vast majority had no mechanism in place to capture the contact information of their visitors. Not even the quite lame (and very old) "Sign up for our Newsletter" box.
So, here's a potentially embarrassing question: What about your website? What about your follow-up?
You see, I was a warm prospect (or I at least chose to appear as such). And even with these otherwise success-oriented accountants, I barely got a follow-up.
Systematic, effective follow-up is the only way to win new business online for the service professional -- especially for bookkeeping or accounting firms. Therefore, the lead capture strategy is the most fundamental tool aspect of the website (and every element of the online marketing footprint) of a successful accountant.
Why is this? Well, 1) you're not running a charity and 2) you're not an “infotainment” provider, therefore your website and your online marketing has two primary purposes:
- To get people to make an appointment to talk to you. (They’re ready.)
- To get someone to allow you to stay in touch. (They’re researching.)
And, can we agree that you shouldn’t see yourself to be “in competition” with a Bench.co or similar huge, branded outfit? Yes, that's not your competitive edge--especially with Big Software and the other big-brand behemoths out there.
Your competitive edge is based on your relationship with your clients and prospects and the measure of trust that you can establish.
So ... riddle me this: How many *cold* (i.e., non-referral) visitors can make any decision regarding who they'll trust with their most intimate financial details based on a website? The answer, of course, is not very many. You might get a phone call. (Pop-quiz: is your phone number prominent on your website?) But even then, you'd need to be well-prepared with an extremely good pitch to "close" a discerning prospect. (That's a subject for another time.)
But, if you build a relationship over time with these visitors, that "pitch" becomes much simpler.
So, lead capture is mandatory on nearly every page of your website. I will discuss the best way to do this in a future article. We have been managing the online presence for accounting and tax firms since 2008. We’ve learned a thing or three about how to do this with class and effectiveness.
Once you collect the name and email addresses of your website visitors, you can build relationships with them. You can market to them effectively using conversational and relationship-oriented email marketing. And that, of course, translates well for your competitive edge (relationships) and to well-paying clients, month after month.
Alternatively, if you don't have:
- an effective "lead capture" mechanism in place
- relational and prompt follow-up
- a systemized way to build a relationship over time (so that when the prospect is ready, they come to you)
you will be left behind in the current marketplace.
This is equally true (if not even more so) with social media. Tweet, post, update, Tik-Tok, or Snapchat all you like. But move these very tentative social media contacts into a more robust, regular, and controllable form of communication. Otherwise, you're not harvesting what you could from those platforms.
Now is the time to take a cold, hard look at your overall online marketing strategy. It takes more than simply slapping up a lead capture form on your site to make it effective. All the parts need to work together in a cohesive whole.
As I tell my audiences: Marketing, at its core, is about moving prospects from "cold" to "hot" (i.e., being a client) through a relational process of selling, positioning and solving problems. And unless that's set up in a systemized way for your practice in the online arena, you'll continue to struggle there.
But it doesn't have to be this way.