Accounting firms are becoming increasingly inbound intelligent and web savvy. According to the 2016 Skoda Minotti CPA Website Audit, 86% of firms had a blog in 2016, while only 65% of firms had a blog in 2015. Further, 71% of firms that had a blog in 2016 were actively blogging – more than twice a month – with 42% of firms actively posting in 2015.
This is just one of many markers in the survey that shows us that firms are understanding the value of inbound marketing and the need to drive leads for their firm through their website.
Ideally, the blogs and thought leadership that you post on your website begin to drive tangible new business leads for your firm. Either someone reaches out to your firm because of a blog that they found in a web search, or they came across your firm via your e-newsletter, social media or paid search efforts. Additionally, they may download a piece of premium content – such as an e-book or whitepaper – or request an industry benchmarking report.
Now that you’re driving these leads to fill out a form, what happens to them once they hit submit?
Unfortunately, the steps that should follow are often overlooked—the leads that you’ve helped drive for your firm can very easily become missed opportunities for business from new prospects or cross-sell business from existing clients. An inbound follow-up process is essential to effectively transition these inbound leads into meaningful opportunities.
Based on our experience, here are five inbound lead follow-up tips that may work well for you:
1. Every person who contacts you should get an immediate follow-up. Whether they are prospects or existing contacts, follow up with every contact within 24 hours, with more immediate follow-up being the ultimate goal. (Of course, there will be the obvious and occasional spam contact requests that do not require follow-up.)
2. When you follow-up, take the help, not sell approach. These days, it is more important to be the firm that helps companies get the answers they need to help move them through the buying journey. When they’re ready to buy services, you’re the advisor that comes to mind because they’ve already invested in the relationship.
This trusted advisor status happens when you distribute timely, relevant content that draws them into your website, and then grows through meaningful, helpful follow-up conversations once they show demonstrated interest (fill out a form, make a call, download an e-book). Your follow-up discussions should start with, “What questions do you have about [blog/e-book topic] that I can answer?” It is best to not start with an overly strong sales approach, such as: “What services can I offer you?” Your goal of inbound follow-up should be to get to the point where you are advising and consulting as quickly as possible because that’s how you gain trust, build/strengthen relationships and ultimately get the sale.
Remember, helping and not selling, is the way people want to be “sold” these days.
Related: Looking for blog and newsletter content for your CPA firm?
Click here to read about Skoda Minotti’s CPA ContentPlus and request a demo.
3. If your professional staff doesn’t follow-up appropriately, timely or consistently enough, hire someone else to do the follow-up. While we have been driving inbound leads at our firm for years, it took us some time to land on an effective inbound follow-up strategy. Today, we have a dedicated lead generation professional who makes the first contact for all inbound leads – contact requests, e-book downloads, etc. – to see if the downloader has any questions and to facilitate scheduling a follow-up call with the appropriate professional staff person to answer those questions. This approach works extremely well for us; it ensures the follow-up happens quickly and consistently, as we believe those two things are most important.
Before we were able to hire someone internally, we hired an external company to handle the initial follow-up calls for us. This approach also worked well, but over time and after demonstrating a consistent need, it made more sense to bring this function in-house.
4. When the person downloading the content is a client … When sharing thought leadership on social media and in e-newsletters, it is inevitable that you will get contact requests and downloads from your existing client base. This is a great thing, because cross-selling existing clients into other services is such an important growth tactic for professional firms. However, most partners-in-charge of client accounts are highly protective of their relationships, and want to be the ones making the follow-up calls. In an ideal world, all partners would have adequate time to make the follow-up calls necessary in an appropriate timeframe. However, in reality, although partners have the best intentions to follow up with their clients, it’s often difficult to find the time to do so. And as a marketer, it’s your job to ensure that it actually happens.
So what do you do? Ideally, your lead gen person will check with the account owner to see if they have time to make an introduction for the desired service. If they are not available in a timely manner, have your lead gen person make the follow-up call. While we understand that partners are protective of conversations with their clients, we also know that making sure their clients are taken care of as quickly as possible is the #1 priority of the firm.
5. Track your firm’s inbound success. A customer relationship management (CRM) program is such an important step to the overall inbound marketing process. Tracking the buyer’s journey from the number of landing page visits, lead gen calls, partner/niche leader meetings, new business or cross-sell proposals and actual new business that inbound marketing has generated is not an easy task, but is imperative in showing the ROI for your inbound efforts. Using a CRM to log and report activity and results will only make tracking and reporting easier.
At our firm, we got started early with blogging and early inbound marketing strategies back in 2008, and have been driving inbound leads ever since. That means that we’ve had time to go test and refine our firm’s inbound follow-up process.
When inbound leads can result in new business through a structured follow-up process, it’s an exciting time! As a marketer, you are now able to hand new business opportunities over to your professional staff, and more easily prove the worth of your online marketing efforts by connecting marketing to sales. This is the end goal of inbound marketing.
If the information in this article is timely and helpful for you—good for you! You must be well on your way to a robust inbound marketing strategy for your CPA firm. We’d love to help answer any questions you have about inbound marketing and the lead follow-up process. Please contact Anna Marie Murphy at 440-449-6800, or email Anna Marie.