Friday, June 5, 2009

Making Your Marketing Efforts Really Pay Off

If you wish to find prospective clients for your practice the options available to you are relatively straightforward and well understood.

If you have a general practice primarily serving individuals, small businesses and organizations you can reach your target audience by conventional marketing avenues. Almost every city or trading area with a six figure or greater population has marketing services available. If you do your homework you will be able to mount an appropriately scaled program and the upfront costs shouldn’t break the bank.

On the other hand, if you have, e.g. an audit practice, or service non-profits, high wealth individuals or larger businesses, classic direct marketing isn’t very effective. Instead, you will be better served to rely upon more personal marketing such as, e.g. referrals, speaking, authoring articles or a book and meeting prospects at appropriate gatherings, etc.

In this blog we’ve talked about some techniques to get your own personal marketing campaign going and, if you are a ProfitCents subscriber the new business development manual I’ve written for Sageworks has some very specific, step-by-step suggestions for how to do this.

Whatever the nature of your practice or how you market it, the bottom line is you want to create opportunities to talk with, and persuade, the “right” prospects to become clients.

If your goal is to add clients whose annual billings are almost always less than, say, $500 - $1000, then you will in all likelihood interview and close them over the phone or a relatively brief meeting in your office.

But if your practice consists primarily of clients with more complex situations and annual billings ranging into four figures or above you will almost always meet with them in person before a client relationship is formed.

In this latter instance there is, as Shakespeare famously put it, “Many a slip between the cup and lip.”

I conducted a survey for several years in the mid ‘90s with the goal of determining the conversion rate of accountant – prospect business development meetings. The results were sufficiently consistent to conclude that the industry average was a success rate of roughly one out of three, i.e. if an accountant had three meetings with prospective clients, one would become a client.

Personal and/or relational marketing can be time intensive and you are balancing lost time you could be billing against the up-side opportunity you are pursuing. If you improve your conversion rate it can dramatically alter this equation. Either you can derive more revenue from the number of hours of marketing you currently allocate, or you can maintain the same level of revenue and invest fewer hours to do so.

The second half of the survey was to determine if the conversion rate was meaningfully improved after the accountants were given appropriate training.

Yes, it was. From approximately one out of three to one out of two. A dramatic improvement!

For a given level of marketing, improving your conversion rate is the most effective thing you can do to immediately improve your financial picture.

Since the ‘50s, the business and academic communities have spent countless hours and hundreds of millions of dollars to figure out how industry can “sell” products and services. Not surprisingly after this much effort, what works and what doesn’t is almost universally agreed upon.

The techniques I write about in this blog and that are contained in the ProfitCents business development manual (and the generic manual I’m writing that will be completed in July) have been specifically adapted for use by accounting service providers and are exactly the things that will improve your conversion rate.

If you are already good at it, then hopefully I can provide a few ideas that will drive your success to new heights. If you are new to business development, please take advantage of these techniques and hit the ground running.

1 comment:

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