Marketing falling flat? Or maybe you don’t even know where to begin your new client acquisition process? Client prospecting is a tricky business.
When marketing for accounting firms, it’s always best to begin with a solid foundation. For finding new clients, it’s about knowing the types of people and businesses you want to work with, and knowing more about yourself (or your firm).
Here are four pillars that belong underneath the marketing structure you build out.
1. Who your customers are (aka “personas”)
Yes, you can literally know your next customers. It’s called referrals from within your network. Friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues who you know (indirectly) coming to you for similar work you do for their network.
While that’s an aspect of knowing your customers, what we’re getting at is defining the ideal client you’re best suited to serve. Then, drilling down further to find particular personas within your ideal client. Put simply, ICPs are more about the organization you wish to attract and serve, personas are more about who you’ll speak with to close that deal. An ICP will usually have up to five personas.
It’s best to get specific here. Really begin with the end in mind.
For example, an ideal client profile (ICP) could be service-based businesses with at least 7-figures of revenue.
Now, let’s take a look at developing a persona for an ideal client.
Personas typically include
Who they are and what they do: This is the person who’s most likely to consider and make the purchase decision for your services. In our example of a 7-figure service business, it’s likely the owner or possibly a partner/exec over operations.
Demographics: Once you target a specific vertical, there are often common demographic denominators including age and education level.
Size of the organization: This is obvious, but also dictates how many personas you’ll have for a particular ICP. For instance, if a company has 500 employees, you’ll likely have to close the deal with more than one person, meaning more personas.
Reporting structure: Knowing your persona’s boss and direct reports (aka employees) is helpful because it helps determine their motivations for their role and career.
Role(s) and job responsibilities: So what would you say your persona does there? Figure this out from their title to the average “day in the life” they lead.
Goals & motivators: Is the person new to their role? Maybe they want to move up the ladder? Both of these are prime motivators to try new solutions, which creates opportunities for marketing and sales.
Where they consume info: You need to know the best places to put the marketing content you’ll create. Do they read about improving their role on LinkedIn? Twitter? Sign up for webinars?
Major hurdles they face: These opportunities could be seasonal (accountants know a thing or two about that). Hurdles could also be industry-wide, or specific to that organization. For example, you reach out because you read a company is seeking a buyer, or to merge. Your firm specializes in M&A. Get the idea?
How your business can help them: Use all of these persona and ICP details to list succinctly how your firm solves the particular problems of these profiles. Again, be specific, using the vernacular of the target market.
Potential objections to your offering: Take these personas one final step, thinking through the objections they’ll have. Things like; price, switching from a bookkeeper to a more robust controllership service, time commitment, and any industry-specific things that come up.
2. How to best communicate (with your clients)
ICPs help you communicate. For instance, if you target businesses that tend to be owned by Millennials, they hate phone calls, are fiercely independent, and want to do their own research on just about everything.
Particularly, they’re active on LinkedIn and Twitter (trying to do that grind and get more clients).
So, which is better; cold calling businesses or creating custom content that will appeal to your potential clients on LinkedIn?
Notice we used the word “better,” not “easier.” Becoming a thought leader and influencer is not easy, but it works if you know who you’re talking to, and the best channel to put that conversation.
Once you have your personas set, figure out where they gather, have social conversations, and choose the products/solutions they use. Then, it’s time to construct content that answers their questions and builds their trust (in a way that makes them actually pay attention).
3. Understand what they need to know (and when)
The first two foundations help you understand the “who” and “where.” Now, it’s on to “what” and “when.”
The “what” answers those fears, hopes, and common questions you’re seeing from similar clients in your ideal position. For instance, flower shops earning 7-figures. They’re thinking about a lot that deals with money and want need your knowledge.
And now that you know the who and where—all you have to do is give them what they want to hear.
It’s possible you’re thinking, “Aren’t we giving away the farm?”
The short answer is “no.” The direct knowledge of these strategies isn’t the bulk of your value, but the ins and outs of turning those plans into reality. For instance, an entity change is something any business can learn about on YouTube or LinkedIn. But doing it correctly takes someone who’s going to take the time, has done it before, and cares about the outcome.
What if you were the person telling them about the strategies, building trust, and you’re also the one who can do the work?
In terms of “when,” it’s really about casting the content net. If you write that blog, record that podcast, or publish that LinkedIn post that shares valuable information, those who are in the right place and right time will see it.
That’s where the most difficult aspect of content creation resides—consistency. Consistency is about regularly sending out those signals, trusting they’ll hit the persona’s ears when they need it.
4. Find your unique voice
Who, what, where, when, and now how. How you speak with your ideal clients is a foundational element of marketing. The right thing said in the wrong way loses impact.
What’s the wrong way?
Communicating in a way that’s not genuine. This goes for both you and your firm. This is as deep of a rabbit hole as you want it to be. It could even shake the very services you offer to your ideal clients.
A few ways to improve your genuineness:
Ensure you have the time: All promises and no action is a bad combination. All accountants are busy, but some make promises to clients they can’t keep. For instance, your monthly check-ins become a hassle and you’re trying to get off quickly instead of truly understanding where the client is coming from. Part of niching down is upping the value you provide to each client. Fulfilling that promise is about improving your systems and processes to take less time with the redundant accounting work and spend more time providing that value you know you can give.
Don’t recommend things you don’t really believe: If you think certain things aren’t good, don’t even offer them. And depending on how cavalier you want to be, call them out in your content. Bold and controversial works for a lot of thought leaders. This leads to the third point.
Be yourself: Yes, it’s advice everyone knows, but here’s a practical way to improve your voice. Record or write what you want to record or write. Then, put it away for at least 24 hours. Before you push “play” or read what you wrote, ask yourself, “Does this sound like something I regularly say to clients?” When you’re done and the answer is “yes,” send it to the world. If not, try again.
Build on a solid marketing foundation
Perform these exercises and you’ll have the basics for what brings a solid marketing plan into view. You know the who, what, where, when, and how. Now, it’s time to ramp up your content production, figure out the best marketing channels, and get out there to find those ideal clients.
Finally, you want to make sure your firm offers the services clients need most. Increasingly, that means client advisory services (CAS). They’re higher-value, consultative, and a fit for a wide variety of businesses and individuals. Learn more about CAS, and start serving your client base like never before.