You have to do the work in business development to get results. One of the simplest, but also hardest things to do is to follow up with prospective clients. You don’t want to bother them. You don’t know what to say. You assume they will contact you when they’re ready. All of these excuses only lead to lost clients. You have to follow up! Here are five tips to make following up easier and more effective to stay in front of your leads and get business.
What role does your website play in marketing a professional service? A good website costs time and money. If you get all your new business from referral sources and satisfied clients, why should you invest in your website? Let us tell you.
What a business card was in the 90s, a website is now.
At a minimum, your website establishes that you are a “real” firm with solid expertise and a good team. Without a website, or with an outdated “90s brochure on the Web,” your prospects may mistake your firm for a smaller, weaker organization that does not move with the times. Old or missing information? You give an impression of disorganization and lack of attention to detail. You might even look too busy to take on more clients if you can’t get your website updated.
Our world of multiple referrals.
When an engineer, banker, lawyer or CPA gives a referral to another professional, they are more and more likely to refer more than one individual. Guess where the prospect goes when they have more than one referral to choose from? The Internet. For most professional service firms, the website’s primary strategy is to support referrals. The person with the best website — well-written, easy to navigate, mobile functionality, bios of leadership, clear strengths and differentiators, client testimonials — gets called first.
Bios are mission critical.
Leadership and team bios are almost always the first place people look to learn more about your firm online. Prospects are either searching for a specific person or determining if they might have good rapport with you. If your bio is stiff, full of dull achievements from years ago and your photo looks like you had it taken at the county license bureau, you will not get the first call. And if your bio isn’t even on your firm’s website? You just lost the race.
Your site sets up the prospect’s expectations.
If your website clearly gives your prospect the idea that you are up-to-date, savvy, interesting and have loads of expertise in the area where they need solutions, the expectation becomes that you are the “first choice.” If your website is ugly or even just basic, it sets up the expectation that you are the “B Squad.”
Design and bells and whistles.
While strategy should lead design, ugly design leads people to think your firm is bad. Average design leads to average expectations. Make sure your website looks good, is easy to navigate and a pleasant experience for users – these should be the least of your brand promises – that you are good, easy to work with and pleasant. Add an interesting blog, some podcasts, videos or interactive features and suddenly you are the market leader compared to most professional service firms. Have some outside people tell you about yourself based only on your website. Does anything about your website tell them you are interesting and experienced or do you give a generic impression?
Your website is recruiting central.
Most people looking for jobs talk to their friends and look for jobs online. They are interested in your culture and how your website portrays the brand experience of your firm. A careers page that speaks to a youthful audience beyond benefits and job openings and “we’d like to meet you,” but instead portrays your firm as dynamic and interested in developing talent — that’s your goal.
Increase Leads Through Content Marketing
After years of working with professional service firms, we know that only a small percentage of your people will bring in new business. A larger percentage can bring in projects through existing client service and referrals.
However, even your best client service masters forget to have those conversations with clients. Unless they’ve had training on relationship-based consulting, they are usually focused on the project, and when it’s done it’s done.
As one of a few rainmakers, you only have so much time. You need help in order to grow. Yes, you really can use your website to bring in leads.
Content marketing does bring new leads to your website…when done correctly. Here are five key steps that support a successful content marketing strategy for leads.
Make it a priority.
Consistent content creates a following. If the content is very relevant to that audience, they will come back for more. How do you create attractive content? During our initial meetings with new clients, we brainstorm content ideas. We talk about industry trends, client pains and frequently asked questions by prospects. After you’ve made a list of potential topics, create a content calendar much like editors would create an editorial calendar. Include when you’re going to cover those topics and who’s in charge of creating the content. This will make your content strategy a priority. It will keep you accountable and keep you in front of your audiences.
Too often, we see firms creating content without a list of targeted keywords to enhance their search engine optimization (SEO). If you want to be a known expert on a certain topic, you need to have well-researched keywords on that topic so that search engine users can find it quickly on your website. The more content you create using these keywords, the better chance you have to come up in searches for that keyword or phrase. If you find yourself creating content in which you cannot use your targeted keywords, consider doing additional research and reprioritizing your list.
A good place to start is to see how people are finding your website now.
Direct reader attention.
The goal of your content is to be the best answer for the question of your target audience. Your target audience – especially if you serve a specific niche – should find value in the information you are providing. You should also ask:
What is the call-to-action? What should the reader do next?
People who are searching for help have a pain or interest. Tell them how to solve the problem, then direct them to related content that can reinforce what they just read. Related content demonstrates that you have deep knowledge of their pain or interest.
Without distributing your content via email or social media, your audience has no idea that it exists unless they stumble upon it. As Jay Baer puts it, “content is fire, social media is gasoline.” After you post your new content, share it on social media. You can also compile your best content into a regular (monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly) email blast for your opt-in list (people who have agreed to receive this type of content from you).
If you hosted a webinar, that topic could also be a blog post. That blog post could be an article in an industry publication. That PR should be promoted in your newsletter or eblasts. Don’t take a one-and-done approach to new content. Maximize and repurpose your existing content to create more related content in less time.
Writing a proposal can be a daunting, but very important, task. In order to win new business, your proposals need to be great. We’ve helped clients from all industries define their value proposition, improve proposals and successfully close the deal.
Here are seven tips for writing winning proposals from our team to yours:
- Avoid jargon. Unless you’re specifically using the prospect’s language, avoid using jargon. Reduce wordiness by eliminating unneeded words. Write as if you are speaking directly to the prospect. The proposal should be readable and engaging with consumable pieces of information.
- Answer questions posed in the RFP. The prospect will include the problems they are trying to solve. Specifically answer those questions with your solution. For example, does a government agency need to audit their recent tax returns? Use the proposal to explain why and how your firm will not only complete the task, but exceed expectations.
- Include a value proposition that sets you apart. What makes your firm unique?
- Include pricing levels. The prospect wants to see options. Give them pricing levels, such as gold, silver and bronze.
- Use photos and graphs where possible. Illustrate numbers and important figures with infographics and photographs. This will draw the reader’s eye towards the important stuff and help break up the text.
- Use the back cover, if possible. This is prime real estate. If you have some freedom with the layout of your proposal, sneak something important on the back cover. Client testimonials are an easy one to include on the back cover.
- Respond quickly and keep it short. On average, winning proposals get to the client in less than three days and are less than five pages long.
Do you need help with your value proposition, improving your proposals and closing the deal? We do that. Contact email@example.com.
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Are you an introvert who dreads going to networking events? In this video Wendy Nemitz Founder of Ingenuity Marketing Group reveals her best tips and shares how she as an introvert not only survives networking events but succeeds at them.
What are you reading, watching or listening to? From an explanation of marketing titles to a study on Millennial buyers, here are Ingenuity’s top content picks for May:
Have you ever wondered about the difference between a marketing coordinator and a marketing director? Wendy Nemitz Founder of Ingenuity Marketing explains the various marketing positions commonly found in professional services marketing.
I hate to close.
How do you close a sale? By simply making sure that your questions have been answered, necessary issues have been raised and potential clients know you would like to work with them.
don’t just hire; build leaders for a lifetime
In episode 30 of unsuitable on Rea Radio Annie Yoder and Don McIntosh discuss why business leaders should approach recruitment and staff development from a new perspective.
4 MVPs You Need on Your Content Marketing Team
While “content marketing teams can range from 1-100+ people,” these are the key players you need on your content marketing team to get the best results.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between a marketing coordinator and a marketing director? Wendy Nemitz Founder of Ingenuity Marketing Group explains the various marketing positions commonly found in professional services marketing.
By Ingenuity Marketing Group
Closing a sale is simple.
You wouldn’t know it from how much energy most professional service providers put into avoiding it. You would think it was a root canal; the way most professionals protest, they would rather do anything than close a sale.
Closing a sale is not magic. It is simply making sure that the questions have been answered, necessary issues have been raised, and potential clients know you would like to work with them.
Closing a professional service sale sounds like this:
- “Your business sounds like a great fit for our firm. We would enjoy working with you and giving you great service. When will you be making a decision?”
- “We have certainly enjoyed talking through your challenges to profitability. We have gone through the process for cost segregation and how we can analyze the data and help you pinpoint both cost savings and profit improvement strategies. We would enjoy moving forward with this project. When would you like to start?”
- “I enjoy working with family businesses and have been able to watch many of the succession plans we’ve worked on go smoothly into place and keep both the business and the family happy. Shall we set up a meeting to start working through the major issues?”
- “I have time to begin this project next week. Is that soon enough for you?”
- “I enjoyed meeting you and appreciate your trust in our firm. How would you like me to follow up with you?”
I am making a change in my business and as a result am interviewing people to help me. No one closes! Most of the professionals I have spoken with take an hour to meet with me, answer my questions, tell me about their firms and then smile and shake my hand. Almost no one asks when this change will take place or even tells me they would enjoy working with me. Only a few follow up. This leaves me unsure of what to do next and if my company is a good fit for their firm.
Pushy Sales People
Many professionals are afraid of appearing pushy or “salesy” if they close any kind of sales interview. They think they might be pushing people to make decisions they are not ready to make.
Why would they be at your firm if they did not need you? They need you. If you can help them with their problems or concerns, you need to tell them so and tell them you would like to work with them. Closing a sale is not about pushing me or any potential client. It is about assuring the potential client of your sincere interest in working with them and your ability to perform the job. If you do not assure them that you are interested in the work, why should they choose you?
It is a real kindness to potential clients to assure them of your interest in their organizations and your firm’s ability to serve them well. It shows consideration to ask them what the timeline for their decisions are and to suggest a next step. Very few potential clients hire new firms regularly. It is your job to tell them the process and help them get started.
The market has changed and most people now have practice development and new client acquisition in their job descriptions. One of the most valuable things you can think about is how to close a sale. Don’t look for a magic word or phrase because there is not one. Think about something you can say that is sincere, that sounds like you, and that directs the potential client to the next step. You can use any of the phrases listed.
Rehearse saying this phrase a few times and write it down. Ask your potential client good questions about their challenges and opportunities. Be genuinely interested. Tell the potential client about how your firm can help. Find out what questions or concerns they had with their former provider. Address those questions. And when the conversation is done and it seems natural, tell them you want the business. Ask when you can start. Tell them what the next step is and make that prospect into your best new client.
What three questions do you need to close a deal? Send us an email and I’ll send you the slides from my Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) Summit presentation, “3 Questions to Close the Deal and What You Need to Make Them Effective.”
In this video, Christine Nelson of Ingenuity Marketing Group talks about what a persona is. Plus she details how they impact your sales process and your firm’s ability to deliver great customer service.
By Christine Nelson
Customers don’t buy with logic alone. They will first test their interest in your product or service with feelings. Do they “like” you, have a sense of safety and view you as an ally?
When their emotional vibes are satisfied, customers will then move on to phase two: logical decision-making. If you set off their negative emotional alarm bells for any reason, they won’t move to phase two, and you’ve lost the sale.
To appeal to the emotional side of any buyer, try these positive strategies to tip the scales in your favor.
Say it with color. You can get many different reactions from the same color.
“I don’t like blue.”
“I LOVE blue! Use more blue!”
“Blue is so boring. Can you jazz it up a bit?”
“That blue is so exciting!”
When you’re developing or refreshing your brand, use color the way your customers may already perceive it. You can also pair up colors for a broader emotional response. If you pair blue with a bright green or orange, you develop a more contemporary palette of energy, excitement and youthfulness. Join blue with brown or gray to create feelings of calmness, power and reliability. Design several different combinations to test reactions with focus groups and key decision makers.
A picture tells a better story. Imagine two print ads. In one ad, a group photo shows smiling accountants standing outside of their building. In another ad, an accountant is wearing fishing gear. Which ad is more memorable?
Companies miss an opportunity when they go with the same tired visuals because people process visual information up to seven times faster than words. Design creates a layer of story. Great design combined with the professional style and presence of your people is a winning combination.
Design includes your fonts, colors, logo glyph, photos, paper and the other visual elements on your business cards, sales kits, video and website. It should be welcoming, easy to navigate and help customers find you and want to interact with you.
Most people also know good style when they see it. Shoes, fabrics and impeccable grooming create a distinct first impression. But it’s also the body posture, facial expression and tone of voice that attracts notice.
Perception is reality. Good design and superb style quietly build trust without saying a word.
Words still count. Take a cue from the emoji culture. Use fewer words. Increase meaning. When you hear fat words like “quality,” “service,” “trust” and “unique,” it’s like the trombone sound in a Peanuts movie.
Take more time to explain the experience of your company. Is it like violins, or like a chain saw? After choosing your company, do people feel taller? Richer? Do they want to adopt a dog? Run a marathon?
Companies that succeed know how to create messages that engage emotion with logic. Invest in quality writing for your brand messages, your website and your publicity. Invest in people who win awards for the right words.
Show customers you ‘get’ them. We want to hang out with people who are like us. Tribes of people tend to dress alike, have similar vocal inflections and share the same interests. When you find the right demographic or type of customer, think about how to attract more of them.
Develop descriptions of your ideal customer. Age ranges, gender, culture, professional titles, salaries, locations … add as many details as you can to paint a full picture of your customer. You will understand how to market and sell by knowing how customers think and where they gather information to make buying decisions.
When potential buyers feel like you cater just to them, they will buy. They may even spend a little more or be willing to wait longer. Don’t underestimate the power of emotion in your branding. Emotional appeal is the true reason people choose your product or service over that of a competitor.
Christine Nelson is a lead communications consultant for Ingenuity, a brand strategy firm that focuses on marketing, websites, sales messaging, social media and public relations to boost your competitive edge. Contact her at Christine@ingenuitymarketing.com or (651) 690-3358, www.ingenuitymarketing.com.
Credit: Leading Edge Magazine