Pete Machalek’s team at SagePresence does an amazing job preparing clients for stakeholder and prospect meetings. This month, we’re highlighting their vlog on the topic of being your authentic self. This includes letting your personality shine through in presentations. Don’t get hung up on the actual words you are trying to use, just remember the structure of your message when speaking off the cuff. You can also apply this to your process for creating a brand and the content marketing that ensues from that.
If you think you have to be perfect, you might be doing yourself a real disservice in your interviews and presentations because your audience isn’t necessarily looking for perfection – they’re looking for who you really are. In this vlog, Dean Lincoln Hyers, partner of SagePresence, shares tips on how to be authentic in your presentations and how that authenticity can help you win your audience over.
Are you wondering how to get in on the retargeting wagon? One of the most widely used lead generation tools is digital ads. Whether you’re on Google or Bing, you’ve seen ads follow you around online once you’ve browsed similar sites.
And they work!
Make sure your digital marketing includes digital ads, email capture and a solid content calendar and you are setting yourself to land more leads than your competition.
Watch Christine’s video to hear more.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
I love shopping in person, but I also get tired of it after about three hours. The options are just overwhelming.
Online shopping is convenient, but it’s also limited by my shopping history because of search algorithms. I don’t see everything available to me like in a real store. This includes professional services firms.
Because I do a lot of research for my clients, I will visit engineering firm sites, accounting firms law firms and professional associations. I choose the results on the first page and I don’t look further, but when I see ads pop up after I visit these websites, it reminds me that these firms are really smart. How else are they going to thank me for visiting their website?
Search engines control what visitors find. Even when someone finds your site, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. Here’s what you can do about it:
Create fresh content
Use strategic digital ads
Collect their email
You will get exponentially more visitors to your site combining fresh content with digital ads. It’s the new reality. But once they arrive, you have to capture their email.
If you have questions about lead generation tools, digital marketing or you want us to manage your online ads, send us a message. We are here to get eyes on your brand and feet in the door.
Add this to your pool of virtual business development ideas: follow-up!
We know, it’s a lot to ask. Your time is valuable. But the truth is, if you spend 15-30 minutes a week following up with leads, you are bridging the gap and reinforcing the connection.
Ingenuity Marketing principal Dawn Wagenaar is the queen of virtual business development ideas. She attends the conferences, schedules the coffee dates and makes time for her clients – and leads – and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Her advice: make time for your leads. Then they’ll make time for you.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
One of things I hear most often from prospects is “Dawn, you are always so good about following up!” It seems so simple but, I can’t tell you how many coaching calls I have been on with partners and managers and they have not done the follow-up that was needed. I even hear this in in pipeline meetings.
If you don’t follow up, you are leaving to chance your opportunity to win the sale.
You have to do the work in order to get the results. Here are five tips that will help you with your follow up.
1. Put time on your calendar – even 15 to 30 minutes a week will improve your chances at new business.
2. Shut your office door so there are no interruptions. If you don’t have an office, find a quiet space with no interruptions.
3. If you ask a client when you should follow up and they tell you an exact date, be sure to follow through on the date given.
4. Start developing a personal relationship – ask how they are doing, or bring up a personal detail or work-related question to get to know them better. This makes them want to get to know you, which in turn builds the relationship.
5. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. More than likely you will be leaving a voicemail anyway, but they will hear your voice and interest.
I know this takes time, but it is not as much time as you think. It shows the prospects that you care and that you want them as a client.
Do you want more leads? I am offering a digital audit analysis for a limited time that will help you attract more business. Just click the link below!
Referrals can be the lifeblood of your marketing funnel. You can try all of the new lead generation tools, year after year, and find none of them quite performs like the one or two referrals you receive on occasion.
But, how do you get more referrals for your firm? Here is one piece of advice: Tailor your messaging to speak to the person who’s reading, watching or listening to it.
Without personalization, your content can get lost in a sea of a thousand voices vying for your clients’ attention. To leave an impact, you need to get personal. This will help make your brand even more memorable.
Then, you can add a steady stream of referrals to your list of lead generation tools that actually work for you.
If you prefer to read this content, the video transcript is below.
First of all, you need to get really clear on whom you want to attract as new clients.
If you understand their pains, interests and desires, you can develop a lead strategy that is personalized.
Personalization is the most important piece of attracting digital clients. Nobody has time anymore to pay attention to generic content, ads or events that don’t relate to their needs.
Once you have identified your target prospect, take that information to create content that addresses their pains, interests and desires. It’s not enough to make content industry-focused. Make it people-focused.
When you’re looking for the latest lead generation tools, please reach out to us at Ingenuity. We’ve done the research, we’ve tested the process and we know what works for firms big and small. Get referrals, today. Contact us to help land your next big fish.
Professional service firms have a renewed focus on proposal copywriting and design. There are a few reasons for this:
Rebranding proposals with the firm’s new logo, updated colors and fonts
Differentiating messaging and visuals in a competitive market within strict RFP or LOI limitations
Streamlined processes and templates to deliver proposals quickly and with high impact
Ingenuity’s communications and design team has worked with several clients to improve and update their proposal copy and design. Due to client nondisclosure, we can’t discuss the clients or show examples of these projects. But we can share approaches that will help you pursue a great first impression with your proposals.
1. Rebranding Proposals
When a firm has completed a visual rebranding with a new logo, style guide and color palette, it is important to consistently represent the brand across all materials, including proposals.
Look at the current proposal layout and the elements that are common for most proposals: cover page and cover letter, logo, headers and footers, headlines, graphic elements, bios, etc.
After identifying those common elements, concept a template that incorporates the new logo and font along with a color scheme using refreshed brand colors in headlines, charts, header and footer design and any callout elements such as client testimonials or statistics.
If your firm has branding messages, weave those into the cover letter and firm profile content. The template should be designed in a way that prevents static visual elements from being changed, but allows template users to customize the copy and edit it.
We recommend a customized Word document or PowerPoint file if InDesign or Adobe templates are not as easily edited or accessible to everyone in the firm. Using a proposal software solution can support accessibility as well as design consistency (e.g. Proposify, RFPIO, Qvidian).
The new proposal template offers a consistent way for anyone creating proposals to focus their efforts on personalizing the content, with confidence that the first visual impression will be positive and professional.
2. Differentiating Proposals
When clients are limited in the way they can submit proposals, such as through government or public entities, there are still ways to differentiate your content and presentation of information. Many firms are moving toward a simplified and more visual display of information, especially when page counts and word count are restricted.
When you have proposal restrictions, including page dimensions, try switching to a landscape layout rather than a profile layout of your pages.
Differentiation can also be achieved by creating a “key issues” section in your executive summary. This shows that you read and understood their request and unique needs.
Other tips for differentiation include showcasing client testimonials, awards, industry involvement and diversity, equity and inclusion measures. Recent studies have shown that including specific DEI measures as part of your firm profile or differentiating information, even if not asked, is recommended.
A subtle change of view through a landscape layout or a box highlighting your insights about the prospect can go a long way in helping your proposal stand out from the rest. We have helped clients improve their scoring with government or public agencies by making the most important differentiators stand out with clear writing (less jargon) and strategically colored elements on the page.
3. Streamlining Proposal Templates
One of the biggest branding problems for larger firms is maintaining consistency in their proposals. Even with proposal software, someone needs to be in charge of updating template pages as things change in the firm. That person can have a full-time job when there are multiple divisions, disciplines or practices and services to track, not to mention changes in personnel.
It is also difficult to develop a strategy if you have competing voices and goals for business development. Add in knowledge of design and what’s truly possible for streamlining your template, and it is little wonder that most marketing leaders need the help of a specialist.
Before bringing the copywriter or designer to the table, the biggest hurdle for streamlining your proposal template is to understand which elements can be universal and which elements will change with every proposal. In our experience, static elements include the cover page, the firm boilerplate (who, what, where, why) and bio layouts. Besides those elements, everything else can be customized, and every firm leader is very passionate about how their services should be portrayed. This is what makes complex proposal templates such a monumental task. But never fear! Discuss this order of planning before you even begin to discuss copy or design:
Identify areas of the firm that actually require RFPs for business development
Prioritize each area based on greatest overall business need and schedule out proposal updates accordingly
Design the overall firm proposal shell visually without content
Discuss with select subject matter experts the most common RFP questions and elements to include in ‘most proposals.’
Determine with subject matter experts the elements of the template that will need to be customized every time, and make those sections easily customizable without losing design integrity.
Develop the template outline to integrate easily with your chosen proposal software
Roll out the templates with training and buy-in for consistent use
Maintain an owner or owners in the firm for regular or needed updates over time
There is no shortcut to developing a proposal template for complex organizations. The pre-planning and strategy piece are vital to a successful workflow and end result.
We have seen proposal projects get delayed for many reasons, ranging from leaders getting busy to those larger priorities popping up to a complete change in project ownership. Delays can be unavoidable for a project of this scope, and that’s why approaching it in planned phases or by practice or discipline can help you manage it under other inevitable pressures and deadlines.
Your result is a streamlined proposal process across the firm. Regardless of where your template(s) exist, you need ownership and maintenance for continued success as well as a rollout that gets everyone excited and comfortable using it. Handled with patience and care, you shouldn’t have to worry in the future if someone is using the most “up-to-date” proposal information for your organization. And you will put your best foot forward to win new business.
We all agree that project debriefs are helpful if you can get clear takeaways about areas to improve in your management processes, cost estimates or client communications. But everything we’ve read about project debriefs is essentially internal and focused on your team.
What about the client’s perspective?
AEC firms tell us that they get the majority of their new work through repeat clients or referrals from clients. So it begs the question, why aren’t project managers checking in with clients immediately post-project, six months after a project and so on?
Some experienced project managers and firms with a sales team are great at this, but it should be a common practice across your PM team if you are building a culture that delivers consistently stellar client experiences. PMs who check in with clients strengthen the relationship, and they will also hear about future work on the horizon sooner.
It’s a team effort. PMs and business developers have different, but complementary interests in the relationship. Business developers are interested in keeping clients happy and attracting new work. PMs are interested in improving processes, efficiency and project outcomes. It all translates to new work and more enjoyable projects for everyone.
Winning AEC Business While Retaining Great PMs
Here are some thoughts to integrate client check-ins with your post-project debriefing. They are a key part of competitive research and winning future business.
Encourage your PMs to invite or join clients for lunch.Post-project, you should have fun, celebratory lunches or post-project conversations. Why? It will strengthen the client relationship by letting the PM show their human and personal side. People who have a nice time together are more likely to want to work together in the future.
Prep your PMs for great post-project questions. As part of your debrief process, create some questions that the PM can use to collect important feedback and also ask for referrals. You already know if the project came in on time and on budget, so why ask clients that?
Ask them about what they appreciated most during the project and what might have displeased them. Ask if you’re on the same page about the value you delivered or if they have other ideas. And finally, ask how likely they are to refer you to other clients, and when there might be new work coming your way.
Train your PMs to share client feedback with marketing and business development. If your marketing team doesn’t know about how your firm saved a client thousands of dollars through a new choice of materials or an alternative design approach, they can’t share a success story to attract new business.
Plus, PMs can feel proud talking about their “wins” on a short video or sharing a client compliment in a case study. Even if you have an NDA, smart marketing people know how to discreetly share that competitive feedback and communicate your firm’s value to clients and prospects. Client feedback and stories are the most memorable ways to do that. And who is closer to the project’s value and deliverables than the PM?
Why is client feedback so important for AEC repeat business? You can’t assume that clients will choose your firm every time. These industries are too competitive.
Instead, proactively ask for the feedback through your debriefing process. Discuss the project internally, and then take that information on the road to discuss with your clients. They will appreciate that you spent time talking about their project, and you will appreciate having time with them that isn’t solely focused on a proposal, a problem or a deadline.
We highly recommend a post-project celebration, too. Cheers!
Virtual networking provides countless advantages to boost your business development strategy. Not only can you form long-term relationships with potential clients and business partners, but you get to connect at your own convenience.
Taking advantage of virtual networking allows us to connect with anyone from anywhere. There’s no longer a limit to how far we will travel to meet prospects, or a need to coordinate travel days into our busy work schedule. It also allows us to connect with others in different time zones, and then take our children to soccer practice later in the afternoon. The new virtual world we live in allows professionals within any industry to maintain a personal and work life balance.
Virtual networking is here to stay simply because of the convenience factor. Here’s how to take advantage of this new way of doing business.
Virtual Networking Can Still Be Personal
Just like you would talk about weather or traffic when meeting a prospect in person, you still need to add these casual conversational pieces into your virtual discussions. In other words, don’t make it all about work. Ask about a painting or photo someone has behind them during the video conference call. Ask them questions about their weekend or their hobbies. Side conversations like this make networking fun, memorable and personable. It’s these types of conversations that allow you to form long-lasting, valuable relationships with potential leads that turn into loyal clients.
Add variety to how you connect with your prospects.With the year 2020 behind us, you’ve probably heard or experienced what we often call “Zoom fatigue”. It’s true that being on video or on a long call can be exhausting, especially when you’re trying to separate personal and work life. Ask your prospects if they prefer to meet on camera or over the phone today. Who knows, you may find prospects in your local area who would prefer to meet at a coffee shop.
Other ways to stop top-of-mind with prospects is to share resources. After knowing your prospects interests and appetite for your services, share podcasts, blogs, videos or other resources you’ve found to be helpful. Connecting like this via email allows you to be seen as a valuable resource, helping the potential client to understand certain topics or gain industry insight.
Virtual Networking Adds Flexibility to your Work Schedule
We now have the opportunity to network with people far and wide, whenever it works best for our work or personal schedules. You may find that fitting virtual networking into your busy work schedule is easier than ever. Maybe for you, scheduling multiple video conference calls in one afternoon allows you to cross multiple necessary discussions off your business development to-do list quickly and efficiently.
It may seem difficult to initially connect with new prospects. Once you have their contact information, offer a brief 10 to 15-minute phone call. Brief phone calls remain less intimidating than video conferencing. This phone call can be used to get to know what the prospect’s needs are, what they are looking for and how you can help. From there, having a follow up discussion via video can be a more beneficial use of time and provide an opportunity to share informed insight to what specific services or information the prospect is looking for.
Connecting virtually also allows you have to have multiple resources at your fingertips. When meeting virtually with a potential client, you can have their website up on your computer screen while you ask questions about their operations. Maybe you even skim through their LinkedIn profile during your discussion to speak to specific work-experience or skills the prospect has.
One of the keys to networking is your follow through. Even when connecting virtually, follow up via email or phone to check in with the lead. Ask how they are doing, if they have any questions for you and maybe even bring up a topic of conversation you had together during the call. This is another opportunity to connect with the prospect on a personal level, and form a loyal working relationship with them.
When connecting virtually, be attentive. Give the prospect your entire attention by being in a quiet room with limited distractions and good phone service or a strong internet connection. Silence phone or computer notifications, just as you would in an in-person business meeting.
We get it. Life happens, and sometimes you will need to reschedule virtual meetings. Even though virtual networking is convenient because we can do it from our couch, the airport or the local coffee shop, being appreciative of the prospect’s time is critically important. Don’t forget to communicate in advance if you must reschedule.
The advantages to virtual networking are limitless. It brings ease to your work day, adds flexibility to your business development strategy and expands who you can reach for future business opportunities. If you haven’t added this into your business development strategy, what are you waiting for?! Take advantage of these opportunities, yet keep the foundation of networking skills in place. With these tips in mind, your business development strategy will reap the benefits of virtual networking long into the future.
What is one of your favorite brands, and how did you get hooked on the product or service? It’s likely that word-of-mouth was your referral. Think about it! We talk about products and brands with our coworkers, family and friends all the time. Our loyalty to certain brands or products supports business development.
Here’s an example of brand loyalty and how referrals impact the branding process.
You and your family have always purchased Chevrolet vehicles. You decide to look for a fresh perspective and seek advice from a coworker for your next vehicle purchase. Based on their advice and feedback, you purchase a new Ford SUV.
You end up loving the new amenities and low-maintenance fees the Ford SUV provides. Your brand loyalty has changed! You plan to inform your family members of how much you’re enjoying your Ford vehicle, knowing their brand loyalty could switch just like yours did.
This is exactly what Ford wanted to happen! Building reliable vehicles that people want to talk about and share is all part of their branding process. This can be part of your brand loyalty process, too!
How can you build referral sources that ultimately support your business development strategy?
Engage with your current clients
One of the most efficient ways to attract future clients is to utilize your current client base, allowing them to tap into their networks for you. It’s likely that their business connections are also your target audience or potential referral base.
One way to encourage engaged conversation with your current clients is to offer a survey or assessment. Surveys provide an opportunity for you to better understand your clients, but also help your clients give you referral information directly.
Make sure to follow up after you have received survey responses. This tells your clients that you appreciate the feedback. During this follow-up step, they may be more likely to make an email or personal introduction.
Tips to connect with referrals
Always collect your referral’s email address to easily follow up and connect. Frequent follow-ups allow you and your business to stay top of mind with your referral sources without taking up too much of their or your time.
Keep the emails focused on what’s new with your firm or association, what services or events you’re offering and the ways you can assist them with their own clients. Your goal is to show your clients that you care and by doing so you will build brand loyalty through these emails and keep your firm top of mind.
What happens next?
You received referral contact information, engaged with those referrals, and now they have started working with you. Hooray! You have reached your goal. Or have you?
The process isn’t complete just yet. Give the referral source a quick phone call or write a personal note, thanking them for their referral. Better yet, depending on the size of the prospect they referred you, you may want to send them a gift such as a gift card, a bottle of wine or something they would enjoy. This is a great way to increase brand loyalty even further and start the referral process all over again.
Ultimately, if you can refer business back to your referral sources, that’s a slam-dunk branding gift that they will remember the next time their clients have a need!
Over time, you will see the trickle effect of your referral program! Your new clients will begin to share their own referrals, which can further establish your brand positioning.
One thing is certain — things don’t always go as planned. Adding a few new elements into your business development strategy may be the push that helps your professional services firm attract quality leads during times of disruption.
We get it! Certain goals get pushed aside during a busy season, during the acquisition of a new company, and when a global pandemic strikes. The good news is that these disruptions present business development opportunities for attracting more people to your brand and message. Here are a few small, but effective lead generation tactics to continue receiving referrals and gaining new business during disruption.
Host a virtual event
Create a referral reward program
Create an online assessment
While the world continues to demand opportunities to connect virtually, how can this be an advantage to attract new business? The chance to attract quality leads through virtual or online platforms becomes increasingly important when turning those leads into returning clients. This is true not only for CPA firms, but equally applies to other service organizations, including those in charge of marketing for an association, as well as legal professionals and engineering firms.
HOST A VIRTUAL EVENT.
Creating an event for current and potential clients to see what your team has been up to, or where you’re headed, is a great way to encourage engagement with your firm. Offer a workshop or webinar where your clients can learn more about your organization and industry trends. Hosting a virtual event provides the opportunity to stand out as an industry thought leader! Invite speakers to join your event who have a deep insight into certain topics that will get your crowd buzzing on the new content.
To reach a magnitude of people, promote this event through your firm’s website, social channels, newsletter and blog. Hosting virtual events may influence even more people than is possible hosting similar events in person. Take advantage of the current trend to go virtual to reach even more people and gain trust from quality leads.
Don’t forget to press “record” when hosting your virtual events. Save this content and recycle it to attract another round of quality leads.
Put your current clients or referral sources in a position to easily refer new leads and promote your brand through a referral reward program. New potential clients value and trust recommendations from their friends or colleagues, so encourage existing clients to spread the word about your brand. Referral reward programs can be short or long-term and are wildly effective.
Creating a referral reward program is not only a great way to gain new clients, but can also increase participation for an upcoming webinar or virtual event. Offer up an incentive to your clients to invite a friend, such as a special drawing at an upcoming virtual event, to encourage current clients to recruit new business leads on your behalf. Think of what types of initiatives make the most sense with your industry or organization and will keep clients and referral sources engaged in helping your firm or organization. While it is unlikely these new webinar recruits will instantly become new clients, they will be excellent new additions to keep your lead generation funnel filled with qualified, engaged potential clients.
Continue to introduce new incentives and new content for other professionals to refer their clients and friends to you. Don’t forget that the best incentive for people to send referrals is when you refer a potential client to them, too! Work on your cross-referral relationships to support each other in new business growth.
GET TO KNOW YOUR LEADS.
Creating a business development strategy around a new referral program or virtual event presents exciting opportunities for your firm to learn more about potential future clients. When obtaining information from referred leads, make sure to ask them questions about themselves. Asking questions helps you gain information to keep them coming back for more. Here are a few ways to throw short, effective assessments into your business development strategy:
Create polls in your virtual webinar series or workshops
Add questionnaires at the end of presentations to see what topics people would like to hear about in the future
Add short survey questions into your email or newsletter blasts to learn more about your leads and loyal clients
Build a web assessment that is industry focused and invites visitors to self-qualify their need for services by identifying their biggest challenges or pains.
With your goals in mind, ask questions that will lead you to information that supports follow-up conversations with leads and prospects. Over time you will also have the opportunity to show how you’ve changed your business development strategy and produced new content based on how your clients and prospects answer your questions and assessments. This demonstrates to your clients that you’re listening. You are building a positive reputation that supports an effective lead generation funnel even during times of disruption.
Remember to always collect an email address! Having an email address provides the opportunity to stay connected to quality leads through email campaigns and newsletter blasts. Your leads can stay connected to the events and content you produce until they are ready to work with you. Sending your content through email and social media will also help your brand stay top-of-mind as a thought leader in the industry.
Recently, we had the opportunity to develop a Client Accounting Services (CAS) business toolkit for public accounting firms. It was designed with best practices to help firm leaders get their ducks in a row to launch or grow a CAS practice.
Some firms get by with offering a version of CAS without proactively branding and marketing it. That’s fine if you don’t believe it can be a true profit center. However, industry advocates such as AICPA and firm leaders who formally pursue CAS experience faster growth and client retention. That’s because the whole firm participates, and their clients experience the real value and benefits of outsourcing their accounting and CFO functions.
In fact, the AICPA has reported that CAS practices that surpass the $2 million mark are different because they have dedicated staff (from accountant to partner level), and the firm actively offers these services to current and new clients…they market it.*
Here is what we learned when discussing niche-marketing strategies with the recipients of our CAS business toolkit: It needs to be treated like a real niche practice. And that means it needs:
Staffing and budgeting;
Consistent marketing, and
A team trained to talk about its value and benefit to clients.
Often, firms get hung up in the marketing component because they assume that clients just know that they offer QuickBooks ProAdvisor team or outsourced accounting or controllership services. After all, they are a public accounting firm! But CAS is not your grandfather’s accounting service.
Know Your Target Audience
Prospects – cold to warm
Existing clients – warm to hot
Referral sources – cold to warm
Who are your prospective CAS clients? What is the size and characteristic of a business that will find outsourced CAS appealing? Detail out the kind of client you want who will bring you $3,000-$7,000 a month as a baseline.
Determine referral sources that can send clients to you. Next, create a plan with talking points about why CAS is the right fit for many of your existing clients.
Build Your CAS Niche Marketing Strategy
Set a financial and staffing goal for your practice. Where do you want to grow the practice in 12 months to 3 years?
Take that goal and break it down into measurable objectives for brand visibility, growth among existing clients and attraction of new CAS-specific clients. What marketing activities will you need to reach these objectives?
To succeed, someone has to take the lead on marketing and measuring your progress toward these objectives and firm goals. Your partners and technical people are too busy serving clients. They need a guide and ongoing activities to support practice growth.
Digital Marketing Agency Support
To make visibility with a CAS practice easier, take stock of your search engine optimization and website content. Are you actively seeking web visitors and leads for your CAS practice or leaving it up to chance? Leaving it up to chance means that your firm might pop up as a search result for CAS and it might not — even in your local market!
Make use of client stories and social media engagement to highlight your CAS team and their amazing knowledge that supports client goals every day. Do your research and ask for the business online as well as in person. What does that look like?
Offer CAS content subscriptions
Produce webinars or videos to share CAS features
Create an assessment to attract prospects
Develop an FAQ resource
In the beginning, you don’t have to do all of these. Just pick one or two. When clients and potential clients can self-serve and qualify themselves for CAS services, you are halfway to closing the deal. But your audience has to know that the resources are there and available 24/7. Marketing and team training points them to it.
Like clients who need CAS, your firm leadership may not all realize that outsourced marketing services can jumpstart your CAS practice growth. We are happy to answer your questions at Ingenuity. Contact Dawn Wagenaar for a consultation.