You’ve built your prospect list. Hooray! Stop and pat yourself on the back—that’s a huge accomplishment, and you now have a solid place to start. Now what? What do you do with that list? There are hundreds of places to reach your prospects and millions of ways to do it. And the world today is noisy. The answer to breaking through the noise is not MORE. Instead, we need to be focused on BETTER. Better targeted outreach, better personalization, better messaging and relevance. Creating better experiences for those we’re reaching out to.
Haven’t gotten started yet? Take a look at our Beginner’s Guide on how to build your list here.
Let’s take a look at eight ways to reach your list. But first, let’s talk about a few things that will help you be more successful.
- Be where your prospects are. It’s fairly obvious, but once your list is complete, sort and segment by any number of common denominators: industry, age, business phase, geography, pain point, or whatever other creative commonality you can find. Then be there. What newsletters or publications do they read? Which podcasts do they listen to? What events do they attend? What associations are they members of? Which social media channels are they on? Start to show up in the periphery to create brand awareness.
- Research! Our Beginner’s Guide mentioned market research, but you also need to know who to contact and what they are interested in. Know their pain points and challenges. Know about their business and industry. This makes it easier to…
- Don’t just send out something to the masses. It will be ignored. Remember earlier when I said it’s noisy out there? Find a way to make a connection with your prospect, whether it’s speaking to their pain point, things you have in common like kids or love of a certain sports team, mutual connections or anything else you can find to make your connection more real.
All of this information will help you map out an action plan to be where your prospects are and capture their attention. Now, let’s take a look at some ways to reach them. In no particular order, here are eight ways to reach your prospects:
- Direct mail
- Niche groups or associations
- Cold Calling
- Events and trade shows
- Social media
If you’re like me, your inbox has never been more inundated with salespeople and their requests. Do you know what that means? It’s given the actual mailbox a rest. It will be harder because of the pandemic, but create a direct mail campaign that will get your prospect’s attention. Here are a few ideas.
Give them something they’ve never seen before. I was inspired by this insanely creative technique from Nathan Offner. Check it out here. Another super creative way is to leverage your kids. See how Jeremiah Griffin did this with Mackenna’s letter here.
Send them a book. There are a few reasons sending your prospect a book can pay off. First, nearly everyone – from CEOs to junior employees – loves receiving packages. Second, your recipient typically feels obligated to reciprocate by responding to your email or getting on the phone with you. Third, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise by choosing a book that corresponds to their challenges and needs. Identify a few topics they’d likely be interested in. For a small business owner, it could be time management, leadership skills, or even marketing. Use these priorities to find a book with relevant advice or case studies. Mail the book with a (handwritten!) note explaining why you think it may be valuable. Make sure the package is addressed to your prospect.
Here’s a sample template:
Dear [prospect name],
Are you [struggling with X, looking to capitalize on Y, concerned with Z trend]? You might find this book helpful. I found [specific tip/section/explanation] in chapter X particularly helpful.
Most mail carriers let you request a signature upon delivery for an extra fee. Take advantage of this option. As soon as you get a notification the package has been signed for, call or email them. Say something along the lines of, “Hi [prospect name], I see you just got my package. Would you like to schedule a quick call on [date and time] to discuss the concepts in the book?”
Whether or not they say yes, you’ll have made a favorable impression – meaning you still have a good chance of getting some time on their calendar at some point.
Go retro with a handwritten note in a hand-addressed envelope and real, non-metered postage. Handwritten notes will almost always get into the hands of your targets. This can warm up your prospect for contact later on.
Pro tip: Set up Google Alerts for your prospect’s name and business. When they are in the news, send them a congratulatory note. I read our state’s business journal each week specifically to look for people I can send notes to.
Get creative. Send a lottery ticket with a note that reads “Why gamble on (fill in what you do)?” When you call to follow up, have some fun and ask them if they won. Or send something that is representative of your geographic area. Are there local foods the area is known for? Is there something related to an area sports team you could send? What’s a super popular local business you could use for a gift (bonus if it’s a current client!)? Another idea is to use upcoming holidays for inspiration. Can you drop off carnations for all the moms on your list the Friday before Mother’s Day? Or craft beer or BBQ sauce for dads before Father’s Day? Think about how you can leverage a holiday or even a “National Day” to your advantage. You could also have some fun by picking up any of the following and tailoring a corny message: Payday candy bars, mints, Mounds, seeds, or nuts. For example, attach a note to a Mounds candy bar with a message centered around you saving them mounds of extra work.
If you decide to use direct mail, combine this method with another prospecting method like webinars, emails, or cold calling to make it even more effective.
Join a Niche Group or Association
Groups or associations are an excellent way to meet your prospects. For example, if you have a lot of contractors on your list, research groups for local or state contractor associations or homebuilder groups. You could even look for related industries like architecture. My firm is involved with all three so we can target these specific groups. The groups can help you learn what their primary pain points are. Not only that, you make many more valuable connections. Show up to gatherings regularly, get to know attendees, and even pitch to speak at one of the events. We do all three – as a matter of fact, I had to pause writing this article to attend a meeting for a state contractor group council that I was just elected to chair. By getting involved, members will be more likely to remember you when they have a problem you can solve.
Pro tip: Meet the staff of the association and develop relationships with them, too. They will be much more likely to send additional prospects your way if you are helpful to their organization. Who knows – even the association could become your client!
Pro tip: Do not start selling right away. Take time to study the culture and try to be a helpful and known member of the group. Add value by answering questions and sharing helpful resources.
According to Think with Google, 7 in 10 B2B buyers watch a video during their buying process. This is hands down the most trending tip for reaching your prospects and something you may have not yet tried! Videos are a great way to give a voice and face to your business, which is highly effective in taking customer engagement forward. Shameless plug: tune in to the Minute next month when our whole issue will be focused on video.
You don’t have to have a fancy, expensive firm video with unnaturally smiling accountants and model-looking businessmen shaking hands incessantly in each and every corner. You probably don’t even have that luxury during the pandemic. Use a simple amateur video to show faces from your firm and introduce yourself, offer information or answer a question, and give your best sales pitch. All the usual things, but done differently. After all, people buy from people. So show them the real you!
Pro tip: Here are a few video ideas: interviews, explainers, presentations, customer testimonials, FAQs, vlogs, or even just a video about why you chose the accounting field.
Hear me out. No matter how much you may hate cold calls, it’s still one of the most effective ways to reach your prospects. A survey from Hubspot found that almost half of all sales reps still consider phone calls as the most effective sales tool, while 69% of buyers admitted that they would answer cold calls. Plus, 78% of decision-makers who have scheduled an appointment or attended an event have done so after a cold call.
If you are cold calling, be sure to first do you research. Don’t call blind. Know something about their business or challenges. Be empathetic to their desires and pain points. Ask good questions and LISTEN. Make your prospects feel like they are the most important call of the day for you. This will help you make a more authentic connection.
Even better? Warm calling. Sales people are finding much greater success using warm calling. Warm calling means getting on the radar of your prospects by making them somewhat familiar with who you are before you call. The most powerful way to do this is by being introduced by a mutual contact or connection. When someone else introduces you to a prospect, they will be much more receptive to meeting and talking to you. Third party credibility and social proof are very powerful.
Pro tip: If you aren’t good at cold calling (ME!), hire an outside company to help. Our firm just so happens to have a former insurance salesman on staff in our sister wealth management company, so we leverage his cold calling skills to get an “in” through our sister company instead of the CPA side first.
The key to attracting and engaging prospects online is creating content that informs, educates, and entertains them. But content isn’t just for pulling in anonymous website visitors and converting them to leads. Once you are communicating with a prospect, content helps challenge the buyer’s thinking and educate them on potential solutions. In addition, original content reinforces your firm’s expertise, compelling prospects not just to take your call, but your advice too.
Once you have the right content, promote it on social media or other digital channels using targeted advertising. Narrow down your audience with the tools on Facebook or LinkedIn so that you know you’re only showing relevant content to the people you want to reach. This could potentially help you with your warm calling, too.
Pro tip: Use surveys to understand and connect with prospects. A great way to pique the interest of a prospect is to ask them about the challenges they face – ones that you just so happen to have the ability to help them overcome. Invite them to participate in market research in exchange for a report comparing them to their peers. It’s a tried-and-true method that many accounting firms utilize.
Events and Trade Shows
Guess who your clients hang out with? Potential prospects. That’s why events, trade shows, and conferences are gold mines. If you get a chance to be a part of any event where you know like-minded people are going to be present, then you should be assured of great connections.
Make sure you are visible in your clients’ and prospects’ industries. Connect with them to get recommendations on events or conferences to attend. Subscribe to newsletters related to those industries and monitor websites, blogs, or calendars to ensure you never miss an important date.
When attending events, remember not to pitch your services immediately. Spend some time getting to know your prospects and collect contact information so you can get in touch at a later date. Here are some great conference tips from Copper’s event team.
Pro tip: Here’s a creative example of a way to leverage a trade show or event from the executive director of Sales for the Culture, Jacob Gebrewold.
“I met an executive at a conference whose presentation I really liked. There were hundreds of people at the presentation and dozens he spoke with after. When I got my couple of minutes with him, I asked him what most would consider a boring question: what’s a book he read that isn’t super mainstream that somehow influenced that presentation and (crucially) why that book had that impact. The basic question is nothing outstanding, it’s what I did with the information that mattered. I ordered the book and sent him a picture of me holding it when I got it. Then I synthesized some key insights from it, particularly insights that related to what he said stood out to him. I tied that takeaway to how I approach business and my service and mentioned I’d be by his office a couple times in the coming weeks and I’d love to chat more on how that common POV impacts how he’s dealing with challenges related to what I do. Doing something intentional with the answer to a “boring question” is how I got one of the most high-powered executives in my city to give me a 60-minute meeting. Afterward, he introduced his whole team to me and said if they ever have a need around my services, I’m who they should call. Plus, the book wasn’t bad either.”
Look for speaking engagements. Attend industry trade shows with the aim to get a speaking or presenting spot at one of their breakout sessions. The opportunity will get you and your firm in front of prospects, and it also gives you the chance to demonstrate expertise without it feeling like a sales pitch. Just make sure your speeches aim to teach and coach. People come to these events to learn. If you turn your presentation into just another sales call, you’ll lose them.
Host webinars. Ahhh, the technique of the pandemic. We all know how important webinars have become in the last 18 months. They are a great way to reach your prospects, but they do take time, effort, and expertise. Don’t have any of those? Look for partnership opportunities through your local chamber or any associations you are a member of. It’s an easy and less time-consuming way to get in front of your prospects. We didn’t host any webinars of our own during the pandemic, but participated in several from surrounding chambers and it opened up opportunities for conversation with several of our top prospects.
We all know it is crucial to build trust with your prospects. In order to do this, develop a digital presence so they can become familiar with your name, face, and messaging. There’s no place easier for this than social media because you can share your firm’s expertise and target a specific audience. Be sure to focus on social sites where your prospects are. Don’t waste your time with Pinterest if your audience isn’t there.
Join an online group. Online groups are a successful way to meet your prospects. Request to join groups where your prospects hang out. Before jumping in immediately with a pitch, get to know the people in the group. Join conversations in a non-salesy way. If someone asks you a specific question you know your firm can help with, tell them you’ll send a direct message with more details. By keeping your pitch private, you’ll avoid spamming prospects who might not be ready for a pitch. You’ll probably also intrigue other members who have the same issue.
I was hesitant to include this channel because if your firm is anything like mine, there’s a grey area related to how you can get and use email addresses. This is a technique I choose not to use unless a prospect has attended a firm event or webinar or has given permission to be added to my email list. However, email is one of the top ways to reach prospects.
If you do choose to use email, be sure to make it personal. The Rain Group states that eight out of 10 buyers prefer email as a way of communication. However, the average open rate for emails is only 15 to 25 percent. In the best-case scenario, only every fourth email you send actually gets opened. Personalization can help you double that number.
Pro tip: If you choose to cold email your prospects, be sure you are in compliance with GDPR and CAN-SPAM.
Pro tip: Use marketing automation to set up a drip campaign to nurture your prospects. It will take time on the front end to refine your message, but once you get it right, you’ll save a ton of time.
Whichever of these methods you choose, remember that success is in the follow-up. Make sure you have a repeatable and consistent process for following up with potential leads. Be sure to track interactions in your CRM and keep great notes for reference.
Get Started with AAM-MAA
A great place to get some ideas is looking back at the AAM-MAA award submissions to see what has been done in our industry. The original intent of this article was to feature some of the submissions, but covering the eight ways to reach prospects filled all my allotted space (and then some)! There are tons of great ideas for events, integrated marketing campaigns, business development initiatives, direct marketing campaigns, and nurture/lead generation campaigns included in the submissions. It’s the perfect place to get started.
What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected].
About Rachael McGrew
Rachael McGrew is the Business Development Director for Landmark CPAs, one of Arkansas’ largest accounting firms. In her role, she wears many hats, including overseeing the firm’s marketing and business development strategy, managing internal and external communications, maintaining the firm’s social media and web presence, planning and executing firm events and community outreach programs, coordinating recruiting campaigns, and serving on industry association committees.
Rachael is the co-chair of the AAM Minute and leads the AAM Hubspot Circle. She is a graduate of the Leadership Fort Smith program, an Arkansas Business and Northwest Arkansas Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree, and a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Arkansas’ Western Council.