This might hurt a little.
Artificial intelligence is evolving to serve up new potential clients faster than humans. Consider the search tools already within social media or the advancements happening in CRM solutions. As long as the firm is very clear on target client pains, interests and desires, then marketing and sales technology will “think” and “adapt” to the firm’s goals.
For professionals in marketing and business development who earn their living by identifying, nurturing and converting leads, this future sounds painful. Isn’t this industry about relationships? How can robots build trust?
Exactly. Let’s get past the fear and see the possibilities for making AI an ally in business development. Here are a few important areas for marketing and business development professionals to leverage now for efficiency and personalization so they can focus even more on the relationship.
1. Lead qualification
By understanding Google analytics and social analytics and providing a few strategic ways for visitors to interact with the firm online, business development can target and qualify leads in a more automated way.
How are visitors searching for the firm’s services? How are mobile voice assistants changing that search process? How are visitors tracked and funneled through a qualification process? Answer these questions to help augmented intelligence—and eventually artificial intelligence—find and qualify leads for you.
To explore more automated lead generation and qualification, review these things:
- Organic key search phrases that are finding the firm’s services frequently
- Referral sources to the website; where visitors “hang out”
- Lead capture options on the website besides the Contact page
For automated lead qualification, try this:
- Conduct a strategic Google ad campaign using top search phrases for a niche service (e.g. R&D study)
- Point visitors to a thought leadership blog on the topic with contact box for related resource
- After resource downloads, send automated emails with an invitation for a consultation or newsletter subscription
2. Lead nurturing
It’s great to get leads on the pipeline, but business developers are constantly working on follow-up tactics to nurture and convince leads to switch CPA firms or try a firm’s advisory service.
Strong CRM systems will help business developers stay organized with follow-up, but those with marketing automation can also personalize and time communications that accelerate conversion. To explore more automated lead nurturing and conversion, review these things:
- Lead nurturing dead zones (when nurturing falls off)
- Personal details for each lead and timing of follow-up
- When to include an expert in a conversation
- When to emphasize “true cost of waiting” to hot leads
For consistent automated lead nurturing, try this:
- Use CRM scheduling to properly time follow-up
- Use Flipboard or other app to receive key industry updates
- Tee up strategic communication in automated email “from” firm niche expert
- Note detail from past conversation and include a related industry resource in email (e.g. magazine article, case study)
- Invite the prospect to speak with the niche expert on his/her approach for the prospect and perceived value from the recommendation
3. Persuasion and close
Business development professionals must convince prospects of positive or better outcomes compared to other firms. Imagine if those outcomes were actually tracked and measured automatically through industry performance algorithms.
Firms can offer some anecdotal data now through social proof — ranging from testimonials and case studies to reviews. But firms don’t usually quantify overall effectiveness per client or industry segment. Business development professionals could use more quantitative data on engagements beyond whether or not the client was satisfied. Did the work result in real money saved, penalties avoided or growth? How much?
To explore more business intelligence on client or industry outcomes, review these things:
- How does the CPA firm quantify client-focused success per engagement?
- What metrics can be set up prior to the engagement to support outcome-based reporting?
- How can the firm automatically input and track client service outcomes per service or industry type?
To support automated, client-focused reporting, try this:
- Establish quantitative key performance indicators that demonstrate client outcomes
- Set a benchmark for each engagement
- Invite clients to report on KPIs after the engagement
- Measure the results against the benchmark
- Report aggregated findings from all clients quarterly
All of these ideas take planning up front, but the firm’s CRM and marketing automation software can be engaged, for example, to trigger emails and client surveys that feed data directly into a reporting tool. Such data can support team training, improved client relationships and personalized business development.
Learning and adapting can hurt a little, but resistance is futile. Use technology for the greater good of staying organized and factual while still reaching out with a human touch.
AAM Minute: Business Development
By: Christine Nelson, Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC