Once your firm receives a website inquiry, how long does it take for someone to follow up? If your answer is more than a few hours, it is very possible you are missing out on opportunities!
With the spectrum of distractions that can derail the lead process, it is surprising that slow follow-up alone can kill an opportunity. The truth is, the more quickly follow-up is made, the greater the likelihood the opportunity will convert.
The Faster, the Better
The instant gratification nature of society combined with the fact that most people make inquiries with multiple firms make quick follow-up essential.
“The best opportunity to further the conversation is to be the first responder,” says Sean Smith, chief marketing officer at Pittsburgh-based Schneider Downs. “The prospect stops looking once somebody calls them back.”
In order to keep the responses quick, some firms turn to their marketing and/or business development departments to help with the opportunities.
“Follow-up time is crucial to the success of a web-based lead generation program,” said Emily Martin, executive director of marketing at Calvetti Ferguson in Texas. “Our firm aims to reply to an inquiry within one business day, but usually, our business development team reaches out within two to six hours.”
Firms focus a lot on digital marketing programs such as banner ads, search engine optimization (SEO), and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. That’s only half the job though. Accounting marketers also need to clearly define the follow-up process to ensure the leads generated turn into new clients.
A firm’s marketing team is in the unique position to review and disseminate leads that come in through the website.
“Our marketing team is copied on any email sent through our website,” said Korby Boswell, senior marketing specialist with Adams Brown, which is headquartered in Kansas. “That allows us to quickly research the opportunity to assure it’s both legitimate and appears to be a good fit for our firm.”
In addition to lead prequalification, marketing should have a process that looks at:
- How and to whom the lead is handed off
- When the prospect was contacted by the firm
- How leads are added to the pipeline
- When marketing helps coach on an opportunity
- How to follow the lead status, including when it becomes a win or a loss
“Growth professionals should guide partners through the pursuit process from when and how to make the initial outreach to what the next steps in a sales process looks like to when to stop trying due to lack of response from the prospect,” says Katie Tolin, a consultant with CPA Growth Guides. “These leads are different than other leads they are comfortable pursuing. Plus, if you are tracking data from other web leads, you can use insights to increase your odds of winning.”
It’s important to develop and implement the process so partners and others understand the correlation between timely communication and desired outcome.
What Results Should You Expect?
A firm’s success with closing online leads varies widely and is often determined by several factors including size, location, market presence, services targeted, and whether the decision is deadline oriented. The reality is that larger firms in major markets can attract high-quality leads resulting in tens of thousands of dollars per engagement. Conversely, mid- to small-size firms may not be able to make the same impact.
However, it is not uncommon for a large firm to pull in more than $1 million in new business per year. Smaller firms can bring $200,000 to $600,000 or more of new work annually. A single lead can really have an impact on these totals, too. One top 200 firm recently won a single lead that was in excess of $100,000, and that single opportunity put them at 25% of their website lead goal for the year.
For many accountants (and even marketers), it can be difficult to believe the website can account for such success, but there are dozens of firms that realize these results each year. In more and more firms today, the website is one of the top contributors of new business each year—bringing in more than a majority of the partners.
Share Your Success
Once a program takes off, it is essential to track activity and success through detailed reporting. After all, it’s important to know what can be attributed to the efforts of marketing. Reporting should include the amount of closed business as well as opportunities that did not materialize. While marketing does need to ensure web leads are quality, success should not be solely measured by closed business.
“I think there is tremendous value in tracking website leads that made it to the firm pipeline,” Tolin says. “If the lead is solid enough to land there, marketing should get credit for it. If a professional is outsold in the sales process, that’s really outside of the marketer’s hands even if they coached on the opportunity.”
Website conversion success stems from a number of factors including how effectively the digital marketing tactics used (e.g., SEO, social media, etc.) are at generating new opportunities. These statistics are important to share, but recognize that partners ultimately want to know how efforts translate into dollars and cents. The easier it is to communicate the department’s contribution and value, the better it is for all involved.
And if marketing doesn’t share its own success, who will? Marketing can drive new revenue through the firm’s website, but it requires a quick response and a solid process. So take your mark, get set, go!
About Brian Swanson
Brian Swanson is a Partner of FlashPoint Marketing, an accounting marketing firm that provides inbound marketing consulting including SEO as well as assistance with traditional lead generation programs. He joined the company in 2008 to manage the digital marketing programs. He has over 18 years of experience in marketing and business development for the accounting profession.
Through his deep understanding of the marketing, business development and accounting disciplines, Brian offers a unique perspective and practical approach on firm growth. Combining practical knowledge with his technical understanding of digital marketing programs, Brian is able to offer clients a powerful portfolio of marketing programs focused on building brand awareness, market penetration and new business opportunities.
Previously, Brian worked as the Director of Marketing & Business Development for a regional CPA firm in South Florida and as the Audit Quality Growth Manager at KPMG.
Brian obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Benedictine University. He is a national speaker on SEO, content development, and inbound marketing for CPA and accounting firms. In 2010, he became the first accounting marketing professional to earn certification in Search Engine Marketing and Advanced Search Engine Optimization from the Search Engine Professionals Organization (SEMPO). Brian is also a National Board Member of the Association of Accounting Marketing.