Traditional Offline Marketing is Not Dead
By Joel Oliver
A balanced approach
Those who that say traditional marketing is dead, are often the ones promoting websites, or a digital solution. The unique thing about what our team do is that we do what works! That’s actually our job, to generate results for our clients. And for over 30 years, traditional sales and marketing has remained some of the most profitable, controllable and predictable sources of new business. Some routes do yield less than they may have done in previous years. Others are having a resurgence and are generating higher response rates. So here are some of the things we would recommend you should consider.
You will only ever generate an ROI online when you take the conversation offline
Despite what the digital gurus might say about offline marketing, we know for a fact that within the accounting profession you are only going to generate a return online when you take the conversation offline. That’s because it’s a professional service, and whilst the likes of ‘crunch’ and other online accounting providers may pick up some clients who order online, the quality clients that most firms like yours are really looking for, won’t ‘buy’ from your website.
They will register as a customer after someone takes the time to telephone them, arrange a meeting and they get to eyeball a partner or senior member of your team. That’s not going to change anytime soon either. In fact the entire online activity is, in our view only going to enhance the value placed on these kind of relational offline interactions.
Have an offline strategy that ties into your online marketing
So, no matter how much you love your iPad, Galaxy Phone or Tablet PC you must build offline into your online activity. That means having telephone support or capacity to follow up your online interactions. If someone connects with you on LinkedIn or subscribes to your newsletter on your website – call them. Or at the very least have a plan to add their data onto a database and along with email addresses, write to them. It’s that combined approach that will make your marketing successful both online and offline.
Whatever routes to market you use Test, Measure, Adapt and Improve (TMAI)
Use direct mail, targeted telemarketing, live events and print advertising
The recent economic changes and the unknown future that looms ahead has forced us all to reassess what we are doing in business and how we can continue to grow. This includes hundreds if not thousands of accountancy firms who have historically needed to do very little to win new clients. Perhaps you are one of them? Those who are keen to grow and win new clients often try telemarketing as their first option. Sadly, we speak to accountancy firms of all sizes almost every week that have ploughed money– into telemarketing and got nothing in return.
No wonder the word ‘telemarketing’ is taboo in some firms. The mere mention of it conjures up painful memories of paying lots of money for poor quality appointments. On the other hand, many firms have used telemarketing successfully and have generated a steady flow of top quality appointments to produce first class clients. So how can there be such a significant divide of experience, results and opinions? If it is correctly set up, carried out and managed, telemarketing remains one of the most proven, reliable and profitable ways to win high quality new clients for accountancy firms. Equally, the margin for error is small and that means it is very easy to get things terribly wrong.
Expect good results but not overnight!
In just the last 12 months alone we have carried out over 300 consultative 1:1’s with partners of firms from sole traders through to top 50. Many had tried telemarketing in the past or were currently engaged in it. When stories of disappointment or frustration were shared there was a common theme:
Sales is not easy! That’s why we exist to help firms grow. A business owner should not switch their account on a whim. Those ‘clients’ will likely be quickly lost. Setting up a quality telemarketing campaign should never be viewed as a ‘quick fix’ or be looked upon as being easy. It isn’t! Instead, accept that you are in it for the long haul, set aside the money to fund it over that time-frame and make sure you review the results regularly with a view to improving consistently. Telemarketing does work for accountants – but before you embark on a pilot or a test make sure you have done your calculations correctly, carefully and with reasonable caution. We advise potential clients that they may not see a return on their investment (money into the bank) for 12 months or more into a campaign (assuming we work on a 1-sales-day-per-week programme).
Commission or ‘guarantee’ based arrangements
Without exception, the worst stories of disappointment and frustration (some were particularly troubling to hear) came from those who had put all their hope on a seemingly ‘great deal’ whereby they only paid a commission for the appointment or were guaranteed ‘x’ for ‘y’. Winning new clients, who are paying professional fees for a service from their ‘must trusted advisor’ is not something that can be forced. It is dependent upon relationship and professionalism from the very start. On establishing differentiation, understanding, listening to and questioning your ‘prospect’ and providing good answers and value so that they choose to meet and have not been ‘strong armed’ into it. When commissions and guarantees are used, it all too often results in the singular focus of ‘get the appointment’. Most firms find that this leads to poor relations with their ‘supplier’ and poor quality appointments resulting in wasted time and money and discouragement.
Relational Telemarketing – particularly when part of a simple yet well thought through offline plan – produces great results. You get smaller volumes of high quality appointments with businesses looking to spend £4k + per annum and who actively want greater service, proactivity, care and planning.
Correct set up
If your sales strategy (and you need a strategy) is setup correctly, you will be using the right partners, with the right message, to the right audience, gaining a steady flow of high quality appointments – converting c.1:4 of those to new clients and producing on average a 1.5-2x
ROI based on first years fee’s. This should be considered a great success and platform from which to build your practice further! As I write this report our team of presenters will be running more than 10 talks to accountants on sales, marketing and practice growth. They will deliver between them over 500 PowerPoint slides and present for over 15 hours on topics ranging from Social Media and Digital Marketing to Email Marketing, Apps and Telemarketing. As our team put together the final elements of these presentations, one theme runs clearly through them all. For accountants there are lots of routes to market, some traditional like networking and taking the bank manager for lunch. Others like Facebook, Blogging and Apps are new, modern and funky ways to promote your firm.
Regardless of your route to market, one thing remains clear: the requirement for the human touch, to take the conversation or tweet offline; to chat to the person, or better still, to meet the prospect. Now, more than ever our team will be sharing how important it is not to lose everything in the excitement of ‘The Cloud’ and instead to take the conversation whenever possible offline.
Published October 2015