The way people buy accountancy services has changed, and continues to evolve. Be honest, you know buyer behaviour has changed; but has your behaviour changed? Do your marketing priorities reflect changes in the way your prospects look for and buy your services, or do you (especially when needing to top up the pipeline) reach out for the tried and tested methods of business development?
So many things in the world today are changing the way we work, the services we need, and the way we look for them. The pace of change seems to be accelerating, but even as far back as 2012 The FT Effective Client Advisor Report found:
- 40% of all professional services buyers have a sector specialist in their top 3 buying criteria
- 67% of all professional services buyers want to work with someone who has a deep understanding of both their marketplace and business
Google, in its zero moment of truth research, found that buyers do far more research than ever before. These buyers create a supplier short-list when they have a problem, but before they need to buy, based on their own research.
Don't get found in that research, your invitation to the party doesn't ever get seen.
Effective lead generation is now less about "getting yourself out there". It is less about push marketing (fewer small firms report telemarketing to be effective now) and more about "pull marketing". What are you doing differently when marketing your practice?
Is the business development model is broken?
In most large firms, commercial development training seems to still focus on networking. That might be strategic networking, face-to-face networking or on-line networking. The owners of most small professional firms still say networking is their most important route to market (second only to referrals, which most do virtually nothing about). For networking and referrals to be really effective you need to do some work on your brand and client proposition.
As buyer behaviours have changed and the buyer now controls the pace of the sale, the mythical 'close' is now less relevant (if it ever was). In some ways that's a good thing as most small firms claim to be really bad at selling. But if that's true why do most people still want to increase their ability to sell? When the pipeline gets low, most small firms reach out for old tried and tested methods. One being to go 'networking', when what they actually mean is go to a networking meeting in the hope of selling to people there.
Time to think longer term?
Returning to the FT Client Advisor report and the new realities of marketing, these actions are needed well before the pipeline runs low. If you're looking to get more growth in your firm, start thinking about some of the new foundations now.
- What can you do to help buyers requirements for a sector specialist?
- Have you got sufficient content, both on your website and in other places, that demonstrates your expertise?
- What material have you got to build trust and credibility, that buyers can see before they even meet you?
- If buyer behaviour is changing, and they do more reseaupfrontront, you need to be found in that research. Could you start by understanding what they look for in their research?
- Clients will still be a great source of leads, but do you need to get more proactive to get your share of them?
How are you adjusting your behaviours in line with changing buyer behaviours?