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CPA Lead Generation – Evaluating Providers

     -     Jun 8th, 2009   -     Accounting Marketing   -     0 Comments

If your firm is considering retaining an outside vendor to assist with lead generation it is important to find the right provider for your firm. Making the mistake of retaining a firm that does not have the right credentials, experience or poor synergy with you/your firm can end up being a costly mistake and set practice growth plans back. Regardless of the type of lead generation services you are seeking there are a number of criteria you should assess to determine which firm is the best fit for your firm.

To help Marketing, Business Development and Marketing Partners find the best firm for their needs; we have identified six basic questions that should be asked of every lead generation provider. These include:

  1. How many CPA firm clients do they have? If the firm does not specialize in the accounting profession then this is a must ask question. It is important to know how many CPA firms they work with because if the company focuses primarily on products and non-financial sales they will likely have an increased learning curve. If the company does have accounting industry clients, be sure to ask for references and review them closely. If the references are not similar to your firm in size (revenues, employees or specialty areas) there may be a small adjustment period. The safe bet is to work with a firm that has experience in the accounting industry serving firms like yours.
  2. Are there any areas the firm has specific experience in? Some lead generation firms have experience in certain niches. The accounting industry is a broad label that covers many areas such as IT consulting, international tax, transfer pricing, non profits or SEC reporting. These are all different and require a specific approach, knowledge base and skill set to properly design, implement and manage a campaign. The concepts critical in “speaking to” a CFO at a SEC registered company are completely different than those critical in “speaking to” a CIO at an insurance, payroll or data processing company. Be sure to find out what experience the lead generation firm has and how it can benefit your efforts.
  3. How experienced are the firm’s professionals? Engaging C level executives in meaningful conversations is one of the cornerstones of an effective telemarketing program. If you are considering a lead generation firm that does not have the experience or resources capable of professionally representing your firm then I recommend moving on. The chances of success are significantly reduced if the account manager does not understand key concepts about the service they are selling. In the end this may end up making your firm look bad to the prospect. What impression would it leave with you if a company calling to sell you advertising knew very little about ad sizes, pricing, or positioning in the medium? Not a good one I am sure. The key is to prevent this from happening to your firm. As a result, it is critical to determine who is making the calls; how long they have been doing so and how often they work in your specific focus area.
  4. How does the calling process work? If you are retaining a firm to conduct telemarketing ask for specific information about the calling process. Some firms prefer to develop and send out mailers before the calling engagement. Find out who is responsible for creating, editing and sending out the piece. Determine how many times calls are made, how opportunities are qualified and transitioned to your organization. Do they work from a script of general talking points? Do they set appointments for your firm? Some telemarketing firms have flexible telemarketing programs where they are willing to customize programs based on your needs, while others have a set pattern they use to guide the engagement. Regardless of the format it is in your best interest to find out as much as possible about the process.
  5. How often do they communicate? What type of reporting do they offer? If it is a telemarketing service what type of weekly/monthly communications do they provide to keep you and other stakeholders informed? It is also important to determine whether the information being provided is qualitative, quantitative or both. It has been my experience that marketing and business development professional prefer quantitative reports, while partners prefer qualitative metrics. If they are conducting email marketing consider how reporting on opens, click through and other relevant metrics will be communicated. Part of well run lead generation engagement includes consistent and regular communication on all activity.
  6. What are typical results? This is an important question to ask because the answer given will speak volumes about the organization. I have come across certain companies that guarantee a certain dollar amount in new business as a result of using their company. This is a great guarantee but I have no clue how anyone could possibly make this statement. There are too many variables that affect whether a prospective opportunity turns into new business. Moreover, it is truly outside of the hands of the lead generation firm because (generally speaking) they have no involvement in the sales process once they transition the lead to your firm for follow up. They also have no control over your firm’s brand awareness, market strength or relationship base which are critical factors to success in lead generation. As a result, when searching for vendors the best ones are likely those that provide averages but make no guarantees. It may not be as appealing of an answer as the guarantee, but at least they are being honest about what they can produce and you should expect.
  7. No lead generation firm will meet every need your firm has. However, the more questioning, research and due diligence your firm conducts on the front end the fewer surprises you will have when the engagement is executed. Remember that it is okay to ask a lot of questions. As potential customers to these lead generation companies they should be happy and forthright about their services, processes, areas of specialization and overall ability to help you reach growth goals.

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