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Managing Lead Generation Programs

     -     Jun 25th, 2009   -     Accounting Marketing   -     0 Comments

Lead generation programs are becoming increasingly important in CPA and accounting firms. The sluggish economy has had a significant impact on the number and types of services companies are purchasing. Profit growth has slowed  because clients and prospects are delaying non essential projects while becoming fee sensitive. As a result, firms are looking for new ways to generate business opportunities. Some are turning to internal marketing professionals to guide the firm’s efforts. Others are looking to outsourced specialists to work with the firm to develop lead generation programs. Regardless of the solution selected it is important for marketing and other accounting professionals to understand how to obtain the greatest ROI on such programs.  

To achieve optimal results from lead generation campaigns we have outlined six areas to focus on when administering your own or managing campaigns with vendors. These areas include:

  1. The Prospect List.  Often times lists are purchased from vendors with the expectation that the information is current. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. While most list vendors do their best to maintain accurate records it is not possible to keep track of the changes happening at every company. For this reason it is important to take the time before the program begins to confirm the contact information. Consider verifying the data by contacting each company to ensure accuracy. Although the process may seem time consuming it is critical to the success of the program. Investing the time and energy in marketing to an inaccurate list is a poor use of resources and materials. A little due diligence will go a long way.
  2. Assess Collateral Materials. A common mistake many firms make is spending too much time on developing a creative mailing campaign and investing very little time in refining collateral material. Your firm’s website, brochure and other information sources need to demonstrate the value proposition you have in the advertised service or industry niche. As an example, your firm sends out a beautiful package to prospects that discusses your expertise in international tax. Intrigued the prospect visits your website only to find a bullet point in a list of services on international tax. A lack of descriptive marketing copy, white papers and other supporting materials tells the prospect you may not have the expertise claimed. To avoid this situation, be sure that your collateral materials tell a strong story about your capabilities.
  3. Define the Lead Management Process. Before starting the campaign meet with partners, managers and others to define the lead management process. Avoid the mistake of thinking a specific partner, manager or other professional will jump at the chance to help. Although some may do so, it is a good idea to have consensus on the management process. Initiate conversation and get agreement about which professionals will be responsible for answering questions, discussing pricing and scheduling prospect meetings. The more structure you can build into the process the less likely that an opportunity will be missed or not fully leveraged.
  4. Develop an Implementation Timeline. Whether you are using direct mail, email or executive telemarketing as the medium, make sure to follow an implementation timeline. As with most things in life timing is critical. If you are focusing on an area where there are defined business cycles it is important to be touching the prospect when he/she is most receptive to your message. As an example benefit plan sponsors with a 12/31 year end are not looking to switch plan auditors in July because that is when the Form 5500 is due to the Department of Labor. The time to focus on this group is in January – April since most are assessing options at that time. By developing an implementation timeline you will be able to achieve optimal results by being in the right place at the right time with the right marketing messages.
  5. Establish A Follow Up Process. Most lead generation programs open the door to both short and long term opportunities. While it is easy to follow up on short term opportunities it is more difficult to know what to do with opportunities that are six months to a year out. As a result, it is important to establish a follow up process for partners, managers and other professionals to follow at the beginning of the campaign. Create a set of guidelines that provides direction on how often they should contact the prospect, what type of literature and materials should be sent and how often. The more structure you provide the more successful the campaign is going to be.
  6. Track Results. Like all other marketing programs it is important to track the results of the effort. Partners, managers and others need to understand how well the program is performing and the return on investment for the program. Be sure to track to how many total impressions were made with prospects, how many expressed interest (by asking for information), number of immediate, short and long term opportunities identified.  In addition, track how many prospects became proposal opportunities, the dollar value and whether it was a win or loss.  Key intelligence can be gathered by following up with a lost proposal opportunity. It may be an off putting phone call at first glance, but by simply asking why that prospect went in a different direction, you can strengthen future proposals. This type of follow up may also leave the door open to resubmitting a proposal again when the next opportunity arises.

 Although some of these tips may seem to be more time consuming than desired, they will go a long way in answer questions and avoiding issues once things get underway. Taking these steps prior to launching the effort will ensure the program runs smoothly and will result in a higher return on investment. If you are managing an outside vendor make sure they are providing you with a clear implementation timeline, recommended follow up process and detailed reporting structure. Without such tools your opportunity for success will significantly decrease.

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