Getting leads is one thing: but what happens when – due to all the marketing your firm has been doing – you’ve actually got more leads than you know what to do with?
You start to think perhaps you need to pull back on your marketing.
(Spoiler alert: that’s actually not a great idea, but deep down you kind of know that. But you’re too busy to really think about it.)
It’s working well, you think. After all this effort you can take a breather, relax a little. You’re extremely busy and barely have time to think about it, and maybe your time would be better used recruiting and hiring (which you’ve been trying to do as well).
But marketing doesn’t “bring you business”.
It brings awareness.
What you do with it affects how swiftly (or slowly) your buyer moves through the buying process. Or indeed whether they buy at all.
Many of the firms we are working with have this problem: ALL their leads are good ones, and they have a lot of them.
Yes, it’s a lovely problem to have: but it’s still a problem – and it may be a bigger problem than you realise.
Because if you’re tempted to pull back on marketing because you have so many leads, so much potential business, you’re missing a critical part of the process. An amazing opportunity you’ll lose if you pull back now.
It’s the oversubscribed concept, and it’s the absolute best marketing position to ever be in.
It means YOU get to decide who you work with, and when.
There’s no stress because if someone is in a rush and gets stroppy with you, they probably weren’t going to be the right fit anyway.
The waitlisting process presumes you’ve already done some qualifying.
These leads you’re getting are already within your target market (perhaps you’ve identified they’re not a sole trader or they’re in your niche).
They’ve filled in a form or a questionnaire, and you’ve had a 15 minute discovery call.
You’re reasonably sure they would be at least a good client, and maybe even an amazing one.
Build a waiting list. Go oversubscribed.
We call this a “pre onboarding qualifier”. You’ve already done the initial qualification, and it’s time to take them to the second level.
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley. It explains the excellent marketing position you’re in, and how to maximise on it.
The short version is, you want to encourage this “having too many leads” thing. Instead of looking at it like it’s a problem, see the amazing opportunity that appears when it’s a little harder (not easier) to work with you. Work to make yourself that little bit more exclusive.
The right clients will love it and will be keen to go through your process. The wrong ones will get frustrated or impatient and go somewhere else (which they would have done a year or two later anyway, even if they had signed up with you swiftly).
Here’s how to build your pre onboarding qualifiers:
1. Identify the qualities that would cause a prospect to move to the very top of the waiting list.
This is the cream of the crop, the “A” list clients. The ones who are so good, such a pleasure to work with, so respectful of you and your team, and so willing to partner with you that you wish everyone was like them.
If you already have a few clients like this, identify what qualities they have that the others don’t. Most likely these qualities will be less about business size and services needed, and more about personality, character, communication.
If you don’t have any clients like this yet, or you’re not sure, build your dream list. What do you wish clients would be like? What do you wish they would know before they start working with you? What questions do you wish they would ask (or not ask), and how do you wish they would respond?
Literally dream up what feels impossible. It’s almost guaranteed that client exists, but you haven’t been marketing to them because you didn’t think they existed. You were settling for the ones who were “pretty okay”. (And your marketing appealed to more and more of those…vicious cycle.)
2. Draw up your process: what happens first, what happens next?
We suggest at least a three-month qualifying process.
Remember, you’re in charge of this process. You can decide at any moment if you want to move someone up on the list.
Think of it like a much more low-stress organ donor list. People get on the list because they need a kidney or a heart, but they move higher on the list if they’re more at risk or have certain qualifying characteristics.
Yours is the opposite: the greater the risk, the lower they go on the list. The more worrying the situation is for that client, the more troubled their business, the more stressed the owner is, the less likely it is they can jump the queue.
Now that you’ve got your characteristics defined, you have to define the process by which you decide: and you have to be transparent about it. Okay, there might be a few ‘gut feel’ decisions here and there, but those are rare. You’re smart enough now to build a process that you can explain to prospects with full transparency, so everyone knows what the milestones are.
Think about all the things that could go wrong (or have gone wrong) when you’ve onboarded clients. Things that happened in month one or three or six or twelve that would have been avoided if they had….what? Gotten training? Spent a day with you at your offices? Identified the key bookkeeper? Hired someone?
Whatever those problems are, prepare services and products to address all of them. Our clients have included things like:
- Accounts software review/health check
- Tax review (personal and company)
- Accounting software training day(s)
- Financial training for owners & leaders (and even team)
- Setting up payment details so they’re ready to pay when they do sign the proposal
Ideally you want to give these a name, and a process. You want your prospect to feel completely confident that you are not putting them off: you are putting them through a tried and tested process so the future relationship is the best it could possibly be.
I suggest you literally draw it out. What happens in month one (and go into detail for weeks one through four), then month two, month three?
Oh, and don’t be afraid to start small. Just call it a Xero Health Check and draw up a description in a Google Doc if that’s all you can do right now. It doesn’t have to be a full scale marketing campaign with an automated CRM system at the beginning.
Above all, make sure the process actually works. Sometimes we get so caught up in the enthusiasm about technology and systems and marketing and website pages that we forget to test whether the actual solution is the right one. (Sometimes this is because we’re avoiding doing the hard work of testing a new product, and instead doing what’s easy and fun, playing around with tech and hiding behind a computer.)
3. Build content that explains your process (so you don’t have to repeat it over and over again).
Now you’ve got your process – even a rough sketched draft – it’s time to start building out the basics.
Here are some of the content items you can create. You don’t have to do all of these – remember, this is not your opportunity to avoid doing the hard work of saying “hey we have a new process that we’re trying, and we’re not sure if it works yet”. This is the part you move to once the process has been tested and people really like it (or love it).
- Image: It really helps people to see a visual representation of the journey, the process. Show them what happens when. Ideally, get it well designed by a good design agency.
- Video: Explanatory video. Use the QSRC outline:
- Question: Are they in this place? Have they had this problem? Can they relate to this?
- Story: Someone else who had this problem
- Result: What happened when they went through this process (or, what would happen if you go through it)
- Challenge: What are you going to do? What’s the cost to you if you don’t do this now? Where are you headed?
- Landing page: Keep it simple. Include your image and video. Explain who is it for, why did you create it, what can they expect when they go through it and after they complete it, how much does it cost, what stories do you have (if any) of those who have done it before?
- Emails: Keep them involved every step of the way. If this thing they’re signing up for takes more than a day or so, prepare emails addressing how they feel or what stage of the process they’re at.
- Blog posts: Follow the They-Ask-You-Answer principle and answer all the questions, issues, concerns, problems they might have related to the items within your process.
- PDF or guide: If it’s relevant, you may want something like a Partnership Success Agreement or your own methodology or map. Go into more detail on every item in this.
The message throughout needs to be:
- Authoritative. We know what we’re doing, and we’ve been here before.
- Positive. We want to work with you if it’s a fit: and here’s how we both know it’s a good fit.
- Clear. Here’s what happens first, here’s what happens next. Here are the consequences if you don’t, or we don’t. Here’s how much it costs and when and how you pay.
4. Create a transition plan for your legacy clients
This is all very well for new clients: they will do what you ask because the relationship is new. But what about clients who never went through the pre-onboarding or even the onboarding process?
You’ll need to put every single one of them through the process.
Build a transition plan, because this takes time. You’re changing expectations mid-race, and clients can get confused about that.
Show them you value the relationship and the length of time they’ve been your client: and at the same time, show you’re committed to the new process because it works. Because it’s the very best service you could offer your clients. Because if they don’t go through it, you would be doing them a disservice.
Again, keep it simple. A Gsheet detailing out:
- A list of all your clients
- Identifications of whether they’ve had any of the pre-qualifying items already (and when)
- Rankings of how urgent it is that they go through the process (you may need to go back to your qualifying characteristics, or re-qualify your existing clients)
- Responsibility (who on the team will take primary lead on communicating the change to this client?)
- Start dates (when will you start the process?)
- Concessions (is this a client you may show a bit more flexibility with, or is it a full-stop in or out?)
And then…go for it. Ideally you want to have the conversation in person or on a video call.
Make it something important, a big deal. This is not a throwaway comment at the end of a meeting: this is important on the level of “we have to agree this or we may not be able to work together” (but of course you want to be tactful about it, especially with some clients).
You can also share what you’re doing more publicly to give yourself accountability. “We’re really excited about our new process which we’re rolling out to existing clients as well as new clients! If you haven’t heard about it or have your meeting booked, talk to us!” Make it appealing to existing clients, and make it easy for them to talk to you about it. By rights, they’ve earned the privilege to go first.
PF are working on this very process now, thanks to our new Marketing Map. It’s the visual summary of everything we’ve learned working with thousands of accountants all over the globe: and we’re confident in it because we have the numbers and stories to prove it. The firms who followed the map (even unknowingly!) over the past 3-5 years are the firms who are in the enviable position we talked about at the start of this article: they literally have more leads than they know what to do with, and we’re working with them on ultra-qualifying.
Here’s to a great journey!