Good marketing isn’t about getting more leads.
Even if you think you want more leads, often what you really want is less hassle and trouble on the marketing front. You’d like that beautiful drip feed of the best kind of clients who don’t need six emails, four meetings, two videos, and three revised quotes to make up their mind. They come to you educated, inspired, and excited: and your meeting is simply a matter of what services they need and when you’re going to start.
When that happens, when the people who find you are the kind who are a joy and a pleasure to work with, you don’t necessarily need lots and lots of these. You only need a few and you can even build an onboarding schedule so you bring them on as clients in a structured, consistent way (not randomly based on them getting in touch). You deliver great results for them, and they stay with you over a long period of time getting to know you better and better along the way.
Not every lead works out, and not every client is the best for your firm in the long run. “Better not more” means crafting your marketing so it does the dividing work for you. It brings better leads which lead to better clients, saving you time and fewer meetings which don’t work out.
If you’ve got some clients you’d like to let go (or you wouldn’t cry if they did go) it’s usually because:
- They don’t understand your value
- You’re losing money on them (i.e. you’re doing more work than they’re paying for)
- There isn’t a values fit
- They make life difficult for you by not replying or staying in touch, or not sending what you need by deadlines
- You have to spend time and energy chasing them up, but they also want things done yesterday (even when they gave you the things you need late)
When you get leads who turn into these kind of clients, it often highlights an issue with the original marketing message. What messages did they get originally which led both you and them to think you were a fit? What “pink flags” did you miss which could have helped you see that although this seems like a “great lead”, it’s actually someone who is either not ready or not educated enough to start working with you?
If your firm is still getting leads who become clients who don’t understand your value, question fees, aren’t a values fit, or require a great deal of time and energy, these leads are costing your firm more than money. Seek better, not more. You deserve it.
Here are a few ways to consider the messages your marketing is giving, and how you can attract better, not more:
DO you actually need more leads?
It’s a good question to start with. There are some businesses who do actually need more leads. You’ve got capacity, you’ve let some clients go, you’re just getting started as a new firm… in those cases maybe you do need a quantity of leads you’re not getting.
But even in that case, even if you do need more leads, you will still need better ones. It’s not enough to focus on quantity, figuring you’ll have lots of meetings and send lots of quotes and hope it all works out. The scatterer approach. Being more focused in your marketing means adjusting your mindset to make it okay to get fewer leads in the long run. It may mean for a time you still get the high quantity of leads, but you use it as an opportunity to review each one (which isn’t a fit) and learn what they most need to know.
What contributes to a client relationship not working out?
One of the best ways to work through this is to sit down with your team and talk about all the clients who didn’t work out over the past year or two. This is not an accusation exercise (“well, they were rude and never replied and and…”): it’s an opportunity to look at the facts. Together, list out the specific clients and then talk about:
- Flags you noticed in the marketing process you passed by, or decided you could live with
- Words and phrases they used which aren’t a values fit with your business
- Questions they asked which pointed out a particular mindset
- Their response to your answers to those questions which show their attitude towards the relationship
- Problems which you weren’t aware of initially, which rose up later on in the onboarding or client process
- Frustrations or confusions they had at certain points in the process
- Frustrations you or the team had at certain points in the process, and where those came from
- Issues with decision makers which didn’t appear at first
- Expectations you (or they) weren’t aware of at first
When you answer these, you start to see patterns.
Patterns of behaviour: things they do which aren’t okay
Patterns of thought: mindsets they have which need to be addressed and helped
Patterns of communication: how they share (or don’t) and when
Patterns of activity: when they are most active or enthusiastic, and when they aren’t
All these help you identify what could be missing in your firm which, when shared at the right time in the right way, can convert your okay or not-great client into an amazing client, faster. (It might also identify them as not an ideal client, and that’s a win too.)
What assets are you missing?
What education are they missing? What mindset is important and how do you provide resources which build that? What free things will you provide along the way?
The answers to the questions you dug into in the previous section will help you here.
Before we start creating, remember: all these assets will mean some people will not want to meet with you at all.
THIS IS GOOD. THIS IS SAVING YOU TIME.
As long as someone refuses a meeting with all the information to hand, that’s a win. If they review everything you’ve shared and they don’t want to meet or work with you because they don’t like your philosophy, or they aren’t ready, or they don’t value what you offer…that’s okay. If they make that decision because they don’t understand, and because you haven’t shared these things clearly…. Well, that’s not okay, and it’s your responsibility to create them.
But if you create them and someone says “Oh, I don’t like that approach, I want to do it this way”, or “Oh, that’s way more expensive than I imagined, I couldn’t possibly work with you”, those are all okay. Marketing is doing its job. It’s dividing out the right ones for you from the ones who aren’t a fit, and sending them on elsewhere. (Some firms even have blog posts directing people to other accountants who may be a better fit.)
The kinds of assets you may need to create can include:
Educational assets – pre-client
For people who don’t even know if they want to enquire yet
- Articles, videos, resources helping them understand how things work: accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, management accounts, or whatever they have expectations on and need to understand better
- Social accounts and engagement: Being present and available so they can see patterns and get to know you and your team as humans, see the results of the work you’re doing, feel like they know who you are before they get in touch. This is the kind of work which feels like it “doesn’t deliver ROI”, but you’re building relationship over the long term.
- Your philosophy: How do you approach things differently from other accountants? What do you believe and why? How does that fit into the way you do things? The more clear they are on this, the more ready they are to have a meeting without surprises.
- Case studies and stories: What results have you delivered for other clients? What’s the story – why did they come to you, what was their situation, how did you help, and what is their amazing situation now? Tell these stories so the person can think “Oh, that’s just like me: maybe they can help me too”.
For people who are interested or have requested a proposal
- Questionnaires, diagnostics, things they need to do which will help you determine what kind of a client they might be
- Educational assets specific to the proposal and prequalifying process – questions they have about why you do things the way you do, what you believe and why
- “How we work” page including a diagram of your process and way so they know what happens when
- Pricing information: This could be a website page or an article or video or diagram or all of the above. You don’t have to tell the actual prices, but you can explain your approach to pricing and your methodology, so they know how the proposal process will go. The more they know about this, the faster your sales meeting goes. Or the quicker they decide they don’t want to meet, and that’s okay.
For people who have signed the proposal
- Onboarding page and diagram explaining the whole onboarding process so they know what happens first, what happens next, what’s required from them, and the cost or penalty if they don’t do it
- Could also include articles, videos, training resources, checklists, kits, workshops, live sessions, campaigns, and more
Educational assets – clients
For people who have been a client for a few months or even a few years
- Once they sign up as a client, the work isn’t done. What kinds of educational points appear after the early enthusiasm of the new client? Create assets for the longer-term client, including things which address:
- Questions which come up later in the relationship
- Issues and problems you anticipate arising at certain points in their journey
For anyone who wants to be connected with you (prospect or client):
- Community group (ie Facebook group, Slack or Discord channel) – there could be a free one for anyone of a particular kind of person or business, and a clients-only one for different conversations and relationships
- Live sessions, live interactive videos to build connection
- Deeper resources which invite questions and discussions
- Coaching and mentoring groups, or a Mastermind
How and when do you say no?
All these assets and processes and resources are brilliant: but what happens when someone reads all the resources and understands how it works, and they still want to do things differently. Or they think they are a perfect fit even though you and the team don’t?
At some points, you and your team are going to need to say no, or hold to some boundaries which are hard.
You’ll need to say things like:
- No, that’s not how the process works, and here’s why, and how it benefits you
- No, we don’t work with clients who [whatever the issue, ie niche or industry or size] and here’s why, and here’s what we’d suggest you do instead
- No, we aren’t able to onboard you until this date, and here’s why, and how it benefits you, and here’s what you can do in the interim while you’re waiting
- No, the price is the price, and here’s why, and here’s the value to you, and here are your choices about what to do from here
- No, we aren’t able to deliver it faster, because of this position you’re in, and here’s what that means for you, and some points to bear in mind for future
You’re not saying “nope goodbye” and leaving them stranded. Your no is helping them. You’re saying no, and providing them with a reason, and usually an alternate option. That alternate option might be with you or with another firm, but you are doing your best to help them even if your firm isn’t the one to do it right now.
This requires training, practice, and a mindset change for you and your team. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight – especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of saying yes to everything and everyone in the name of helping. Sometimes saying yes doesn’t help: it harms you and the client and your relationship. Figure out what your boundaries are and then stick to them, with kindness and a clear explanation every time.
How do you schedule leads so new clients sign steadily rather than all at once?
Let’s say you’ve done all of these things – you’ve reviewed past experiences and prepared assets and stuck to your boundaries and still you have a flurry of new clients making you super busy for a few months and then really quiet for a few months. It’s seasonal and random and is based on when they are ready to start. You feel obliged to help them when they’re ready, because they really are an amazing prospect and you really would love to work with them…and yet you and the team are swamped or you’re concerned about the team’s ability to deliver good work if you take on too many more new clients right now.
When that happens, it highlights the need for a structured onboarding which suits your firm best. This may mean you lose a few potentially exciting leads, because they’re in a hurry and don’t want to wait; but more often it highlights issues which didn’t come up before. Because the people who understand who you are and love your firm and the approach you have are going to be willing to wait. They’ll believe you are the best for them and when it comes to the best, sometimes you have to wait.
Like when I was searching for five years to find a really good joiner to sort out renovations and fixes in my home. When I finally found him, I waited over 11 months to get my kitchen rebuilt. It was worth every moment of waiting – and was worth every penny of the much higher cost. Now, whenever I need anything done in the house, I’ll fit to his schedule and pay what needs paid. I don’t mind because I’m getting the best. If I wanted quick fast or cheap, I’d go elsewhere: but I don’t want that. The cost to me in the long run is too high.
The book Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestly explains more about how this works. He says:
“The ideas in this book are designed for quality businesses, who care about what they do to be able to take their products to market more effectively. Before the ideas in this book will work for you, you must have an offering you believe in that genuinely serves people. You must feel passionate about it and the value it presents to the world. You must love what you do, you must care about your customers and you must want to be in your business for the long haul.
If you attempt to use the ideas in this book to make a quick profit at the expense of your clients I promise you it won’t last. Over time and distance people will get to know you and your reputation will suffer. With a poor reputation, you’ll struggle with every aspect of every business you attempt in the future. This book contains explosive tactics and strategies for attracting a lot of people to your business. You better be damn sure they will be happy with whatever it is you’re going to sell them.
Being oversubscribed is the way for you to do your best work. It’s a way for you to spend more time with your clients rather than chasing new ones, it allows you to innovate your products rather than running around selling them and it allows you to build your brand rather than blending in with the crowd.”
I love this concept because it fits so well with the PF philosophy that says the right way is the long way. Good marketing divides. Start small, start safe. Relational, not transactional.
Better, not more.
When you work towards better (not more) leads and clients, here are all the great things which happen for you and your firm:
- Your team are happier and more motivated
- You enjoy your work better
- You’re more profitable
- You help deliver even better results for your clients (so they’re happier and refer you to people like them)
- People wait to work with you
- People are happy to buy more and value what they get from you more
- There are fewer conversations about price, and more about fitting the service to the need at that moment in time
- You don’t have to chase business: it comes in on a drip feed
- You’re less stressed
- Marketing relieves your burdens instead of adding to them
This is what we want for you. This is what is possible. And it starts with accepting better, not more. Saying no. Letting your marketing create a division which brings the best clients to you, and sends everyone else away…and everyone is happier because of it.
To start building better, not more, join the 12 week Accelerator coaching group. You’ll get better at identifying who your absolute best client is and start creating content which appeals to them – and we’ll review that content and help you reach those perfect clients better.