By Patrick McLoughlin
If you wanted to grow an accountancy practice twenty years ago, your options were limited. Although you had a range of tools at hand, with the exception of ‘The Yellow Pages’ they all involved us, the seller, reaching out to the buyer: Outbound Marketing.
Today the internet allows business owners to search and research accountancy firms before deciding which to talk to, never mind work with. At the same time, burgeoning suppression databases, like TPS (the Telephone Preference Service) and the growing popularity of Voice Mail make it harder to talk one-to-one.
If you read the occasional article on marketing you have probably heard that the more traditional or ‘Outbound’ forms of marketing no longer work. Even some of my favourite marketing gurus have blogged about old-fashioned ‘interruption’ marketing being expensive and ineffective.
Telemarketing can still deliver growth for Accountants
Inbound Vs Outbound Marketing
In 2013, the marketing industry’s focus is on Inbound Marketing: attracting visitors, leads and clients from your website using a combination of email, social media and educational content: guides and blogs etc.
Inbound Marketing has been hugely successful for my business. The opportunities it offers for accountants are enormous and largely untapped. Yet I still run accountancy telemarketing campaigns for clients.
Depending on your target market and the services you offer and excel at, telemarketing can still deliver a stunning Return On Investment. But telemarketing, just like every other form of marketing, is not right for everyone. I have turned work down, for particular firms in certain areas, where I believe the potential return in client fees doesn’t justify our marketing fees.
Although some telemarketing campaigns are less effective today than 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean telemarketing for accountants no longer works. It just doesn’t work for everyone.
When Not To Use Telemarketing
- If you are based in central London, target small businesses and lack specific expertise, you should probably avoid telemarketing. Competition is so intense that the time and fees involved in arranging appointments can outweigh the return.
- We can call 150+ accountants in a day and end up talking to less than 10 decision makers. If you target clients are professional partnerships, think lawyers, doctors, dentists etc you are likely to struggle too. (Following-up an introduction written by a professional copywriter can tip the balance in your favour)
- Even when your offer is a perfect match to your target market, telemarketing will not work for certain firms and certain people. Download the free guide: Is Telemarketing right for my Practice to find out if you are one of them.
Where Telemarketing for Accountants Works Best
- You do not need to be a great talker or presenter to succeed with telemarketing, quite the opposite. Good listeners with a genuine interest in the people and business they meet usually get the best results.
- Rural practices tend to attract high conversion rates.
- If you specialise and can demonstrate your value to specific sectors, telemarketing can work a treat: the better the match the better the return.
Despite many experts’ advice, or prejudice, it is not a question of Inbound Vs Outbound marketing. Telemarketing doesn’t just deliver you sales appointments and clients, it is a fantastic way to build your prospect email list.
If you are using telemarketing and you write a blog or newsletter make sure you offer business owners the chance to receive a regular copy. If you run telemarketing alongside your Inbound Marketing campaign, you will generate far greater returns.
Bad Telemarketing Never Works
If you are attending appointments with business owners that have no interest in your offer you are onto a hiding to nothing. Beware bad practice. Most sales calls I take, no doubt just like you, are atrocious.
The passage below arrived in an email from one of the UK’s largest sales training companies. The writer has products for sale in the UK’s largest bookshops. His advice is practiced by firms offering accountants telemarketing:“When calling for an appointment-just sell the appointment-just sell the meeting. They are happy, so what? You are not asking them to drop their supplier and give you the business. All you are looking for is a meeting.”
On hearing that the buyer is happy with his supplier, he recommends the sales person says something like this:“Great! I’m glad to hear that Mr. Prospect and if you were NOT happy with your supplier, then I would have to wonder how you were running your business. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not asking you to change suppliers or to even THINK about doing something like that. In fact, I have not yet EARNED the right even to ask you. The purpose of my call is to introduce myself and ABC Company and simply to update you of the options, which I am certain that as a savvy business man, you always want to stay informed of.”
Imagine your success rate attending appointments made like that! At the very least, all your appointments should be qualified by asking the business owner: “If you like the proposal all we ask is that you will seriously consider working with us?” If they cannot give you a straight ‘Yes’, steer well clear.
Finally, if you are curious about telemarketing for your practice make sure you campaign targets a clear and specific Return On Investment. It is not as difficult as it seems.
An experienced, specialist, marketing agency should be able to pre-agree a target conversion rate (number of appointments you attend to win 1 client) and target average fee. You can work the revenue target out from there. If they can’t pre-agree a target return on your campaign talk to an agency that will.