“Search engine optimization is a process of increasing traffic to your website as a result of adding dynamic content relevant to the services offered,” he noted. “This can be a very effective method of advertising your firm and identifying new leads.”
LEAD GENERATION THROUGH TELEMARKETING
Mention telemarketing and most of us cringe, recalling nightmarish calls selling everything from long distance plans to the latest and greatest fad. Swanson feels differently and, in fact, has built a successful company based on taking telemarketing to an advanced level.
“Telemarketing is a unique service that is different from all other approaches used in professional services marketing,” he says. “Direct mail, e-mail, search engine marketing and SEO push out content of potential interest to the prospect, and are all tools designed to deliver a key set of messages about a firm to build the brand and generate awareness about the firm. However, telemarketing provides the opportunity not only to deliver key messages, but also allows for interaction with the prospect.”
Telemarketing is not without risk. Swanson says the most critical risk of third-party telemarketing is retaining a firm that does not understand the services it is selling. He believes most telemarketing firms can do a great job of calling and selling products or soliciting donations, but there is a specific skill set required to properly represent and sell to a C-level prospect.
“This means any tax or accounting firm seeking to hire a third-party provider needs to carefully assess each potential vendor to assure they have expertise in the right areas and are comfortable making such connections. The worst thing a firm can do is hire an unqualified firm to conduct the calling. It will leave a lasting first impression that may be hard to overcome.”
The most important component of telemarketing is following up, a step most overlooked by a majority of the accounting professionals with whom Swanson has worked. More often than not, he says the company doing the calling simply makes one call, and when it does not get a call back, the company believes the prospect was really not interested.
“This is simply not true! It could be that they were in a meeting when you called, went out of town, had deadlines to meet or any number of other valid reasons for not calling back. As a result, I encourage all tax and accounting professionals to consider that their call may not have been returned for very clear business reasons that have nothing to do with the prospect’s interest level.”
Swanson’s three-step rule: Follow up, be professional and let the prospect know you are interested in their business. “Through professional and consistent follow up, you will be in a position of power to win new work,” he says. “In my experience, this is the only way to find out what specific and meaningful business challenges a company is experiencing — short of meeting them in person at a networking or related event. Armed with this information, the firm should be able to more effectively market and position themselves for opportunities with prospects.”
BRANDING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
Jonathan Fisher is CEO and brand strategist for Houston, Texas-based branding and communications firm BrandExtract (www.brandextract.com), which guides growing companies by providing strategic branding solutions, marketing communications, advertising, print and interactive services. He says it’s not always necessary to have a drawn-out branding program, especially with today’s technologies and social media. For example, he suggests leveraging current behavior in a manner that is focused and impactful to grow the brand.