McMarketing: How Marketing Departments are like Franchise Operators

Our firm recently had an opportunity to work with a growing franchise business, and in conducting some research to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing franchise operators, I discovered that franchisors and accounting marketers have a lot in common.

If marketing is the franchisor, our doer-sellers are the franchisees; we as marketers are successful when our “franchisees” are successful, so it is in our best interest to help position them for success in business development.

The following tips are for successful franchise operations, but apply to accounting marketers as well:

Have a Clear Concept

Successful franchises have a clear core concept and a shared understanding of the organization’s mission, vision and key differentiators. You can’t expect franchisees to communicate a clear concept to customers if the franchisor has not clearly defined the concept, provided transparent communication across the organization, and supplied franchisees with marketing collateral that conveys this concept.

Similar to franchisors, marketers are in the ideal position to define and drive our firms’ growth strategies, including key verticals, high priority targets and our unique selling propositions. It is also our responsibility to share this information with doer-sellers of all levels within the firm so we are all on the same page and working together towards shared goals.

Protect Your Brand Relentlessly

A franchisor’s most valuable asset is its brand. Your brand represents your culture, your products and services, and your pledge to your customers. This is why franchisors make it a top priority to define clear brand compliance standards, establish controls around branding and monitor franchisees’ compliance with brand standards.

In the accounting profession, a firm’s brand also carries considerable weight, especially given the often intangible, complex nature of the services we offer. Consistency (and accuracy!) in your branded materials and content is an important factor in how clients and prospects perceive your firm.

Having a resource such as POUNCE for our “franchisees” to access and distribute marketing collateral in a controlled environment is key to protecting the integrity of our firm’s brand.

Provide Comprehensive Support

The most successful franchise operations provide extensive support for franchisees in the form of policies, procedural guides, training, marketing assets, market and industry research, and more. They also facilitate communication among franchisees to encourage the sharing of ideas, best practices and success stories. Basically, franchisors strive to ensure that their franchisees always have resources and help available for any business-related questions or issues.

Likewise, the role of marketing within accounting firms includes providing the processes, tools and training needed to position our doer-sellers for business development success. We are the go-to resource for any and all things growth-related within our firms. Marketing support also includes encouragement and recognition of milestones and wins!

Maintain A Strong Working Relationship with Franchisees

Effective franchise operations require a strong working relationship between franchisor and franchisee. Trust, open communication, and mutual accountability are just a few of the characteristics that create healthy working relationships that ultimately lead to business success.

In any organization, it’s no secret that the magic happens when sales (or as is the case for many of us, doer-sellers) and marketing work together towards the same goal. By publicizing our marketing plan and priorities, sharing things that have (and haven’t) worked and providing a comfortable avenue for doer-sellers to provide ideas and feedback, we can build strong, collaborative relationships with our “franchisees”.

The result? Better rate of success (i.e., more wins), more satisfied clients, and happier and more engaged team members.

 

Whether it’s a quick service restaurant franchise or a CPA firm, the success of a franchisor is ultimately aligned with the success of a franchisee.

 

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Move Over, MarTech: Why You Should Focus on Your BD Culture Stack

Everyone is likely familiar with the concept of a Marketing Technology (or MarTech) stack—that is, a group of technology-based tools that marketers use to execute and manage marketing activities across a number of channels.

In today’s post, we’re discussing a similar concept: a Business Development Culture Stack (if you haven’t heard of this, it’s probably because we made it up).

We’re defining a BD Culture Stack as all the things used to build a culture of business development across the firm. Essentially, what are all the things your firm does that shape your culture as it relates to sales and business development?

This may include performance management, BD expectations for individuals, pipeline management tools, sales empowerment tools (ahem, POUNCE), BD training, and a whole host of other pieces.

Whether intended or not, all firms have a culture as it relates to growth and business development. Instead of just letting it happen, it’s worth the effort to help set and maintain it.

So how do you change culture?

1. Get Everyone on the Same Page

The first step to fostering a culture of business development is to ensure everyone is reading from the same page. Make sure everyone understands why BD is important and share firm and department goals with everyone. Transparency is absolutely critical is getting everyone on the same BD page.

2. Set (and Communicate) Expectations

Firms that are seeking to build or sustain a business development culture must clearly communicate to everyone in the organization why cultural change is important and necessary, and be willing to tell team members what’s in it for them. Each individual within your firm must understand what the firm expects from them with respect to business development.

3. Provide Support (Training & Tools)

Once your people understand what is expected of them, you provide them with the necessary support to empower them to execute activities and achieve their BD goals. This comes in the form of business development training, defined processes (such as a pipeline process), and technology tools that support these processes.

Business development skills can be learned and cultivated, but your practice professionals need training, feedback and support in order to develop those skills.

4. Recognition & Accountability

Business development is a process that takes time, particularly when you are starting out. Results do not come overnight, which makes it even more important to recognize those who contribute to the firm’s marketing and business development efforts, not just outcomes.

Consider aligning business development efforts and achievements with compensation or promotion opportunities. Measurement, accountability and rewards must all be in place in order to reinforce the message and encourage desired behaviors.

Culture creates competitive differentiation; strategies can be duplicated, but culture is unique. BD culture and BD strategy are two sides of the same growth coin—you likely have a BD/marketing strategy, but do you have a BD culture development plan?

Perfect Match: Pairing POUNCE with Other Tools & Processes

Banner for Perfect Pairings article-v2In honor of National Matchmaker Day, we are recognizing a few of the ways that POUNCE pairs perfectly with other marketing and business development tools and processes. (Just call us the Cupid of Accounting Marketing.)

Check out some ways POUNCE can integrate with other tools and processes to help you streamline and enhance your firm’s business development efforts.

POUNCE + Your Website

Statistics show that professional bios are some of the most visited pages for professional service firm websites. Ensure these website bios are up-to-date by syncing your professionals’ POUNCE profiles to your website. Information contained in POUNCE—including not only bios and professional headshots, but marketing materials as well—can be pulled onto your new website through our open API.

POUNCE + Millennials

POUNCE can be your millennial doer-sellers’ new best friend. Younger professionals are conditioned to manage their own information online and expect information at their fingertips. POUNCE helps to engage your millennials to take ownership of their business development efforts by providing them with 24/7 online access to a tool they can use to market your firm.

POUNCE + Proposals

While POUNCE is not intended to be a comprehensive proposal software, we have found that it is a cost-effective and valuable tool in helping our team develop quality proposals quickly. For example, at P&N almost every proposal that we issue contains bios for our key team members; POUNCE makes it easy for us to pull up-to-date, consistently formatted bios for our entire engagement team with just a few clicks.

POUNCE + Mergers

If your firm is considering merging or has recently merged, you need a tool like POUNCE to help you standardize branded resumes and materials and create consistency across your firm.

Additionally, mergers mean combining groups of people that may not know each other. POUNCE can be a powerful tool in the integration process by creating a central access point for all firm marketing materials and team member resumes.

POUNCE + Rebranding

Similar to a merger, a rebrand is a complex process that involves a lot of moving parts. POUNCE can be a complementary tool for firms going through this process by providing an accessible place to house updated marketing materials and professional resumes in line with your new branding.

POUNCE + Conferences

The POUNCE mobile app means that your firm’s marketing materials and professional bios are accessible anytime, anywhere, which makes POUNCE a perfect companion for conferences and tradeshows where your doer-sellers may interact with a number of prospects in a short period of time. This enables your team to send a prospect relevant information immediately following a conversation without having to have printed collateral available on hand.

Honorable Mentions

With POUNCE’s open API, you can leverage the data maintained in POUNCE and connect it to other systems, including:

  • POUNCE + CRM: Update your CRM when marketing materials are emailed through POUNCE to a client or prospect.
  • POUNCE + HRIS: Update your HR information system when a user adds a new certification.

 

We can do WHAT?!? Educating Employees on Service Offerings

In our firm, one of the challenges we hear most often is that our professionals can’t keep track of everything we can do. They are continually being reminded to look for additional opportunities to help their existing clients, but how can you identify areas in which your firm can help if you’re not aware of all of your service offerings? OR, even if you know what services your firm can provide, how do you know who to talk to?

This challenge can be further complicated by factors such as:

  • A wide variety of non-traditional service offerings
  • Multiple office locations
  • Merging with another firm

At P&N, one of the things we are most proud of is our ability to offer such a wide range of services that solve problems and add value for our clients. As the firm has continued to grow and evolve, our service offerings have also expanded, BUT our team members’ awareness of new services did not automatically expand.

Over the last few years, our firm has made a significant investment in non-technical training for our team members through the introduction and continued development of our internal Lifelong Learning Program. This is a soft skills training program with an emphasis on leadership, business development, communication, human resource management and technology.

As part of last year’s curriculum, we launched an interactive course titled “A to Z of P&N” (course description below):

Most people are surprised to learn the wide range of diverse services that P&N offers clients. From Application Development to the 1040 EZ, we can help clients with a range of services from A to Z. This session provides a dictionary’s worth of P&N services along with the resources you need to further your knowledge on everything P&N does to help clients.

The course was structured as an interactive Jeopardy game, and participants walked away with a better understanding of P&N’s services and the tools that can help them assist clients in new ways.

The purpose of this course was not for our team members to memorize the long list of services we offer, but to emphasize that we can help organizations solve many types of challenges and encourage team members to listen and look for ways we can help our clients. We also provided a dictionary of services (with everything we do from A to Z) that our team members could reference going forward.

A-to-Z-Guide - Sample_Page_1

This is just one way our firm has worked to address our team’s knowledge gap. A few other ideas include:

  • Service fairs (similar to a career fair, with representatives from each service area setting up their own “booth”)
  • Incorporating brief overviews and client case studies from various service lines into regular departmental meetings (for example, inviting your forensic accounting team to a regularly scheduled tax department meeting to share an overview of what they do)
  • Internal networking events (such as a “speed-dating”-type format) among different departments

Conclusion

Team members can’t be expected to have intelligent, meaningful discussions with clients to identify new opportunities without the right tools and knowledge of the firm’s services.

If you have taken other approaches to educate your team members on your firm’s service offerings and resources, we would love to hear them!

 

The Personality Zoo in Business Development

It’s a wild world out there! Organizations can learn a lot from the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to business development and sales.

Just like animals, professionals each have their own strengths and weaknesses. As marketers, we can help our doer-sellers hone their business development strengths and develop strategies to fill in gaps.

Take the quiz (http://www.whatanimalami.com) to see what animal you are and continue reading for summaries of each animal’s BD strengths and how you can help them.

Are you a wildebeest, lion, crocodile, giraffe, cheetah, mongoose, or elephant?

The Enduring Wildebeest

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/wildebeest.php

Like the wildebeest, endurance—in its simplest form—is our ability to apply ourselves for relatively long periods of time. This quality gives us the mental capability to continue moving forward despite the obstacles, hardships, pain, fatigue, or stress in our path.

Wildebeests in the BD Environment:

Wildebeests understand that business development success takes a lot of time and effort. They are not discouraged by a lengthy sales cycle and will not give up on business development activities just because they lose an opportunity.

How to Help Wildebeests:

Your wildebeests are willing to put in the work, but sometimes they need someone to help ensure they are investing their time and effort in the right areas. Work with them on their pursuit strategies and help them map out next steps for each prospect.

You can also help them recognize when it’s time to stop or change direction (for example, if they have been consistently pursuing a specific prospect that just isn’t going to buy from your firm or a type of organization where you haven’t had much success).

The Strategic Lion

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/lion.php

For lions, it’s all or nothing. If their strategy fails, they go hungry. For us, however, it’s all about organizing our thoughts, ideas, experiences, skills, expertise, and expectations to accomplish a desired goal.

Lions in the BD Environment:

Lions excel in identifying the right targets and developing strong strategies to pursue those targets. They understand that hunting as a pack rather than as a lone lion is the most effective way to accomplish a goal (like winning new business).

How to Help Lions:

While lions are extremely driven and tactical, they can sometimes come across as aggressive, intimidating or impersonal—to both prospects AND team members. Help them understand the value in collaboration and communication (you know, the “warm and fuzzies”). Even the most effective tactical strategy is rendered useless if a prospect finds your firm unapproachable.

Considering pairing up your lions with a giraffe or an elephant (continue reading to see the strengths of these animals).

The Enterprising Crocodile

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/crocodile.php

Enterprising means showing initiative, a willingness to undertake new projects, and a strong desire for success and achievement—all qualities that support the role of the entrepreneur. Like the crocodile, enterprising people possess the energy, creativity, and ambition required to see the possibilities in the future that others cannot see.

Crocodiles in the BD Environment:

Many doer-sellers may overlook opportunities right in front of them (“low-hanging fruit”), but not your crocodiles. Crocodiles are adept at identifying opportunities that others miss. They know that timing is of the essence and jump on opportunities quickly.

How to Help Crocodiles:

Crocodiles generally act alone, which means they could be missing out on opportunities to involve other team members with complementary service capabilities and sales skills. Make sure you are dialed into what your crocodiles are working on and offer suggestions for how they can team with others to make their pursuits more effective.

Additionally, crocodiles sometimes fail to evaluate and analyze the potential roadblocks. Work with them to uncover risks and potential objections and develop plans to address these early on.

The Graceful Giraffe

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/giraffe.php

No matter how you see it, grace is a disposition that requires compassion toward others and the desire to extend goodwill. It incorporates the exercise of love and kindness—most importantly, to those who may not deserve it. Grace is as crucial in business as it is in life.

Giraffes in the BD Environment:

Giraffes thrive in building relationships, which is an essential part of business development success. They are genuinely concerned with others’ well-being and their sincerity shines through when interacting with prospects; clients and prospects are innately inclined to like and trust giraffes.

How to Help Giraffes:

Giraffes have a tendency to be people-pleasers and can sometimes be taken advantage of by aggressive prospects (translation: discounted pricing). You can help by guiding their pursuit strategy and pairing them up with a strong closer at the appropriate stage of the sales process.

The Efficient Cheetah

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/cheetah.php

Similar to the cheetah, efficiency is all about finishing the job in the shortest possible time with a minimum of wasted energy and resources. You schedule your day, prioritize every task, and keep those priorities by refining to-do lists frequently and adopting a policy of strict time management. You chunk or break your larger projects down into small, easier-to-manage steps.

Cheetahs in the BD Environment:

In my experience, A LOT of accountants tend to be cheetahs. They are extremely organized, disciplined and process-driven, all characteristics that are valuable in the business development process.

How to Help Cheetahs:

Because cheetahs value speed and efficiency, they may become discouraged when they invest time and energy into business development activities that do not yield immediate, tangible results.

Help your cheetahs prioritize targets and opportunities to focus on only their top prospects, and make sure they understand the resources available to them (so they know exactly where to find information, who to talk to about XYZ, how to appropriately delegate, and so on.)

It’s also important to recognize and reward a cheetah’s efforts, not just their results.

The Risk-Taking Mongoose

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/mongoose.php

Succeeding in troubled times often involves taking a risk. But like the mongoose, you need to evaluate of all the options involved with the chance you’re taking before you make a decision.

Risk-takers frequently review goals and determine the various routes to get to the destination. Often they choose the path with the highest risk in order to gain the maximum reward.

Mongooses in the BD Environment:

Mongooses are not afraid to fail in business development. Challenges that others see as overwhelming, your mongooses see as simply another obstacle that they can overcome.

A mongoose doesn’t see things as they are, but rather as they could be. They can be visionary and often have innovative ideas for ways to help your clients, present potential solutions, and structure or staff engagements.

How to Help Mongooses:

Mongooses can often help drive your firm forward and push your teams out of their comfort zones. However, it’s important to make sure your mongooses understand and consider the big picture, not just short-sighted, high-risk opportunities.

You can also work with them to identify smaller (less “spectacular”) opportunities that they may be overlooking.

The Communicating Elephant

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/elephant.php

Just as it is for elephants, successful relationships between people—in life and business—depend on good communication. Effective communicators understand that it’s not always best to use a lot of words when relaying an idea. In fact, the more words we use, the more our message can be obscured.

Elephants in the BD Environment:

Elephants are expert communicators and are great at developing meaningful relationships. They are skilled in active listening and take time to comprehend the details in others’ messages.

How to Help Elephants:

Elephants thrive in prospect discovery meetings—that is, the first meeting you get with a prospect and have the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions to understand that they are looking for in a service provider.

Look for opportunities to include your elephants in meetings with clients and prospects, or pair them up with lions or cheetahs:

  • Elephants can help your lions soften their approach and effectively communicate with prospects.
  • They can also help your cheetahs get the right information from prospects in order to appropriately prioritize opportunities and determine next steps.

Summary

Your business development ecosystem needs animals of all types to be well-balanced and have the greatest chance of consistent, long-term success. Understanding the various strengths of your doer-sellers can help us as marketers better support our teams in the sales process.

This quiz is just one example, but there are numerous other personality tests available that can help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team members as it relates to business development, including these:

The Cost of Wasted Time in the Business Development Process

For many of us in professional services, our “sales force” only has a relatively small portion of their week dedicated to business development activities, so it’s essential for us to help them use that time wisely.

BD time wasters generally fall into two categories:

  1. Ineffectiveness (not focusing on the right things)
  2. Inefficiency (not using the right amounts and/or types of resources)

How much are these time wasters costing your firm in terms of hours? Opportunities? Revenue?

Times Wasters from INEFFECTIVENESS

Focusing on the Wrong Opportunities

One of the biggest time wasters in professional services firms is spending time pursuing prospects that are never going to buy from you or that otherwise just don’t make sense for your firm.

If your firm has a defined pipeline and/or sales process, you probably have distinguished what a qualified opportunity looks like. For us, the basics of a qualified opportunity include:

  • Do they fit the profile for the type of client we want to work with? (in terms of size, industry, geographic location, values, etc.)
  • What’s their budget? (Do they have the ability to pay for the solution we offer?)
  • Who has authority to buy? (Do we have access to the decision-maker(s)?)
  • Do they have a need for this solution? (Are they in pain? Are they sufficiently motivated to make a change to their existing situation?)

It’s important to have a clear, established framework for assessing and prioritizing opportunities and even more important to continually reinforce that framework with your doer-sellers.

There are a ton of resources out there related to qualifying prospects, but here is just one that includes a comprehensive list of qualifying questions.

Lack of Planning or Strategy for Each Activity

Ok, so maybe your doer-sellers are focused on the right relationships and the right opportunities—GREAT! But are they approaching each lunch meeting, each golf outing, each “check-in” email with specific intent?

Before any interaction, doer-sellers should be able to articulate exactly what it is they hope to gain. As marketers, we know that each email we send, each webpage we publish should have a specific Call To Action (CTA); each business development activity should follow suit.

Are we seeking to understand how they feel about their current service provider? Do we want them to make an introduction for us? Are we attempting to impose a sense of decision-making urgency?

Spending a few moments beforehand to consider our desired outcomes can ensure less time is wasted on directionless activities.

Times Wasters from INEFFICIENCY

Searching for Information and Materials

Do your professionals know where to find information on service offerings for non-profit organizations? A summary of your firm’s state and local tax experience? The resume of your R&D tax credit expert?

Based on a study by IDC, 36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information. How much of this time could your firm get back if all of the information your team members need was neatly stored in one location?

36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information

This is obviously not unique to business development; BUT if your firm lacks a system for organizing and accessing the materials that support your doer-sellers in the sales process, you may have some inefficiencies here.

The beauty of a tool like POUNCE is that materials are instantly and easily accessible. Users know exactly where to find the information they need, significantly reducing the amount of time wasted in search of marketing and sales collateral.

Not Delegating Tasks that Should be Delegated

Many of us struggle with delegation and feel the need to execute tasks on our own, even when our plates are spilling over. While doer-sellers can’t delegate or outsource the entire business development process, there are some easy ways they can leverage other team members.

Prospect research is a perfect example of a critical BD task that can be delegated. Researching a prospect organization and key contacts can be done by staff or administrator who can investigate and simply present their findings.

Other tasks that can be delegated include:

  • Content development
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Send client or prospect gifts/thank-you notes
  • Drafting proposals, including initial fee estimates
  • Analysis of current clients to determine cross-servicing opportunities

Delegation in general is one of the best time-management tools. Additionally, sharing business development responsibilities with staff contributes to their career development, skills-building, and job enrichment.

Summary

Too few hours in the day is one of the biggest BD roadblocks for our doer-sellers. By working with our teams to focus on the right activities and eliminate inefficiencies in the business development process, we help them invest their time and effort on high-value tasks, opportunities, and relationships.

We can help them focus on the right things (i.e., being effective) and leverage the right resources to help get those things done (i.e., being efficient).

7 Tips for a Successful Prospect Meeting

By Jeanette Benedetto

So, you’ve scheduled an initial meeting with one of your target prospects. Great! This first discussion is crucial for relationship development and ultimately winning business. Here’s how not to blow it:

1. Meet in-person, when possible.

Getting some actual “face time” with your prospect is an important step that lays the foundation for a relationship that can last decades, leading to repeat business and even referrals. It’s important to take advantage of, if at all possible. In an increasingly digital world, an in-person meeting will set you apart.

2. Do your research.

Spend some time gathering information about the person/people you’ll be meeting, and their organization. If you have something in common, such as attending the same school or volunteering for similar causes, it can really help break the ice. LinkedIn is a good place to start, especially if you can touch base with any mutual connections ahead of time.

3. Bring materials if you need to.

It’s fine to come prepared with information if it puts you at ease, but don’t leave behind an entire binder for your prospect to study. Be selective about any printed material you give during the meeting—keep it simple, clear, and useful. If you’re skeptical about marketing collateral’s place in today’s digital world, read this. (Need a hand? POUNCE can help you create and customize materials for a quick, on-the-way-out-the-door turnaround.)

4. Ask the right questions.

You don’t want to turn your meeting into an interrogation, but you will need to keep the conversation moving in the right direction. Consider asking questions that will lead to better understanding of what your prospect does and where their pain points are. Be careful not to ask broad questions that could be easily looked up online (make sure you do that research we mentioned). This leads us to our next tip…

5. Be prepared to listen.

This isn’t the time for a carefully-crafted sales pitch. Your initial meeting is the ideal opportunity to ask questions and then truly listen to your prospect’s answers. It’s not about your product or service, it’s about their needs. Learn, connect, and build a relationship with them. Once you understand their pain points and gaps, you can come to the next discussion with relevant ideas and solutions.

6. Follow up.

Immediately after the meeting, jot down anything that stood out to you. Whether it’s the prospect’s unique situation, their needs, or potential solutions your firm offers, make sure you don’t let the details slip away. Call your contact within a day or two and take the opportunity to thank them for the conversation. This is the perfect chance to highlight or reiterate ways you can help them, and it’s a great time to provide details about your services and people (cue POUNCE).

7. Find genuine ways to help.

Rather than chasing down a deal, set your sales goal aside (temporarily) and be sure to look for ways you can help this prospect. Maybe one of their pain points is something that another person in your network has experience with. Or, you could connect your prospect with someone else in your firm who is better-equipped to tackle their needs. If you’re looking for opportunities to help rather than opportunities to sell, they’ll be open to additional conversations, continuing to build the relationship and bringing even more business your way.

 

With these seven tips and POUNCE literally in your back pocket (did we mention there’s an app?), you’ll be prepared and productive in every prospect meeting going forward.

 

Jeanette Benedetto is a Marketing Coordinator with Postlethwaite & Netterville. Her focus areas include event coordination, digital marketing, content development, and communications management.