Sales Enablement = Accessibility + Training

You have spent countless hours developing your firm’s marketing materials, meticulously reviewing content and design to ensure consistent branding and flawless copy that speaks to your firm’s knowledge, experience and value.

But are your professionals using these materials? Do they know where to find them? Do they even know you have them?

Empowering client-facing team members to succeed in business development is an ongoing effort and topic of discussion for many professional services firms. As marketers, part of our job is to provide the sales training and tools our professionals need.

Creating effective materials is half the battle. But the other half is ensuring your professionals can easily access the materials and are trained on how to effectively and appropriately use them.

Accessibility

In an increasingly competitive professional services marketplace, we are always looking for ways to further empower our professionals in their business development efforts. Your marketing materials are only valuable if your sales force (for most of us, our doer-sellers) can access them when they need to.

If you have marketing materials developed, but your doer-sellers don’t have easy, immediate access to them, you may find yourself with one of the following situations:

  1. Your doer-sellers assume your firm does not have these materials, and just move on (using “we don’t have the materials we need” as an excuse not to fully participate in the business development process).
  2. Your doer-sellers assume your firm does not have these materials, so they make up sales content and summaries on their own (without your knowledge or review).
  3. Your doer-sellers actually ask you for the materials, which you are happy to provide, but your productivity takes a hit as you respond to these types of administrative requests. And sometimes, you simply may not have the time to respond to every request immediately.

If any of these situations sound familiar, your firm may find it beneficial to keep these resources all in one place accessible by everyone, whether it’s a shared folder on your network, your firm intranet, or a tool such as POUNCE (shamelessly promotional, I know—but this is the POUNCE blog after all).

Training

To arm your doer-sellers for success, you must also train them how to access and appropriately use your materials. Of course, best practices in marketing materials will vary from firm to firm, but here are some of the guidelines we share with our professionals at P&N for providing our marketing materials to a prospect:

  1. A prospect or client is probably not going to read a packet of marketing materials that is 30 pages long. Keep it concise.
  2. If the prospect is a new relationship for the firm, consider providing a piece of general “About the Firm” information to give them an introduction to our organization and help to establish our credibility.
  3. If you already have a good indication of the services the prospect is interested in (for example, they told you they are looking for a new external auditor), you should definitely send them the marketing materials we have directly related to that service.
  4. If you do NOT have a solid indication of the services the prospect is interested in, resist the urge to send them service-specific marketing materials for everything they may possibly need. A better approach is to first have an open dialogue with them about their challenges and follow up with the appropriate service materials based on the conversation. Focus on their needs first.
  5. If there are industry summaries, case studies, etc., that demonstrate to the prospect that the firm is familiar with their industry and serve similar clients, this could be very valuable to provide. Just be sure you don’t overwhelm them with case studies of EVERY similar client.
  6. Make sure you are using updated materials. If you’re not sure, ask us. DO NOT SAVE MATERIALS TO YOUR DESKTOP AND USE THEM FOR THE NEXT 9 YEARS.

Conclusion

Business development is already a process that makes “non-sales” people uncomfortable. In order to continue to nurture a business development culture, it is critical to make the simple stuff (such as finding materials) as easy as possible.

Advertisements

Tips for Effective Marketing Collateral

Since we’ve already reaffirmed that marketing collateral still matters, let’s talk about how to make it effective. Here are a few tips to ensure your marketing materials resonate with your prospects:

1. Focus on the problem solved…

People only buy two things: solutions to problems and good feelings.

To draw from the wisdom of WinWholesale COO Monte Salsman, “people only buy two things: solutions to problems and good feelings.” If you think about your own recent purchases, you’ll likely discover that they fall into these buckets.

The professional services your firm provides are meant to solve problems, and marketing collateral is the perfect avenue for explaining how your services benefit a potential client.

Just as you did with your professional resume, use the “so what” test when reviewing your marketing materials. Does the piece focus on information that means something to the prospect, information that they care about?

2. …but don’t overlook the importance of good feelings.

Obviously, the services you offer are meant to solve problems, whether they are compliance-focused, financial or operational in nature. But a prospect has to feel good about purchasing the solution from you.

Your firm likely has several competitors that could also solve the same problems, so why should the prospect pick you?

Your marketing materials are just the place to clearly state your value proposition. Yes, you can solve the problem at hand but you do this in a way that is more efficient, more effective, more communicative, etc., than your competitors.

3. Create pieces that work online and offline.

There is no doubt that today’s business exchanges are conducted online more frequently than in the past. But the reality is that (especially in professional services) a significant portion of business interactions are still conducted offline.

In-person meetings are instrumental in building connections and relationships that last, and especially critical in generating those good feelings mentioned above. Online channels are great for sharing information, but human interaction still packs a greater punch in developing like and trust, which, as we know, is essential to winning business.

And, generally speaking, our professionals are more confident in prospect meetings when they have something tangible to leave with the potential client.

Create some efficiencies by designing dual-purpose marketing pieces that will work online as a downloadable document or attachment, as well as offline as a printed piece.

4. Less is more.

As we mentioned in our post on professional resumes, attention spans are short in this digital age. Be sure to use concise language that gets to the point quickly and clearly demonstrates the meaning and benefits of your services to the audience.

5. Put quality first.

Your marketing collateral is more than a description of what your firm does. It can make an impression on your prospects that represent you and your firm long after an initial meeting.

To be remembered as a professional, respectable company, your copy should be free from typos and your branding should be consistent. Provide high-quality paper for printing these materials.

Make quality a priority.

Conclusion

Static marketing materials are far from dead, and can actually enhance your firm’s overall marketing and business development strategy and efforts.

 

Do you have other tips for creating effective marketing materials?

How Marketing Helps with Employee Retention

Our marketing director Rachael Higginbotham recently spoke with Laurie Holt, marketing director at HHM CPAs, for an episode of AAMplify!, a podcast series hosted by the Association for Accounting Marketing. In this episode, Rachael and Laurie discuss how the marketing department can play a critical role in employee engagement and retention.

Here are some highlights:

  • Product Development – As we know in professional services, our product is our people. And since product is one of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix, it is important for marketing to be involved in the team member development because it directly affects our clients. At P&N, one of the ways our marketing team helps with this is through our leadership in the design and execution of our consolidated soft skills training program.
  • Coaching – Many people think of the marketing department as the cheerleader, helping to maintain a positive attitude and encouraging people from the sidelines. While the cheerleader is an important role, marketing departments have really started to embrace the coaching role. As a coach, marketers use their understanding of individual players’ strengths and design plays that put the right people in the right positions.
  • The Right Skillset – Everybody brings a different strength to the firm. As marketers, we think differently and have different skills than our practice folks or even than other operational areas within our firm. As it relates to employee engagement and retention, communication is a critical component and marketing professionals are generally master communicators. We can help our firm determine the appropriate frequency, manner and channel of communication with employees to receive a desired outcome.

 

For more information, check out the full episode of AAMplify!

Not-So-Busy Season

By Rachael Higginbotham

Accounting firms are famous for “busy season.” Although workloads have begun to even out year-round in some practice areas, late January through the end of April is still the most demanding period of time for accounting firms. Because of the high focus on audit and tax deadlines, it’s oftentimes also the slowest period for accounting marketers.

With less access to client service professionals, how can marketers use their “not-so-busy” season most productively? In a word: prepare.

Researching, budgeting, and planning…oh my!

Every marketer has an “idea file.” If you don’t, it’s time to get one. We all have enough on our plates to keep us busy today, but being strategic means constantly thinking ahead. What’s next on the horizon for the industry? What are our clients’ biggest challenges? How can we help our professionals continue to help clients? Every innovation begins with a question, and busy season is the perfect time for marketers to ask themselves hard questions.

One idea to make sure you are asking the right questions is to seek feedback from your professionals, who are spending a significant amount of time with clients during this period. You might consider scheduling one lunch a week with a different manager or senior manager to pick their brains on client challenges. What are clients struggling with? Are there any trends? How is the new tax bill impacting them? What are the disruptors our clients are dealing with?

Common themes require further researching, and more questions. Essentially, ask how your firm can help:

  • Do you need a new service?
  • Do you need to educate clients?
  • Do you need make sure clients know you have resources who are able to help them?

The answers to these questions helps form the plan and the budget, which you will have ready to execute at the end of busy season.

Staged and Ready to Go

In addition to generating ideas for new ways to service clients, it’s important for marketers to continue to look inward, focusing on solutions for their firm operations. The expectation for doing things better, faster, and cheaper only increases as technology continues to evolve, and marketers have the key role in managing the efficiency and effectiveness of firm growth efforts.

Every year, hundreds of accounting marketers attend the AAM Summit, walking away with fresh ideas, new connections, and a bit more energy than they had before. Oftentimes, after having been away from the office for a week, marketers are challenged to find time to digest and prioritize ideas generated at AAM. Instead of simply looking forward to the next event, busy season can be a great time to explore and implement initiatives which have been on the backburner.

It can also be a great time to reach out to marketers at other firms to reconnect. Did you find particular inspiration from a presentation? Reach out to the presenter. Did you connect with a colleague in a session? Send an email inquiring as to whether they’ve made progress in the area you discussed. Did you hear about an amazing new technology which is highly cost effective and can make your team produce marketing materials and resumes better, faster, cheaper (ahem…POUNCE)? Schedule a demo! (Really. Schedule a demo.)

Whatever your highest priority is, do everything you can do to prepare during busy season.

If your firm is like ours, come May 1, planning is over and it’s go time. If your team can be staged and ready to go with things like training, events, materials, and any initiatives which require the participation of your people, then you are better positioned to maximize the effectiveness of your own busy season (aka everything except late January through April).

If you have ideas on how to spend marketers not-so-busy season, we’d love to hear them!

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Why Marketing Collateral [Still] Matters

In a modern business world where social media, mobile websites and video content are the new normal, does the traditional marketing brochure still matter?

The answer? A resounding YES! Marketing collateral still serves an essential purpose and is a key component of a well-rounded marketing strategy, especially in professional services. Sure, the modern channels for online marketing are important. But to disregard the value that traditional marketing collateral brings to your business development process is a huge mistake.

Here’s why marketing collateral still matters:

1. It establishes credibility.

Marketing collateral offers a tangible representation of your firm and often establishes the first impression a prospect has of you. A prospect may glance over your collateral and, within moments, decide whether you are a credible and qualified service provider.

You may have made significant investments in your website and online presence, but if you have sub-par marketing collateral—or have no marketing collateral—it could impair your chances of winning over the prospect.

2. It boosts your brand.

Marketing collateral is often the first opportunity you have to help shape a prospect’s perception of your firm. Your collateral should help to build and maintain your brand. Is a prospect going to read every word? Probably not. But good marketing collateral will make an impression and carve out real estate for your brand in the prospect’s mind, even if the prospect only looks at it for a few moments.

3. It explains your services.

In professional services, we sell something much more complex than, say, office supplies. Our “goods” require a high degree of education, training, knowledge and experience.

Marketing collateral helps to clearly communicate to prospects the key features and benefits of your services (i.e., the value of what you do) to an audience that may not know the ins and outs of what you offer. It helps to demonstrate how your services will solve a problem and/or make the prospect’s life easier.

4. It gives your sales team confidence.

Your doer-sellers need tools if they’re going to be effective. Marketing collateral gives your doer-sellers the resources—and comfort—they need to be effective in sales meetings or with follow-up activities. Printed or printable marketing materials are ideal for face-to-face networking or meetings.

5. It serves as another touch point.

We all know that the sales cycle in professional services can be lengthy, and it takes time to earn like and trust before winning business. This means your pursuit strategy should consider many different points of contact, of which your marketing collateral should be one.

Conclusion

While the sales process has changed drastically over the last decade, marketing collateral remains one of the best channels to communicate information about your firm and your services. Don’t overlook the value that marketing collateral brings to your marketing and business development efforts.

Need a tool to manage your marketing materials and make them accessible to your doer-sellers? Schedule a demo with us to see how POUNCE can help you keep your marketing materials organized and accessible in one central location.

 

Click here to subscribe to our blog!

New Year’s Resolutions

By Rachael Higginbotham

New year resolutions

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s just something about a clean slate, a blank chapter, and the prospect of taking a foundation I’ve worked to build for 40 years and making it a little bit better.

I’ve had enough New Years that I have no illusions that my resolutions are going to completely change my life. And that’s fine; life change is not necessary or appealing for me right now. But there are things I want to accomplish, and setting resolutions helps me establish goals and a path to move the needle in a few specific areas that are important to me.

I also believe strongly in the power of focus.

Making one or two important resolutions is much more impactful than making a bunch of smaller ones.

For example, one of my two resolutions this year is to make my health and fitness a priority. For me, this means upping my gym attendance by one time a week, adding a weekly flexibility class, and focusing on my nutrition. I have a foundation and the tools I need (a gym membership and a yoga mat), but I’ve had these things for a while and I’m still struggling. So what will be different this year? The tools are the exact same; the difference is the way I use them, and that’s completely on me. I can’t make more time in the day, and no one else can make better nutritional decisions for me. The delta is focus and consistency. I have to remove things that are taking my attention to make room for additional workouts. I have to consistently remove peanut M&Ms from my daily diet. Something has to go to make room for the things I want most.

I believe the concept of New Year’s resolutions can also be beneficial in the workplace. Instead of focusing on new personal resolutions, marketing departments can focus on new business solutions. What are your firm’s goals? How can your team help? How can you be more strategic with your time? These are the types of questions that make a marketer’s brain hum. Just like my fitness and nutrition goals, marketing departments must focus on their highest priorities, or the needle will get stuck in the noise and not move. What are you spending time on that doesn’t necessarily need to be done by you, or isn’t necessary to do at all?

For everything your team can (and should) take on, something has to go.

Sometimes, what has to go (up) is your payroll budget, meaning that your firm makes a strategic investment in additional marketing resources. Oftentimes, though, this is not the case. The best thing for many firms is to maintain the size of marketing departments, but to do that the team must become more efficient and effective in their roles. Some ideas for this include improving processes, training, leveraging, and of course technology.

At P&N, our marketing technology stack includes several off-the-shelf and customized tools. A core component of our process is POUNCE. With this tool, we have seen response time for marketing materials go from hours (sometimes days), to minutes, with little to no involvement from marketing resources. We have seen the accuracy and consistency of our professionals’ resumes (in both proposals and our website) improve through no additional effort of the marketing department. And we have seen increased usage of marketing materials simply by having them available 24/7 to our doer-sellers.

Why was this important to our firm? Before we could start being more strategic, we had to stop being as administrative. There is simply not time to do both.

What is your team going to focus on doing this year? And what are you going to stop doing in order to make it happen?

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.