A Lesson, Some Inspiration and a Dose of Bad Grammar from Wee Willie Keeler
From time to time, I do a random survey of Top 100 CPA Firms to see how far they’ve progressed in the world of digital marketing. I look at their website for SEO best practices, content marketing, Alexa and MOZ rankings, and the appeal of the site from vanity perspectives – things like the look, feel, readability, and the quality of the copywriting.
I scrutinize whether the site is just an online brochure or a forum for helping site visitors address their tax, audit and accounting issues. I look at shelf life issues like whether or not the firm is still has tax alerts from 2010 onsite ... I kid you not – tax alerts now over 5 years old still published on one of the Top 100 firms we sampled!!
But most importantly, I’m looking at whether or not the firm is getting a measurable return on the sizeable investment they’ve made in their website. To do that, I investigate if they’re doing online lead generation using: (1) proprietary thought leadership packaged into some type of content, (2) “gating” that content behind a form, and (3) promoting that content using call to action buttons and social media.
Of the 10 firms I randomly selected, only two are doing the type of lead generation that produces measureable results, and only one of those firms – a firm located in Ohio - is really knocking it out of the park. When I speak of measurable results, I’m referring to a firm’s ability to not only count how many forms for an offer were completed and submitted, but also, metrics like conversion rates of landing page visits to firm submissions, lead generation sources, and a lot more.
(For purposes of full disclosure, I did not include any of our clients in this sample, but if you want more details on some of the grand slams we’ve hit, give me a call at 585-425-2552).
So what’s missing from this picture? Given the huge marketing pendulum shift toward using content for lead generation in B2B firms, what does it say when only 20% of accounting firms are doing state of the art lead generation? Instead of yet another blog from yet another consultant bemoaning this lack of foresight and insight, I want to talk about opportunity.
Lots and lots and lots of opportunity......
Missed Opportunity #1 – Using Content to Convert Site Visitors to Leads
Every single firm in our sample was doing some form of content marketing – some better (a whole lot better) than others. Using content for CPA firm marketing is not revolutionary; it’s just getting a lot more attention and a higher place in the pantheon of how firms get visibility from search engines. It seems like there’s mad rush to place more and more content onsite, but for 80% of the firms we used in our sample, they’re not leveraging the time, energy, resources and intellectual capital of the subject matter expert because content is only being used for branding and not for lead generation!
One firm we looked at had a series of valuable industry stats packaged into incredibly well produced eBooks. The effort to write, produce and publish these was enormous, but every download was a lost opportunity to get a lead. This firm could have tucked these stat books behind a form, got leads and still used the thought leadership that went into the effort for branding purposes by leveraging the content into dozen (ungated) blog posts.
Here’s a reverse mini case study:
We worked with a consulting firm that had hundreds of ungated articles on their site that were huge for purposes of branding but did little to nothing in the way of lead generation. We took five of these articles, helped package them into an eBook, and promoted the eBook onsite and offsite using social media and email. In less than a week, this effort generated almost 3 dozen leads with a landing page to lead conversion rate of over 40%. BTW – that’s a grand slam.
The moral of this opportunity: stop your visitors from leaking off of your website, and convert them into a lead by using some of your content for lead generation.
Missed Opportunity #2 – Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t
Who remembers Wee Willie Keeler?
He’s one of the first ballplayers to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame who was once asked about his secret to his prowess as a hitter. His famous reply?
“I just hit ‘em where they ain’t!”
Here’s the opportunity: If your competitors aren’t doing online lead generation using content and offers tucked behind a form, then hit ‘em where they ain’t. It’s really easy to tell if your competition is using this strategy by visiting their website and looking for gated forms. If they’re doing online lead gen and you’re not, then they’ve deployed a pretty simple strategy for getting an opportunity to turn your clients into their prospects when your clients search online for answers to an accounting, tax or audit question.
On the other hand, you can be the firm that deploys an online lead generation strategy, and there’s a good chance that you’ll achieve a sustainable competitive advantage if your content is truly built on thought leadership, and not just an online brochure about your services.
The Professional Services Marketing Pendulum is Going to Swing .... SLOOOWWWWWLY
My sense is that the marketing pendulum for accounting, consulting and other professional services firms is going to move slowly when it comes to online lead generation. What’s going to happen is that a partner is going to come into the firm retreat and say something like, “we’ve been writing articles and doing seminars and publishing eBooks for a couple of years now and I can’t tell that whether or not we’ve got even one dollar of new business from all of this effort!”
That’s the moment when the epiphany will hit that it’s time to leverage all of that investment into an active online lead generation effort.
Of course, you can cut that path short by starting your online lead gen effort now. It’s pretty likely that you’ll see some great results ... just hit ‘em where they ain’t!