Marketing outside your neighborhood: The planning process

You know those lovely neighborhoods with yards that all blend together without fences? You see vast expansions of grass and think, “Where does one yard end and the neighbor’s start?” Well, as you may know, this is now our client territory in the world of cloud accounting. There are no fences! No boundaries are drawn, and your growth is infinite.

With that infinite opportunity, a lot of questions may surface. How do you take your marketing from the local space to the national stage? Do you HAVE to do social media? Do you have to pay for large ads in publications? Do you have to start learning to dance for TikTok? In short, the answer may be “no” to all of these. I can hear your sigh of relief.

In this series, I’ll focus on four steps in the marketing process that you and your team can lean on. 

Let’s start with the planning process. Every good strategy begins with a strong plan because the journey for new prospects can take some time. You are building a relationship with the prospect – they’ll get to know you, start to like you, and begin to trust you.

Drawing the right people to you and deterring the wrong clients from opting in takes time. Having a plan based on research and data from previous programs and efforts can significantly trim the time.

Do your research

Hopefully, you have created a system to track marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs). MQL means they are the ideal prospect for you, based on comparative data of your current clients. SQL is someone who has shown interest, seems deeply engaged with your content, and requested more information about your services. At this stage, it is up to the sales team to convert to a client.

If you jump too soon from MQL to SQL status without the right cues from the prospect, you could damage the relationship. Winning the prospect back is close to impossible, so take your time developing the right relationship with the right prospects.

All about MQLs

Start with understanding your current client base. There are certain clients you love working with and wish you had more of. If you want more like these, identify who they are and learn more about them. The easiest way to do this is through client interviews.

Take time to select 10 outstanding current clients or prospects you would love to work with and ask if you can interview them for 30 minutes about their business. I’ve never had a prospect turn down an opportunity for them to discuss themselves!

In this conversation, find out the following. If they are current clients, you may already know some of the answers to these questions:

  1. What type of business are they in?
  2. Where do they go to learn new insights about their trade or profession?
  3. What social media platforms are they on, if any?
  4. What business challenges are they currently struggling with?
  5. What are their goals for the next 12 months?
  6. Who do they trust for advice in their profession?
  7. What drove them to select working with you? 
  8. When is their busiest time of the year?

The goal here is to ask the question and just be quiet. Your job right now is to be an A++ student in learning about your prospect. Do these interviews in person and ask to record them for the rest of the team to view or listen to. Doing this in person will provide you with the exact copy you could potentially use in your marketing, and allow you to ask follow-up questions for clarity.

Once you have 10 respondents (or if you’re really loving getting to know your favorite clients, then go for more), you will hopefully start to see commonalities.

As you search for the connectors, think of how the same eight questions can help you with your marketing insights:

  1. What type of business are they in? Again, you may know this already, but hearing them explain their business in their own words is helpful. You can also start identifying a niche of who is attracted to your services.
  2. Where do they go to learn new insights about their trade or profession? This could provide areas of marketing opportunities that you may not have thought of.
  3. What social media platforms are they on, if any? This will tell you where you should have a presence and where you shouldn’t spend your time!
  4. What business challenges are they currently struggling with? You’ll get great content ideas for education, blog articles, social posts, or experts you could bring in.
  5. What are their goals for the next 12 months? This is another question for content ideation and possibly finding third-party articles to help.
  6. Who do they trust for advice in their profession? You’ll figure out who you should be connected with for possible partnerships.
  7. When is their busiest time of the year? You’ll get a feel for when to go light on your marketing and take the time for planning, and when to ramp up your engagement.
  8. What drove them to select working with you? This is good for testimonials, but be sure to ask for permission before you use them.

Review the data

The next part of research is looking at your current data sets. Look at your current clients and your marketing or customer relationship database. You want to inspect what content your current clients engaged with before they became a client. For example, what type of email and articles did they open? Did they attend a Zoom webinar? All of this data tells a story of how many marketing touches it took to convert the prospect, and the time of the overall journey from awareness to ideal client. What time of day do they engage? What types of pieces drove higher engagement and the action you were expecting?

The prospects who didn’t convert to clients also tell an equally powerful story of who may not be right for you. Did they go to the sales team too soon? Did your firm not have a particular service they needed? Were they in a niche that you don’t have a lot of deep experience in? Were they not in the financial income bracket that you work with – meaning they couldn’t afford you?

Take a look at your marketing over the last few years with a non-judgmental approach. It is more about uncovering opportunities to improve than to reflect on something you feel didn’t go well.

For example, you could have had an event with 10,000 attendees because of a thought leader you partnered with, but perhaps your call to action wasn’t strong enough to get the prospects to take the next step in downloading a whitepaper or visiting your site for some on-demand training. When you are looking at this, start thinking how you could improve the call to action and the content you’re asking them to engage with. What would be more enticing for this audience?

Analyzing these things will allow you to uncover the opportunities to fine tune and improve your process! After you have all the data you feel will give you a strong picture, it’s time to make some decisions on what goes in the plan and what waits for another date.

The more time you spend in this portion of the process – about four weeks max – the better your data and input will be to create a strong plan.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Intuit® Tax Pro Center.

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