Customers don’t know what they want
So for several years I am reading blog and articles of people coming up with this conclusion, accountants are the worst practitioners for sales and marketing activities. Even myself wrote many blog posts about this topic. Reading a Dutch article about the seven sins of accountants with number three talking about bad sales and marketing activities, it is time to do something. I know some accountants that started a specialized agency helping practices to develop and run client acquisition programs. In this article written by Hans Koning, partner of Vanhier, he mentions that accountants do not know what their clients are asking for. In my opinion customers don’t know what their needs are for tomorrow.Not being able to listen to their needs you won’t be able to develop the services they ask for. The writer of the article comes with a suggestion to arrange co-creation sessions with clients to determine their true needs. Listen, and develop new services that seamlessly connect with the customers need. Well, if it was that simple everybody would be successful. Organizing such a session is not rocket science. In my opinion customers don’t know what their needs are for tomorrow. Like Henry Ford once said, if I would have asked my customers what new product to develop they would have come up with faster horses. I am glad it is not that simple, it makes marketing a profession, an art.
But I am done with bashing this industry coming up with the same conclusions as many others that marketing is done in a poor way by accountants. So its time to take action. Me as the global marketing leader for Exact Cloud Solutions I practice marketing every day with a team of more than 30 people. Marketing within Exact is an art. We have more than 130.000 legal entities that make use of our online products and the number of users behind it is a multiple of that. With 5 products in 5 different countries and thousands of new customers coming in every year, you can probably imagine the required marketing engine and complexity of it for getting all the leads in. I will share the way we practice marketing step by step.Thousands through various channels, online and offline. Sounds quite complex? Yes it is. But the basics, the fundamental pillars are the same in my opinion for small and mid sized companies, for software companies and accountancy practices. So what I will start to do in a series op blog posts, I will share the way we practice marketing step by step. I don’t know the number of blog posts and thus the length of this series but lets just get started. And probably if I write the last article I can start over again because marketing is changing continuously.
I will base my stories on the marketing framework we apply within Exact. Its not so much about the model itself, there is a variety of models available, it is more about sticking to your plan and the model. Its about persist in the way you implement the model. Within Exact for almost 2 years we are busy implementing this model and in my series of blog posts I will write about the different steps, the pitfalls and the areas of low hanging fruit. Enjoy reading, ask questions and try to apply in your own practice. Lets see if it is possible to at least get you familiar with the basics of marketing that help you to acquire new customers.
The image above shows the marketing framework we practice within Exact. A very simple model but pretty complex to really get it working. What you basically see is the high level journey of a prospect that we try to convert into a customer. For several reasons you need to be aware of the fact that this journey has different stages. This because for each and every stage a specific approach is required to seduce the prospect into the next stage of the buying journey. This has a major impact on the media channels you use to communicate your message but also has impact on the content that you create. Within Exact we strongly believe in sharing in order to multiply in a later stage. So share valuable stories, experiences that resonate with your potential customers that they love to read in exchange for a small bit of profile data.
At the left hand in the image it represents the market. You reach out to the market through a variety of media channels to get your message across. You drive them to a landing page on your website, the blue circle, where you offer a certain what we call: call-to-action. A download, an event registration, a video or something else that is of value for the prospect. Depending of the type of call-to-action you offer and the value of the content that is behind it you create a marketing qualified lead (route D) or a sales qualified lead (route C). A MQL we store in our marketing database to further nurture into a SQL. A SQL is immediately handed over to the sales department so they can follow up and close the deal. In the case of Exact, the download of a white paper is considered as a MQL, someone who signs up for a trial is a SQL.
Marketing alignment with sales
Here you already see that alignment and clarity between marketing and sales about lead definitions is key. There needs to be a clear understanding in what is considered as a MQL and SQL. This can vary per product, per service and even per go-to-market model. As described a MQL remains within the marketing database and specific programs will run to nurture this MQL into a SQL. More about this later. Unfortunately most of the SQL’s won’be converted into a deal. Here we have to make sure they return to the marketing database and become a MQL. For these we can start specific re-marketing programs to see if we can create a SQL out of it in a later stage. You can read in between the lines that content is key. When you meet someone for the first time you should start with building trust.This is what they call content marketing. Pieces of content that are perceived as valuable for the prospect in exchange for some profile details. The better a person has been profiled the better you are able to offer great content of interest and relevance. At the start of the journey at the left side of the framework the content you offer is less specific about your products and services. Most of the times its the first contact moment to engage and starting straight forward offering your products, or in our case trials, is not really effective. When you meet someone for the first time you should start with building trust. Show that you understand the world that the prospect is living in and the needs and pains he experiences in his business. The first touching point is a great opportunity to show off your expertise in order to gain some trust in the fact you could be someone to help him making the next step.
Whats next: target audience and persona’s
In the next blog post we will start at the left hand of the marketing framework and with every new post we will walk through the model to the right side. Next time I will start talking about determining your target audience and the persona’s in there. Because first you need to understand who you are aiming for, which companies but also the specific persons within this company. Get to understand their market perception and what keeps them awake at night. See you next time!