Learn how Ian Bouchett thinks about lead generation for accounting firms based on his years of experience acquiring customers for SaaS companies as a Chief Revenue Officer, and building his bookkeeping firm.

Accounting lead generation can be overwhelming and confusing to a firm owner who knows nothing about sales or marketing for accountants.

From thinking up strategies, to communicating your firm’s value proposition, recognizing the needs of your prospects, offering value to them in exchange for their contact information – lead generation is a lot of work.

But with the right information about how it works, you can do it. Or, at least have the essential knowledge to effectively work with a lead generation consultant.

Former Chief Revenue Officer of two SaaS companies and Founder of Ledgr Insights & Bookeeping, Ian Bouchett joined us on the latest episode of Firm Founders Live to share how:

Accounting Firms can Create and Manage Lead Generation Strategies That Consistently Boost Revenue. 

In this article, you’ll find Ian’s thoughts on:

  1. What Lead Generation is.
  2. How Accounting Firms Should Think About Lead Generation.
  3. Types of Lead Generation Strategies.
  4. How to Manage Lead Generation Strategies Without Feeling Overwhelmed.
  5. How to Build a Lead Generation Engine That Brings Pre-qualified Leads.
  6. Should You Hire a Consultant or Internally Manage Lead Generation?
  7. What You Should Know When Working With Consultants on Lead Generation Projects.

Continue reading or watch the full episode below:

What is Lead Generation?

Before we dive into what lead generation is, let’s dive into key terms around lead generation:

Lead: A person who has the potential to become a client at some point. 

Suspect: A suspect is a lead that looks like they fit the profile for a potential client, but you know nothing else about them. And you have no real reason to believe there’s a real opportunity there.

Prospect: A lead is someone that you’ve been in touch with, or who has been in touch with you. For example, a person who fills out a web form on your website is a prospect. Or, if you cold-called someone and they picked up the phone and had a conversation with you, that’s a prospect. Prospecting involves some form of communication or connection. 

Qualified prospect: Somebody who has been screened and meets the criteria to be a likely buyer. This means they have a need and the capacity to afford the solution you provide. 

Therefore, lead generation is best defined as a way of making new prospective clients aware of your offerings in an effort to sign on new business. 

So for any firm that wants to grow their clientele, having some form of lead generation strategy is imperative. And this strategy could be as simple as setting up a website, or even asking clients for word of mouth referrals. It can also be as complex as hiring a lead generation team or consultant, or engaging in outbound outreach which may involve things like cold calling, cold emailing or even knocking on doors. 

How Accounting Firms Should Think About Lead Generation

Assess what your growth goals are

It’s important that you start by assessing what your growth goals are. For example, does your firm want to bring in 10 to 15 new clients a year? Is it more about revenue and bigger deals than it is about more quantity of clients? Or are you trying to double in size either in employees or revenue? Your lead strategy will look different for different growth goals.

Know what it takes to hit your goals

Everything starts with leads. You need a lot of conversations to qualify in the right prospects and hit the goal of doubling your clientele in a year. You may have some obstacles in your sales process to overcome, like articulating your value proposition. A large number of leads is the only way to give your team the practice to figure those things out. 

Understand that different lead generation strategies yield different results

The way that you manage a lead generation strategy or different components of your lead generation strategy will yield different results. This may be in terms of how you need to manage the conversations to bring those suspects and convert them into qualified prospects and eventually into clients. 

Take for example;

Scenario 1: An inbound lead where somebody fills out a form on your website. That process usually moves rather quickly because they’ve prequalified themselves by reviewing your website and expressing interest. 

Scenario 2: If you cold-call someone and you’re lucky or skilled enough to get them to agree to a more meaningful conversation with you, you have to do that qualification work yourself. So that requires a more robust sales process as a whole and will take longer. 

You need to be familiar with the different closing ratios for different lead generation strategies. 

Be prepared to study the numbers in your lead generation process

You need to know how many leads convert into prospects. And how many prospects convert into qualified prospects. Then how many qualified prospects it takes to make a sale. If you can get those vital KPIs down, that’ll tell you how many leads you need to pour into the top of the funnel. And ultimately, which strategies are best for you to achieve the growth goal that is being driven by your lead generation strategy.

Types of Lead Generation Strategies for Accounting Firms

A lot of people who think that lead generation is overwhelming are probably thinking of the wrong strategy.

Lead generation are usually categorized into two basic buckets and it’s a helpful way to think about things:

Inbound strategies

Organic: These include things like social media, content marketing running in the form of a podcast or hosting a live session like this, or writing a blog. It can also be something you do in partnership with somebody else.

Paid: These include things like pay per click ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn & Google ads. Or newspaper or print ads.

Inbound strategies are all about getting leads to find you and express interest. When you have this type of lead generation going, the sales cycle is a lot easier because prospects pre qualify themselves to an extent. And so inbound is very low-friction and can be a low maintenance way to run a lead generation strategy. You can either throw money at it with pay per click or you can throw some publicity effort into it to drive traffic to the website.

Outbound strategies

Outbound prospecting is substantially more work. It requires a better understanding of the consultative sales process. When you’re talking about cold calling or cold emailing, LinkedIn messages, and banging on doors, these take a lot of grit.

First of all, it takes a seriously thick skin because of the volume of rejection that you have to confront to actually be successful in those strategies. You’re likely to be in front of buyers during earlier stages of their consideration.

How to Manage Lead Generation Strategies Without Feeling Overwhelmed

Many people will read the above descriptions about different types of lead generation strategies and think, “I’m only going to do inbound since outbound sounds like a waste of time.”

If you’re trying to sell without a dedicated sales team and you don’t need to bring in a ton of business, then you can stick with that as it’s a lot lower maintenance. The challenge with inbound is, you don’t have as much control over the lead volume that you’re going to get and ad spend can get really expensive. And increasing your ad spend is essentially one of the major things you can do to drive volume up. Unlike outbound that has a very predictable flow of leads.

Once you get the numbers of conversion understood, you can essentially increase the business that flows into your company like a throttle on an engine. And that’s a really sweet place to be.

“And so firms who really want to grow should essentially be doing both inbound and outbound. They probably even need a dedicated team for inbound and outbound sales processes. But for a small firm that just wants a steady rate of growth, lead generation may feel like too much work. You can put together an automated inbound lead generation campaign and essentially let prospects come to you prequalified so you can have meaningful conversations and generate a fair amount of business from that.”

More resources for you:

How To Get Bookkeeping Clients By Sharing Your Knowledge

How To Identify Ideal Clients For Your Accounting Firm with Richard Roppa-Roberts

How to Build a Lead Generation Engine That Brings Pre-qualified Leads

On the inbound side;

Sales is the one opportunity you have to give all the value you can give, at no cost. And the idea is that you’re going to give as much value as humanly possible without money changing hands. So on the inbound side, you start by finding things of value that require some exchange of information to receive. For example, let’s say you’re a CPA firm and you do cost segregation work, you may have some really valuable real estate tax strategies to share. You can offer a free meeting with a cost segregation expert, or give away an eBook with some secrets that can really benefit people.

If you can find something of value to offer for free on your website, that’s a really great lead generation strategy but there’s going to be a catch. The catch is that they have to give you a name and an email address, to download your free resource or book a free meeting.

This way, you’re qualifying your prospects with the content that they’re interested in. Your lead generator should offer solid value and have prospects thinking “ if this is what I get for free, imagine how good it gets when I cut a check”.
Pay Per Click ads can be more direct and you will get more opportunities if you use a call to action. They can be used to promote or advertise your content.

So basically, you create the content and put it on your website, advertise it, and let people download it and follow up with the ones who downloaded it. That follow up is going to be with pre-qualified people, making the job easier.

On the outbound side;

Cold emailing and cold calling
Outbound strategies are brutal and you face a lot of rejection. But cold calling still works, and cold emails work great.

Although you have to manage cold emailing really carefully to avoid spam filters and things like that blocking your domain by building in some sophistication into your email marketing.

You can do outbound lead generation by networking in groups like BNI, Chamber of Commerce, Business Leader Networks or any network that speaks to your niche. The goal is never to sell on the spot. That’s not a productive way. And it’s important to separate your lead generation strategy from your sales strategy. The goal in the lead generation stage is to get them to be a lead or to be a qualified prospect by booking a meeting and bringing them into your consultative sales process.

Should You Hire a Consultant or Internally Manage Lead Generation?

There are pros and cons to both ends.

“Generally, I will recommend outsourcing inbound strategies. Unless you’re a large firm, and you can afford a chief marketing officer. There’s a very high number of digital marketing consultancies right now in our business environment who know how to execute a high yield inbound strategy better than you will likely ever be able to educate yourself on in a short period of time.”
– Ian Bouchett

For outbound strategies, it’s usually best to have someone full time in-house or at least the equivalent of a full time employee, if you choose to outsource. It’s always helpful to have someone who knows the nuances of your prospects, who’s a good fit for your business and helps you hit your numbers. That takes a lot of commitment, time, and effort.

What You Should Know When Working With Consultants on Lead Generation Projects

  1. Patience: Lead generation strategies require some ongoing commitment to curate a result. There will be some failed attempts and rejections, especially in outbound strategies. They’re to be expected. 
  2. Have realistic expectations: Don’t go into any lead generation efforts with the expectation of better than 50% win rate.

Ian Bouchett is the Founder and CEO of Ledgr Bookkeeping & Insights – a business service, insights, and analytics company that specializes in helping small business owners and entrepreneurs simplify their financial environments. He is also the Founder of Sellevate, a subscription based virtual sales analytics and advisory team that helps small and medium sized businesses refine and improve their sales operations holistically. He is a former Chief Revenue Officer of two SaaS companies – Saasable and Reconciled.  

He believes that when you pair understanding people and how words and actions impact behavior with comprehensive and relevant statistical and analytical data, you can make better choices, build better businesses, and impact peoples lives for the better.