Steve Brennan, founder and CEO of digital lead generation agency Bespoke

When watching the old Beatles flick A Hard Day’s Night on BBC iPlayer recently, I noticed a funny scene that reminded me of a regular experience we have when talking to accountancy firms about digital marketing.

It’s the scene where Ringo has been arrested for some reason and demands to speak to his lawyer. ‘What’s his name?’ asks the desk sergeant, in response to which Ringo retreats quickly from the desk haughtily mumbling, ‘Well, if you’re going to get technical about it…’.

We are in an age now where prospects research advisers across many sources to check out a recommendation before making an enquiry

When meeting new prospects, it’s still a surprise that when we ask to see brochures, business plans, brand guidelines and sales data, all these things are often readily available; yet our requests to see a marketing strategy, and more so a digital strategy, are often met with blank looks.

It seems that when asked if they have a marketing strategy, almost all firms will say yes. But when you ask to see a copy, their response is often like Ringo’s.

Reverse engineering

A published digital strategy – when done well – shows a firm has committed significant time to considering how it should source and engage prospects online.

That involves much more than simply building what you think is a good website and posting up-to-date content on your social channels. It’s a strategy reverse-engineered from where your prospects hang out online, and factoring in advanced tactics that are already the norm in other sectors.

Early-bird advantage

Accountancy firms value reputation and integrity more than other sectors and have come to expect leads to arrive through word-of-mouth as a result. Although traditionally this has been the model, we are in an age now where prospects research advisers across many sources to check out a recommendation before making an enquiry.

Accountancy practices are currently establishing the order in which they adopt and successfully implement a full digital strategy. In 10 years, it is likely most will have fully integrated a mature top-to-bottom approach to digital lead-generation.

In times of transformation there is always a real-estate grab, and the earliest adopters buy themselves the opportunity to become dominant within their niche in the long-term.

Where to start

Here are some essential digital marketing concepts for practitioners.

Niche campaigns: the tighter your niche (eg sector, region, size of client) the easier your marketing becomes, enabling you to run campaigns that truly connect with your target market. To run niche campaigns your firm doesn’t have to completely reposition; when it comes to lead generation, a digital campaign can target a niche while your firm continues to position itself more broadly overall.

Multiple touchpoints: Google’s 2011 Zero Moment Of Truth research found that on the journey towards an online purchase, on average the customer had spent seven hours researching a brand, on 11 different occasions and across four different channels (eg website, social media, videos and a brochure). It follows that unless you have seven hours of browsable content online, and rich, varied and genuinely useful marketing content across four different channels, your online lead generation will underperform.

Account-based marketing: for firms looking for lead volumes in the tens or hundreds per month, account-based marketing (ABM) is the current hot topic. You draw up a list of target customers, and marketing is targeted at staff within those companies – for example, via LinkedIn or other social channels. ABM is the perfect way to warm up a very specific list of prospects over time, so they become aware of your offer and message, and you are front of mind when they are ready to buy.