Just imagine opening your e-mail inbox and finding a note from a prospect who is interested in one of your services. The e-mail isn't from a referral, existing clients or someone you have already met.

Rather, the e-mail is from a prospect that found your Web site on Google and has reached out because they have a need for a service you offer.

All you need to do is pick up the phone or send a reply e-mail to schedule a time to talk. Yes, it can be that easy. After all, many CPA firms are now experiencing these results by embracing inbound marketing.

The process of generating Web site leads through a combination of search engine optimization, social media and content marketing is very effective. There is no shortage of information on how to implement social media, SEO or other marketing programs. Every time Google issues a new update or policy change, there are literally dozens upon dozens of articles talking about it. Unfortunately, there is little information available about how companies can improve their existing programs to take it to the next level.

If your firm is just starting with inbound marketing, then you should review the introductory article I wrote for the January issue of Accounting Today (see "Making sense of inbound marketing" on page 33). However, if your firm has been at it for a while, then you may be wondering what else you should be focusing on. What steps can you take to improve return on investment? How can you take what you already have and increase the value of the program? Let's face it - every year we want to accomplish more and set the bar higher. To help make sense of it all, we have outlined advanced strategies that should be considered below.

 

DEVELOPING A STRATEGY

In developing their strategy for success, firms with mature inbound marketing programs should focus on the following:

• Homepage layout. The layout of the Web site is critical to the development of an effective inbound marketing program. Often, we work with firms that have very engaging and current content, but because of the layout of their site, it is almost impossible for visitors to find it from the homepage. Think of your site's homepage as the front page of a newspaper. The most enticing content is always put on the front page.

Given this analogy, how does your homepage entice readers? Are there dedicated areas that feature the latest article, whitepaper or blog post? How much control do you have over what content appears on the homepage? If the answer is none or not much, then you need to reconsider the design of your homepage and how it is facilitating greater site engagement.

Remember that content is the product your site offers, as well as what drives traffic. The more focused, timely and unique the content, the greater your ability to direct prospects to the site, resulting in a higher engagement rate. Practically, you have only a few seconds to present your content and get visitors interested in learning more. For this reason, it's important to tease your content on the homepage and make it easy for visitors and prospects to find what they want.

• Conversions. Conversions are the core of an effective inbound marketing approach. Essentially, they are the small elements on a Web site that draws the reader's attention to a specific item, such as a newsletter registration form, upcoming webinar, whitepaper download, or industry survey. Their purpose is to provide additional ways for site visitors to engage with the firm.

Ideally, we want everyone who comes to the site to contact the firm expressing their interest. However, we know that doesn't happen. The reality is that the number of people who contact the firm seeking more information is a small percentage of the total visitors. So conversions are used to provide an alternate method of connection. The best way to accomplish this goal is to offer access to high-value content that they can't get anywhere else.

Implementing an effective conversion strategy for your site takes time to plan. The reality is that most firms don't have the time or resources to generate whitepapers or plan out webinars. So what can firms immediately do to create high-value content without investing hours of their own time in development? The best option is to look at existing content to see what can be modified and offered to your prospects.

One example to consider is a presentation that a partner or manager in the firm has given in the past six to 12 months. Usually a presentation covers topics that go beyond traditional Web site copy. It demonstrates that the firm is knowledgeable and, best of all, it's already prepared, so very little times goes into formatting it for use on the site.

Assess old content and see if it can be reworked to be more technical or to address a specific aspect of a topic or issue. There are dozens of ways to make what you already have work for you. However, the best method is to contemplate what information prospects and others will be attracted to and find a way to offer that through your site.

 

IN PERSPECTIVE

Growing an inbound marketing effort is ultimately a firmwide effort that requires knowledge from several areas, including service professionals, the marketing department and, in some cases, your information technology department. Remember, not only do you need to have enticing content (which requires expert knowledge of a service/industry), but you also have to understand how to use your site to position it to visitors.

In other words, it's an evolving and changing process. If you don't have all the answers right now, that's okay. As you experiment, you will find the approach and strategy that works best for your firm.

Brian Swanson is a partner with Flashpoint Marketing, a marketing and lead generation company focused on serving the accounting industry. Reach him at (612) 886-3561 or at bswanson@flashpointmarketing.biz.

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