The AVN accountancy association had been using marketing for many years when owner and CEO Mark Wickersham recruited new Head of Marketing Sue Davenport. Together they attended a Digital Lighthouse event and the new techniques they learnt have helped bring in the best leads the company has ever had.
In just four months, those techniques have brought in more than 1,000 qualified leads.
AVN is the UK’s sixth largest accountancy group. It offers its members resources (including seminars and events), tools and support to help themselves and their clients become more successful and profitable.
“We’ve always done a lot of marketing –that’s helped us grow from nothing 12 years ago to now where we turnover between five and six million pounds a year,” says Mark. “I’d say we’re pretty good with marketing but the stuff we’ve learnt from Digital Lighthouse is practical and simple to put in place.”
What’s more, it works. “The thousand leads we’ve generated in the past four months are all far better leads than we’ve ever had before. We’ve always had processes to capture leads and still have those but as these are qualified leads the new ones will be more valuable to us.”
The new techniques he and Sue learnt included setting up an automated online lead generation process. “That was how to set up lead pages, how to use a book as a ‘golden carrot’, and how to create an automatic process to capture sales leads off the back of the lead page.”
A key part of the automated lead generation process is the offer of an irresistible ‘golden carrot’ to prospects – something so tempting that they’re willing to provide their email address to get their hands on it. In Mark’s case, the golden carrot was a free book on tax credits.
“Writing a book was on my list of things to do but kept slipping down the list. I think going to the Digital Lighthouse event in July and seeing how a book could be used to generate sales leads really made me give it some focus. Even though I’d always fancied writing a book, I wasn’t really sure why I wanted to write one and didn’t know what the benefits would be. Digital Lighthouse was the catalyst – following the seminar I just decided to take action and get on with it.
“I found it very easy to follow the formula of writing the book, creating the lead page, and being able to outsource the design of the landing page – we could have done it ourselves but it would have taken us months. It was a four-week process from sitting down to start writing the book to having the whole thing up and running.”
That book has so far generated 456 sales leads for AVN. Since then, Mark’s written a booklet on pricing (which has attracted 152 leads) and a research report on the accounting profession (which has bought in 480 leads).
“I also had a feature based on the latter research report published just a few weeks ago in Accountancy magazine, which is the biggest trade publication in our business, and that generated over 200 leads. The article came about when my business partner, who writes a lot of articles for the accountancy press, was talking to the Editor and said I could write a report on best practices in this research survey.”
Mark’s next book is about pricing and it will be printed in the next few weeks. “The booklet on pricing was a stopgap because we were using it to promote a two-day marketing event. I had written most of the book but we decided we’d write a booklet to put in place a process to generate sales leads for that event. The booklet wasn’t ready in time for the event itself so we’ve not really pushed it yet which is why it’s only generated 152 sales leads so far. I’m really waiting until the book gets published as that will be a much more valuable golden carrot.”
The books and research report have also helped AVN boost its joint venture activity, says Mark.
“We had been doing joint ventures for a few years and we’ve generated some good results from working with them but until we started writing books and so on, we never had anything to give to our joint venture partners’ customers. But in the last three or four months, having got the books and lead pages in place we now have something concrete to offer. It’s working in terms of generating quantifiable benefits through the sales leads.
“As a result of Digital Lighthouse and the lead generation process, over the last three or four months we’ve maximised the potential of the joint ventures. For example, one of our joint venture partners is one of the leading suppliers of insurance in the accountancy marketplace and once a quarter, they produce a tax newsletter. I contacted them and asked them if I could write an article on tax credits and offer all their customers a free book. They said ‘Yes’ so I wrote a short, one-page article for their newsletter and put a free offer at the end of it with the lead page’s web address. That article generated 95 leads. I’m just about to write another article for that particular organisation.
“One of our new joint venture partners is Lexis Nexis – which along with a company called CCH dominate the market in providing accountants with journals and online technical information. They own Taxation magazine, one of the leading tax journals, and they’ve agreed to let us produce an article on tax credits which will be published across two different issues. We’ll use it to promote the lead page.
“That article hasn’t yet been published but it’s another example of how we’re tapping into our joint venture partners because we’ve now got something that we can offer. We’ve now got a process to generate sales leads off the back of articles. From our joint venture partner’s point of view, they look good because they’re offering something of value to their customers.”
Now that the automated lead generation process is in place, AVN is focusing on converting those leads into customers. A few weeks ago, the company paid for a consultant to show them how to do it most effectively.
“Until then, we’d been reliant on the follow-up email process but it became apparent that we needed to do more than that so we’ve just started – literally this week – a telesales process of working through the sales leads to drive those people to our various courses. It’s early days but I suspect in a month or two from now, we’ll start to have some statistics about how many of those sales leads we’ve managed to use to generate bookings for our events. Once we know that it’s going to be easier to estimate impact on turnover because we’ve been running events for many years and we have a pretty good idea of what conversion rates we get.
“I would guess that in the next 12 months, we will have another four or five thousand sales leads. I’d like to think that across those four or five thousand sales leads 20% come to one of our events. If we get 20% – which would be about 1,000 people – to the event and our conversion at events is roughly a third that would be about 300 customers. It depends on what they actually buy from us – it could be anything from a £1,000 sale up to an £8,000 sale. If you work the numbers through, it could be quite significant.” In other words, if Mark’s projections come true, AVN could add anywhere from £300,000 to £2.4 million to its turnover, thanks to that online lead generation process.