Marketing and accountants don’t mix; at least that’s what Chartered Accountant Jeff Lermer believed before attending his first Digital Lighthouse event.
“I thought, ‘Accountants don’t do marketing’,” recalls Jeff, owner of Jeff Lermer & Associates. “I’d always believed that accountants were just rubbish at it. And the ones who thought they could do it were even worse.”
His company had always relied on personal recommendations to get new business.
After the first Digital Lighthouse event, that changed. “It opened my eyes to the possibility of marketing within our accountancy practice, and I learnt the tools I’d need to do it effectively. Before that, marketing was just ignored.”
Specifically, he realised the benefit of web marketing, something had previously dismissed.
“I thought that nobody in the world would ever change accountants based on something they saw on the internet. And bizarrely they do. That was my ignorance, or arrogance, whatever the word is – probably a bit of both.”
He returned to his office and immediately set about revamping the company’s website.
“We completely changed it and started again. We followed exactly what [Digital Lighthouse’s Founder] Jonathan Jay recommended, including putting a video up and offering free downloadable information – leaflets and reports. The website has moved away from being a brochure to actually something that brings work in.”
And the result?
“We typically get one or two hits a week. We are using Pay Per Click advertising to drive traffic to our website and we are getting one or two requests for information and we follow those up with meetings.
“I think we are converting something like 25% of the contacts to clients. It’s not enormous, but it still is real business, and it is real business off the internet, which I genuinely thought was impossible. “
And the offline results have been more successful, he says. “We used to convert six and a half out of every 10 enquiries and now were converting between eight and nine out of every 10.
“I think it has improved because we’re more confident. And because were using the marketing funnel see, I’m using words that accountants don’t use it’s a different language!
“After my first Digital Lighthouse event, I looked at our presentations and how we talked about things to people. I looked at our sales process, and changed it so that instead of completely relying on me to make conversions, other people in the company could meet potential clients and follow the same system.
“We did some in-housing training to make that possible and they’ve achieved similar levels of conversion.”
But the 30% increase in profits in the past 12 months is also due to the fact that Jeff and his team have boosted the amount their current clients are spending.
“We’re up-selling. We have created a pricing matrix. Actually that was from something that Jonathan talked about – the ‘Sales Matrix’.”
The Sales Matrix is a table with your products as the column headings and the names of your customers in the rows. To prepare your basic Sales Matrix all you do is mark off who is buying what product.
By showing clearly on a table who buys what you also get the opportunity to see what they don’t buy. Since you have a relationship with the buyer and you have proven yourself, you can see the opportunities to promote and sell additional products.
“You can see at a glance where the opportunities are for more business. The marketing matrix is excellent.”
The up-selling takes place during regular face-to-face meetings with clients, says Jeff. “We just make sure now that we bring up these sorts of discussions.”
It’s proved to be very successful.
“It’s all about confidence: you see three clients and they all convert so when you see a fourth, there is no way that he or she is not going to convert, because you go in and you feel confident it’s going to happen.
“What is nice working with Jonathan is that he makes me feel more confident, and makes me feel even happier in what we do.”
Marketing has proven so successful that Jeff is about to hire two new members of staff to cope with the new business something that at the beginning of the recession seemed highly unlikely.
“Sometimes you just pinch yourself, and say, ‘Bloody hell, is this actually happening?’ It is really nice; we’re very lucky.”
And he has big plans for the future.
“I want to double our turnover over the next five years – that’s an 18% growth per year. Now you can definitely see I am an accountant, can’t you? With my numbers.”
Part of that expansion will involve developing part of the business that handles tax and accounting for people within the entertainment industry – film producers, musicians, actors, etc. “At the moment, it’s worth about £150,000 a year and I want that to grow to about £500,000.
“I have a 90-day plan to get that sorted out and depending on how it goes after that, I think we could achieve our target within three years.”