I know what you’re thinking: buying a list of potential bookkeeping, CPA, or accounting clients is for scumbags. As a marketing method, it’s dirty and scammy, and anyone who does it deserves to be blacklisted.
See, I used to think that, too. I was as skeptical as the next guy. At best, I figured it was lazy marketing, and at worst, it was the surest way to destroy a a firms reputation. Either way, we were better than that. So for the longest time, I turned up my nose at list-buying.
Many, many clients later, I’ve learned a thing or two about lead generation and how buying a list can be a viable marketing strategy for any firm.
Traditional List Building Isn’t Always Enough
The truth is that most firms really struggle to build contact lists. They don’t generate nearly enough web traffic to do it through their websites, and their current list size is only a few hundred emails at best… And let’s face it everyone is sick and tired of giving out their email addresses.
So while I’m the first to say that an opt-in method is the most ideal approach to building a list of accounting clients, often, it’s just not enough. Not by a long shot.
It took setting aside some pride, but I ultimately decided to give list-buying a real shot with a handful of clients. We were careful and thoughtful with the way we managed the list, making sure to stay mindful of both the email recipient’s time and the client’s brand values.
And I honestly never thought I’d be here, telling you this, but the results have been phenomenal. To the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. Clients are seeing better open rates and click through rates compared to their own opt in list. Unsubscribe rates are below 1%. And these prospects are turning into paying clients. What would of taken 5 to 6 years to do effectively we were able to accomplish in a few weeks.
Think about this: if you could double or triple the number of leads your website is generating, how would that impact your firms bottom line?
While we’re not here to sell list-buying as some magic lead-generating potion, we have found it to be a beneficial way to supplement a standard web marketing strategy.
The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way
Yes, list-buying is a notoriously abused marketing strategy, and we’ve all felt the irritation that comes from being one of its victims.
But the key word there is abused. As in used incorrectly. Which suggests that there is a correct way to use list-buying. In the wrong hands, list-buying is a weapon. In the right hands, it’s a tool. Either way, the outcome is entirely dependent on the user, not the method itself.
List-buying only truly works for CPA firms who are willing to put in the time and effort to do it right. Specifically, that means sending highly relevant, useful emails to a very small target audience. It absolutely does not mean spamming a giant group of poor, faceless schmucks and crossing your fingers.
In other words, you’re not casting a massive net into the dark waters of the sea—you’re taking your fishing pole to a certain lake, with a certain lure, at a certain time of day.
When firms spend the time doing it the right way we’re seeing better open and click thru rates compared to some opt-in lists. And best of all these prospects are converting into paying clients. People who would of never known about their firm previously without an email.
Three Ingredients of a Smart List-Buying Strategy to Find Accounting Clients
Now that we’ve discussed when it’s appropriate to use list-buying, let’s talk about how to actually do it.
There are three components of your approach that need to be absolutely rock solid:
1. Highly Relevant Niche
If you don’t have a super narrow, well-defined target audience, you’re going to struggle with list-buying. You’re not telling people that you’re a full service accounting firm who specializes in a wide variety of services in a diverse set of categories… You’re going to send this list the one thing you do better than any other firm. You do it so much better they can’t help but read your email.
Sadly, most firms fail at this most important step.
Defining your audience as “medium-sized businesses” or we help “small businesses” is not proper targeting. And if you pick a specific audience for an email campaign, but your website and expertise remain broad and generic, you’re still going to struggle.
What you need to do is identify the ONE industry or problem that you can help with better than anyone else, and then build your entire firm around that.
This means your accounting website speaks to that one thing, you have several case studies that reinforce your expertise in that specific area, and you frequently turn down prospects that don’t fit your target.
Once you’ve identified your true specialty, your target audience will become obvious. Emailing this audience isn’t spam because if you believe in what you’re doing, you know that these people can truly benefit from what you’re offering.
The desire to help, rather than to sell, must be the primary driver behind any email campaign. It’s so critical that you get your niche right we’ve written a positioning guide for accounting & CPA firms.
2. Highly Relevant Emails
Once you have your list of highly targeted prospects, you need to craft relevant emails that are short, direct, and—here’s the tough part—perfectly catered to the audience’s needs and goals.
First, of course, you have to get your emails opened. Think of all the sales emails you’ve received and the select few that you’ve actually opened. What made those emails different?
To win an open, sales emails must come with three things:
- A solid subject line (friendly, informative, intriguing)
- A trustworthy-sounding sender (ideally, an actual person’s name, unless the business is well-known)
- A timely reference to a problem the recipient has or fears having (or a way to make life better)
As for the email message itself, it must focus on solving problems for the recipient, rather than selling things. Lead with the problem and then frame your expertise and services as the solution—all in just a handful of sentences.
Remember: the goal of an email is not actually to make a sale. Its only purpose is to lead potential customers to step #2 in the sales process—most likely, that’s your website.
Your email needs to share just enough to get a reader interested, while purposefully leaving some meaningful gaps in information to be filled in by the website. I recommend creating a specific landing page or blog post just for the email campaign that seamlessly continues the conversation initiated in the email. For example, you might direct readers to a case study that outlines exactly how you solved a certain problem for someone else in the past.
- Highly Relevant Website
Your entire website needs to reinforce your specialization and support the claims in your emails. If you claim that you do X better than anyone else in the business, but then your website says you’re a “full-service” company with a “wide” expertise in a variety of industries, that’s a glaring inconsistency that discredits your firm and gets people to unsubscribe from your list.
Having a successful accounting website will have a few of these elements:
- Design the entire site with your defined target audience in mind.
- Write blog posts and other content that speaks to this audience’s specific problems.
- Develop case studies that outline exactly how you’ve solved those problems before.
Once you’ve attracted new visitors to your website through your emails, you can track where they go within your site and use that information to gauge their interest and motivation.
Are You Relevant?
As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a recurring theme here: relevance.
Are you truly tuned in to your target audience’s needs and genuinely trying to help them, or are you going through the motions because some blog post told you to? Are you faking a specialization because you know you’re “supposed to” have one, but the core of your firm doesn’t really uphold it?
It’s not enough to just do the right things—you have to be authentic. You might try to justify your actions to yourself, saying “but we really can help them!” And maybe you can. Regardless of your intentions, if your emails look like spam and smell like spam, well, they’re spam.
The ideas presented here are not a shortcut. If you’re looking for a way to get out of writing content, this isn’t it. If you’re too scared to cut people out of your target audience in order to truly narrow it down, you’re not ready.
But if you’re already running a sound business and digital marketing strategy, and you just need a little boost in the lead generation department, list-buying might be a great fit for you.
Want to chat more about buying a list of clients? Get in touch… We’ll let you know if your firm is ready or if you have more work to do.