Consultant Marketing, Get Off the Rollercoaster
Click, click, click.
Twists, turns and bumps.
And then it begins again.
The consultant marketing cycle is often like a ride on a rollercoaster.
Market, market, market.
Do the work, Do the work, Do the work.
The sustainability secret
People that have never done the work tell you the solution is content.
There is a secret or two to building a sustained consulting business. Content is only a small piece of it. After you are established, running around looking for new prospects and spending hours on social media are not the best use of your time.
Where content really applies.
You must be visible to the folks that can hire you. You need to reveal your expertise in ways and places it might be seen. In that way you may extend awareness of your services to a broader audience. BUT, the more important reason for content is to maintain your perceived expertise in the minds of those in your client and referral base.
For that reason, the primary audience you consider for any content is those who already know, like and trust you. If you have an article published nationally, send them a copy. Get interviewed on a big-time pod cast? Send them a link. Get asked to speak at an industry conference? Let them know you will be there. And, if they come, spend some time with them over coffee or a meal whether they are active currently or not.
Blogs, newsletters and white papers
I recommend that my clients have all three. The reasons vary but generating content to find new subscribers and/or staying current are not among them. Here’s why:
A blog forces you to think about your process, your solutions and how they are working as the industry changes. It does so on a regular basis. I recommend weekly because it requires setting aside the time each week to think about what you’re going to say and to write it up. Publishing on that schedule helps keep your web site up to date both in terms of the information you provide and search engine optimization. My clients tend to search out information and statistics a little more frequently because of this regular schedule.
A newsletter is a way to increase your touches of clients, prospects and referrers by one more time each month. It is expected to be more than just a reprint of some of your blogs. I recommend if you deliver using e-mail including a video or two. They can be testimonials, or interviews, or short videos on your area of expertise. This is where you should also give your opinions on industry or general business changes that impact your clients. If there are government regulations about to kick in, comment on them. If a major player is making aggressive changes, talk about how to react.
Look hard at how you deliver a newsletter. The best choice is dependent on the client. One of my clients sends his out in regular mail. It is folded like a letter and comes in a standard business envelope. We know it gets read by the questions it generates in the week after it is sent. A former client has moved to sending a 4-page full color newsletter in a special plastic envelope so that it doesn’t have to be folded. Over 80% of the recipients respond to the game/ riddle/ challenge included in each issue.
Whitepapers don’t work for everybody. If you do primary research a report in this format can be very powerful. If your process lends itself, with examples, to extended length explication then it is a powerful device. In simple terms, any whitepaper should be less of and opinion piece and more of a fact-based explication. I personally prefer using a whitepaper for long form blogs because it allows you to explain or discuss something at length and also have it on hand in a publication form to use as a response to a request for more information in your area of expertise.
Every business starts on networking.
Every business. The consulting business, regardless of your specialty, tends to be developed and maintained to some degree by the ability of the founder or one of the founders to go out into the world, build relationships and bring business to the firm. Often, those relationships begin at the last corporate employer. When counseling start-ups I strongly encourage them to go back to their old employer to pick up some of what they were doing previously on a consulting basis.
Those relationships, new or old, tend to be relational rather than transactional. The best networkers always pay it forward. Their vast knowledge of resource is put at the discretion of their contacts. They become the go-to guy or gal for business connections and because of that are the most referred in their industry.
16 years in a row, referrals have been the largest segment of marketing for successful consultants.
I’ll be sending out the 17th annual Consultant Marketing Survey in the next few weeks. I expect the number one source of new business for successful firms to continue to be referrals once again. Here are the top five reasons Business to Business customers buy as things stacked up in the last survey:
- 50% Referral/Word of Mouth
- 15% Prior Experience
- 13% Inbound marketing Web searches, blogs email marketing*
- 12% Direct Contacts
- 10% Networking
* Significant increases in the last three years.
Those are averages. The situation varies most significantly by length of time the company, product or service is available in the marketplace. For instance, networking and direct sales each generated 30% of sales for start ups but declined over time as Referrals became dominant.
Speaking as a new business approach to be evaluated.
This year we will evaluate speaking as an approach based on trends we have been watching for the last two years. One of our clients used speaking to build his software business to the point where an industry hardware company paid him north of $7 Million even though he had fewer than 1000 subscribers.
And so it goes.
Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.
His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing strategies that build businesses, brands and lives of joy.