Marketing your consulting services–let’s face it the task is much harder than selling the proverbial widgets. Consulting is, at its core, a relationship. Clients need to trust you and have confidence in your abilities. It is essential that you balance a polished and professional image with a true mastery of your area of expertise. Don’t try to take a workshop on a topic on Tuesday and sell yourself as an expert on Wednesday-people will notice.
As a consultant you are the brand. So your marketing strategies are in essence a form of self promotion. Your services and solutions may be fantastic, but if you don’t connect on a human level you will not get the client. What can you do to break into the super competitive field of consulting?
First, have a strategy. Many people become consultants as they leave a corporate role or because they want to share a talent or expertise. Unfortunately being smart or talented is not enough to garner a pipeline of clients and keep your business afloat. You need a plan that focuses on each stage of your client relationship. You should have a mixture of networking, new client meetings, established client follow-up and public relations activities each month.
Use technology wisely. Don’t do your own dental work, cut your own hair or make your own videos… unless you are a technology expert and even then you should think twice about it. Videos are fantastic promotional tools as well as profitable products, but only if they are well done. Avoid making hallway videos; you know those poorly lit bits filmed in the hallway outside your speaking venue. Also skip the brick wall background (you look like you’re in prison) and videos starring your living room furniture. All of these scream amateur.
Define your ideal client. Not everyone needs your services, wants your services or more importantly can afford your services. You must be clear on exactly what kind of solutions you offer and what types of challenges you can help clients handle. Your advertising, public relations and social media efforts need to be written for your ideal clients and not the general public. Concentrate your marketing time and dollars in the proper places. Make sure your pricing strategy and promotion reflects the value you bring and not just the current market rate. Ideal clients want your services and are willing to pay your fees.
Spend some time creating your referral strategy. A word-of-mouth referral from a satisfied client or respected colleague is worth its weight in gold. Referrals don’t just happen. You need to set the stage to make it easy for people to refer business to you. Expect satisfied clients to make referrals and then ask them to do so. Build good relationships with other consultants both within and outside your area of expertise. Let them know you appreciate referrals of your ideal client-and that you will happily send business their way when you can. Offer heartfelt thanks and tangible rewards for referrals. Depending upon the source these rewards can range from small gifts like flowers to cash in an affiliate type of arrangement. Don’t assume everyone wants a “coupon for consulting”.
Be selective when spending your time. It is essential that you get known in your industry, but you cannot possibly attend every event, give every talk or teach every class. This is why the first steps that involve defining your ideal clients and creating an overall marketing strategy are essential. Your mental picture of what you want your consulting practice to look like will help you to evaluate the appropriateness and usefulness of events and opportunities as they cross your desk.