Promoting, marketing, and selling your consulting services takes more than networking and referrals. To do it right, you need to do the right type of marketing and promotion at the right stage in building your consulting business.
In 30+ years of solo-consulting to regional, Fortune 1000 and Global 1000 companies, I have seen expert consultants lose traction and fail to build their business because they did not match their marketing and networking to the maturity of their consulting business.
Most consultants start their business with a few clients in their pocket, lots of energy and lots of excitement. The future looks great.
After a year or two the initial referrals dry up. The leads from former employers, business acquaintances and friends disappear. The once exciting consulting business becomes trapped in the dreaded “Feast or Famine” cycle.
Don't Get Trapped in the Feast-or-Famine Cycle
The Feast or Famine cycle traps many consultants. In the beginning they focus on client work and have no time for marketing. Their prospect pipeline goes empty. When the client work ends they need to find a client as quickly as possible, so they work full time on marketing with no income coming in. Once they have another client they stop marketing and devote all their time to client work and stop marketing. And the feast-or-famine cycle starts all over.
Three things trap consultants in the Feast-or-Famine cycle,
- Taking it easy in the beginning because they have referrals
- Failing to build a system that continuously fills their prospect pipeline
- Using the wrong marketing and networking for the current stage of their business
You Must Take Control of Your Prospect Pipeline
As a consultant you must take control of filling your pipeline! You have no control if you leave your pipeline to the whims of referrals. At the same time, solo- or boutique consultants are limited in time and resources so they have to carefully focus on marketing and networking that makes an impact.
Breaking free from the feast-or-famine cycle takes maximum leverage using the right marketing through the right channel at the right time. To do this you need three guiding principles,
- Match your preferred communication style to the prospect’s preferred channels
- Produce campaigns and content that can be magnified and leveraged into other campaigns and content
- Match your marketing to your consulting business maturity. Each stage of maturity has different needs, limits and abilities: budgeting, branding, experience and scope.
Marketing Needs and Systems Change as You Grow
When you start consulting you may need revenue as quickly as possible, but you have limited budget, invisible branding and few testimonials. For most consultants at this stage the best route is one that brings in quick cash and client testimonials. Some consultants at this stage gather leads by speaking at local industry meetings, doing pro-bono or low-fee projects to gain experience and testimonials, and building near-term outbound marketing systems to fill the pipeline.
New consultants who work on long term marketing, such as blogs or high-level referrals, may go broke.
Consultants with more business maturity and cash flow should work on long term marketing: automating marketing, building inbound systems, and automatically qualifying and filling their pipeline.
Find the Best Marketing and Promotions for Your Consulting Business
This figure shows three stages of consulting business maturity and different channels and media for promoting and marketing your consulting services. (Time frames are approximate.)
No solo- or boutique consultant should attempt to do every type of marketing even if it is at the appropriate stage. That lack of focus is a sure recipe for failure.
New consultants should start in the left stage, choose their best best communication style (writing, speaking, networking) and then choose two or three channels and media to leverage.
Once you produce a core marketing asset, like a whitepaper or speech, you should leveraged it for use in other channels and media. For example, a thought leadership whitepaper can be given personally to prospects as a glossy handout, used as a website opt-in offer, handed out at speaking events and published as a LinkedIn article. If you are better at speaking you might choose to combine speaking, networking, and coaching.
By choosing a portfolio of assets that match your style and your client's preferred channels you can leverage your work - getting more out of your limited time and resources and growing past the Feast or Famine cycle.
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