There’s a good chance you are wasting time looking for new clients!
Referrals are great when you start your consulting business but they quickly dry up and throw you onto the feast-or-famine roller coaster.
Two consultants asked me recently, “Where should I focus to get clients? Should I keep connecting and looking for referrals or start social media marketing or …?”
It is not an either/ or question. To keep your client pipeline full you need referrals, social media, a mailing list, and more. But the important thing is you need them in a specific order, so they reinforce each other, grow, and return more income and independence.
What you need for a smooth-running high-performance consulting business is a simple and easy-to-manage Marketing Machine that uses the marketing that is best at each stage of your growth.
Getting Clients for Early-Stage Consultants
Referrals are valuable at any time, but especially in early-stage consulting. Personal endorsements from former employers or an employer’s clients gives you instant credibility and connection.
The problem is that referrals are like rocket boosters. They give you a quick boost and then burn out. If you don’t have additional marketing power, you will start failing and falling.
This is what throws inexperienced consultants onto the feast-or-famine roller coaster. After the referrals drop off, they are forced to continually switch between part-time marketer and part-time consultant.
Getting consulting clients in the early stage is almost all personal,
- Personal referrals you can leverage and that create case studies
- Speeches and webinars followed by personal connections
(I can remember years of driving to Silicon Valley to deliver one or two speeches a week and eat the proverbial “rubber chicken” dinner at association meetings and speeches. While it’s great to meet-and-greet, it gets old quickly.)
Personal referrals are still critical during start-up. They give you clients, personal testimonials, case studies, proof of results with ROIs and stats, and more.
The problem is that referrals usually dry up within a year. You are forced to stop consulting (stop feasting) and start marketing (start famine).
In our course we show consultants how to use a three-stage plan to keep referrals going: initial referrals, direct outreach, and referral renewal. You need to boost referrals before they dry up. Referral and direct-outreach activity normally looks like this over the first year.
Keeping that cycle going is the ticket to feast-or-famine and your kids asking why you are never home.
As an early-stage consultant you must lay the groundwork, with a mentor it’s straightforward, to building a Marketing Machine that brings in prospects as the referrals fade.
Getting Clients for Mid-Stage Consultants
A better solution for your client pipeline is to start developing a marketing machine in the early stage and grow the machine as you grow.
Early- to Mid-Stage Marketing
Start your marketing machine by leveraging your personal contacts and referrals to build your email and social lists. These won’t produce clients immediately, but they are critical to success as you move into mid-stage.
Capture emails and social media connections from,
- Speeches – niche associations
- Webinars – niche associations and partners
- Build your social media and email list for mid-stage clients,
- Social media – focused direct outreach, email list building
- Email lists – newsletter, blog, and your event promotions (value, value, value)
Once you have a niche-focused social and email list you do direct outreach.
In the mid-stage your prospect and client list will grow faster as you have more channels feeding it.
Begin speaking and doing free workshops for your niche associations as soon as you can. Speeches and workshops are one of the quickest ways to connect, prove your authority and build your brand. And when done right, they build your list and bring in prospects.
You need a few things to make speaking work,
- A high-value topic that fits the audiences’ Purpose, Pain, or Profit
- A lead magnet your audience contacts you for
- Testimonials and proof of your experience from past work
- A spot on your niche association’s speaking calendar
- Speaking skills
It is critical to success that you speak on a high value topic, niche pains, problems, purpose, and profit.
If you do a workshop for an association conference, make sure participants leave with something high value and action oriented. Use a workbook and take aways so they can contact you. If you spend a couple of hours and build rapport, then it’s a good idea to offer a Discovery/Strategy Session.
It’s no good to have a great presentation, get plaudits, but walk away without a handful of new leads. You must have a lead magnet that the audience is hungry for.
Test the value of your topic before you approach an association as a speaker. Show them you know what their audience values. Do this by checking forums, best-selling book topics, highly ranked blog topics, etc.
Offers of Free Discovery Sessions are not a good way to build your lists.
If you need to improve your speaking skills, check Toastmasters.org for local chapters and TED.org for videos and pointers.
Webinars rank up there with speaking to build your social and mailing list. In fact, webinars allow you to reach globally. Once you begin to build brand authority you can deliver niche association webinars worldwide.
Associations rarely share their audience list with speakers, but a high-value lead generation offer will get you lots of contact requests.
Once you have a few hundred ideal prospects on your email list you can begin doing your own free niche webinars and roundtables to build your list even faster.
Social media works three ways,
- Highly targeted outreach –connecting with ideal clients. One of our techniques I teach has an almost 100% connection rate and client close rate greater than 60%.
- Traffic magnets – pulling prospects from social to your website, an SEO adjunct
- Brand building – building awareness and perceived authority
LinkedIn and LinkedIn Navigator are incredible tools for highly targeted direct outreach to highly qualified prospects.
Done correctly, highly targeted direct outreach has a high connection, engagement, and close rate. Done wrong you become a spammer.
With the right guides you can find the exact people who want you in an organization and focus on their pain, problem, purpose, or profit needs.
Do it right and it’s highly effective. You are like a sports trainer for athletes or doctor for the the wounded.
Email List Building
Your email list might be your most valuable business asset after your expertise and brand authority. You must consistently use your email list to keep your name and consulting services in front of your prospects with newsletters, blogs, events, …
Building your email list can take a year or two. You are building a long term asset.
Do not worry when you hear that some “gurus” have hundreds of thousands of “contacts” on their lists. All you need is a few hundred “ideal prospects” on your list.
onsistency in delivering value to your mailing list is key. Stay top of mind so that when they have the project, budget, and time they will call you.
To start building your mailing list you need an autoresponder. They will capture email addresses and send a prospect a “lead generation” offer and follow up with a welcoming sequence of newsletters to build trust and prove your authority. Most website builders include an autoresponder.
In mid-stage you will need to upgrade to a marketing automation system that has more capabilities.
Getting Clients for Growth-Stage Consultants
Growth-stage consultants have a stable consulting business. Their processes are in place, and they have a working, semi-automated marketing machine. But they want more independence, more income, or both.
They want to scale and grow while still being an independent consultant.
At this stage independent consultants seem to take one of two directions,
- Stay mid-stage and continue doing personal consulting with a mid-level marketing machine while fine-tuning their business. This is the “This is Good Enough” strategy.
- Pivot and work a little harder to build additional systems for greater income and independence.
If you use the Cornerstone to Capstone System ™ we teach in our course it’s straightforward to move from solo-consulting to multiple streams of income.
What you will need is a good strategy and a robust marketing machine.
Productized Consulting Strategies
High-performance independents can grow their mid-stage business into multiple income stream businesses through,
- Agile Agency Model (teams of independent consultants)
- Tiered Consulting Offers
- Books and Kindles
- Podcast Sponsorships
- Paid Speaking
- High-Level Coaching
- Online Courses
- Hybrid Courses
- Remote Consulting
- Certifying Consultants in a Niche
- Licensing Information Products and Courses
As an independent consultant I have used a combination of productized consulting services to earn one million USD dollars for multiple years. And that was without online courses.
The marketing mix you use in the growth-stage depends upon how you productize your consulting.
Growth-stage Marketing Machines have multiple parts that,
- Publish social media to build the brand
- Segment prospects and clients by need and profile
- Grow and manage a robust email list
- Nurture prospects, partners, and affiliates until they need you
- Market and sell productized consulting services
Automating Social Media
Another way to leverage your marketing at this stage is to block-schedule one or two days a month to create and schedule an entire month of social media broadcasting. These are some of the tools to do that,
- Adobe Express (Spark)
Automating Email Marketing
As you build a larger list and prepare for growth-stage consulting you will need a marketing automation system that includes,
- Tracking prospects with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database
- Segmenting prospects with tags (contact attribute)
- Managing multiple email sequences
- Controlling email sequences by time and the prospect’s tag
I’ve used several marketing automation systems. The two I recommend for both capability and ease-of-use are,
- Active Campaign
- Kajabi (part of their all-in-one functionality).
The best growth accelerators you can have in the growth stage are competent assistants. Early in your growth stage they can help you with editing, publishing content, managing social and marketing automation, and accounting.
To find assistants,
- Virtual Assistants manage your social media and email list. Most site builder and marketing automation software vendors maintain a list of VAs who they have certified.
- Certified/Chartered Accountants and bookkeepers to manage your bookkeeping, VAT, and taxes. Accounting software vendors, such as QuickBooks, will certify CPAs and bookkeepers on their software.
- Freelancers can edit your web and marketing copy and create graphics. Check for professionals on Upwork. (Never edit your own work. I’ve been very satisfied with US and international pros on Upwork.)
Work On Your Business and Grow
The phrase has been around a long time, but it is true.
Stop Working in Your Business and Work on Your Business
I have seen many independent consultants stuck on the feast-or-famine roller coaster. They work hard but they stay on the rollercoaster.
Every day they sacrifice potential income, independence, and time with family.
Get off the roller coaster and get the income and independence you dreamed of.
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