The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Building Your Consulting Business
Strategies, Tactics, and Tools to
Help You Build a Thriving Consulting Business
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To turn consulting prospects into clients you must give prospects two things. The first is a vivid image of life after you have solved their problem. The second is confidence that you can solve their problem. Talking about tools and methods won’t win clients.
You must build a vision of future success.
Great Consultants Give Their Clients an
Image of a Better Life and
Show Them How to Get There
When you promote and market your consulting services, you need a personal and professional brand that quickly gives prospects the confidence you can solve their problems. Your marketing must build trust in you and your authority.
Knowing how to promote and market your consulting services is just as critical to consulting success as your domain knowledge and experience.
First, your marketing must create an impression that shows the strength, authority, and experience you have in solving your client’s problem.
Second, you need to give prospects and clients a vision of their future after working with you. You need to give them them the confidence that you can help solve their problems.
Third, your marketing must create a memorable impression, so you are at the top of mind when they have a problem of the type you solve.
You don’t have to be a mega corporation with billions of dollars in brand promotion to market and sell your services. There are proven systems to promote your consulting services, and you can learn and use them.
You will need proven marketing and networking steps like,
- a networking introduction that generates referrals
- referral scripts that help your network reach out on your behalf
- a premium LinkedIn profile that works for consultants
- a proven consulting website designs that proves authority
- testimonials and case studies that reinforce your authority and trustworthiness
Your Purpose and Message
One of the most important things you can do for yourself, your business, and your clients is to have a clear mission and purpose.
When you’re finished and have a short statement of mission and purpose, I want you to print it and tape it to your mirror, then read it each morning and remember where you are going.
Writing a mission and purpose statement should not take a weekend retreat to accomplish. (Unless you want to.)
The Balance Small Business website has a quick guide that can help you create a mission and purpose statement. Your mission and purpose statement should,
- Describe what you do
- Describe how you do it
- Describe why you do it
- Be short and inspirational
- Try writing a few words for each of the bullets then combine them into one short but inspirational sentence.
Some examples that tell who, how, and why are,
To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.
Critical to Success
Helping consultants and independent professionals build a thriving business in the new economy.
Capture Referrals with a One-Line Introduction
Your introduction is extremely important. In that introduction, you can include a one-line statement of your mission or purpose that sets up the conversation.
Done right, you can set up the conversation to instantly capture referrals. Sounds great, but how!
A short one-line statement may be all it takes to create a memorable image of what you do and whom you work with. When a potential prospect asks what you do you can respond with,
“Have you ever known someone who had a problem with …?”
“Have you ever worked in a company where you felt every division and department was going its own direction, there was no alignment or strategy, and lots of time and money were wasted?”
After they answer with how they’ve seen that affect someone, you respond with,
“That’s just what I fix!”
“Can you tell me more about what happened to you/your friend?”
Concise statements of what you solve and the value you bring are excellent for helping you refine your brand and focusing on your client and niche problems.
It’s also a great way to open a conversation into helping someone and getting an introduction for a referral.
Creating Your Consulting Business Name
If you have a mission and purpose statement you like and you’ve stopped working on your logo, then you’re probably ready to create your business name and get those all-important business cards.
Names for consulting businesses can be straightforward. Most small firms use the founder’s name and add the mission statement as a sub-line to clarify what your business does. You might also add one or two words after your name as a descriptor. For example,
Davis Strategic Performance
One advantage of adding one or two words after your name is that you are more likely to get the domain name you want for your website and email.
A few corporations and firms you might recognize who are named after the founders are,
A. G. Edwards
Now, you can use the time you saved by not searching for a name and spend it building your prospect list.
Creating a Logo - Don't!
In a word, “Don't!”
Don’t waste any more time working on a logo. Take all the scraps of designs out of your pocket and stuff them in an envelope.
You don’t need a logo for a solo or boutique consulting business. Instead, use a logotype.
A logotype is a single piece of type that works like a logo. Some of the following companies added logos to their logotype, but only after they achieved billion dollar status. You might recognize a few of these companies,
If they can use a logotype, you can too. Now, use the time you’re saving by not drawing logos and go build your business. And when you reach a billion-dollar valuation, hire an artist to design a logo.
One thing I recommend in the Starting and Building a Thriving Consulting Business course is identifying a coordinated color palette and font set. In the course we give you a resource list with recommended color palettes and fonts.
Consulting Business Cards
Even in this totally wired world you still need business cards. You will need them in any networking situation.
Your business card should include,
- Company Name
- Your Name
- Short slogan or purpose statement
- Email address
Leave white space on the business card. It drives me crazy to get a business card that’s covered on both sides with a glossy picture or dark background. That leaves no place to write notes about the person you have met.
Quick print business cards with same day turn around often use 100 lb. stock paper. This is “good enough” if you need cards quickly, but it is a little light weight and flimsy. If you have a week to wait for the heavier stock that print shops use, go with at least, the next heavier paper.
Don’t use odd shaped cards. They don’t fit in wallets and they’re awkward to carry or collect. If you want to be memorable, do it with your sparkling personality.
When you accept a card, hold it, and read it. Then put it in your breast pocket. I’ve seen people take a card and not even look at it before stuffing it in their pocket. It leaves the person you’ve just meet with the feeling you have no interest.
As soon as you return to your office send the person whose card you accepted an email acknowledging your meeting.
Always send a LinkedIn connection request if the person is in any way connected to your industry or niche.
There are good companies that have pre-designed card templates online. Some printers, such as Federal Express, have an online template you complete, then you pick up the cards in a few hours or the next day. (Fast turn-around cards often use the lighter stock paper.) Some online printers give you online templates and then ship your cards in approximately a week.
Check for business cards created online for US delivery at,
CostCo Business Printing
Adding an Email Signature Block
Every time you send an email someone will see your signature block. Use it effectively to brand yourself. You should include,
- Business Name
- Mission or Purpose Statement
- Direct Phone Number
- Email Address
- Website URL
Some additional items you should seriously consider are,
- LinkedIn Profile Address
- YouTube Clip
Shelley Golden, a personal branding image consultant in Northern California, has a well-done signature block that shows multiple ways to contact her. The YouTube video gives you an impression of what it’s like working with her.
Building a Consulting Cornerstone that Focuses Your Services and Marketing
Your consulting business and your marketing needs a cornerstone to stay focused and aligned.
The cornerstone is the first stone set in the
construction of a masonry foundation.
All other stones will be set in reference to this stone,
thus determining the position of the entire structure.
With all the “Shiny New Things” and the occasional off-track consulting opportunity, it can be difficult to stay aligned with your niche and mission. Having a cornerstone can keep you aligned, and your minimal time and resources focused.
If your consulting business was a non-fiction book the cornerstone would be a Table of Contents with each chapter title having a short descriptive excerpt. If your consulting business was a skyscraper the cornerstone would be the open iron framework and floors before putting up walls and offices.
Your initial cornerstone should be an enhanced outline
that keeps you aligned and on track.
While you are in start-up mode your cornerstone can be just a good outline with a paragraph description of each of your consulting services. That’s all you need to keep your business on track. It is NOT a business plan.
Later your cornerstone will become a robust description of your consulting services. Eventually your cornerstone will become a framework and draft you can build into,
- Case Studies
- Website Content Structure
- Website Search Engine Optimization
- Blog Topics and Categories
- LinkedIn Articles
- Kindle Book
- Print-on-Demand Book
Your Cornerstone is Your Foundation
Your initial cornerstone is the foundation point for your consulting offering and marketing. It also helps you leverage your workflow so content created for one point of the cornerstone can be delivered through multiple channels. (Think "Multiple Streams of Income.")
Keep your first cornerstone light and in outline form. Only after you have validated your niche will you want to write more and add depth.
Some websites have more than one cornerstone. For example, if you have two core consulting offerings, strategy and monitoring strategic performance, then you may have a cornerstone on strategy and another cornerstone on tracking strategic performance metrics.
Do not expect to write a robust cornerstone all at once. Write your cornerstone as pages, like the Home or About page. You might start with 1,000 words, about three print pages. A complete cornerstone on some websites can be 10,000 words or more. That is a good start towards a book. For example, if your cornerstone is strategy for small manufacturing business, you might start with just two pages of how important strategy is for maintaining focus. You can later expand it into supporting topics like, using Porter's Five Forces to analyze competitors, SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), and more.
A robust cornerstone,
- Shows the depth of your knowledge and authority
- Educates your client
- Ranks you higher in Google
- Crushes your competitors
Your cornerstone should not include methods or how-to. That is for you to deliver when the reader becomes a client.
Your blogs must support your cornerstone. All your blogs should link to key sections within the cornerstone. For example, you might write a blog about guiding executives through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. A blog on that topic would link up to the strategy cornerstone to its section on preparing to build a corporate strategy.
The links from blogs to cornerstone show Google that the most important topic on your website is the cornerstone topic - all the blogs link up to it.
Your initial cornerstone will evolve as you work with clients, competitors and the marketplace. Just work with it, modify it when you see your business has to change, and in a year you will have a book, content for a course, and multiple speeches. Let it evolve as you learn about your niche, your clients, and their needs. Google like updates.
“No plan survives first contact with the enemy”
- frequent paraphrase from Helmuth van Moltke,
Chief of Staff, Prussian Army, 1888
Your Cornerstone Boosts Google Search Ranking
Your cornerstone is the architecture for describing your consulting services and the backbone of your website content.
It is critical that when you write your cornerstone you use the keyword phrases your customers are searching for with Google.
The cornerstone structure, blogs linking to the cornerstone topics, and appropriate keywords phrases will make it easy for clients to understand your services and give you a higher ranking in Google.
By continuously adding pages and linking blogs to your cornerstone
it will become the center focus of your website and
make it easy for your readers and Google
to know exactly what you do.
The course includes modules that show you how to find the correct keyword phrases that your clients are searching for.
You don't want to use keywords phrases that are "owned" by the "Big Guys" who you can't compete with. There is an art and science to picking the right topics and keywords to rank in Google.
Creating a Client Attracting LinkedIn Profile
As a consultant you must have an excellent LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile is often the first-place business people check to see who you are.
Most LinkedIn profiles do a poor job of presenting a consultant’s capability. They could just as well be a copy-and-paste from a resume or C.V. They tell what you have done rather than what you can do for your clients.
More than 70% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for their purchase decisions. That is either powerfully for you or against you depending on your LinkedIn profile.
In the following example I have written the LinkedIn profile so it is all about,
- Who clients are
- How I help clients
If the reader is a prospective client, when they read your LinkedIn profile you want them to feel like they have just found someone who can help them.
Your LinkedIn profile should have a photo with a professional image and a professional or experience-related background. Write and format your experience section with bullets and concise text that addresses your prospect’s biggest questions,
- Can you solve my problems?
- What experience do you have with this problem?
- Can we build a relationship with trust?
In the Starting a Consulting Business course you can follow along with videos that guide you through each technical step of inserting your photos, cropping and adding backgrounds from thousands of free images, and writing a professional, easy-to-read profile including bullets and indents.
Later you need to learn how you to use your LinkedIn profile as a publishing platform to increase your brand's reach and gravitas. A well-designed LinkedIn profile strengthens your brand, proves your authority, and qualifies leads.
Building the Best Consulting Website
Consultants must have a website. Your website is as critical as your LinkedIn profile. Not only should it illustrate your capabilities with examples, it should also give testimonials that build trust and rapport.
Almost every prospect will check your website and
LinkedIn profile before becoming a client. It has to be good.
Websites can also be a powerful vehicle for capturing and engaging new leads and prospects. Your website with an irresistible opt-in offer is critical to automating your lead generation system.
Independent consultants usually use one of two types of consulting website designs. One is a personality-based website. The other is a business-based website.
A personality-based website can be very simple and highly effective, even if you aren’t a "name" consultant like Marshall Goldsmith, Simon Sinek, Marie Forleo, or Seth Godin. Personality-based websites are used by many online entrepreneurs where, as the personality-name implies, everything is presented under the brand of their personality.
A business-based consulting website presents a stronger professional image based on your niche and services. Use a business-based website if your market is larger businesses or organizations and if you want to demonstrate multiple consulting specialties, such as, corporate strategy, talent search, or operational performance.
There is a specific structure and set of menus that work best for consulting websites. Whether you are building your website yourself or through an agency, you should follow the proven structure.
Unless you are a recognized author or speaker you will probably find it difficult to rank highly in Google search in the beginning. Most of your visitors initially will come from personal connection or LinkedIn outreach. Even so, it is still important to build a website that highlights your consulting services, shows your authority and builds trust. At the same time, it is critical that you use certain technical features and layouts so that you rank in Google search.
The cornerstone you wrote earlier, and its use of keywords and content, are important to your website. Later, when you begin automating your marketing, you can expand on the cornerstone and turn it into an engine for creating multiple streams of income.
In the course we go over multiple consulting website designs. Here is a simple website layout combining elements for personal and professional branding,
Who my clients are
What I do for my clients
Call to Action
Cornerstone – “Ultimate Guide to …”
Simplified cornerstone outlining your services
White papers on important topics to build authority with opt-ins
Case studies to build trust with opt-ins to collect contact info and segment users
Topical articles that link to and reinforce the cornerstone
Who I Am
Your credentials, education, and published works
Multiple ways to connect
Consulting White Papers and Case Studies
High-value white papers and case studies are part of the proof that you are an authority. Each major service described in your cornerstone could be a white paper. For each white paper you should have one to three case studies describing how you have solved the white paper’s problems for a specific industry or situation.
White papers are different from marketing materials. White papers show serious content with research, data, and sources. It doesn't have to be your work, but it needs to show what you believe and how you work.
They prove your authority. You don’t want it filled with marketing fluff, promises, or extra words. Your white papers don't need to be long. Make them concise and include quotes, proof, and citations. You want the reader to know you are experienced and an expert in the topic.
While this makes it sound like white papers should be stuffy and academic, don’t make them that way! You want your prospect to read it.
Don’t make them long. White papers should be only five to twelve pages. Use a great layout with a lot of white space. Include charts, graphs, and pictures that make your point about solving a specific pain point.
For money well spent, hire an editor to give your white papers and case studies a professional polish. Programs like Canva are an inexpensive way to use template-driven designs and then publish them as a PDF.
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