The Best Techniques to Grow Your Consulting Business
New consulting businesses pop up every day, everywhere. Yet, few are successful and grow significantly.
Why is that?
You can be the best in your field, but if you don’t know how to market your consulting services, nobody will notice you. It all comes back to how you get clients.
But HOW do you get new clients?
We’ll dig into several strategies to do just that, but first let’s get a few basics covered before.
- Value first: Your aim should be to genuinely bring value to your customers. Their business should be better off after you’ve been there. If you find a customer for which you feel you won’t be able to do that, don’t take the job. If you just deliver points on a contract as agreed, you’ll most likely miss a lot of value generation.
- Differentiation: Just like with products, make sure people understand why you are different. If you get lost in the masses, it’ll be way more difficult. Not impossible, but more difficult.
These are the basics of any marketing strategy, both for consulting services and any type of business, it’s important to always keep them in mind.
Now that we are done with the basics, let’s get into the acquisition of new customers.
The Lead Magnet Funnel to Convert from Lead to Client
The first strategy we’ll discuss is best suited to acquisition channels where the user has not discovered your brand.
The concept is simple: you bring customers into your conversion funnel through offering something valuable for free, and bring them step by step to the realisation that they need your services.
Find something that is of value to your target customers. It could be a white paper about some problems their industry is facing, a webinar teaching them some skills within the portfolio of what you offer, or some free samples…Then find a place to advertise it.
A simple place to use is Facebook. You can create an ad specifically about your lead magnet. If you want to know more about how to setup ads in Facebook, have a look at this great guide from AdEspresso) and then…
Consider another place – your blog. Most blogs get a significant portion of their traffic through SEO (aka, through Google Search). Organic visitors usually land on your blog, eventually read your article and often don’t notice your brand. That’s where the lead magnet funnel comes into play. Promote it on your blog pages (you can display it through a modal window, through inserts within your posts, etc.). You might only convince 10% of your visitors to sign up, but that’s already 10% more than nobody!
You can also advertise through banner networks (eg. Google Display Network) or through other social networks ads (e.g. Twitter).
Get People to a Landing Page
That landing page should allow people to sign up with their email and some simple information including their company name, company size, and industry to receive your free service. We’ll come back to why company information is important, but for now let’s look at emails. Emails are often underrated, but they’re still one of the best ways to warm up a lead and create engagement. But sending an email isn’t the end… you then need to…
Provide Even More Value Through a Welcome Series
The days following the initial sign up, send several emails bringing even more value to your customers. Keep it related to what you initially provided. This will build your reputation with your customers, they’ll see your brand as a specialist in your field. That’s when you…
Convert The Lead
This is the trickiest part of all. Try to highlight a need that your customers have that goes beyond the free service. Show your leads that it would be much faster if they work with you or let them know you are here to help with the implementation of the tips you provided. Several customers will convert at this point and try to get in touch with you. As for the others, you can go one step further.
Pick Up The Phone
Offer them a customised service for free (or for a small price) and encourage them to get on the phone. Offer them a free report of the business (for example, give them a sample of a report you’d provide as a consultant) and spend 30 minutes with them. Some businesses try this at the very beginning of the process, but I have observed that spending 30+ minutes or even hours of preparation on every lead can be a waste of time and money. It’s better to attract leads through a cheap magnet (cheap meaning that giving away 10 or 100 doesn’t affect your costs) and then spend quality time on your qualified leads. People who have read a couple of your emails are more qualified than people just landing from Facebook. Also, remember we asked for company information earlier in the process? That’s when it gets useful. You can focus your efforts on the companies with the best potential. Your targeting may not always be perfect and you’ll find all types of leads coming in, so, chose the exact company size that interests you most, the industry you are trying to tackle first, to make sure you spend your time on leads most likely to convert.
The Last Mile
Once you have a customer interested in your services on the phone for 30 minutes, it’s up to you to show why they should hire you, but you’ll have done most of the hard work by this point!
The Guru Model Helps You Create New Leads
Position yourself as an expert in your field and get to know potential customers from a position of strength.
Speak At Events
Find events where your target customers are around and get invited to speak about your area of expertise.. No need to make heavy sales, simply bring value through your speech and you’ll be considered an expert in your field.
Teach, Coach and Advise
This is similar to speaking at events. When you’re teaching something, you are instantly regarded as an expert. You can teach in company incubators (organizations geared toward speeding up the growth and success of startup and early stage companies), at companies that specialise in corporate education, or you can teach at the university or on Udemy.
Content and More Content
Have a blog and post there regularly, or start a YouTube channel and make videos, or do both… again and again. Make sure that when your potential customers search for information around the services you offer, you appear regularly. Over time, they will start recognising your brand and see you as an expert. It also creates opportunities for people to ask you questions as a coach, a speaker or an advisor.
Be Present on Quora, Reddit and Facebook Groups
Q&A platforms are one of the places people go when they have questions (isn’t that a wonderful insight?). The point is that if you can show on these platforms that you know your stuff, you’ll likely be contacted frequently for more advice and eventually turn these advice seekers into customers. It’s the same principle; people want to hire the best and if you are present where the conversation is taking place, you’ll be best positioned to contact them.
Get published in a niche magazine: Similar to the above strategies, getting published will help you get noticed and gain instant credibility. It’s less likely that you’ll be contacted than when you have a direct contact with people, like in conferences or when teaching, but it may open other doors (including more conferences and teaching opportunities).
Content partnerships: Try to find what your target market is reading and get published there. Show them that you’re an expert who can greatly help them in their business.
The Frozen Strategy to Scale Your Business
Sorry for the bad play on words, but this strategy is all about cold emails, cold calls and cold messaging.
Cold contact methods still work. That’s the main reason why you still get cold emails, cold calls and cold messages. But you need to do it the right way.
Send Cold Outreach Emails
Send the email to the right person, not to contacts, the press and email@example.com addresses. You can find the right contact person through Linkedin and then often guess his email. Firstname.Lastname@company.com is used often. You can also use tools like Hunter to find somebody’s email or a company’s email format.
Catch the user’s attention in the subject line, be short and to the point and try to customise your email in a way that doesn’t look look like mass mailing. And then do mass mailing…
Yes… send mass mailing that doesn’t look like mass mailing.
Conversion rates (aka, people answering you) of cold emails are very low. If you don’t customise the email, they are almost non-existent. But as conversion rates are very low, you need to send many emails to get enough leads.
But it doesn’t end there. Send another email and another. A typical series includes 3 emails. After the third email, people start thinking they actually know you… after that, you could call it spam, but if you really offer something of value, 3 emails is generally acceptable.
You can use tools like Hubspot to automate the customisation part of it (e.g. Hi John I liked your article about bird watching) as well as the multiple reminders (creating rules like: send email B to everybody who doesn’t answer within 3 days).
Similar to Email But With Key Differences: Messaging
It’s actually very similar to sending cold emails, but through messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger or Linkedin Messaging. Both have key differences:
Facebook Messenger:The people you reach often want to keep their badges of “answering 100% of requests” or “answering within a few hours”. This helps you get a higher answer rate. The disadvantage is that often you will not speak directly with the right person.
Linkedin Messaging: This gives you direct virtual access to anybody on the platform. You can use Linkedin’s pro solution to send direct emails to whoever you think may be interested. Linkedin messaging often has a better answer rate than cold emailing as the amount of messages people receive is way less than their email account. However, that also means you won’t be able to contact as many people.
When Writing Is Not Enough: Calling
Pick up the phone!
Calling seems daunting to some of us, but it remains the best way to have a significant engagement with somebody (after meeting them in person, of course).
It is intrusive, yes…
But it’s sometimes the only way to get somebody’s attention.
When done correctly (and with a great deal of respect for the person), it’s a very powerful sales tool.
Let’s go over some basics:
Here, again, you can use Linkedin to find out exactly who’s your best contact at a company. Then try to find his number online. If it’s not available, get through to the front desk (usually available on any website) and ask to speak with a specific person (not simply with “the head of marketing”).
Make sure you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it beforehand (have a look at these best practices and examples).
You have a few seconds to convince the person to listen to you, if you spend the first 5 saying “euhhhhh”… well, I’ll let you imagine what will happen next.
You should know exactly what you want to say and have answers ready for the most common questions.
Keep it really short and always end with a potential action:
- When do you want to meet to find out more about how you can improve your site’s traffic?
- Do you want me to send you our free report about website e#### and its impact on your customers?
- Should we plan another call to go through potential ideas for your digital presence together?
Email and Calls: Why Choose?
Simply mix the above techniques. Send an email and call the day after. The email gives you an excuse to speak with the person. You’ll have easy conversation starters like: “I’m calling to make sure you received my email” or “Do you have any question about my email?”.
There are other efficient strategies to scale your consulting businesses. Here’s a quick overview:
- Strategic partnerships: This is closer to business development than sales. Try to think about which services are complementary to yours. If you offer digital marketing services, you may team up with a web development company.f you offer design services, team up with a front end development company.f you are an IT security company, team up with a hacker (just joking, but you get my point).
- Word of mouth: This goes back to our first point. Bring value and quality, make sure your client is happy and they’ll eventually recommend you. If there is enough trust, you can even ask them to do so. This strategy may not seem fast enough at first, especially if you just started your consulting business, but you can always use word of mouth through ex-colleagues, friends, etc.
- Job listings: Many companies try to fill their needs by creating a new position, or hiring temporary employees. It turns out that very often, consulting services are a better solution. Companies can findsomebody much faster (no need to wait for a notice period), with the experience/knowledge of a similar company behind a single person and perhaps with some skills that are very scarce on the market.
Try to hunt for job offers in your field, with a specific focus on temporary (3-6 months) positions, pregnancy leave replacements, or skills you know are hard to find. Then try to get in touch with the person who may be the direct report for that position (again, Linkedin would be your best friend).
Depending on your profile you’ll have affinities with one or another strategy.
Digital Geeks prefer the Lead Magnet, coupled with digital marketing. People who love public speaking and/or writing will tend to pick the Guru Strategy
It’s really up to you and the profile of your team.