From referrals, to exhibitions, to social media, to webinars. You name it, every single marketing channel can be proven to work. And I'm sure if you speak to enough of your peers, they'll each say that it's a different channel that works best for them!
This makes it all the more difficult to decide on which channels are right for your business.
But that's your first problem. You're asking yourself the wrong question!
You see, there's no such thing as 'one marketing channel'.
No business markets through a single channel. Even those businesses that are offering to show you how to market with webinars, or cold calling, or Linkedin, they're marketing to you through multiple channels.
It might be social media ads, an email list, a webinar, etc. But take the time to analyse it and you'll see that they've deployed an omnichannel strategy. Which brings me on to...
Not just one that is focused on digital marketing. You need a strategy that effectively blends traditional marketing channels with digital channels.
Now if you get this wrong, using multiple marketing channels can result in a lot of time and effort spent for little or no return. This is where the 3rd truth come in...
That's not as easy as it may sound. This is why it's important to choose only those marketing channels that you enjoy (or can learn to enjoy!).
As a consultant though, being consistent, persistent and patient can be extremely challenging!
Now, I love consulting!
It's so empowering walking through the doors of some of the biggest and most prestigious businesses in a sector, knowing that they've brought you in to solve their most pressing business challenges!
Put simply, consulting is doing something that you're trained to do, that you enjoy, that someone asked for, that they expect, and that you'll very likely get positive feedback on.
Contrast that to marketing - when you're doing something that you're seldom trained in, that the recipients didn't always ask for and may not even want, and if you get feedback there's a high chance that it will be negative!
Marketing can often feel like the polar opposite to consulting.
When consulting, failure just isn't an option. Yet with marketing it's all about embracing failure!
It's about trying things out to see what works. And for some of those things - those marketing channels - success rates of as little as 3% are seen as good!
The fact is, very few consulting business leaders are trained in marketing.
That's because most people who start a consulting business do so because they're an expert in a technical discipline. A niche. And their superpower lies in their ability to consult with clients around their niche.
But for many consulting businesses, they just have too few clients. Their business is perpetually on a knife edge.
Things don't often start out that way. Most new consulting businesses start by winning engagements with people that they already know. The real challenge comes when you've exhausted the opportunities with your existing contacts.
It's at that moment the challenge of marketing - or lack thereof - comes to the fore.
Let's take a look at the most common marketing mistakes I see consulting business owners make:
Once a business does start marketing, the first most common mistake is that their marketing is all about them!
Their website lists their services. It details the projects that they've completed. And it showcases their team members.
They might have a newsletter or blog, but if they do they're filled with even more articles about the firm. Their new hires or their new office being opened up.
Now, it may be difficult for some people to appreciate, but no-one cares about you or your firm!
The only way you get the attention of your ideal clients is to talk about them, and more specifically, about the problems that they are facing.
Successful marketing is about putting the clients problems front and centre.
Stephen R. Covey said in his highly acclaimed book - The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People - to,
Begin with the end in mind.
Most consulting businesses are ok with picturing the end result of their marketing efforts as it's quite obvious - more clients!
What they're not so good at envisaging is the amount of time and effort it takes to make a marketing channel successful.
This results in frustration, and means that marketing becomes unenjoyable. Pretty soon they experience one of the following:
Possibly caused by the impatience mentioned above, another thing I see consulting business owners do is to attempt multiple channels, all at the same time.
It's a classic case of FOMO, or fear of missing out.
When it comes to social media, they're on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, even Instagram. But the reality is, being on so many social media platforms, they don't spend enough time on any one of them to first make it successful.
Or maybe they've chosen more traditional marketing methods, and they're out public speaking, taking stands at business exhibitions, going to networking events like 4N and BNI.
Again, they're doing so many different things all at the same time that, not only are they being inconsistent, but their attention is fragmented. They don't work on any one channel with sufficient depth to master it.
Whilst most every marketing channels is valid, you have to ask yourself, can you do it all?
If you'd never skippered a boat before, you'd probably start by getting someone to show you how.
If you wanted to climb a mountain for the first time, again you'd likely want someone with experience to guide you.
The challenge with marketing is that the different channels and tactics are so pervasive that people assume they have the time, money and patience to figure it out for themselves. That's foolhardy.
On the flip side, there's so many people out there offering marketing support and training that they focus their courses and training too broadly. It's why it frustrates me when I see people pitching to 'coaches and consultants' as if they're the same thing.
Whilst there might be an overlap in delivery skills between a consultant and coach, I can tell you from experience that a consulting business is very different to a coaching business!
What I hear from a lot of consulting businesses - especially those that have made the mistakes detailed above - is that the selling of consulting is all about relationships. It's about repeat business with existing clients, and getting referrals.
These are incredibly important marketing channels. But, here's the rub, they're entirely unpredictable.
Not only that, but you probably don't have a standard process to ensure that you're keeping in regular contact with the people that you do already know. Instead you're too involved in the delivery of won work to focus on referrals and repeat business.
But if you want to scale your business...
If you want more clients than you can count on one hand...
If you want to have the time available to effectively market to a new audience...
...then you need to embrace more marketing channels than just repeat business and referrals.
Even the biggest of firms that have widely recognisable brands still need to market through multiple channels. That's why you'll see billboards at the airport from big consultancies like Deloitte and Accenture.
But the marketing methods used by such large firms are seldom appropriate for the smaller firm or solo practitioner.
Marketing is all about generating leads. Getting prospects. And you convert those prospects into clients through your sales process.
So it might seem that the answer is simple - just get more clients. And who doesn't want more clients!
The trouble is, it's just not that easy. It certainly isn't as easy as many authors and course creators will have you believe.
On top of it all, right now - with thanks to the internet and social media - marketing is probably one of the fastest moving disciplines that you need to master in your business.
The information age has completely turned on its head the approach that consulting businesses need to make to marketing.
Where as a consultancy was once selling 'secrets', for which a client would need to engage you before you gave them any valuable information, the information age (aka the internet) has made information on just about anything readily available.
So if you're not leveraging digital channels to educate your ideal prospects, and to support your more traditional channels, you can rest assured someone else is!
Too many consulting business owners end up reinventing the wheel and trying to do it all by themselves.
This is not only time consuming and expensive, but it's needless!
Success in a B2B consulting business starts with marketing. Or as we prefer to say - Client Attraction.
Our approach to marketing is to ensure that you can attract the attention of your ideal clients without having to become full-time marketers.
It will elevate you and your business from being on the revenue roller coaster - where your business revenue is entirely unpredictable - to a business with a consistent flow of predictable leads.
Below is the framework that we have developed and follow to create your tailored Marketing Strategy.
The ultimate aim of any consulting business marketing strategy is to generate leads. Working collaboratively, we will develop your unique Marketing Strategy to generate high-quality leads.
Based upon your business profile and team make up, combined with our knowledge of what works best, we will determine the most appropriate strategy and marketing channels.
We'll also work on ensuring the right people contribute to strategy and its implementation.
Our Marketing Strategy support is tailored to each client. If this is an area where your consulting business requires improvement, schedule a call with us.
Finding and landing new clients was proving a challenge for me.
Martin showed me how to market and sell effectively. His knowledge, expertise and experience of how to build a successful consulting business shone through.
One particular area he helped me with was to successfully navigate the many different service providers that I'd engaged.
He’s also shown me how, and motivated me, to engage in content marketing. From blog writing to lead magnet creation.
I’m also making huge inroads with Linkedin, which I’m certain will play a big role in my lead generation efforts going forward.
Having external advice and guidance has proven invaluable, especially during the sales process.
Through the programme I’ve been able to implement a sales process that is much more effective and efficient.
Martin's guidance has also been invaluable for tactical discussions, and to know how to better manage pricing objections.
I'd been in business for a long time before I met Martin.
During that time, I'd tried most all of the different marketing approaches with varying levels of success.
Things were ticking along nicely in our business, but I had this nagging doubt that we were neglecting our marketing. Instead of investing in marketing, we were in danger of falling into the trap of relying on referrals and repeat business alone.
Whilst they are still fundamentally important, I knew that we were leaving food on the table if we didn't exploit other channels, especially digital.
What I particularly liked about the Consulting Compass approach is how it joins everything up. Ensuring that our digital marketing efforts align with and support our traditional marketing channels, and vice versa.
We're now crystal clear on the type of prospects and clients we can help. Thanks Martin!
Creator of Consulting Compass
Hi, I'm Martin. I always knew I'd run my own consulting business one day.
And after nearly 20 years of being an employed consultant, I went out on my own.
If only I'd have known how hard it really would be!
Anyway, 5 years on and I was still in business, despite there being so much conflicting information out there about how to run a successful consulting business.
That's why I created the Consulting Compass framework. To teach people what I believe and know is the best way to start, run and grow a successful consulting business.
Copyright - Consulting Compass