OK, here’s #4 of 4 installments of reader consulting questions and consulting problems, though I’ll still answer as many of your questions as possible.
In fact, I’m going to schedule a live conference call/webinar in about 2 weeks to do exactly that: answer your consulting questions and give you specific, tactical advice on getting unstuck with your biggest consulting problems. Stay tuned.
For now, let’s dig into today’s reader question, which comes from Barrington:
Again, the reason I’ve chosen these questions is because they’re some of the most common consulting problems I hear that you’re struggling with.
What’s the consulting problem?
First, let’s define the problem (there are actually a couple consulting problems): essentially, Barrington is trying to build a pipeline of prospects who he can then convert to clients, where those clients will bring a pipeline of consulting work.
The interesting thing is that Barrington already understands that he has to identify and tap into marketing channels.
Now, marketing channels vary from niche to niche and industry to industry.
What works in one niche may or may not work in another niche, even if both niches are closely related.
For example, as most of you know, I work with law firms, and my clients (the law firms) can use VERY different marketing channels, even though they’re all in the legal industry:
- Personal injury firms may focus on pay-per-click online marketing, billboards, or radio & TV ads.
- Intellectual property firms (which deal with patents and trademarks) may focus on networking and developing personal relationships with key employees at tech firms.
- Real estate firms may focus on educational marketing events, such as seminars and workshops, then pursue prospects who attended the events they put on.
So, again, even closely related markets/niches may use very different marketing channels.
As a quick aside, Barrington asked whether he should reach out to his local Chamber of Commerce. In my experience–and that of many of other consultants–Chambers of Commerce is typically a poor marketing channel. See how another reader got spammed when he tried this.
The other part of the problem
Besides simply identifying potential marketing channels, the next step is to identify the BEST marketing channels.
The difficulty here is that when you’re first starting out, you generally have no way of knowing which channels will work and which are a waste of time.
Where most people fail
Here’s where most people start out:
- you know you need a pipeline of prospects and clients
- you may even realize you need to identify marketing channels
- if you’re really savvy, you realize you need to identify the BEST marketing channels in your niche.
So far, so good.
But what kills most beginning (and even some seasoned) consultants is that they initially don’t get any results, then decide they can’t succeed at consulting.
This is what a lot of you tell me:
- “I’m stuck and I have no idea what to do”
- “I have no clue where to start”
- “Nothing I’ve done has worked”
- “I’ve approached lots of people, but no one has given me any work”
How to get unstuck from this (and other consulting problems)
To get unstuck from this consulting problem, you ‘ll need to be more systematic and objective.
This can be challenging, and at times, it’s easy to feel discouraged.
But while you’re starting out, you don’t have enough information to know what works and what doesn’t.
This applies to marketing channels as well as other areas (talking to clients, converting prospects to clients, pricing, writing proposals that turn into consulting work, etc.).
Essentially, it’s a matter of shifting your mindset so that you’re gathering data about what works, and making sure you’re collecting enough data to be able to draw realistic conclusions.
For example, when I started out, I made just a handful of calls to warm prospects. They didn’t have any consulting work for me, but I had it in my head that I couldn’t succeed and wouldn’t be able to get enough consulting work to be a consultant.
But the problem was that I didn’t have enough data to know what would work. Getting that data took time.
And over the years, I’ve been able to see the consistently proven types of activities that get real results for consultants.
So remember: at this stage, you’re just collecting data.
Can you see how shifting your mindset and using a different framework is a powerful tool to get unstuck?
Where to start your consulting marketing
In response to a couple of your comments, I’m adding this section in hopes of better answering the original reader question, which essentially is: where do I start with my consulting marketing?
This is a big topic, and I cover it in way more depth in Client Pipeline Mastery where we spend an entire week on the topic. But the general framework is this:
- Create a detailed profile of your ideal client.
- Create a list of marketing channels.
- Experiment with marketing channels to see what produces the best results with the least effort.
Yes, that’s still a bit vague, I know. But don’t underestimate the power of this high-level framework. It’s proven time and again to get results, which means a consistent flow of prospects & clients with minimal effort. In fact, once you’ve identified the most fruitful channels in your niche, your marketing will largely be automated. For example, I haven’t had to do a single cold call during the past 3-4 years, yet I still have a consistent flow of NEW prospects, clients, and consulting work from existing clients.
How is that possible? By having a framework to systematically find what works, and then to automate my marketing.
The trick is to know what action to take in each of those steps to maximize your chances of success. Most consultants typically start their marketing haphazardly, and some never improve or get more systematic.
And those people continue to struggle. Many give up.
So, first, the client profile. To know where to focus your marketing, you first need to understand EXACTLY who you’re targeting. For example, in my niche, I’m not targeting “law firms”. That’s way too general. Instead, I target law firms with 20-50 attorneys who use a specific enterprise application. Even just these criteria allow me to finely narrow who I target, and how I appeal to them in my marketing so that they self-select and qualify themselves before THEY contact ME.
Second, by understanding your ideal client, you’ll have a MUCH better idea of what channels to use to connect with them. Again, using myself as an example, I could do cold-calling, cold-emailing, trade shows, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Adwords, Twitter, direct mail, or any number of channels. But I’ve found that SEO, targeted forums, and the way I position myself on my consulting website is FAR more effective at sourcing highly qualified prospects who convert into high-value clients. And, again, I focus on the best-producing channels that require the least amount of effort.
What’s been most frustrating for you?
I want to hear from you: What’s been frustrating or discouraging for you? What consulting problems are you struggling with RIGHT NOW?
I read every response. And I’ll share the best questions (and my answers) in future posts.