What are some of the secrets of being an independent consultant?
I’ve spoken with hundreds of independent consultants over the last 5 years, and here are some of the “secrets” I’ve learned:
1. You’re in the marketing business
“You’re not in the consulting business, you’re in the marketing business. I know this sounds harsh, but here’s an even more frightening thought: your consulting skills may be good enough right now to implement the business you acquire, but I’ll almost guarantee that your marketing skills aren’t good enough to continually acquire business.”
—Alan Weiss, Million Dollar Consulting
Your consulting skills are good enough — but your ability to attract new business is not. Independent consultants really struggle with marketing. They rely on others to do their marketing for them instead of doing it themselves.
2. Your “referral well” will last 2–3 years — then it runs dry.
You can start your consulting business based on referrals. It can even last you a few years. But it will eventually run dry. And when it does, you had better have a strategy for attracting new business — without relying on your network or referrals. I’ve seen many consultants get stuck here.
3. Specialization/niching is KEY to success— but most consultants are scared to do it.
Consultants really struggle with the idea of narrowing down their ideal client. They can do it in private — but when it comes to naming who they serve in public, they get cold feet. They feel as though they will close off opportunities for business. But narrowing your focus is key to your marketing and business success. Consultants who specialize in serving a particular market vertical have a much easier time with marketing, sales, charging higher fees, etc.
4. ALL of your prospects will look at your website before doing business with you.
This is called the “swivel-chair” phenomenon. After speaking with you, your prospective client will swivel their chair back to their computer and look you up online. Clients might not troll the internet looking for consultants…but you better believe they will look at your website — and will make their decision based on what they find.
5. The higher your perceived authority, the less you have to rely on direct outreach.
Experts don’t do cold-calling or cold-emailing. Experts are experts because of their thought-leadership (articles, whitepapers, speaking, courses, intellectual property, etc). When you publish your thought-leadership (combined with specialization), you’ll attain expert status much more quickly. And you won’t have to bother with cold-calling or cold-emailing because your work will do your marketing for you.
Which consulting firms are using inbound marketing well?
Here are 5 consultants and consulting firms I’ve spoken with who use inbound marketing to generate leads:
Anchor Advisors – Small Business Consultancy
Our website provides our customers and prospects with thought leadership (the blog) and ideas about how other business owners have found success (case studies). It gives people a chance to meet our team before we work with them. It’s our #1 source of leads!
Currency Marketing – Marketing Consultancy
All of our new business comes through our website. Credit union prospects typically learn about our programs on our website and then sign up to attend a monthly webinar. I am a big believer in specialization and showing everything including pricing. It’s worked really well for us. We now have more than 100 credit unions that subscribe to our programs including 80% in the U.S. and 20% in Canada.
Ian James – The Process Consultant
My site has a lot of videos. It started off as a brochure. I put my website out there and I said, “I’m a good consultant,” and nothing happened. Then I did some research and I realized that I needed to establish some credibility and I started to write articles, but it wasn’t until I hit video. I do a lot of whiteboard animation. I make things simple for people to understand. I get a lot of people coming to my site for basic process education. Among them are my potential clients.
Jeff Gothelf – Business Consultant
I use my site to showcase my ideas. Whether they’re books, blog posts, videos, lists of podcasts I’ve been on, et al if you’re looking for something I’ve done it’s likely here. By consolidating everything in one place I’ve noticed that inbound inquiries from my site have gone up significantly.
Nigel Green – Sales Consultant
My site is a place for customers, potential clients, and others interested in sales leadership to better understand how I think. Understanding how I think is a good way for people to see how I work and to decide if my work could be helpful for them. It also serves a filter for leads. After reading the content on my site, potential clients can get a sense for whether or not I can be helpful.
So, from these examples, how do you as a consultant or consulting firm generate inbound leads?
- Use your website. That’s your primary inbound marketing tool.
- Publish all of your content to your website — articles, videos, podcasts, etc. That’s why prospects come to your website. That’s the content that will generate leads for you.
- Educate. That’s what your content should do. If your content solves problems, your potential clients will trust (and hire) you to solve specific problems for their business.
What are the secrets of B2B copywriting?
B2B customers buy for the same reason B2C customers buy:
Sales is about people and it’s about problem-solving. It is not about solutions or technology or chemicals or lines of code or artichokes. It’s about people and it’s about problem-solving.
People buy 4 things and 4 things only. Ever. Those 4 things are time, money, sex, and approval/peace of mind. If you try selling something other than those 4 things you will fail.
Many B2B companies are stuck on selling their actions (their service, technology) instead of the outcomes of these actions (more money, more time, more peace of mind).
You should talk about your service or technology — but never forget to link them to those hindbrain needs:
- Approval/Peace of Mind
That’s what you really sell.
B2B or B2B, remember that you’re still selling to real people with real problems, desires, and objections.
Here’s how you supercharge your B2B copywriting:
- Pay attention to what your prospects are saying.
- Whenever they mention their problems, desires, or objections, write those down.
- Whenever you are writing copy, use the exact language they use to describe their problems, desires, or objections.
- Sit back and smile while they reach out to you saying “It felt like you were talking specifically to me!” — because you are.
How do I build a simple consulting website?
To build a simple consulting website, you want to do three things.
1. Plan your Consulting Website Goals
- Consider your goals as a consultant. What do you want your consulting website to do for you? What would help your business?
- Consider your prospective client’s goals. What do they want? How can your consulting website help them get what they want?
2. Write Your Website Copy
- Write about your prospective client first: Who is your prospective client? What industry are they in? What are their problems, desires, and objections?
- Write about your services second: What are the names of your services? What do you do for the client? What is the outcome your services create for them?
- Write about yourself last: Who are you? Why are you in this business? What makes you well-positioned to solve your client’s problem?
3. Design & Build Your Consulting Website
- Once you’ve written your consulting website copy, the design part is easy — you can use my simple consulting website template below.
- Include pictures of you, your clients, logos of clients you’ve worked with, and testimonials to make your consulting website more persuasive and personable.
- If you want your consulting website to attract clients for you, ensure that your design draws attention to your “Call-to-Action” buttons which lead your prospective client to contact you.
Finally, remember to launch your website before you feel ready.
It’s not going to help you to wait until it’s perfect before launching.
Understand that you will revise and improve it over time.
When you follow these three steps, not only will you build a simple consulting website — but you will build an effective consulting website.
One that speaks directly to your clients, communicates your value, and helps you attract and develop new business.