Friday Fusion: May 8, 2020

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Every week, I write about web design, copywriting, and digital marketing for independent consultants and small firms. Friday Fusion is a collection of said writing from Quora, LinkedIn, and email conversations with consultants. You can follow me on Quora here, connect with me on LinkedIn here, and email me here.

How did you pick a niche? How can you secure your first clients in an age when we can’t network? And how did you come up with a solid USP? I feel like everyone can claim my USP. Thanks!

How did you pick a niche?

I did what I like to call the Ideal Client Duplication Exercise.

Here’s how you do it.

First, think about your favorite client. Think about the one who was the easiest to sell, had an adequate budget, and needed your service to solve a problem.

Second, ask yourself: what industry do they work in?

If they were easy to sell, had an adequate budget, and needed your service to solve a burning problem, think of that as a hint. It’s a hint many others in that industry also need your service.

When you are picking a niche, you are looking for repeatability. You are looking for patterns. You are looking to specialize. All of this helps brings predictability to your marketing, making it easier to find and attract clients — and keep your business running.

How can you secure your first clients in an age when we can’t network?

Who says you can’t network?

Technology — specifically, the internet — has changed the way people network.

As I write in my first book, Productize Yourself: The Consultant’s Guide To Attracting Clients Through Your Website:

Consulting has, and always will be, a relationship business. But technology has changed the way we develop relationships — in our personal lives and in business.

The type of networking that will help you secure clients is not schmoozing. It’s about adding value.

Ways to add value:

  • Asking thought-provoking questions about their desires and challenges they face in their business
  • Inviting them on a call and listening to what they have to say about their industry
  • Sharing interesting articles that will positively impact their lives
  • Creating your own content that shares your unique point of view
  • Introducing them to other people you know who might be able to help them

You can do all of this online — and it will help you create conversations with your prospects, which is the first step to securing them as a client.

How did you come up with a solid USP?

My Unique Sales Proposition is this: I help consultants get more clients through their website.

Here’s the formula:

I help {MARKET} get {DESIRE} through {DISCIPLINE}.

The key to a solid USP is to not just write it yourself — but to outsource it.

By that, I mean use specific words and phrases that your prospects use to describe their needs and wants.

Example: my USP could have been “I help consultants get more traffic to their website with digital marketing.”

Consultants don’t want to “get more traffic,” nor do they want “digital marketing.”

They want to “get more clients.”

An effective USP gets your prospects to think “how do they do that?” — and by using the words and phrases they use, your USP will do exactly that.

I feel like everyone can claim my USP.

If everyone can claim your USP, then it violates the unique aspect of “Unique Sales Proposition”.

“I help businesses grow” is not a USP. It’s a sales proposition, but it’s not unique.

“I help Fintech start-ups scale during their series A stage” is a USP. It’s both unique and a sales proposition.

What’s changed?

“Businesses” become “Fintech start-ups.” Specificity denotes expertise. Expertise is unique.

“Grow” becomes “scales during their series A stage.” Again, specificity. Uniqueness.

If everyone can claim your USP, work on getting more specific with your niche, what you do for them, and the benefit of what you do for them.

How do you start building your network?

On the surface, it seems like COVID-19 is making it tough to start building your network.

But you’re in luck. You don’t need them.

Networking events are overrated — and are entirely unnecessary to meet and connect with interesting people.

When I first graduated from university, I read about business and entrepreneurship non-stop.

I learned how important it was to network and build relationships.

No matter if you were looking for a job, for clients, or investors — it seemed to be all about who you knew.

That didn’t sit well with me.

As an introvert, I could spend about 20 minutes around a large group of people before needing to go home and recharge for a week.

And I didn’t want to spend all of my time attending events, conferences, and cold-calling people to try and “build a relationship” with them.

It all felt corny to me.

So I decided to take a different approach: To write. To design. To build. To launch. And let my work build my network for me.

And it worked.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with dozens of clients. I’ve served hundreds of customers. Thousands of people have subscribed to my newsletter. Hundreds of thousands of people have read my articles. I earned my first full-time job because of the work I’ve shared online.

Networking, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions — specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

Networking is also the establishment or use of a computer network.

With COVID-19, we’re all chained to our computers — so let’s combine the two definitions.

Networking is the establishment or use of a computer network to exchange information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions — specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

If you’re on Quora, you have a computer. You have access to everybody in the world. You have the ability to communicate and share your ideas.

So you can either wait around for networking events and conferences get going again…

…or you can make use of what you have, create interesting things, share them — and let your work create your network for you.

“The most effective networking strategy I’ve found has nothing to do with conferences, cocktail hours, cold emails, or any of the common ideas you hear.

1) Do interesting things.

2) Share them publicly.

Like-minded people will come to you.”

-James Clear

Can consultants find work on Upwork?


And I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t like Upwork. I don’t think consultants should be using it.

(You can read why here)

A few days ago, I listened to the Consulting Success Podcast episode with consultant Justin Nassiri.

In the podcast, he explains his decision to use Upwork — and how he won Microsoft as a client:

I’ve hired over 50 different people for different tasks on Upwork. I don’t even know what led to the realization, but this was the slippery slope for me where I decided, “Why don’t I work on Upwork? It seems like a credible marketplace.” My thesis was there’s a lot of low-skill labor there, which is great. There’s not a lot of Stanford MBAs or McKinsey consultants that are on that platform, maybe I can differentiate that. That started me on a platform of going to many marketplaces like that, I got Microsoft. I found that relationship through Upwork. It’s mind-boggling for me.

I read an article about how Upwork has something called Upwork Plus and Upwork Enterprise. It was in the back of my mind, this thought of it’s a more rigorous evaluation to work for an enterprise client, but once you’ve done one project with an enterprise, you get fast-tracked for every job they ever post which has very much been true. I was in this mindset of like, “Whatever I need to do to get an enterprise client, I’m going to do that.”

The first step is you submit a written application. What I have found is that there is a significant advantage of being close to the front.

I’ll look at the job posting and if I can add value, I’ll try to give them almost ten minutes of consulting of like, “Here’s your project. This is exactly how I would approach it.” I’ve also gotten many applications on these platforms. Most of them are cut and paste. That’s one way to differentiate.

You can listen to the entire podcast episode here:

How To Find & Win Freelance Consulting Jobs With Justin Nassiri: Podcast #137

I still don’t think Upwork is a good long-term solution for consultants.

Freelancing websites DO come with clients.

But they also come with race-to-the-bottom-pricing, commodotization of your services, and hefty referral fees.

Upwork can be good for picking up short consulting gigs. Use these short gigs to deliver excellent work. Then, leverage the trust you build with that client into larger engagements.

As long as it’s not the ONLY way you pick up more consulting work, add it to your marketing and sales repertoire.

How do businesses find consultants?

“The last thing I need is a management consultant. What I could use, though, is some good advice.”

-Cal Harrison, The Consultant With The Pink Hair

Businesses don’t look for consultants.

They look for good advice — and consultants can provide that.

What do you do when you’re looking for good advice?

  • You ask people you trust for an introduction to an expert
  • You listen to experts talk about their experience, stories, and methodologies
  • You type your problem or desired solution into Google — and read what people have to say
  • You read books and take courses on the topic of interest
  • You attend conferences on the topic of interest so you can learn from like-minded people

So, how do businesses seek out good advice?

  • They ask for referrals
  • They listen to experts speak
  • They search for and read thought-leadership
  • They read books and take courses
  • They attend networking events & conferences

And that’s how they find consultants.

If you’re a consultant and you want businesses to find you, provide good advice using the above means.