2021 will be a new beginning for many of you. Reading through my LinkedIn feed I’m seeing many great stories of people who have made the decision to venture out on their own and start their own consultancy. Are you one of the one’s who have taken the plunge? If so, congratulations. It’s going to be hard work, they’ll be highs and lows, but over all you won’t regret your decision. If you’re a consultant who has decided over the festive period that 2021 is going to be the year of change and you’re weighing up your options for going independent, then we’d say give it a go. There is of course a lot to consider, including marketing, so, if you sit in either camp, I thought it’d be good to share some of the common marketing tips that we share with anyone we speak to about starting up their own consultancy.
1. Set the Foundations
First thing’s first – and you’ll know this from the kind of work you want to deliver to your clients, make sure you have the foundations in place. Ask yourself…
What is my niche?
A common mistake we often see is consultants trying to offer as wide an array of services as possible. Having a highly specific offering will pay dividends (excuse the pun) in the long run. There is A LOT of competition out there. What will make you different? What can you become well known for, over others? Is it a handful of key services or becoming an expert in a particular sector? Take us, there are thousands of marketing consultancies and consultants out there. From day 1 we took the decision to specialise in supporting professional services firms. It’s given us a niche, but also scope for future growth, given the number of sub-sectors that exist within professional services. Whether you decide to niche down or not, you need to know exactly what you’re offering and who your target audience is.
What does success look like?
Marketing success looks different for every start-up consultancy, so you need to work out what it means for you and define it rigidly. Whether it’s £x revenue a month or year, meetings generated per month, opportunities created etc. Define it now. It will evolve, of course, but define what success looks like. Commit to it by writing it down and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. It will drive you, your mission and your marketing decisions.
What are your core metrics?
Once you’ve identified what success looks like, you can think about how to use core marketing metrics to measure your growth. Forget about vanity measures such as numbers of followers, these are not tied to real growth and won’t help you. Consider tracking website traffic month on month, mailing list subscribers, number of leads, conversion rates etc. Over time, and with the right marketing technologies in place, you can evolve to the really fun and interesting metrics!
What is your budget
Now you’ve set your foundations, you need to work out how much money you can spend on your marketing strategy. Remember not everything will cost money! But carefully plan how you intend to divide your budget across your activities and allow for some flexibility as your consultancy grows. Monitor what performs really well and you’ll soon see that the amount of ‘data’ you have grows. Data will allow you to better predict, particularly in year 2.
2. Don’t look for a quick win logo
First impressions are EVERYTHING. You can absolutely go on to Google and find a cheap logo generator and think you’re all set. But if there is one thing to invest in it’s your brand identity. This is going to be YOUR identity. Why try to find a shortcut? Surely, when you go out to your network you want them to be impressed by you and what you are building. Your identity is sooo important, I can’t stress that enough. This is how you want to be known in the market. Is that not worth the up-front time and investment? Trust me, this is the area where so many consultants let themselves down and months later live to regret it. Get that wow factor from the beginning. It doesn’t have to be expensive but do it once and do it right. First impressions are everything.
3. Create a social media presence
Your early wins will always come from your existing network so it’s important to put in the time and effort to develop a social media strategy. It’s not enough just to throw some posts out there and expect opportunities to flood in. You need to use social media to nurture your existing network. But you cannot forget you need to allocate time to extend that network. Think LinkedIn, but don’t underestimate the effectiveness of Twitter. Explore how others use social media. What could you do that will make you stand out to your network? Social media is great, but it’s a long game, you have to have a proper plan and invest a significant amount of time. But that time will be rewarded.
4. Start a Blog
Blogs will let you share your expertise with the world and grow your following, thereby building up your network of new prospects. They will also be an important foundation for your marketing efforts. Well-written blogs will drive visitors to your website. They will give you the content to share via your social media channels, in your email marketing etc.
The area where most consultants fall down with business blogging is not posting regularly enough. At the beginning it’s great. You’re enthused, you churn them out. Then you get busy. Don’t fall into this trap. Consistently providing insights to your network and community will set you apart from the rest; maintaining a regular schedule also demonstrates your commitment to your network. Blogs relating to relevant issues will begin to position you as a trusted partner and source of thinking.
5. Have a newsletter
Newsletters are dead, aren’t they? Absolutely not. But they must be done well. Do not get a list of email addresses and just ping any old newsletter out. Your mailing list is about quality over quantity. Start with your close contacts in your network. But then have a sign-up form on your website and ask people you engage with if they would like to be added. Have a disciplined rule that you only add people to your mailing list if they have opted either directly or following a conversation. This way your list will always be accurate, and they will WANT to hear from you. Remember again it’s quality over quantity. Also, be disciplined in when you send it out. For example, the last Tuesday of each month, and stick to it religiously. Then you just need to remember, make the content interesting and engaging! Do this, and I promise they work. The benefit is your close network is hearing from you monthly, without fail, so you are always staying top of mind.
6. Partner Up
Launching a consultancy doesn’t have to mean going it alone. Partnering up with other consultants can be a great way to reach a wider target audience. Building a mutual relationship with other consultants can be a win-win for all concerned. Explore your connections, where are there opportunities for partnerships?
7. Host events/podcasts
Ok events aren’t easy at the moment but getting face time with prospects and sharing your expertise is invaluable. Even in this Covid world, there is still the opportunity for Zoom sessions with a handful of potential clients and hosting a discussion. A number of consultants carry out webinars, but with these, my advice would be do them when the time is right – you need to build up your network to ensure you get the volume of registrations. An alternative is hosting a podcast – easy to do and done well can get you strong traction.
Get the basics in place and do them very, very well and you’ll be on your way. It does take time, there are no shortcuts to success, but consistency and working to a plan are key. Nail the above and then you can’t start introducing the more compelling stuff!