Section Two: Marketing Your Consulting Service
Who Are Your Customers?
Effective marketing is an essential function of your practice. Customers must always feel that the benefits they derive from your service exceeds the dollars spent to acquire it.
The goal of marketing is to convince prospective clients or current clients that their needs can be met and their problems can be solved through your services.
Examine carefully what you can offer your clients. What skills, knowledge, and resources do you possess or have access to. Create an inventory of your skills and key experiences you have learned from. Look beyond your work experience and consider all aspects of your life – education, hobbies, volunteer activities, and even personal relationships. Offer your services to a wide range of clients. Do not limit yourself by defining your market in one particular field.
Target Your Market
Define your target market carefully before you dash out to knock on doors.
What Image Do You Project?
Client perception is critical to your success as a consultant. Most consultants agree that referrals are their primary source of business. Every time you contact a client, whether by telephone, in person, or by letter, you are marketing…or you should be.
Consider the image that you want to project. As a consultant you must demonstrate authority, self-confidence, competence and expertise, leadership, friendliness, honesty and candor.
When choosing a business name, it should reflect your business image. Many established professionals simply use their own name if they have established credibility and a solid reputation. If you are not using your own name, conduct a search to ensure the business title has not already been used.
Enhance your professional image by utilizing an answering service or voice mail. Maintain a separate business line even if you are operating within your home. Update your voicemail message daily and check regularly for messages.
Consider the following marketing tools for your consulting service:
- Personal Introduction: What do you say to people when you introduce yourself at conferences, and other networking events, or during a sales call? Have you developed an effective (but brief) introduction for yourself and your business? First impressions are critical. Be prepared to make yours a good one.
- Business Cards: Give your customers more than a business card. Handing out business cards has become a cliché. Cards are often tucked away in pockets without even being read. Write a personal message on the card before you hand it to the customer. Staple a brochure or a sample to your business card.
- Brochures: A brochure provides you with the opportunity to provide a detailed description of your services. Generally when you meet someone, you have less than 30 seconds to introduce yourself and your business. Brochures should be professionally prepared, well written, with appropriate white space. Avoid overcrowding with too much information. Try to coordinate your brochure and business card.
- Letters: Consider preparing several form letters: a sales letter for prospective clients, a thank you letter for active clients, and a letter to accompany billings.
- Guest Speaking, Seminars and Workshops: Remember that word of mouth is your best chance for successful marketing. Be seen as a professional within your field. Actively seek out opportunities to speak at conferences and other functions, schools, and business association meetings.
- Media Exposure: Write articles for newspapers, newsletters, or professional journals. Write a story or press release for local newspapers highlighting your clients’ successes (with their permission).
- Maintain a Prospect List: Prepare a prospect list including anyone who might require your services. Include friends, family, business associates, and organizations. Review your list regularly and update it. Set a goal to contact several prospective clients on your list every day.
- Build a Client Database: To ensure that you are tracking critical information about your clients and your contacts with them, create a database to manage your sales and service.
For more information regarding marketing strategies, refer to Unit 4 – Going to Market on Your Own.
Dealing with Your Competition
Keep an eye on your competition and learn from them. What type of clients do they serve? Do they have a positive reputation? What is their pricing structure? How do their customers rate them in terms of quality, convenience, and overall service? What is your competitive advantage over them?
On a regular basis, list your key competitors and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Compare fees and services.
Click on Worksheet 7.2 (Word Document) to examine your marketing needs.