How are you marketing your consulting business? If you’re not sure what the best strategy is, you’re not alone.
A recent survey found that about a third (32%) of consultants struggle with marketing, and more than half say they depend on referrals for the majority of their business. However, the consultants in the $150K–$1M+ earnings bracket said referrals account for only 20–40% of their business. Clearly, the consultants who are actively marketing themselves are enjoying the most success.
Marketing for a consulting business may seem daunting, but there are some proven techniques you can use to create a well-rounded strategy and build your client base.
This article will guide you through some of the most important aspects of online marketing, such as your website, social media, and email campaigns, to help you build your customer base and increase your income.
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Know your target market
The better you know your potential customers, the more effective your marketing will be.
If you think of your customer as “All homeowners who want to save money,” you’ll have a hard time figuring out how to reach them. But if you can narrow that audience to “Women aged 40-70 who own homes valued at $150-$350,000 in the state of Missouri and are currently paying more than 6% interest on their mortgage,” you will find ways to reach them, and you’ll know exactly what to say and how to say it.
Define your brand identity
The personality of your brand will depend on what audience you speak to, but it also requires that you know yourself very well. Once you define your brand’s identity, you can infuse all your marketing with that personality.
Here are two examples of how you might construct your brand identity, using the same real estate audience as before:
Example 1: A 65-year-old who has worked in the mortgage industry for 40 years
- Sales points: Experience, knowledge
- Design choices: Neutral colors, classic fonts
- Images: Headshot, photo behind a desk, calculator, ledger, bricks, marble (stable, solid)
- Language: Knowledgeable, explaining, serious
- Brand in a nutshell: Gravitas; an advisor archetype
Example 2: A 25-year-old fresh from college
- Sales points: Innovator, can guide you through new ideas
- Design choices: Energetic colors, modern fonts, lots of white space
- Images: Vibrant action shots, cartoon likeness, cell phones, laptops
- Language: Helpful, non-judgmental, fresh but not trendy
- Brand in a nutshell: Young, smart, and helpful — that nice younger relative who helps you figure out your cell phone.
Build an effective website
Your website is your business’s digital home and the hub for all your online marketing. It should showcase your brand and speak directly to your target market while answering the visitor’s primary question: “Why should I hire this consultant instead of someone else?”
Your site should have at least four pages:
- Homepage: The “front door” of your site that creates your first impression.
- About page: Tells people what’s unique about you and what qualifications you have.
- Services page: Explains what you do for your clients and what options they can choose.
- Contact page: Provides as many ways to engage with you as possible.
Every page of your site should be consistent with your brand identity and speak directly to the reader, reassuring them that you are the person who can solve their problem. Every page should include a call to action, inviting them to reach out to you.
Your site can also host landing pages, testimonials, case studies, or a blog for content marketing.
Market with valuable content
Create content with a purpose. Keep your customer in mind by remembering this process:
- The customer has a question, so they type it in a search engine.
- One of the results is a blog post on your website.
- The customer reads the post, likes your advice, and is happy to have discovered you.
- The customer signs up for your email list and eventually hires you.
You need to create blog posts that answer people’s questions about your industry. Be sure to optimize your content to be:
- Search-engine friendly
- Sprinkled with invitations to join your email list
A winning content strategy will put your name, expertise, and brand identity in front of a steady stream of highly qualified prospects. The content you create for your blog also gives you something useful to share in e-mails and social media.
Not sure what to write? Make a list of the most common questions you’re asked as a consultant and turn each answer into a blog post. If writing makes you uncomfortable, pretend you’re answering the question in an email to a friend.
Pro tip: You can hire people to ghostwrite for you, but make sure they understand your brand identity and use the right “voice.”
Make the most of social media
You already know that social media presence is important for a modern organization. But how do you go about making the most of social media platforms?
It’s best to treat social media channels like a cocktail party or networking event. You wouldn’t enter a party carrying a billboard and periodically shout out marketing slogans — but that’s how many businesspeople approach social media marketing.
While buying ads on Facebook or Instagram can be a good idea, the posts you create should be like party chatter. Drop helpful hints, share useful articles from your blog and other sources, and ask questions that invite conversation. If you have time, join groups that are related to your consulting business and help out when people have questions. You will not only reach your target audience, but also slowly build yourself as a credible source in your industry.
Maximize your email list
Social networks come and go over the years (who remembers MySpace or LiveJournal?), so it’s vital to build an email list to maintain a reliable connection with your audience.
Send your new subscribers a welcome email or automated series right away to strengthen your connection and establish a relationship. Provide helpful tips, enticing discounts, and other useful content that will leave them wanting more from your emails.
If you’re already producing blog posts and social media content, you can incorporate those into a regular newsletter.
Segment your audience into groups. This lets you speak to them in a more personalized way. For instance, you might have segments for:
- Customers vs. prospects
- Special interest groups within your industry
- People who open your emails often vs. folks who only open occasionally
- Prospects who’ve expressed interest in specific services you offer
E-mail marketing works hand-in-hand with your social media presence. Social media can help you grow your email list and vice versa. When you integrate the two, you will expand your audience and increase your sales.
Putting it all together
Marketing for consulting business is all about knowing your target audience, creating a strong brand identity, and developing an online presence with a website, digital blog and/or email content, and social media platforms.
While it sounds like a lot of work, the content you create for your emails, blog posts, and social media can overlap a great deal. One long blog post can yield a dozen social media posts, and your email subscribers will be interested in that same content.
It all starts with defining your target market, so begin there and let the rest of your marketing plan develop naturally with that audience in mind.