Marketing your consulting business for greater profitability
Find out how to implement an effective inbound marketing strategy to generate leads for your consulting business.
May 18 · 8 min read
Your consulting practice cannot succeed without clients. That much is obvious. Getting these clients, however, is where it gets challenging. The landscape is getting more competitive by the day, even as new marketing channels are popping up here and there. At this point, it’s not too much to say that knowing how to market your consulting services is just as critical to your business success as your knowledge and proficiency in your area of expertise.
So how do you go about it?
Marketing your consulting services is all about getting on the radar of the right people. Sure, the principles for marketing a consulting business are not so different from any other business. But there’s one fundamental difference — you’re marketing a service to people who may not even be aware that they need them. This makes your job harder, especially when compared to someone marketing a car or a house.
The old way of marketing a consulting business
In the past, and even up till now, many consultants tackled lead generation through cold calling and cold emailing. They make a list of their top 100 to 500 potential clients, find their contact info, and begin making unsolicited calls or emails. They go through this process over and over just to get a sales call booked.
Does it work?
The truth is, sometimes cold calling does work. But most of the time, its effectiveness comes down to sheer luck. And with a new generation of consumers entering the market, this luck appears to be dwindling every day.
Today’s prospective clients want meaningful relationships. They want to work with brands that understand their unique needs and can provide genuine, personalized solutions. As such, it has become extremely difficult to close someone who has never heard of you and is probably not even actively looking for your consultancy services at the moment.
Recipients of cold calling and cold emailing now see it as a nuisance. Many will not hesitate to hang up the phone before you even get to the main subject of the call. It’s worse for cold emailing because, in addition to unsubscribing from your mailing list, recipients can report your sending address to the email client. When that happens, you can be sure you’ve lost that prospect for good.
So what’s the way forward?
Inbound marketing is the way to go. Cold calling and direct mail are categorized under outbound marketing efforts because you’re going out to look for clients. With an inbound marketing strategy, however, you’re packaging your consulting business in such a way that your ideal clients actually come to you.
Characteristics of outbound marketing
- They don’t know you, and yet you’re reaching out to them to sell something
- They didn’t ask for a meeting or correspondence with you
- They have no immediate way of knowing whether you’re legit or just another fraudster looking to make a quick buck
- They’re not sure if whatever you’re offering is worth their time
In short, good luck closing that deal.
Now compare this to the main characteristics of an inbound marketing strategy:
- The potential client chooses to reach out to you
- They liked what they saw or read about your consulting firm
- They already have a general idea of what consulting services you offer
- They’re genuinely interested in your consultancy work so much so that they call you or submit a contact form
Now ask yourself, which of these scenarios make for a more effective lead generation method? Which one makes it easier to acquire new clients? Obviously, the inbound approach.
In fact, with inbound marketing, you don’t need to do the traditional sales call where you’re scrambling for enough time to make your elevator pitch. They already know you; they already like your brand; they want your consulting services. The only thing you’re doing is a simple “Q&A call” since they reached out to you in the first place. This allows you to describe your consulting business to them in greater detail.
Another compelling benefit of an inbound marketing strategy is that it allows for a more stable lead flow year-round. With outbound marketing, it can often feel like you’re only getting leads when you’re actively prospecting and cold calling. You get a few clients, do some consulting work for them, and then boom, you’re back to cold calling and sending direct mails again. This is hardly sustainable in the long run.
With inbound marketing, there is more stability both in the short and long terms. For example, a single, well-optimized blog post can drive quality traffic to your consulting business for months or even years. Done properly, inbound marketing campaigns can create a steady stream of leads for your small business. If you do your work well, you could even snag a retainer agreement, thereby ensuring a stable revenue flow.
Implementing effective inbound marketing for your consulting firm
According to a recent survey, about one-third (32%) of consultants have a hard time with their marketing. In fact, Over 50% of them say they are mainly dependent on referrals for new business. But the truth is setting up an effective inbound marketing plan doesn’t have to be a struggle. As long as you fully understand your target audience (ideal clients) and you know where to reach them best, you’re already halfway there.
Let’s look at the steps in closer detail.
- Define your target market
Your target market comprises the people who stand to benefit the most from your consulting services. For example, if you’re an independent marketing consultant, then your target audience will likely be made up of startups and small businesses within your local community. For a more established consulting firm, you’ll likely focus on medium-sized businesses and larger organizations.
In any case, the more details you can get about these people, the more effective your marketing strategy will be. Remember, it’s not just about identifying them but also understanding their specific needs, where to reach them, and how to communicate them.
Digital marketing has evolved to the point where business owners and marketers now create ideal client avatars (ICAs). An ICA is the embodiment of the perfect client for the services that you offer. It involves drilling down to the details of demographic information, geographic location, business industry, and sometimes even income range. The point is you need to take the time to fully understand who you want to target with your marketing before you actually start marketing to them.
- Understand the unique challenges in your field
As mentioned earlier, branding and marketing a consulting practice is not often as simple as branding many other types of professional services. This is primarily because many of your audiences may not know why your services are needed in the first place.
Most people know what an accounting firm or law firm does, but what exactly does a management consultant or implementation consultant do? This reduced general cultural awareness means consultants need to first hone in on the unique challenges that potential clients in their field are struggling with. Only then can they draw focus on the value that their consultancy services provide.
- Launch your online presence with a well-designed website
There are many online channels that you can use to kickstart your inbound marketing plan. However, if you want our prospective clients to take your consulting firm seriously, you definitely need a website.
A professional website is the backbone of any sound digital marketing plan. It is the first place potential clients will look when they want to look up your credentials. It is also the main place people will land on after interacting with your marketing campaigns.
The quality of your website is an indication of the quality of your brand. That’s why you need the design and functionality to be topnotch. Hire a web design agency or at least a web development freelancer to create your business website. Keep the design simple and remember, the most important consideration in building a website is the user experience.
- Invest in SEO
With your website all set up, the next thing to do is make sure it is searchable and visible on the internet. That’s basically what SEO (search engine optimization) is all about. In truth, SEO is a very broad field and contains a lineup of technical nuances that must be met if you are to see tangible results.
It can take a while to start seeing results, especially if your consultancy service is in a competitive industry. Done correctly, however, SEO is a gift that just keeps on giving. There are two main categories under search engine optimization:
- On-site SEO — This refers to the techniques and best practices used for optimizing your website to improve its search engine rankings. Some of these techniques include keyword research, internal linking, and technical website audits.
- Off-site SEO — These are the techniques used to improve your brand’s rankings and visibility on other channels across the web. The primary aim of off-site SEO is to increase your brand’s authority and credibility within the industry. If top-level websites acknowledge your website as an authoritative resource, search engines are more likely to rank it higher.
A successful marketing strategy is contingent on excelling at these areas as they often work interdependently on each other.
- Targeted Content Marketing
The research you did earlier to define your target audience will come in handy here. When you know who you’re marketing to, the content creation process becomes so much easier.
Content marketing covers a wide range of marketing tactics, including website content, blogging, guest posting, and even email marketing. Over the years, it has also evolved to include audiovisual content like podcasts, videos, and graphic designs.
Regardless of the medium you use, the aim is the same — to establish the authority and reputation of your consultancy service. You want your company name to be counted among the go-to experts within the industry that you service.
One of the best ways to do that is to share your ideas a lot in public. By establishing yourself as a thought leader, you build credibility in your niche. This leads to trust among your target audience, which is the major factor between them picking up the phone to call you or opting for your competitor. It all comes down to how well they trust you to solve their unique challenges.
Blogging and email marketing are among the most effective media to accomplish this. Another potent method is including case studies on your website. Case studies help build trust faster because it shares a real and relatable story of how you solved a unique problem for a client. You should also include testimonials and client reviews. These are an important part of content marketing too.
Of course, don’t pass up on speaking opportunities, whether at local community events, virtual conferences, or webinars. Never underestimate the power of a physical meeting with your prospective clients. A meet-up is the strongest way to build a working relationship.
- Make the most of social media
Social media is a powerful marketing tool and will likely only increase ineffectiveness in the coming years. Nevertheless, it would be foolhardy not to take advantage of its many benefits. The key is to understand what social platforms your prospective clients are most likely to be on. For instance, as a consultant, you’ll want to pay special attention to Linkedin, Twitter, Reddit, Quora, and other professional discovery and networking sites.
Your approach to social media marketing should be aligned with your business goals. Focus on building relationships and maintaining a loyal following. Start small — dropping hints and tips, joining relevant groups and initiating conversations, asking insightful questions.
Over time, you can graduate to helping out when people have questions. When you start providing useful and practical answers to people’s questions, you start to position yourself as a credible resource. Who knows? Your next client may just be someone whose question you answered recently.
- Expand your network
Word of mouth referrals is a proven lead generation tactic. And active networking is a great way to get those referrals. There are many ways to build and maintain a strong network, be it by attending professional events, local meet-ups, and even online conferences.
The important thing is that you are connecting with people with whom you can exchange actual value. You may find yourself drawn to people with whom you share similar skills and experiences, but it does help to create a diverse network. By connecting with people who have varying levels of expertise and interests, you’re sparking creative innovation and collaboration.
- Can you do marketing on your own?
Of course, you can do marketing for your own consulting business. The caveat here is that you must have the time and requisite skills to get the job done right. No sense in implementing haphazard marketing tactics and getting disjointed results. You’re better off hiring a marketing agency to drive a steady flow of consulting clients to your business.
Bringing it all together
A well-thought-out marketing plan is a must-have for every consulting business. If you’re looking to hire an expert team that can create a powerful web presence for your brand, B12 is the company to call. We offer a complete lineup of online solutions, including AI-powered web designs, SEO, copywriting, blogging, and more. Our team works tirelessly to draw the right kind of attention to your consulting services.
B12 also offers a number of intuitive tools designed to help you manage your business more efficiently. For instance, our online booking and scheduling tool can be integrated directly into your website for a more streamlined lead management process. We also offer a simple yet robust billing and invoicing tool so you can accept payment for your services directly on your website.
Sign up on B12 today to get started with these must-have features and tools for your consulting business.