Today’s consultants could be considered temporary teammates. Just as football teams utilize special teams and substitute individuals on a play-by-play basis, businesses operating in today’s hyper-competitive economic environment are well served by utilizing individuals with specialized skills for brief periods of time. However, at the risk of stating the obvious, before the consultant can begin work for a team, he or she must locate and secure the business of the team(s) requiring their services.
Furthermore, consumers behave and respond differently when seeking a service than when a service (the consultant) is seeking them. These factors require the consultant to take specific actions to attract business. The purpose of this assignment is to explore some of the methods consultants employ to gain clientele. This paper will present these methods in the form of a five-step marketing plan executed by an individual who was recently “downsized” by his previous employer. My goal is to structure a plan where each step multiplies the effect of the next and quickly yields new clients.
Step 1: Consult the Consultants
Due to my lack of experience in this profession, my very first step in starting a consultancy
would be to actually speak to those who are already successfully working as independent
consultants. By speaking to seasoned veterans I should be able to glean some perhaps unwritten
dos and don’ts when it comes to marketing my consultancy and attracting (and retaining) clients.
While the background materials did not specifically address this action, it should prove
instrumental because in a sense, it is a form of networking–which I will address later in this
assignment. Since I doubt I will be able to pay for consultants to help me start my business, I
will join professional and social organizations that increase my exposure to them as well as
potential leads. Once I consult the experts, my next move is to begin marketing myself by means
of a press kit.
Step 2: Create a Press Kit
During this step, I will build a professional quality press kit to serve as a sort of resume for my consultancy. According to Dr. Hunt’s PowerPoint presentation on locating clients, this step would be classified as an indirect method since it is generally not tailored toward a certain potential client. The kit will likely consist of a presentation folder containing a collection of information and articles put together to address questions from potential clients, the media and everyone in between. Its contents will include a biographical sketch, a profile of my consultancy, a description of the results the client can expect, testimonials, references and contact information. Since I’m new the field of consulting, the references I provide in the kit will be of particular importance.
The kit will designed to grab the reader’s attention, make a lasting impression and create enough interest that they will contact me for more information. Additionally, the kit will serve as an introduction during speaking engagements and other times where leads can possibly be generated. I will rely on the kit as my primary marketing tool because it is flexible and will always be required immediately.
According to an article on the Entrepreneurial Connection website, “one of the greatest benefits of a press kit is that it can convey to large numbers of people the most credible endorsements and effective promotional value that money can buy.”1 Therefore, I expect to invest as much as I can afford in a top-notch press kit and associated stationery products that help make a positive, lasting first-impression. As an additional measure, I will publish newsletters to send to companies so they are at least aware of my services even if the haven’t seen one of my press kit folders.
Step 3: Network
Networking is admittedly an area where I have lots of room for improvement, yet I realize it will be instrumental to my success as an independent consultant. Since beginning my MBA studies I’ve accepted that networking is a methodical and disciplined procedure and not merely casual chat and haphazard meetings. It is an interactive pursuit of reciprocally beneficial relationships through interpersonal, telephonic, electronic and correspondence activities. Networking can be characterized as either a direct or indirect method of attracting clients, depending on whether it occurs with potential clients or with others who might direct clients to me or me to clients.
My goal in networking is twofold: to provide value to others so that they will be moved to reciprocate and to become an object of interest in others so that they will direct third parties to my consultancy. Those who have networking potential include existing contacts, buyers, meeting organizers, community leaders, bankers, entrepreneurs, vendors, advisors, other consultants and host of others. In addition to the essential face-to-face interaction, this group also presents an opportunity for direct contact through email, voice mail and via other technologies.
If I dedicate time and energy to a disciplined networking strategy, this otherwise free marketing opportunity should keep prospects in the pipeline and produce resources to call upon for almost every need. According to C.J. Hayden, author of the book Get Clients Now, suggests building a network through a variety of techniques.2 He says the most common is attending meetings and seminars, which leads us to the next step in my plan–working pro bono.
Step 4: Do “Pro Bono” Work
This step involves yet another indirect method of attracting clientele. Pro Bono basically means “for free”. During this step I will speak at seminars, conferences meetings and any other venue in an effort to showcase what I have to offer in person versus the press kit and advertising. Instead of an upfront fee, my compensation will come later as contacts made at these event lead to actual consulting jobs which, if done well, will lead to even more consulting deals. I accept that while doing pro bono work, I need to focus on three goals:
1. Make a meaningful contribution to the event or seminar
2. Capitalize on the opportunity to sharpen my skills in a non-threatening,
3. Getting the audience or group to view me as potential consultant, colleague or
business partner–in other words, someone they can visualize doing business
with in the future
In view of my total lack of consulting experience, I’ll use this step to build self-confidence since no organization accepting free work is likely question my experience, credentials or motives. On the other hand, I have strong speaking and presentation skills which should give me an advantage during this stage. The step should also allow me to enhance my portfolio of references. At least in the early days of consulting career, I expect to have plenty of time to work pro bono due to the scarcity of income-producing consulting work and the fact that such work shouldn’t create a financial strain on my as an otherwise unemployed person.
Pro bono work will also allow me to demonstrate personal commitment to whatever my area of expertise might be and should help me earn professional respect from my peers. I am, however, aware of the pitfalls of doing too much pro bono work. First, I could be labeled as a consultant who will always work for nothing just to get exposure. Secondly, some companies may find it difficult to begin paying for services they had become accustomed to receiving pro bono in the past. Nevertheless, as a new consultant I believe the benefits of exposure due to pro bono work will outweigh any negatives.
Step 5: Use Direct Marketing to Stay in Circulation
Executing the first four steps of this plan should go along way toward gaining clients and will be
time well spent. However, when I am not engaging in those activities I will have considerable
time available to deploy some of the more direct marketing methods discussed in the background materials. In an effort to manage time wisely during this step, creating a web site will receive top priority. The Internet presents a huge opportunity for professional services to gain visibility, network and even sell products like books and other items related to my consultancy. After reviewing the sites of other consultants, I will set about creating site with the aid of the most talented web site designer I can afford. I expect the site to serve several purposes that include:
1. Clarifying what it is that I actually do and the services I offer
2. Compel people to return to the site after the first visit
3. Bring credibility to my consultancy
4. Provide personal contact information
All these things are important for websites because the competition is likely just a mouse click away. Other tasks to be accomplished during step 5 include placing ads in Yellow Pages and other direct response advertising such as newspaper and radio ads. Additionally, I will approach my former employer (the one that downsized me in the first place) and attempt to parlay an existing relationship into future consulting work.
In summary, there are numerous direct and indirect tactics a new consultant can use to gain new clients. While it was not possible to explore all possible methods in this paper, I incorporated many of them into a plan that allows each method to compliment the others. After speaking to experienced consultants, I systematically created a press kit and began networking activities. To gain and maintain exposure to potential clients, I undertook pro bono work and went about creating a web site, and placing newspaper and radio ads. Of all the methods available to the consultant, it is my opinion that those included in this plan would get the fastest results for me as I entered the consulting arena.