The Challenges Faced By Small Consulting Practices – Part 1.

Business consulting can be a challenging profession, particularly if you are a solo-practitioner. You need to market your services effectively and repeatedly to continue to win new business, or risk going broke. When you win the new business, you are left with little time for marketing as you commit yourself to fulfilling assignments and supporting clients. Before you know it, assignments are over and you are back on the marketing treadmill, trying to win new clients to replace the ones that have recently completed with you.

So is there a sustainable business model for solo-consultants that can take the cyclicality out of their practices? Well yes there is, and it is really down to working smarter. Some of the things that you can do include the following:

  • Maximize retainers
  • Pre-screening/client selection
  • Content development
  • Freebies and pushing out the free line
  • Marketing automation and funnels
  • Automating key functions
  • Outsourcing non-essential tasks and activities/delegating
  • Creating a value-delivered model as opposed to a billable time model
  • Moving beyond one-on-one services and embracing one-to many services
  • Webinars/blogs/newsletters
  • Creating passive revenue streams
  • Writing books/courses/video programs
  • Keynote speaking
  • Systemizing what you know and licensing it to other consultants to deliver
  • Referral programs
  • Collaborate with others
  • Continuous learning
  • Life/work balance

Let us now look at the first six of these initiatives in more detail. The final dozen initiatives will be considered in next week’s article.

Maximize Retainers

Every time you take on a new client and complete a successful project, you should try to continue your relationship with the client by offering to act as a sounding board for them into the future. If they got good council from you during the pre-project preparation, during the project, and after the project was completed, then they are frequently open to keeping communication channels open and perhaps putting you on a monthly retainer to provide ongoing council. Even if you only manage to agree $1,000 per month, this quickly adds up to pretty decent recurring revenue as your client base expands. 20 clients on a $1,000 retainer will generate $240,000 per annum. It is a clear win-win situation.

Pre-screening/Client Selection

I have talked about this extensively in other blog posts and it remains close to the top of my list in terms of importance. It is a mistake to accept all-comers as clients and you really need to focus on only selecting the clients with whom you can do your best work. It is a costly mistake for both the client and yourself, if you take on every assignment that comes your way. A mis-match can lead to a failed project or a strained relationship with the client that does not serve anyone. It is incumbent on the consultant to develop a screening process that quickly lets him know whether the client is suitable for him to work with before getting into detailed discussions about a proposed project.

Content Development

A consultant’s website should be a showcase for the skills of the consultant as well as a window into his personality and background. The consultant can demonstrate all of these things by writing a weekly blog, on topics that are of interest to him and to potential clients. This can quickly build into a fairly comprehensive library of useful information that can benefit clients, potential clients, and other visitors to the website. It can also act as a confidence building measure for potential clients during the pre-contact stage.

Freebies and Pushing Out the Free Line

The blog is just one way to provide free useful content to visitors to the consultant’s website. The consultant should endeavor to bring back repeat visitors so that they may gain all of the benefits of his knowledge and get answers to business issues they are facing in their own businesses. Developing eBooks, white papers and other valuable freebies can be another way to get visitors engaged with the consultant and his practice.

In exchange for a name and an email address, the consultant can push out the free line to his followers and create a mechanism for real and meaningful dialogue. This can in turn create a bond of trust between the consultant and the visitor, which in turn fosters reciprocity. Although the consultant initially provides a lot of valuable content for free, it frequently leads to engaged visitors who may purchase a low value product on the website. Over time, this creates the opportunity for the consultant to cross-sell and up-sell other products that will be of benefit to the visitor.

Marketing Automation and Funnels

When we market our services to potential clients, we do it in the same way each time if we are smart. There are several web based marketing applications available that can transform the way that we get our message out to potential clients. The most well known are Infusionsoft and Ontraport. These applications are a complete toolset of standard emails and automated sequences that consultants can use to distribute information, content and offers to potential clients, without the need to do it manually each time. The system acts as a marketing funnel that works in the background, so that the consultant can continue to deliver value added services to clients, without the need for constant physical engagement.

Automating Key Functions

The automation of marketing activities described in the last section is just one way of removing the drudgery from the consultant’s daily activities. Some of the things that take a lot of time in many consulting practices are the meet-and-greet activities, pre-screening of clients, business assessments, benchmarking, report writing and proposal development. This combination of activities can eat up a lot of time and most consultants don’t get paid for administrative activities. For this reason, I have developed a white label online toolset for consultants, which takes care of all of these activities. It’s called GrowthOracle and if you are reading this on the GrowthOracle blog, you can find out more about it on this website. Alternatively, you can look at this YouTube video, which describes its key functions – Simple Steps To Grow Your Consulting or Coaching Business

Next week we will be looking at the remaining 12 initiatives in some detail so please come back to learn how they can help transform your consulting practice.

Niall Strickland