If you search the internet for “consultant success stories”, you’ll find thousands of examples of professionals who have made the leap from the comfort of corporate life to the world of consultancy. All these successful consultant entrepreneurs have something in common: they build relationships and create a valuable network.
Take the story of Grant Son, as told by CBS News:
Previously the Vice President of Consumer Marketing at Time Inc., Son made the move into consultancy when he was laid off on 2009. He’d been considering returning to life as an entrepreneur, and this was the push he needed. Getting his first projects as a consultant to new and established interactive media companies wasn’t hard. He generated plenty of work from former colleagues and connections. He sent a mass email describing his consultancy practice to his entire network. He received immediate responses, for work from web design to business development.
He’s now built a media company using virtual colleagues and is also a senior lecturer at Columbia University.
Marketing a consultancy business has changed
Marketing a business used to be straightforward. You simply advertised. Now, businesses create success by creating a network. This is especially true of consultancy businesses. Son’s success happened because people knew him, liked him, and respected the quality of his work. The strength of his network was, and continues to be, the key to his success.
What is a network?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a network is “a group of people who exchange information, contacts and experience for professional or social purposes.”
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, to network is “to meet people who might be useful to know, especially in your job.”
By building a network, you are preparing for when you need people in your network. It’s the legwork needed before you achieve your goal. Like actors learning their lines and rehearsing before filming begins. Like athletes spending months and years training before they run the race of their life in the Olympics. By building your professional network, you build your future as a consultant.
What does a successful network look like?
The internet and social media have made it far easier to build a network, and to manage that network. However, one mistake that many people make is to focus on quantity rather than quality. You want your network to be really interested in what you are doing, what you are saying, and your views and opinions.
Often discussed is the success of todays new breed of vloggers. The world’s most followed vlogger is PewDiePie. He posts videos in which he provides commentary while playing video games. He has more than 95 million followers. His videos pull in around 5 million views on average – an active rate of a shade above 5%. In other words, 95% of his followers are extremely passive to his content.
Compare this with Ryan, made famous by his YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview. He has fewer than 20 million followers, but regularly pulls in 5 million plus to view his videos. That’s an active rate of more than 25%. What makes this more exciting is that Ryan is under 10 years old.
This interaction rate translates into profits. In 2018:
PewDiePie made profits of $15.5 million. Equivalent to around 16 cents per follower, or approximately $3 per active follower.
Ryan made $22 million. Equivalent to $1.16 per follower, or $4.40 per active follower.
This disparity shows that the most successful networks are those that are active. An engaged and active person is more likely to use your services and buy your products. It’s better to have an engaged and active network of 200 people than a disinterested and inactive network of 2,000 people. Son’s initial and continuing success – 10 years later – is because his network is engaged with him.
When networking online, avoid this marketing mistake
When starting out in consultancy, it is tempting to spend money to market yourself using ads in newspapers and online. You put together a great advert describing your experience and successes. It looks great, and you are hopeful that it will create many new contacts and drive business to your door. When it doesn’t, the disappointment causes physical pain.
Why doesn’t this strategy work for consultants? The reason is that it cheapens your brand. People watch or read your ad and scratch their head. “If you’re so successful, why do you need to advertise your services?” If you are as good as you claim to be, then you shouldn’t need to promote your skills and services through paid ads.
Other than providing great service and letting your clients recommend you, the best way to increase your network and find new work is to provide interesting, informative and entertaining content online.
Online marketing of consultancy services
You have spent a great deal of time and energy on becoming an expert in your field. You’ve trained and taken and passed exams. You’ve probably been working in the corporate world and helped dozens if not hundreds of clients. Approach your network like Son did, to kickstart your consultancy business.
From this fast-track start, rather than waste resources on advertising that doesn’t pay, focus your effort on providing real evidence of your expertise online. This will help to build a network of engaged and active followers – the people who are most likely to buy services and products from you. Here are the main online resources you should be using:
You must have a website that is fit for purpose and optimized for search engines. People must be able to find you online. No matter how small your business is now, consider these stats:
55% of people search online for reviews and recommendations – make sure you publish testimonials on your website (KPMG)
47% of people visit a company’s website before making a buying decision (KPMG)
More people (47%) share feedback on a company’s website than on other online resources
Content marketing gets 3 times the leads per dollar spent when compared to paid search efforts (Content Marketing Institute)
Posting quality content on a blog is an essential tool when building a network:
Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than those without
61% of people will make a purchase after reading a recommendation on a blog
Websites with blog content have 434% more search engine-indexed webpage
Companies that blog receive 97% more links to their website (HubSpot)
Your social media
People are spending an increasing amount of time on social media, using it to conduct their online search for products and services, discover news and views, shop, and connect with like-minded people. The top three social media platforms for consultancy businesses are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Here’s what some of the research tells us:
78% of small businesses attract new customers and engage existing ones using social media
LinkedIn has now surpassed Facebook as the #1 most important social platform for B2B marketers (2015 Social Media Marketing Industry report)
According to polling by Regalix, LinkedIn is now the #1 platform used for product launches among B2B businesses
Studies show that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting the small business or making a purchase with them
The average Facebook user spends 55 minutes each day on the platform
According to Twitter, 74% of people who follow a brand on Twitter do so to get product updates
72% of Twitter followers are more likely to make a future purchase after following or engaging with a brand on Twitter
On your website, blog, and social media accounts, as part of your marketing strategy, you should consider treating a growing audience as you would face-to-face. Join consulting associations and groups specific to your field of specialization and become involved in conversations. When people leave comments or ask questions, make sure you answer them promptly and openly. Be active in your online communities as you build a platform of trust that leads the user through their unique customer journey.
These are just a few pointers. If you use the tools and techniques at your disposal to grow your network effectively, you will join the thousands of successful consultants who have done so already.
To find out more and discover how we help businesses grow by perfecting SEO, content marketing, email marketing, and building a social media presence, contact BlabberJax today.
In the meantime, tell us what you have found to be your biggest network building challenge in the comments below. We’ll be happy to get in touch and help you find the solution.