Marketing yourself doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, but in the independent consulting industry, it’s kind of necessary.
That’s why independent consultants have to learn the art of promoting themselves. It’s about finding the right balance between displaying your ability and skills without bragging, getting yourself in front of the right people and delivering value that creates happy clients.
However, this is much easier said than done. How can you effectively market yourself as a consultant? In this article, we’ll guide you through the strategies to follow to ensure you’re promoting your consulting expertise in the right ways to help grow your business.
1. Network continuously, online and offline
There are many small businesses and professional service providers who promote themselves through flashy digital marketing campaigns. For the independent consultant, however, networking is their bread and butter. It’s through networking that consultants make contacts today who will become paying clients tomorrow.
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The great thing about networking is that you don’t even have to quit your day job to start. If you’ve not yet made the jump into independent consulting, you can still start testing the water with contacts in your existing network. Tell them you’re seriously considering becoming an independent consultant and see how they react. Keep them warm so that when you do transition, they will already be primed and thinking about what you can do for them.
Remember that when you attend networking events and meet new contacts, it’s important to network properly. That means making yourself known and building a rapport with contacts. It means getting to know them and their business, and starting to assess their potential needs.
It is not an opportunity to pitch. It’s about adding value to a potential client. You don’t just want to talk at someone. Rather, you need to ask them questions and show why you might be someone they need to improve their business — but we’ll delve into that in more detail in the next section!
Networking is a big part of an independent consultant’s working practice. As such, you need to allocate time in your schedule for it. You should be making time to meet up with people in your network and touch base with new prospects. To maintain visibility among your network, you should be meeting with 6-8 people every week. Even if it’s just for a cuppa and catch up!
Network online and in the real world
Finally, as important as it is to meet up with people in the real world, don’t neglect the digital realm. LinkedIn, when used properly, is an invaluable resource for independent consultants. You can interact with people in your network, follow up with new contacts you met at networking events, and add new contacts you would never have met in the real world.
It’s also a great platform for thought leadership through useful and engaging blog posts which will build value in your brand and faith in your expertise. Which brings us to...
2. Demonstrate your value
Your blog posts are just one of the ways in which you can build value for your existing clients and new prospects alike. Networking is absolutely essential. But it’s also imperative that you can demonstrate to new contacts that you are worth their time.
Fortunately, you can start demonstrating your knowledge and skills from first contact. That said, there is an art to this. Remember that nobody wants a sales pitch from a complete stranger at a networking event. Not only does it come across as pushy, it can also seem desperate. And top-tier consultants with happy repeat clients and full calendars never reach the point of desperation.
The truth is that the most effective thing you can do when meeting a new client is actually the easiest thing… Listen.
Don’t interrupt, don’t interject. Stifle the urge to say “Well actually, that’s where I could really help you out!”. Just listen. And ask questions to help you learn more, so you can identify pain points for them which could become opportunities for you. This means asking the right questions. You want to learn what their strategic goals are and think about how you can help them eliminate barriers to growth and/or operational efficiency.
This puts you in a prime position to...
3. Deliver results!
The bold claims you make today can become tomorrow’s embarrassment if you can’t deliver the goods. In the digital era, there are many who can talk the talk but struggle when it comes to walking the walk. And the last thing you want is to be perceived as just another pretender.
After all, referrals are an invaluable (and potentially infinitely renewable) source of opportunity. When you’ve delighted a client with the services you’ve provided, they’re much more likely to recommend you to their own contacts.
And you only get to do this when your results match your words. Part of this is keeping expectations realistic and resisting the urge to over-promise for the sake of landing a lucrative client. But a big part of it is investing in yourself.
Consultants who want to consistently deliver outstanding results are always learning, growing and refining their practice. They allocate time in their busy schedules to learn new skills and keep on top of what’s going on in the industries they serve. They read voraciously and listen to audiobooks and podcasts as they drive to meetings.
Perhaps more importantly, they know that they’re not working in a vacuum. They join franchise partnerships and associate programmes in order to learn from other consultants and use their years of expertise to fill in gaps in their own knowledge. Whether you choose to be a jack of all trades or a master of one, you need to be in a constant state of self-improvement to get the consistent results that will...
4. Establish your brand
Why are so many consumers so fiercely brand loyal? It’s because the brand itself has value to them. It stands for a certain set of standards or ideals. At the very least, it promises consistency. Once you get to know a business’ brand and reputation, you know exactly what to expect.
The great thing about being an independent consultant is that you have complete autonomy to build your own brand. You can identify gaps in your competitors’ competencies and specialisms, and demonstrate your ability to help clients in ways your competitors can’t. You can decide on your own USP and use it to stand out from the crowd.
For independent consultants, branding is all about delivering the personal touch and lending your unique personality to your online and real-world interactions and engagements, as well as your thought leadership posts.
And if clients trust in your results and like you, you’re on a path to regular referrals, a full calendar, and a sterling reputation.
Define the consultant you want to be
When you consider all of the steps above, you are well positioned to define the kind of consultant you want to be. The kind of consultant you can build a brand around and promote. The kind that gets great results and earns the trust of their network.
And remember that you’re not alone in developing the skills and persona that will help you to really market yourself. Consulting partnerships are an extremely valuable resource that can take your consulting firm to the next level.
Not only do the partnerships themselves have prestige value, they can provide help with networking and administrative support so you can spend more time building relationships. They can even help to supplement and improve your knowledge and skill set with decades of pooled experience and expertise.
Don't Know Where to Start?
We know starting is the hardest part hence why we have the Becoming a Consultant Made Easy guide for those of you have not made a start yet or are at the beginning stages of your independent consulting career.