Most consulting business owners say to me that their number one challenge is getting more clients.
And to get more clients means you need to get noticed. You need to get your message out there. You need to attract your ideal clients.
However, for the B2B consulting business owner, that doesn’t mean having tens of new clients every month.
For many B2B consulting businesses, it is quite possible to achieve 7-figure revenues with no more than a dozen active clients each year.
The challenge, of course, is finding those clients. The right clients. The clients with good, long-term potential.
The problem is that many micro, small and boutique consulting businesses are chasing the wrong clients!
They're defaulting to selling to businesses that are of a similar size.
It’s like a comfort blanket. They feel an affiliation.
But what they're really struggling with is fear.
Fear that a big firm won't be interested in their services.
Fear that they're not good enough to serve a big firm.
Fear that they won't get noticed by a big firm because they don't have a big marketing budget.
So they stay small.
They network with small businesses. They sell to small businesses. And they make small revenues, on low day rates, working for really demanding clients.
What consulting business owners really want!
More clients providing roughly same average revenues each OR more revenues from existing clients?
The majority preferred to have more revenue from existing clients.
That stands to reason, because getting new clients is hard work.
But you won't get more revenues from small clients because there simply aren't enough opportunities with them.
Instead, if you target mid and large corporates, you can develop relationships where you have access to lots of opportunities over very long periods of time. Decades even.
However, for that to happen you first you need to get their attention. And the best way to do that is to focus on the problems that they face, rather than the services that you offer.
In this article I’m going to explore 52 different ways that you can market your consulting business in your quest to find new mid and large corporate clients.
That’s one for each week of the year - not that I suggest you implement all 52.
During the time that I’ve run my consulting business, I’ve deployed 44 of the methods outlined in this article. There are undoubtedly others that I haven’t tackled, and new ones that will come up in future.
If you think there’s one that I should have included but didn't, then do say so in the comment section at the bottom of the article.
The problem with marketing in a consulting business
In consulting businesses the problem I see the most with marketing is that it's an ad-hoc affair. It’s done because someone says it needs to be done, or because there's an urgent need to fill the sales pipeline with more opportunities.
Marketing is simply shotgunned in the hope that something hits, and this can lead to two misconceptions:
- A particular marketing channel works great for you - based on the fact that it’s worked once, so it must be good and is chosen above all others!
- A particular marketing channel doesn’t work for you - because you tried it once, didn’t get an immediate result, and so gave up too soon
It also leads to the often quoted phrase:
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.
The quote is from renowned pioneer of marketing, John Wanamaker (1838-1922).
But let's pause for a second. It's a quote about marketing from a person who died nearly 100 years ago! So does it really have any relevance in today’s world of marketing?
I don't think so. Today you have access to free technology, like Google Analytics, that enables you to be very clear as to the success of your marketing channels. You can track everything. You can even see where on your homepage someone is looking!
The secret to successful marketing channels
The fact is, every marketing channel can work. Note 'can' and not 'does'.
Whether a marketing channel is right for your business will require testing. That's why I've personally implemented 44 of the channels laid out below. To determine which ones work. And I can tell you that what works for my coaching business is different to what works for my consulting business.
Unfortunately, that's contrary to what everyone else out there is saying.
Before you embark on any marketing initiative you must first determine what your goals are, as without goals how can you possibly measure the effectiveness?
Once you've settled on the right channels for your business, you need to follow the following three marketing success secrets (that I learned the hard way!):
- Be consistent: For example, if you’re going to have a weekly newsletter, then publish it weekly! (I’m guilty as charged on this one - a new year’s resolution of mine for 2019) You can't honestly test a channel if you don't follow through. The overwhelming majority of people are inconsistent, which leads to making wild assumptions about a channel's success.
- Be persistent: Despite what many ads on Facebook and LinkedIn will promise you, there is no silver bullet marketing tactic. The reality is that each and every one requires persistence before it pays off. Although there are some that have a much greater chance of success
- Be patient: Good things come to those that wait! You’ll be tempted to tweak and change because you lack the required patience. Set a timeframe that’s honest and reasonable to test a marketing channel, which is probably 3-6 months. Most people don't want to hear that because they leave marketing until it's too late. It's those businesses that are relying on referrals and luck!
You've stuck with me this far so let's get into the list. It's difficult to categorise the channels because there’s so much overlap. However, I’ve done my best to create some form of grouping, which is as follows:
1. Linkedin Profile
If you’re a B2B consultant this is the where to start as it’s the first place a potential client is going to go to find out more about you.
But is your LinkedIn profile structured like you’re an employee? Does it simply represent an online CV, or is it optimised to be an essential component of your B2B marketing strategy?
How many contacts have you got? I recommend you build a big list of connections so that you can utilise your free LinkedIn profile to distribute your content to the widest possible audience i.e. blog articles, guides, white papers, etc.
I have thousands of linkedin connections, which means that when I share one of my blog articles, its potential audience is also thousands.
2. LinkedIn Company page
Have you created a company page?
If you’re going to use paid Linkedin advertising on LinkedIn it’s essential. But, even without paid advertising, it helps your prospects to do more research into you, your firm, and your fellow employees.
It’s also another useful channel to distribute content.
3. LinkedIn Group (owned)
Building a consulting business is about becoming a known, liked and trusted. It means being recognised in the community as an expert.
We’re in the digital world today, which means you need to build digital communities, and a LinkedIn group is a great place to start.
Now linkedin groups are very far from perfect. The level of engagement is very poor in comparison to Facebook groups, but it still benefits you to build your own Linkedin community.
4. LinkedIn Groups (others)
This is one of my favourite strategies for raising my profile and growing my email list.
In the first instance, join existing LinkedIn groups relevant to your expertise and/or target markets and utilise them to demonstrate your capabilities by helping people out and responding to queries and requests for advice.
This can also help to grow your own group as well as your connections.
When I share my blog articles in Linkedin groups I raise my potential audience from thousands to nearly a million!
5. Linkedin Published Articles
A good way to build a following and to get your content distributed is to publish articles on Linkedin. There are some cons to this, particularly when it comes to duplicate content, so ideally only publish unique content.
A primary benefit of publishing on Linkedin is the analytics available to you.
Article Publishing via Linkedin can form a part of your wider content marketing strategy, and is a good place to start if you don't already have an established blog audience.
6. Linkedin Advertising
This is the first strictly paid-for channel listed here, but Linkedin ads are a great way to increase the exposure of your brand. When done correctly you can also increase the size of your mailing list, and have your ideal clients reaching out to you.
This is essential in today’s world of GDPR legislation where it’s much harder to leverage contact databases.
7. Linkedin Inmail
Linkedin Inmail is a form of direct emailing which typically receives a greater response rate than traditional email. I suspect its use will grow given the GDPR legislation, and the costs might therefore increase.
It’s a useful tool to target specific individuals who are not accepting your Linkedin requests.
8. Facebook Public Profile Page
Your first thought is probably that Facebook is not the place to do business. And I can appreciate that viewpoint, however, it's probably a bit out of date.
All of the large consultancies - like McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, etc. - are on Facebook!
The real power of Facebook is firstly the number of people on it, and secondly the ability to very specifically target them through paid advertising.
The first place to start is with a Public Profile page. This will give you the ability to create a number of other Facebook assets relevant to your business.
With a Facebook public profile page you can make posts as your business rather than your personal account, and people can follow you.
Depending on your business, it might be all you need on the platform.
A quick note about using your personal Facebook profile.
It is perhaps the first and most obvious place you might consider to post about your business, but, in short, DON'T DO IT!
For one, it’s against Facebook policy, and for two, once you start attracting prospects and clients to your personal Facebook profile, you’ll never be able to use it in a personal context again.
I never connect to clients via my personal Facebook profile. The only exception would be if they were friends beforehand, or had become personal friends at a later time.
9. Facebook Company Page
Next is the company page. This is pretty much the same as the company page on Linkedin.
It’s a useful place in which to distribute content, and to engage with clients and prospects.
Of course, once you’re on social media - especially Facebook - you’re at mercy of the trolls and general unprofessionalism that you see on social media.
10. Facebook Private Group
This is one of my favourite ways to engage with my audience for my coaching business. However, for my B2B consulting business I favour Linkedin groups simply because people are more comfortable talking business on Linkedin.
There are, however, a ton of advantages to Facebook groups. These include:
- The ability to run polls
- Updates appear in people’s feeds (unlike for Linkedin groups)
- People more readily engage on Facebook
13. Facebook Groups belonging to others
There’s an interesting cultural code difference between groups on Facebook and Linkedin.
In the latter it is perfectly acceptable to post your own content in someone else’s group, such as a link to your blog articles.
In Facebook groups belonging to other people, it is bad etiquette and will most likely see you ejected from that group.
That said, by joining other people’s groups, if you tread carefully and respectfully, you can utilise them to build your authority.
This is much more likely to be effective if you can find groups that are run by people with complimentary skills to your own.
For example, you might be a HR consultant and so join some groups relevant to the industries in which you serve.
If you instead chose to join groups belonging to other HR consultants, there’d potentially be a conflict.
I see this all the time with people joining my Facebook group who immediately pitch their services. Needless to say, those people are quickly ejected from the group.
11. Facebook advertising
There’s not a day goes by when there isn’t a new guru who pops up on Facebook advertising that you should use Facebook ads. These people promise you that you can become instantly successfully just by engaging them to help you run a few ads.
I’ve spent tens of thousands on Facebook ads and the truth is, yes they can and do work, but no, it won’t necessarily bring you overnight success. Just as you can’t really get 6-pack abs in 4 weeks!
That said, I expect in 2019 Facebook ads will be adopted by many more traditional B2B players.
12. Facebook Messenger Bots
These were, in my view, a bit of a craze in 2018.
They worked for a few months as everyone was excited by the artificial intelligence. Businesses sprung up offering to make you millions through a few bots.
They’re still around in 2019, but I don’t think they’re the miracle they were in 2018. I’d say they’re a bit like a self-service checkout in a supermarket. They’re very convenient for simple transactions and provide efficiency, but if your business is about client engagement, then their importance is much less.
Other social media
I’m going to be short and sweet here because I don’t really get Twitter!
I think it works great for celebrities who share 280 character soundbites of their lives, and have followers who have an equally shallow interest.
I have a presence on Twitter and use it to distribute my blog content, but that’s about it.
All of the business contacts I know on Twitter (with exception to fellow consulting business owners) tend to use it more for discussing football results than business related matters!
But it still might figure as an essential marketing channel for your B2B consulting business.
Instagram is a fast rising platform in importance, however, it is by nature a graphical format.
Most B2B consulting isn’t particularly graphical. The results of the work of a B2B consultant is often intangible, or reflected in the client’s products and services.
Therefore, this is unlikely to figure in your marketing mix, although it can be utilised as an advertising platform (especially via Facebook ads).
There’s an obsession with video content currently, and quite frankly it frustrates me. The reason being is that to write an article takes thought. You need to re-read it. You need to ensure that it all ads value.
With the prevalence of video on Facebook and Linkedin, people are becoming more encouraged to produce quick content, no matter if it’s been thought through or not.
And Facebook certainly ranks video content higher.
We’re bombarded by the notion that no-one has the time to read anymore, and all information must be bite-sized. But I’m not buying it.
I think if what you write is relevant, then people will read it. That’s why bookstores still exist, and that’s why so many business owners consider writing a book!
But, with Google (or the Alphabet group) owning YouTube, videos posted there do benefit from an SEO perspective.
If video is your thing, then having a YouTube channel won’t do you any harm so long as you remember be consistent, persistent, and patient.
Medium is a great platform for interesting stories with a more personal touch. There’s also a lot of well-known names utilising the platform for sharing blog content.
It can be utilised as part of a wider content marketing strategy, which is how I use it, but is unlikely to feature highly for the B2B consultant.
Quora is an interesting question and answer platform. Many well-known people have credited it for raising their profiles and the fortunes of their businesses. It does, however, take time and commitment to filter through and answer questions.
If you find that there are lots of questions being asked that are relevant to your area of expertise, then it is worth considering it as part of your marketing mix.
I think the popularity of podcasts may have peaked in 2018. For some businesses they create the mainstay of their marketing efforts, however, I would suggest that most of those businesses are in the B2C space.
The biggest challenge with a podcast is the time they take to create, and the medium. Unlike a blog article, there isn’t the same immediate call to action. You can’t so easily click a link when you’re listening via your phone on the commute to work.
Podcasts have their place, but again, I think there are better channels available to the B2B consultancy.
20. Appearing as a guest on a podcast
This is one way that podcasting can benefit your business. If you can appear as a guest you gain access to someone else’s audience, and benefit from their marketing efforts.
Of course, you should also hold up your end of the deal and promote the podcast - especially the one that you feature in!
The key benefit is that by being a guest you get many of the benefits with a lot less effort. The trick is in finding the right podcast to be a guest on.
Don’t wait to be invited. If you listen to a podcast that you think aligns with your target audience, then reach out. Finding an audience for a podcast is hard work, so you’ll likely be welcomed with open arms.
Often this is the first thing the consulting business owner wants to do when it comes to marketing - get a website built.
A website is important, but not in the same way that it used to be.
In the distant past, your website was essentially your virtual shop window. It was an online brochure all about you.
Those glory days are long gone. For your website to be successful it must appeal to the varying audiences who visit your site. Not all traffic is created equal, and so a good website design will address each of the 3 core audience types - the Oblivious, the Afflicted, and the Informed.
If you haven’t yet got your Linkedin profile up to scratch, sort that out first!
If you have, then you must ensure your website is a highly valuable resource to prospects and clients, and that it has clear Calls To Action (CTA) to move your prospects to the next stage.
Depending upon your marketing strategy, if you’re going to use content, then your website will likely form the content hub.
You’re reading this article on my blog, and it’s through blogging that I am able to engage with people I don’t know.
The beauty of blogging is that you’re reading this article because it’s relevant to you. You’ve self-identified, unlike say at an in-person networking event where we’d need to strike up a conversation first to determine whether or not there’s any reason to talk more.
A blog is a great precursor to a lead magnet too.
However, blogs are time consuming and they take a lot of commitment. In my opinion they do have a benefit over video as they are more evergreen.
Videos tend to have a shorter shelf-life than a blog article.
23. Guest blogging
It takes a long time build up a blog audience in a B2B consulting arena. You must recognise that a lot of the claims of wild overnight success that we so frequently see on social media are based on broad appeal B2C products. For example, offering diet solutions, etc.
Building a strong B2B blog following inevitably takes time. A great way to shortcut this is to guest blog.
This enables you to leverage someone else’s existing audience.
Done right, this can be a highly effective marketing approach to increase the number of leads and your email list size.
24. Lead magnets
What is a Lead Magnet? It’s something of value that you give away on your website in return for an email address.
Now, under GDPR regulations you can no longer force someone to give you an email address. Instead you must enable them to get something for free. (I guess that shows why people in government are in government and not business!).
A Lead Magnet is a really powerful tool as it enables you to demonstrate your expertise whilst immediately helping a prospect. It also (hopefully) gets you an additional email subscriber, which means you can nurture the relationship.
For example, I was able to win a consulting engagement with a prestigious UK institution solely through content marketing. The approach was far superior to any other method I could have deployed.
As an example, here are the lead magnets that I provide.
A lead magnet is what’s known as ‘gated content’. That is, the reader is requested share contact details to access the free materials (subject to GDPR).
Conversely, your blog provides advice and guidance that isn’t gated.
An infographic can be either gated, or provided with free access like your blog articles.
Infographics are great as they portray lots of information in an easily digestible manner. Here is an example infographic I produced last year.
I’m such a fan of infographics that I now use them in place of reports for some of my consulting engagements, especially those that are highly statistical in nature.
26. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Is SEO a marketing channel in it’s own right, or is it simply a component of a well managed website?
There are a lot of ‘digital marketing agencies’ out there promising to improve your website. In the past I’ve sunk thousands of pounds into them to promote my consulting business. Was it money well spent?
Erm, mostly not!
In short, I think there are better channels that provide more instant and valuable results than over-focus on SEO. It is important, but I think there's very few firms that really understand it well, despite what they might say.
It's worth waiting until you have sufficient revenues to engage one of the better firms, and only if there's a clear benefit to your business in being listed on the first page of Google.
Chatbots are really a component of your website. They’re very popular right now, much like the Facebook Messenger Chatbot mentioned earlier.
I think they make a lot of sense for certain types of businesses. For example, ecommerce businesses and service providers. Any business where the customers are asking the same questions frequently.
However, I don’t think they’re as useful in a B2B consulting business. They do have a place, such as supporting your front-end lead generation by channeling website visitors to the right person and/or content. But, ultimately, I believe their value is limited in a B2B consulting business.
28. Google Ads
Formerly known as Google Adwords, Google Ads is the digital equivalent of a billboard, only much better.
Better in that you can be very targeted as to who sees your ads.
Google Ads can be a very good investment, especially if you have a niche that isn't crowded. If, however, your particular area of expertise is broadly served, then it may not be the best channel to choose.
Like all advertising, Google Ads should never be seen as set and forget. It needs constant and continual monitoring and tweaking to optimise the value.
29. Live Webinars
Live webinars have been big business for some years now. The reason being is simple. Unlike many of the other digital channels, a webinar provides you with direct access to your audience and vice versa.
A webinar provides the closest thing to in-person networking, only better. It’s better because the audience has pre-qualified. And if an audience member stays until the Q&A section at the end, they are showing strong signs of interest.
Webinars are one of the best ways in which a B2B consultancy can engage with both prospects and clients.
You can either run your own webinar - for which you’ll need to cover the marketing effort and costs, or be a guest speaker on someone else’s webinar.
In the past I was a guest speak on a webinar for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. This was beneficial as I was positioned as a trusted advisor within a prestigious organisation.
30. Evergreen Webinars
An alternative to the live webinar is what is known as an evergreen webinar.
In reality, it’s simply a pre-recorded webinar. Although, for whatever reason, most of the people who provide pre-recorded webinars pretend that they are live. (Why do they do this? It’s dumb and insulting the intelligence of the audience.)
Evergreen webinars are great if you have a fixed offering that needs explaining in the same way frequently.
For example, they’re great for a coaching business.
The applicability to a B2B consulting business is perhaps less so, and given that the volume of clients required is much smaller in a B2B consulting business, I’d recommend live webinars over evergreen webinars.
31. Email newsletter
How many times have you heard or read that:
The money is in the list.
But how much money? And how important is it to have a big email list? Especially when we’re also told we only need:
One thousand true fans
Source: Kevin Kelly
Having an email list is a great way to stay in touch with clients and prospects in the long-term.
Like all the channels detailed here, the challenge of consistency remains.
However, I don't think a B2B consultancy needs to send anywhere near as many emails as other business do.
For example, in 2018 there was a definite trend of online marketers sending daily emails. This is perhaps acceptable when targeting solopreneurs, but I can’t think of a single corporate consulting client that would ever be happy for me to send them a daily email.
Even weekly might be too much. That said, I wouldn't go less than monthly as you're not going to be able to stay top of mind.
Having an email list is an essential part of any B2B consulting firm’s marketing mix in 2019 and beyond.
32. Cold email
Given the introduction of GDPR, this channel may be largely dead in the water. Cold emailing simply means to email strangers and to try and engage them.
In the corporate world most people are overloaded and burdened with email. I don’t see cold emailing being much more effective than cold calling, the only benefit being that cold emailing is much, much lower cost than cold calling.
That said, I’d generally avoid it. Instead focus on providing high-value lead magnets.
33. Attend networking events
Networking is another marketing channel that most consulting business owners turn to in the early days. The challenge with networking is two-fold:
- Finding the right events to attend
- Finding ideal clients (or people that can introduce or refer you to them)
In the early days of running my consulting business I found networking frustrating. All I ever met were accountants and bloody holistic healers!
But then I changed my mindset and approach. I recognised that networking events are more likely to be attended by other business owners, or people in sales roles in large organisations.
The opportunity, therefore, was to find people who I could partner with, or offer mutually beneficial value to.
As a consulting business owner, through networking I was able to meet people who I partnered with; who became staff and subcontractors; and I even landed a few clients.
So it does work, but it is time consuming to do well. You must be very selective which ones you go to, and once you’ve made a choice, you must commit to consistent attendance to get the most out of it.
34. Joining a formal networking group - BNI, etc.
To network on steroids, consider joining a formal networking group like BNI or 4N.
These networks are very good to get used to practising your elevator pitch. You’ll also get access to a huge array of networks in area and out.
There are a few challenges, however.
For one, they can be hard sell. You might be expected to pass on leads regardless of whether or not they’re appropriate. This might be acceptable in the B2C space, but is down-right unprofessional in the B2B space.
Because of this approach they tend be better suited, in my opinion, to B2C businesses with a local focus - like plumbers, carpenters and other trades. These people are unlikely to be able to make you the B2B referrals that you’re seeking.
Also, they can become a huge distraction. You’ll be asked to take on additional responsibilities, such as being an 'area representative'. Not only are these unpaid roles, but I’ve seen many people who seem to spend more time working for their network than they do their own business.
35. Join local groups like the Chambers of Commerce of Institute of Directors
Another approach to networking is to become a member of organisations such as your local Chambers of Commerce, The Institute of Directors (UK), of the Federation of Small Business (UK).
These organisations often offer lots of benefits, of which networking is just one part.
Remember though, that they are sales organisations and they will try to upsell you on everything possible! Whether it’s a ‘discounted’ exhibition stand, or a higher level of membership, there’s no end to the things they’ll try and sell you.
Again, like all networking, you get out what you put in. So if it is a chosen avenue for you, make sure you commit.
Toastmasters International is a global organisation that helps people improve their public speaking skills. It’s not strictly a business network, but it does have huge potential mostly because people who have to public speak are often in senior positions inside corporates.
I met the CEO of a company that was in the same industry as one of my clients. An opportunity I might not otherwise have had.
Failing that, you might meet valuable referral partners. And worse case scenario, you’ll simply improve your public speaking capability!
37. Create your own network
An alternative to attending networking events is to host your own.
A client of mine runs a very successful networking group that meets every-other month. The attendees are by invite only, so it’s a very controlled affair. It’s also great to meet referral partners and potential clients.
If you’re not having the success you’d like from attending other people’s events, then considering hosting your own. It’s great for credibility and reputation of your firm, and it can be especially valuable if your clients are all located nearby, as you raise your profile in the local business community.
As I mentioned earlier, if you join trade organisations like the Chambers of Commerce, it won’t be long before they try and encourage you to exhibit your business.
If approached correctly, and the right exhibitions are chosen, it can provide a great source of leads.
Most large businesses will exhibit, which can make the cost of entry to the right events prohibitive.
You must remember too that the people selling exhibition space are salespeople. They’ll tell you what you want to hear! Play smart. Negotiate. And do lots of research on the potential attendees. Ensure that you get included in any promotional materials.
Also, support the event by inviting your own contacts to attend.
The biggest challenge with exhibitions is the cost and the return on investment. You must make your attendance part of a much wider plan.
If you’re considering exhibiting, be sure to read our Comprehensive Guide to Exhibiting.
39. Run your own exhibition
An alternative to attending someone else’s exhibition is to host your own. This is a time consuming undertaking, but may be a suitable model for your consulting business.
Invite complimentary businesses and either charge them for a stand, or come to a reciprocal arrangement. The benefit is having access to each other’s clients.
40. Run a training event
A great way to help companies recognise the need for external expertise is by making them aware of what they don’t know.
Counterintuitive as it sounds, one way to do this is to provide training.
You can offer short ½ day or whole day training courses covering key concepts around your expertise. This will enable attendees to go off and do it for themselves, or to consider getting assistance from you and your firm.
An example of this is a course that I attended a few years back on email marketing. It was an excellent, low-cost half day course covering some really valuable concepts.
For the company providing the training, the up-sell was to engage them to run your marketing campaigns for you, which made perfect sense.
This model also provides scope to offer complimentary services whereby you provide additional support to a client who is tackling some of the required work themselves.
41. Give a talk
Public speaking is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and have prospective clients reach out to you directly.
A great place to public speak is at the same events that you’re exhibiting. That way you can be available for people to come and visit your stand after the talk (be sure to tell them where to find you!).
You can often get speaking events through partners too.
In the past I was invited speak at Microsoft’s campus in Reading, which was of great benefit as not only did it put me right in front of an audience of my ideal clients, but in being at Microsoft it raised my credibility in front of the attendees.
Hitting the phones
42. Cold calling
Let’s not beat around the bush, cold calling works.
But only around 3% of the time.
So if you have the time to make 100 calls in order to schedule 3 meetings, of which possibly one is a fit, then go for it.
Oh, and you need to be ok with taking 97 rejections.
And annoying people because they didn’t ask to be called!
I’ve done cold calling and for me it was miserable way to start each day. I think for the busy consulting business owner there are far more valuable marketing channels.
43. Telemarketing (i.e. outsourced cold calling)
Having realised how much I despised cold calling, I outsourced it. And if you don’t already know, I proceeded to waste thousands of pounds in the process.
However, there is a time and place to consider outsourcing cold calling.
An example might be if you choose to run your own event - say an exhibition, networking event, or training workshop - and you engage a telemarketing agency to help get bums on seats, so to speak.
44. Warm calling
Warm calling is simply following up when a prospect has shown some interest in your business.
This might be because they downloaded a free guide from your website (Lead Magnet), or because they left their business card with you at an event you exhibited at.
Regardless, warm calling is actually an enjoyable thing to do and should form an essential part of your marketing mix.
Traditional marketing channels
This is the number one method that the vast majority of B2B consulting businesses rely upon for generating more work.
And, contrary to what many will have you believe, it does work.
I once worked in a consultancy that had been around for decades, and was achieving circa $50m in annual revenue, primarily through marketing by referrals.
The challenge is that there’s a critical mass required for it to be able to sustain your business. It’s also not a particularly great model to be able to scale your business.
46. Publish an article in print media
Nearly every publication is available online nowadays, although a few remain print only. However, the exact format is less important. This marketing channel is all about leveraging someone else’s list to demonstrate your subject matter expertise.
I’ve had some great successes publishing articles throughout my consulting career. Many years back when my focus was on technology consulting I wrote articles for a number of different publications.
As a micro-consulting business owner I had an article published in online magazine, Clickz, as well as print magazine Outsource (now defunct - although not because of my article!).
My article in Clikz was off the back of an infographic I created. It provided great exposure for me and my business as the author also sought opinion from a representative from PWC. So my micro consulting business was providing advice and guidance alongside one of the biggest global consultancies!
47. Advertise in printed media
This has traditionally been a marketing channel of choice for the big firms. Providing an abstract picture with little more than a 3-word heading and phone number.
This is not an area I’ve ever ventured so I can’t say how relevant it is. If your industry has one or two absolute must read periodicals, then this may be an appropriate channel for you if the return on investment can be justified.
48. Direct mail
Believe it or not, it still exists. In fact, because it is used so rarely, direct mail can be very effective.
The downside to direct mail is that it’s very time consuming and can be costly when compared to email marketing. You also need to deploy tricks and tactics, such as using a lumpy envelop so that it floats to the top of the pile, which can seem a bit icky to the B2B consultant.
It seldom works in isolation either, often requiring a cold call follow-up strategy.
However, if you’re in a very flooded niche, then direct mail might be an appropriate channel in order for your business to stand out.
49. Billboard advertisement
I remember landing in an airport and seeing an Accenture ad, which I thought was odd. However, the big consulting players invest a significant amount in billboard advertising. And because of that, to get a good return on investment requires high levels of brand awareness.
For that reason, billboard ads are likely beyond the reach of many micro, small and boutique consulting businesses.
50. Publish a book
I don’t know when it became ‘a thing’, but it seems nowadays that everyone wants to publish a book. Amazon and its self-publishing platform obviously has had a huge impact on this.
But, much like the prevalence of video, the downside is that the quality of what’s being published is suffering.
A competitor published a book and when I read it, it was simply a collection blog articles. In and of itself, that isn’t so bad, but the problem was that there was no flow. There was no real logic to the book. It was if they’d realised they’d published enough words for a book (circa 50,000 for a business book), and so collated the articles and hit the ‘publish’ button.
You seldom make money directly from a book. What it does do, however, is significantly raise your credibility. The money you make is from the services you sell off the back of the book. A bit like how prime ministers and presidents make more money from speaking engagements after they’ve served in office!
They are, however, not quick fix but they do have a very long shelf-life.
Sponsorship is an often overlooked marketing channel. For local businesses, particularly in B2C but not exclusively, it can be very effective at raising brand awareness.
At the other end of the scale, for the large firms, sponsorship can be utilised to leverage the brand of other initiatives. Here’s an example where EY sponsored women’s rugby in 2017.
Dependent upon your niche, and the geographic area which you serve, sponsorship might be a great model.
In the early days of my technology consultancy I sponsored the Centre for Computer History in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The logo of my consultancy (Camford MC) is still there some 6 years later, and more importantly it put me right alongside big tech firms like Microsoft and ARM.
52. Business cards
Last but not least is the humble business card.
Done in the traditional way, the business card is mostly dead. It’s much quicker to look someone up on Linkedin right there and then and make a connection. There’s more longevity to that, and it’s only what you would do with a traditional business card after an event anyhow. Just before you threw it in the bin.
Done badly, you’ll spend a ton of money on some fancy looking business card that also just gets thrown in the bin a few hours later.
Done well is to leverage technology and bring the old world together with the new world. For example, use a QR code on your business card and direct people to a Lead Magnet relevant to the event that you met them at.
One of my coaching clients has a brilliant spin on business cards. On the reverse side is a ‘Beer token’ which can also be redeemed for a coffee. All the recipient has to do is to get in touch and schedule a meeting.
Another alternative would be to send the QR code direct to your online calendar and enable a meeting to be scheduled.
By converging old with new there are a ton of ways you can make business cards a more effective marketing tool.
So there you have it - 52 marketing channels for the B2B consulting business.
If you apply all of them in your business, do let me know as I’ll apply to get you a knighthood or damehood!
This marketing topic is a beast can easily become overwhelming. This is not helped by all the promises of immediate success in the ads that we see daily on Facebook and the likes.
The truth is, every consulting business I’ve ever worked in or supported through coaching, has defined a mix of marketing channels that is appropriate for them and their firm.
It’s not especially relevant what others are doing as every business is unique. Although there are some fundamentals that no B2B consulting business should be without.
It’s also important to recognise is that there’s no such things as free marketing. Whilst distinctions are often made between paid ads and ‘free’ activities, like blogging, the reality is that they all take a lot of time to create and maintain, and they all need money in one way or another.
For example, every blog article I produce takes around 1 day to write, edit, review and distribute. That’s 20% of my working week! From a consultant’s billable cost, that's an opportunity cost of £60k+.
It's for that reason that you need to choose marketing channels that you can sustain, and that are effective.
Effective, that is, to get you in front of those mid and large corporates where there are the greatest opportunities for you to hit your business and revenue goals!
And, as I said at the beginning of this article, regardless of which channels you use, you need to be consistent, persistent and patient!
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