One-thousand and thirty-nine pounds in the bank!
That was it. After running my consulting business for 2 years, all I had left in the bank was just over a grand.
How had it come to this? And more importantly...
...what happens when you actually, truly run out of money?
I had no savings to fall back on.
No rich parents to turn to.
No big overdraft or credit card finance available.
What I did have was a mortgage, a wife, two kids, and two cars. All of which required money. All of which relied almost entirely on me to provide it!
What I didn’t have - the one thing that was most likely to solve all my ills - was a consistent flow of new leads.
Roll back 10 years, and truth be told, I fell into consulting.
When I accepted the job offer, I thought the job was as a Technical Architect. But no, it turned out that I was now a Consultant.
And for a while, I honestly thought to myself,
What, people actually pay for this?
Of course, anyone with experience of dealing with consultants will be familiar with the expression, "A consultant steals your watch to tell you the time”. But pretty soon I came to love consulting. It’s incredibly empowering applying your expertise and setting strategic direction in major global firms. The value a consultant brings become very clear to me.
And I was travelling lots. Working with clients as far afield as China, Hong kong, the USA, and mainland Europe. I was working across multiple industries, and as time went on, I was building my own teams and opening up new practices.
I dreamt of running my own consulting firm one day.
It was always my intention to run my own firm. I always got on great with my clients, but the same couldn't be said for my bosses. I recognised that I was difficult to manage, and I don't like being managed! So, the obvious thing to do was to remove from the equation the bit that wasn't working. The boss!
And that's what I did. I carried all the naivety you'd expect too. I declared to anyone that would listen that I was going to build a £10m annual revenue firm within 5 years.
Things started out not too bad at all. I was immediately into six-figure revenues across 3 clients and within 3 months. This included a world-leading global law firm, a global investment bank, and a sizeable trading and investments firm.
I'd proven that you don’t need to be big, or have a long trading history, to be credible.
But how little I knew about marketing. A problem that would rear its head later.
Of course, having been a practice leader before, I knew about sales pipelines and how to sell. I knew how to please the client, and how to grow my team.
What I didn’t know was how crucial marketing was and how, without great marketing, predictably filling my sales pipeline was going to be one almighty challenge.
Yet I thought I was unique!
Turns out I did what nearly everyone else who starts a consulting business does. I sold to people that I already knew, and I got so busy doing the delivery that I neglected to market.
In fact, I had no real clue about how to market. And like many firm leaders, I only thought about marketing when it was too late! When I needed clients immediately.
Knowing what I know now, I'm well aware that marketing can take months before it starts delivering results. Not always, of course, but you certainly shouldn't plan for immediate results.
My total immaturity when it came to marketing led me to the 'terrible twos'. And no, not the parenting kind. I mean the point at which most new consultancies suddenly realise that they've exhausted all of the available opportunities with the people that they already know. Usually, this is at or around the two-year mark.
And that was me. With just over a grand in the bank, I was on holiday with the family secretly having phone conversations with an insolvency practitioner!
What a bleak situation to be in!
As you may well know, the real-world of business isn't quite so glamorous. We normally only get to see the final stage of someone's journey to success. The social media highlight reel that perpetuates the myth that success is obtained overnight! We never see the years spent going through multiple failures en route to success. It's as though we're protected from it as, if we knew how tough it could be, we might never even try.
But in the words of Gloria Gaynor, "I survived!"
I was fortunate in that a number of opportunities landed in quick succession. It wasn’t luck. It was the result of those opportunities I’d been working on landing in the nick of time.
However, I'd been roughed up. Beaten up. This entrepreneurial monster had chewed me up and spat me out. I'd been given a tough lesson in business...
If you don't know how to market, your business is doomed!
So, to ensure I wouldn't ever find myself in this situation again, I set about learning everything I could about how to market a professional services firm. This was, I should note, after a number of unsuccessful and expensive attempts to outsource my marketing!
On my journey of discovery I did everything you could possibly imagine, including...
- Cold calling
- Direct mail (using tactics such as hand-written addresses and lumpy envelopes!)
- Cold email
- Creating a website
- Starting an email newsletter
- Starting a podcast
- Starting a blog
- Creating infographics
- Creating free guides (white papers)
- Creating free downloadable templates
- Creating quizzes
- Creating flyers
- Building landing pages
- Creating video sales letters
- Natively posting on social media and built an audience
- Advertising on both Facebook and Linkedin
- Running groups on both Facebook and Linkedin
- Publishing articles in print and digital magazines
- Business exhibitions
- Public speaking (at Microsoft amongst others)
- Book writing
- And more...
If there's a marketing method, channel or tactic, then I've probably tried it in one way or another.
And that's when it hit me...
I'd accidentally become a marketer!
They say you don't find your passion - it find's you. That's certainly what happened to.
I'd spent so much time doing this marketing thing that I was actually starting to enjoy it. Not only that, I was becoming good at it too!
When I was meeting with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I'd be sharing marketing advice. I'd be telling them what marketing books to read (I've now topped 250 read books on my Kindle so let me know if you want a recommendation for your next read?).
I'd tell them what channels to try next, and how to improve upon what they were currently doing.
And that's what I now do for clients. I help them to implement effective marketing foundations and campaigns.
But, as my clients are professional services firms, we don't focus on building marketing funnels.
We focus on building trust.
And this is done through using both digital and traditional marketing channels.
Don't believe anyone who says you only need a single marketing channel. The irony is that they've probably told you that in their email newsletter, on their Facebook group, on their podcast, etc.
To market effectively in today's world, you must be omni-channel.
What more do you want to know?
I learnt about marketing the time consuming, expensive and hard way.
I learned that the skills required to write a consulting report are very different to the skills required to write marketing copy.
I also learnt that there aren't many people or firms out there that really understand how to effectively market a professional services or consulting business. Including many that suggest that they do - the web agencies, the digital marketing agencies, etc.
So if you want to improve your marketing - whether it's to improve specific tactics, like creating effective case studies or building a lead generating Linkedin profile, or if you need more strategic advice and guidance, or to simply outsource as much as possible (you can't outsource everything when your core product is the knowledge and expertise in the heads of your staff!), then take a look at our Services page.
Or if you're in a hurry, get in touch by clicking the button below to schedule a call with me.