Is that what you’re thinking when you’re trying to get the attention of your prospects?
Are you meeting prospects at networking events, or seeing them visit your website, or even view your LinkedIn profile, waiting for them to reach out to you when they’re ready?
Or are you making it easy for them – working hard to stay top of mind?
For many consulting business owners, their real passion lies in the consulting. In the delivery of a project. Often this can be at the expense of nurturing the client relationship.
And it’s understandable.
You started your consulting business so that you could do the very thing you love – to consult in your area of expertise.
Yet running a consulting business requires a lot more than just consulting. You need to become adept at marketing, be a sales rainmaker, and you have to be able to operate your business effectively. This is all on top of being an expert consultant!
In this article, I’m going to focus on one particular aspect of your marketing activity, and that is nurturing prospect relationships.
And I’m going to enlist the help of Lionel Richie – or more specifically, the lyrics from his hit song – Hello!
(Now this could turn out very bad indeed, so hang in there to either be amazed at my literary prowess, or simple to laugh/gag at my attempts!)
I’ve been alone with you inside my mind
In our consulting careers we come across many, many people. And that was before the days of social media!
Now we come across thousands of people on a weekly basis. Many of whom could become clients.
So what can we do to remember all of these people, and to ensure that we’re in their mind at their moment of need?
Filter and prioritise
Firstly, we need to have a clear idea of who our ideal client is.
In marketing parlance, this is often referred to as your avatar.
I don’t really like that expression, however, as that sounds like we’re targeting people to force our services upon them.
I prefer the term ‘ideal client’, because that should mean that they’re as valuable to us as we are to them!
A way to determine who our ideal client is, is to be absolutely clear on what problems we solve for them.
Secondly, with a clear idea of our ideal client and the problems we help to resolve, we need to determine what Products & Services we offer to serve them.
Clients before Problem. Chicken before the egg.
The fact is, most people start consulting businesses based on what they already know.
They say, “We do strategy”, or “We provide business coaching”, and then all of their marketing becomes about them.
But, and I’ve said it many times before, no-one cares about you! Or what you offer.
People only care about their problems – as they see them – and how they can resolve them.
(Always remember that a problem can be positive as well as negative – business growth , for example, is largely a positive problem to overcome).
Of course, you do have skills, and you must package those skills into a service, but this should only be in response to known client problems.
So once you know: 1) who your ideal client is, 2) what problems you help them to solve, and 3) the Products & Services that you offer, you can then set to identify them across all of the people that you meet and are connected with. Whether that’s online, at in-person networking events, from referrals, even past clients that you haven’t spoken to in ages, wherever – it doesn’t matter.
You need to filter out those people that aren’t a perfect fit as you don’t have enough time to nurture relationships with everyone. You might need to be a bit ruthless here. If you don’t, you’ll try to serve everyone. This will prevent your products and services from being unique in any way, which means you’ll struggle to market effectively, and thus you’ll become a low-cost generalist.
You’re all I’ve ever wanted, and my arms are open wide
‘Cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
Let’s start with a definition of the word Nurture:
This definition is important. If you ‘nurture’ your relationships with a purely marketing view, then you’re thinking about the growth, care and protection of your business. That’s back to being all about you!
We want to nurture the prospect to help them as an individual to grow by overcoming whatever problem or challenge they are facing. If we approach it from this perspective we’ll want to help them. We’ll want to make sure everything we do is oriented to helping the prospect, and part of that process is for them to become a client so that we can give them our very best help.
So, you get the opportunity to meet someone at an in-person networking event who could be your ideal client.
You might exchange business cards.
But what next?
How do you nurture the relationship so that it lasts? So that when they have a need (to solve the problem that you help your ideal clients resolve) they’ll remember you!
Just take a look through the business cards that you’ve likely got stacked in a drawer somewhere. Can you even remember any of the people whose cards you’ve got?
Or look through your LinkedIn connections. Do you know all of those 1,000+ people that you’re connected to?
Chances are you don’t because they didn’t do anything to nurture the relationship with you. They haven’t made it clear to you that they understand your problems and challenges.
They might be waiting there with their arms open wide! Knowing just what to say, and just what to do.
So what to do?
This is where we need to prioritise. You can’t individually reach out to every contact you’ve ever met. You need to have a layered approach to nurturing prospects.
A 3-step model to nurturing prospect relationships:
Step 1> Email newsletter
Oh god, not another newsletter! But hear me out.
The main beauty of your newsletter is that the people on your list want to be on it – especially in this GDPR world the we now find ourselves (GDPR is relevant if you serve clients in the EU – and the UK will continue to adopt the laws post Brexit).
If they no longer want to be on your list, then that’s ok. They weren’t going to be a client anyway, so you haven’t really lost anything! (of course, it could be that your newsletters are boring, but that’s a different topic).
With a newsletter you can keep in touch with people, and the reason you want to do that is to build authority. To become known, liked and trusted.
A newsletter is a great way to get mass reach without taking too much of your time.
Step 2> Create a Facebook or LinkedIn group
Much the same as Step 1, your audience or ‘tribe’ can hear from you when they choose to. A Facebook or LinkedIn group enables you to curate and share content.
The main benefit of using social media in this way is the ease in which it can be done, and the frequency. For example, I curate content in my Facebook and LinkedIn groups on a daily basis. This allows me to connect and interact with my tribe.
Step 3> Keep In Touch
Things are getting warmer now! For those prospects that you feel will need your services, either now or in the future, you should go the extra mile. Put in some personal time, either with a phone call, or over a coffee.
I used to be rubbish at this!
I used to think that, in order to see someone – a prospect; past client; whoever – that I needed to have something specific to say.
I think this was in part driven by the fact that I used to work in a consultancy where we had a separate sales team. As the consulting expert, there was more pressure on me to have something specific to inform them about. In reality, that’s not the case. Most people would rather talk about themselves!
So pick up the phone. Send an email and schedule a call. Get talking to your prospects and past clients.
‘Cause I wonder where you are
And I wonder what you do
Are you somewhere feeling lonely, or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart
For I haven’t got a clue
A question I often get asked is: How frequently should I make contact?
My answer: it depends.
Your email should be no less frequent than monthly, and probably at most, bi-weekly. I do weekly emails.
Your social media curation should be daily. Share this work amongst a team if you can, or schedule posts so that you don’t have to look at it every day if you don’t have the time.
Add value though. Don’t just lazily curate content by sharing links to other articles without providing an additional perspective of your own. Just sharing links alone is a bit lame and a turn off too.
Make sure you respond to any comments as well. If you don’t reply, you’re not nurturing, you’re simply broadcasting!
Directly reaching out to people for that coffee or a call is the most time intensive nurturing so you need to be choosy.
I utilise a simple tool for this that is called a KIT List (I read about it in a book once, but it was so long ago I can’t remember the book I’m afraid).
Your KIT List is simply a ‘Keep In Touch List’.
It’s a list of people that you should make this extra effort for. I have created my KIT List using the Things app on Mac/IOS, but you could use a simple spreadsheet instead.
For each contact in my KIT list I detail:
- Their name (obviously!)
- Their job role
- The company name
- Details of when we last met/spoke and the main points of conversation
- Who paid! Personally, I don’t care who pays for lunch or coffees – whether it’s me, the prospect, or if we split the bill. But some people do care. And those people will remember! So make a note, and if it’s your turn, then pay up!
- Due date
On the due date I’ll either drop a short email suggesting a catch up over the phone or a coffee – whichever is most practical – or I’ll move the date on a bit if either: a) I don’t have the time right now, or b) the timing wouldn’t be quite right for the other person. If I bump it on, it’s normally no more than a month later, but typically a week or two.
It’s impossible to say when is the right time to get back in touch. I have some people I speak to monthly, some only yearly.
The beauty of being connected to these people on social media is that they’ll be seeing you more regularly, and that helps you to stay top of mind.
So don’t leave your prospects wondering where you are!
Don’t give them the opportunity be lonely, or to seek attention elsewhere.
Make sure they do have a clue about you!
Start today. Right now!
Start your KIT List today. Make a list of all the people that you’ve spoken to in the last 3 months. Reach out to them. Request a LinkedIn connection. Send an email or LinkedIn Inmail. And suggest a catch up. They don’t have to be direct prospects. They might provide good referral opportunities.
And remember, it’s still not about you!
When you’re with them, find out what they’re up to. Don’t make the meeting feel like you’re prospecting because you shouldn’t be! Be genuinely interested in them. If there is an opportunity, then schedule a formal follow-up meeting or call to scope it out. Slow the sales process down, otherwise you risk pushing too far too soon.
And if this article has given you an urge to hear Lionel Richie sing Hello, here’s a link to search on YouTube!