I want more marketing...
...said no consulting business leader ever. It's not marketing that you want, it's more clients. Or more of the right clients.
But, whether you like it or not, it's marketing that creates the leads that become the sales opportunities.
You might take the view that you don't really 'do' marketing, but that's impossible if your business is a going concern.
Going to in-person networking events is marketing, and many consulting firms invest many, many hours in doing so. Yet those same firms are often reluctant to spend an hour a day on Linkedin.
Business exhibitions are often touted as a great source of leads, and they can be. But harvesting business cards because you've offered someone a free gift provides nothing more than a list of people who want free stuff. They are not leads!
The most common thing I hear when a firm needs more leads is to get cold calling. Well, I've been there and done that. And sure, it can work. But you have to ask yourself, have you the time, the patience and the funds to find a needle in a haystack, or is there a better way? Can you utilise digital marketing to be your metal detector and ensure that you cold call the right people?
Perhaps your firm gets marketing, and particularly the importance of digital marketing. So you've invested in various different channels - perhaps some search engine optimisation (SEO), or generic digital marketing support, or maybe even a copywriter to help with content marketing. But has any of this truly paid off?
Often your marketing providers are telling you that they're getting great results, whilst back at the office your phone still fails to ring! And these providers, well they've never really explained what they do. They're selling a black art.
I get it because these are exactly the things I did when I started my consulting firm. I did exhibitions, networking, cold calling, engaged telemarketers, wrote magazine articles, hosted webinars. You name it, I've tried it!
It was only through continuous disappointment - and the sinking of tens of thousands of pounds into marketing support services with near zero return - that I felt there must be a better way. So I set about working out just what that was.
But before we get to that, tell me a bit about you...
Why would anyone hire your firm?
Consultants just steal your watch then tell you the time!
Ever heard that said?
I don't know if the term existed before 2005 when Martin Kihn published House of Lies but, as a management consultant working in the financial services sector in London, I certainly remember hearing both clients and colleagues use the expression.
On the one-hand, I get the sentiment. Often clients leverage consultants to see the wood for trees, despite the solution being perhaps obvious to everyone else. Or they engage a consultancy as an insurance policy. Someone to point the finger of blame at if things go wrong later.
I actually believe that both of these are perfectly valid reasons, but I'd like to think there's also much more to it than just that.
Selling intangible consulting services is a challenge
The biggest challenge in selling consultancy is that the services are intangible, the fees are high, and you'll want at least some of them up-front.
This means that, from the buyer's perspective, the risk is high. Especially from the perspective of the client who might just be betting their career on hiring your firm!
This is where your marketing comes in.
Not just to get the attention of your prospects in the first place, but to smooth the way from initial contact through to deal closure. And ultimately, later on when it comes to future engagements with the client and even referrals.
The way in which you smooth the conversation is to build trust. But you probably already know that.
In the distant past there was sufficient time and resource capacity such that you could build trust purely through face-to-face interaction. But in most circumstances those times are resigned to history, especially more so with the recent pandemic.
Not only is face-time with prospects more difficult, but central procurement teams have significantly more say in decisions than they used to. With decisions typically made by committee, it's simply not feasible to build 1-2-1 relationships with everyone involved in the decision making process.
Digital marketing affords you the opportunity to be in many places at the same time!
With digital marketing you can have scale. For you and your wider team. Digital marketing methods enable you to build trust and smooth the buyer journey without having to be there in-person at every stage.
But what about referrals?
You need to build trust, otherwise sales conversation might never happen. This is why referrals remain so important. They short-cut trust building as you inherit it from the referrer.
But few firms are able to grow on referrals alone. And even referrals can benefit from a helping hand. For instance, a good website with engaging content that helps to demonstrate your expertise.
Of course, nothing builds trust more than a face-to-face conversation with someone. Which is why you mustn't limit your marketing to being digital-only. You need to embrace both digital and traditional marketing channels. Or, as I've heard it more eloquently put:
To survive in business you must be able to market effectively in a digital world.
Your marketing should help qualify whether it's worth your time getting face-to-face with a prospect rather than wasting time with the tyre-kickers. Effective marketing is about achieving 3 outcomes:
The rules of effective marketing
Whilst marketing channels can be either traditional or digital, we can also categorise them as either inbound or outbound.
An inbound marketing channel is one in which your prospects are encouraged to make contact with you. For example, your website might have a contact form and embedded online calendar where prospects can schedule a call.
Outbound marketing is where you directly approach your prospects. For example, cold emailing, cold calling or business exhibitions.
The reality is that you need both inbound and outbound strategies, as well as traditional and digital marketing methods.
This is what we call omni-channel marketing.
The problem, however, is that most people approach these channels individually. They don't combine them to work as one. This is why outsourced marketing services often fail to deliver - because they're not working as one.
Marketing is a game!
One way to look at marketing is that it's a game.
Where you try to identify potential buyers amongst a sea of tens of thousands, and to channel them into a conversation with someone in your sales team (or you if you're a business of one!).
In the game of marketing you have opponents - your competitors who are also vying to get the attention of your ideal clients. You have to beat them to it. Not through underhand tactics, but through skill in the game. Remember, most consulting firms are pretty poor at marketing because they simply don't do it often enough or consistent enough! They haven't taken the time to get good.
So, if marketing is a game, what are the rules of the game?
The Game of Marketing
There are 5 rules which must be followed to win at the Game of Marketing.
- Embrace failure: Marketing is all about trying things out, not all of which will work. If you're not prepared to fail, you will lose.
- Stop talking about yourself: Problems and opportunities are marketed, services are sold. Don't make your marketing all about you and your firm's services as your prospects don't care! Market your business as experts in solving the challenges that your ideal clients are facing.
- Build trust: Marketing a consulting business is all about building trust, not funnels.
- Be omni-channel: A single marketing channel is not enough. You must deploy multiple channels, across both traditional and digital, and ensure that they work in harmony.
- Every single marketing channel can work: ...but only if you commit to being consistent, persistent and patient.
Now that you know the rules of the game - which puts you ahead of the vast majority of your competition - let's look at how to play the game...
The game of marketing
We've already discussed how there are 3 target outcomes when marketing a professional services firm:
- Get known
- Build trust
- Generate leads
Therefore, you need to turn your knowledge and expertise into marketing assets, and then apply those assets to various marketing channels to enable you to achieve those marketing outcomes - get known, build trust, generate leads.
Now, professional services firms don’t typically need lots and lots of clients.
The sales cycle can be long, and prospects naturally cautious, especially if they have no prior experience of working with you or have not been referred in. Therefore, a lot of emphasis is required on building trust.
At The B2B Marketer the way we do that is through a model we developed called: The Pyramid of Trust.
It’s a way of understanding the journey your prospects embark on from not knowing that they have a problem, to understanding their problem in-depth, and to recognising that your business is who they should be talking to!
At that point they’ll either reach out to you directly (inbound) or accept a call from you (outbound).
Here's what The Pyramid of Trust looks like:
The Pyramid of Trust
On the left-hand side of the Pyramid of Trust, from the bottom to the top, are the three stages of awareness that a prospect goes through:
- Oblivious – Someone who isn’t aware that they have the problems that you solve nor that you provide a solution
- Afflicted – Someone who is aware of the problems that they are facing and who is seeking further information to find a solution
- Informed – Someone who knows they have a problem; they know about the different solutions; and they are comparing your solution to others
Inside the pyramid are the many different marketing channels, both traditional and digital (this list is not exhaustive). The model enables you to see how each marketing channel aligns to the different stages of prospect awareness - Oblivious, Afflicted and Informed.
On the right-hand side are the 3 core marketing outcomes that we aim to achieve through utilising the different marketing channels.
Once a prospect reaches the top of the pyramid (which we can determine through marketing automation), they are considered a Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL). At this point your sale process should take over from marketing.
Our aim at The B2B Marketer is to generate marketing-qualified leads for you by designing and implementing a path for your prospects to journey from the bottom of the Pyramid of Trust to the top.
We also ensure that your prospective clients can come in at any point. The specific channels we agree upon, and the efforts to support them, makes up your marketing strategy.
What are your options?
When it comes to professional services firms, every business is unique. Your uniqueness comes in respect to:
- The problems that you solve
- Who you solve those problems for
- What business outcomes you provide for your clients
- The way in which you solve their problems and produce those outcomes
- Other factors such as your experience in doing what you do
Despite this uniqueness, marketing any professional services firm follows a similar pattern, which as we have discussed, is demonstrated through The Pyramid of Trust model.
However, the effectiveness of your marketing will be impacted by your readiness and your appetite to invest. Our approach is to ensure that every solution we offer provides, as a minimum, a path for your prospects to traverse from the bottom of The Pyramid of Trust to the top.
Therefore, we provide 3 baseline packages as follows:
Marketing that works!
Fuel the fire!
Everything in The Basics plus...
Maximise every opportunity!
Everything in The Accelerator plus...
Ready to start increasing the number of qualified leads in your firm?
Or if you feel your business would benefit from a different marketing mix, or even support on a single specific marketing channel such as case studies, then click the button below to schedule a call with one of our experts.