Marketing your consulting business: 5 not-so-surprising marketing tips used by consultants to generate revenue

I just realized I have been consulting again for almost a year now. Time flies.

I didn’t think my next business would be consulting again. I had myself pegged to start another tech or internet company. Consulting was just going to be a stop gap…But then we started working with clients again and realized — this is fun (but hard…more on that).  We saw we can actually make a difference and that felt great.  We founded TOPO.

Consulting is a unique business. One of the difficult areas to manage is the fact that you have  “eat what you kill”.  (For my vegan friends: Eat what you grow and pick?). This aspect of the game takes some getting used to as you are in a constant balancing act of delighting clients and generating new business.

Today I want to talk about the sales and marketing aspects of consulting. I have studied some of the successful consultants and how they grew their business. I talk to everyone I can and observe heavily. Interestingly, consultants really have embraced and ultimately thrived using a lot of the current hot marketing tactics especially content marketing, inbound marketing, and social. If you want to know if a marketing tactic works or not, check out consultants who won’t eat that month if they don’t drive business. If they are doing it, it’s worth noting.

Tactics for marketing your consulting business:

1. Create content —  I believe in content marketing. Actually, I live it (I am actually writing this post at midnight…). We wouldn’t have been able to start our business so quickly without content marketing. Most of our leads come from this very blog and now our TOPO blog. You write content, content gets shared, content builds the brand, and people find you. Content marketing is also critical for pipeline acceleration — people that don’t know you initially, can easily go online and see your expertise and street cred in real time. Your credibility level increases by virtue of your great content. Social proof Look, I am like you, I am not interested in reading another post on why you need content marketing…but I see it working for us and for a lot of consultants out there is the market.  When I was starting the business, Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing gave me this advice: “Start writing”.

In many ways, content marketing is the great equalizer. Don’t get my wrong, not many of us have the resources to compete on output with Hubspot. On the other hand, if you create great content – you can compete with anybody for thought leadership. Look at top 100 influencer lists, the vast majority of people on that list are consultants, bloggers, etc. By the way: If you want to learn more about content marketing, we are holding a content marketing virtual summit on August 14th which should provide some great tips and best practices. Click here to RSVP.

For inspiration on the power of content marketing, there are some role models to emulate:

1. Bridge Group Inc – They have a great blog, great social presence, and most notably, have created a series of must-read reports on inside sales.  The link provided is for their content resource center which houses their reports. This an example of content marketing at its best and something everyone should learn from. They also have one of the best LinkedIn groups on inside sales partly because the monitor content quality like hawks.

2.  Anthony Iannarino — Anthony’s story is a fable: Years ago, Anthony started blogging every day. Repeat: every day. Years later, he is one of the biggest names in sales consulting. Point scored content marketing.

3. Sales Benchmark Index — I always mention these guys because they have truly taken inbound marketing/content marketing principles and applied them to the consulting business. Formula: Post 7 days/week + Ebook/month + webinar/month + free tools and templates = Thousands of monthly leads.  I have written about them before, but I have picked up on another content tactic by them — the free tools and templates. They write posts that offer free tools and templates which is a great way to seamlessly move anonymous blog readers to leads. I provide a picture of their template offers on this post: Blogging best practices: 8 ideas for curated blog posts.

4. Dave Brock’s Partners In Excellence Blog — Check out some of the comment strings on Dave’s posts. He is literally using content to have interactions with his prospects and clients. And knowing Dave, he will call you to talk about your comments as well.

The hard thing for many consultants is “giving it away for free” but that is how you reach new audiences today. If your website is still brochureware, you can’t compete.

2. Write a book — The people that write books have basically executed a timeless consulting content marketing play. You don’t have to look far to see what a well-received book can do for your business. Ardath Albee has created a big business for herself and all the business comes to her. She credits being a published author as one of the main channels for this inbound lead flow. Jill Konrath is another great example. I go on site to customers and her book is sitting on their shelves. That’s a winner.

3. Do everything you can to build your thought leadership profile — What #1 and #2 come down to is thought leadership. Thought leadership = revenue. Until you have a big enough name, don’t charge for speaking engagements. For example, speaking at vendor or media company webinars allow you to share your expertise and someone else is on the hook to bring the traffic. The key question should be: Who is the target audience? If they fit your target buyer persona, go. For a consultant, speaking engagements are the best deal out there. Another way to build your thought leadership profile (and site traffic) is to guest blog. Guest blogging allows you to show your expertise to a new audience. Same rule applies to guest blogging as speaking: Who is the target audience of the blog? If it’s yours — then do it.

4. Get email addresses — Emails are the new black. Vendors and media companies have been collecting email addresses for years. Top consultants are in the game now.  Bottom line, email remains the best channel for getting your content into people’s hands. Here is what many consultants do: For webinars, their stipulation is typically access to the registrations.  As well, if you are creating great content consistently — then build your site to capture emails. The resurgence of pop-ups is almost exclusively a by-product of web properties hoping to get visitor’s email addresses. Get the email address and then nurture people. For an example, check out Neil Patel’s site — here is a guy who is one of the masters of SEO and one of his core strategies is to get email signups to deliver his content.

inbound marketing

5. Nurture till the cows come home — Marketing consulting services is the ultimate case study for lead nurturing. Consulting is a pain-driven and trigger-driven buying process. Customers don’t buy until they decide they have a problem they are willing to pay to fix. Nurturing will keep you in the hearts and minds when they are ready to act. Content marketing is a critical component to this process. We will send relevant content assets to prospects on a consistent basis to keep them engaged with us. We send via LinkedIn or email. Just the other day I sent a piece I wrote to a prospect, who wrote back and said: “Do you do this…? We need help here.”. Bingo.

In closing:

1. If you want to get beefed up on content marketing, I recommend the Keys to Content Marketing Success virtual summit.

2. Basically, there are a large number of consultants who are living, breathing examples of all the marketing advice you read and hear about. If you are in the game, my advice is to jump on the bandwagon.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter