How Consulting Firms Market

     There are hundreds of details and specific methods to marketing. However, each consultant generally only uses a few approaches. Following are some outlines of how actual consultants have marketed their practices or build large firms.

     There are hundreds of details and specific methods to marketing. However, each consultant generally only uses a few approaches. Following are some outlines of how actual consultants have marketed their practices or build large firms.

A two-stage approach: Michael Thomas was the earliest incarnation of what became Michael Gerber consulting (Gerber was author of The E Myth). They sent good looking men and women door-to-door through business parks and retail districts. These salespeople had a kind of Est exuberance and confidence about them. They simply introduced themselves and offered  the owner or manager an invitation to a free seminar at the home office. The seminar would talk about how to take control of their businesses, or similar topic. When you arrived at the seminar room, all the walls were lined with client testimonials, on letterhead and framed. It made them look very established and substantial. They then put their best speaker on who made an E-Myth type appeal to owners who felt overwhelmed by their businesses. (Use our proven systems to make your business work for you, not you for your business.) Then for those interested, individual appointments were made and the sale closed.

An ironic note is that while the sales approach was effective, this firm and some variations of its inheritors never attained stability – presumably due to poor management!

Telemarketing: A singleton construction consultant bought a list of construction firms of reasonable size. He spend hours calling them to reach the owners. He then set up appointments with them. He was very knowledgeable and successfully sold several appointments per ten hours of calling. At those appointments he sold over half the owners on an assessment job where he analyzed their operations for about a week. Of course, some of these jobs turned into larger jobs. His problem was that he hated making phone calls and it took him forever to contact 50 people. Simple solution: At our suggestion he hired a woman to make calls for him. She knew nothing about construction and was not as effective as he was at setting up appointments. However, she had no problem making lots of calls and for every hundred dollars he paid her he reaped thousands!

Speaking: A very simple approach was taken by a new, young consultant. He started at the library and gathered the names of every organization in his area that he could find. He then called them and offered to speak. (There are dozens of Rotaries, Lions, Chambers, and so on in most communities.) At each talk he collected business cards of people who were interested in his topic (today he would offer them an email newsletter subscription). He then kept in touch with his list and eventually developed regular work. This simple system took him about a year to build momentum and a large enough list. You could produce results faster by adding other methods.

Phone Plus: A fairly large national firm. George May, took advantage of the old joke definition of a consultant as someone with a briefcase more than 50 miles from home. They paid minimally-trained telemarketers to call through business directories in cities 100 miles or more from the office. Their pitch was simple “We have a consultant in your area next week. Would you like a free appointment for him/her to sit down with you and see if we can help you with any aspect of your business?” The consultant randomly assigned to handle the appointment then had the job of selling a loss leader assessment. From that they then found more work. This worked to keep crews of consultants busy.

Give it Away Free: Hurbert Bermont, who later wrote a book on consulting and started a consulting association, used his industry contacts to get his first client. He gave free consulting to a large company in return for a potential testimonial. Since he had no other work, he worked it like a real job, following up local leads and creating job possibilities for the company. He generated so much action that they put him on retainer. So when other prospects asked him who his other clients were, saying he was on retainer for XYZ big company was very impressive. More business followed. Conclusions: If you give it away, get an agreement that they will give you a testimonial letter and appropriate referrals if you perform well. Pick a company or organization that might later hire you. Pick a large, or impressive organization, perhaps a charity or university.

These are just some simple, overview examples of how actual consultants marketed successfully. Perhaps the most important generalization from them is that they each set up a simple system and then worked the system. Most consultants who fail in their marketing simply don’t do enough consistently. There are many other methods that can produce work, from referrals to direct mail. Some of these will be covered elsewhere or in our publications.

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