This post was contributed by my colleague Tsavo Neal who specializes in helping his clients acquire clients online…
There is no shortage of generic digital marketing advice for small businesses online. And because of that, I don’t blame consultants for passing up digital marketing altogether.
The last thing you want to do as a consultant is waste time on social media. And you don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a website — or, as you see it, as “virtual business card — either.
You can easily find thousands of blog posts on PPC advertising, viral marketing, display ads, and affiliate programs. Many of these digital marketing tactics are for selling products, which isn’t relevant to you. None of these tactics are very useful to consultants. Your services can cost thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. B2B decision makers don’t purchase expensive consulting services with an add-to-cart button. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t leverage the web to grow your consulting practice. In fact, leveraging digital marketing can be the most scalable ways to attract new business. What you want to know is which of these methods will help you get more clients.
This article will teach you how to market your consulting business online. I’ll cover:
- Four proven ways for consultants to market their business online and attract more qualified leads
- How to build trust and demonstrate credibility without face-to-face interaction
- What you can do to scale your marketing efforts — and have your digital presence work for you while you’re delivering projects
“But consulting is a relationship business. You can’t build relationships online!”
You’re right about one thing — nothing beats face-to-face relationship building.
What digital marketing has on traditional relationship building is that it scales. With a great guest post, podcast, or article, you can prove your expertise and build trust with hundreds of leads at a time, and over time.
Why should you engage in digital marketing? Because it can help you solve your biggest business challenge as a consultant — which is attracting & developing new business.
That’s a fancy way of saying “getting more clients.”
If you’re going to be online, you might as well do it in a way that helps your business grow.
The Trap of the Brochure Website
Far too often, consultants and consulting firms build a new website that functions as an online business card. Many of these websites are little more than digital brochures with a contact form.
96% of B2B small business websites don’t offer guides, white papers, or similar reports on their home pages. Up to 70% of B2B websites don’t display any “calls-to-action” at all.
Marketers cite white papers, eBooks, contact forms, and webinars as the top producers of B2B leads. A brochure website that doesn’t offer anything but information on your company and doesn’t drive action is not effective marketing whatsoever.
A call to action is a direction to your reader. It could be a lead qualification form, a button offering them to subscribe your newsletter, or a social sharing icon. Anything that calls on them to act is a call to action, or “CTA.”
Unless you aren’t interested in attracting & developing new business, then a clean, professional brochure website with nothing but your phone number may be all you need.
But if you want your website to attract and develop new business, then you need to feature calls to actions on your website.
Effective digital marketing for consultants is systematic.
You use social media to gain visibility, which points people to your website. Your website positions you as trustworthy and credible, and offers readers a lead magnet that prompts them to sign up for your email list. Your email list is your source of leads — people who have learned from you and have started to trust you based on the value you provide. Your email list is where you nurture your leads and build on your relationships.
A well-designed website and an effective digital presence is a clone of you. It helps market and sell your consulting services to many people at once while you are working, eating, and sleeping. It helps you balance delivery versus marketing by handling some of the marketing for you.
Digital Marketing for Consultants — 4 Proven Techniques
Consultant David Fields considers there to be “Five Marketing Musts” for consultants. These are:
- Digital Presence
- Trade Associations
Want to make digital marketing simple for your consulting business?
Then think about the four musts besides “Digital Presence” in terms of their digital equivalency.
Networking -> Digital Outreach
Networking is more than a marketing method for consultants — it’s the lifeblood of your business.
If you understand how to network in person, then you can do it online. The best thing about doing digital outreach (also known as “the cold email”) is that it allows you to reach people you otherwise would not have been able to reach.
The golden rule of any sort of outreach is to keep the email focused on the reader. Kai Davis, an outreach consultant, calls these “You” focused emails.
If you’re looking to build a relationship with a potential lead, reach out to them to talk about them.
If you’re looking to pitch a guest post, reach out to them and talk about what you can provide for their audience.
You can use a tool like hunter.io to find email addresses from almost any website. And don’t forget about LinkedIn — either using InMail or sending a connection request. Email typically gets a higher response than InMail (when’s the last time you were excited about checking your LinkedIn messages?)
The more you can prove to whomever your outreaching to that you actually did your research and found out a little bit about them, the more likely the will respond. No one wants a generic, spammy email.
Writing -> Content Marketing
Content marketing is a fancy word for “writing online with the goal of educating potential clients with the intention of turning them into buyers.”
80% of B2B decision makers prefer to get information from articles rather than advertising. This rings especially true for consultants.
You are hired based on your expertise — and your writing demonstrates your expertise.
Can’t think of any ideas for your content?
Think about your past clients. What did you help them with? What did they ask you about? What did you learn from working with them — and what can you share?
It’s hard to find a marketing method more efficient for consultants than writing. Using a tool as scalable as your website as your publishing vehicle makes content marketing a no brainer.
As a consultant, prospects and potential buyers need to know that you’re an expert in your field so that you can help solve their problems. Reading your articles helps them feel more at-ease hiring you.
You become less risky the more you publish your work.
I find it helpful to think of it as “sharing what you know” instead of “content marketing.”
If you want to attract and develop more business, hit the publish button.
And make sure you are using your website articles to generate leads by creating a consulting lead-magnet.
Speaking -> Podcasting
Speaking in front of 20-30 prospects is an almost a guaranteed way to pick up consulting work.
Podcasting allows you to speak in front of hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of prospects.
Reading your work is one thing — but actually hearing you speak is a strong way of building trust.
Look for consulting podcasts or podcasts related to your industry. Pitch the podcasts host on having you as a guest. Don’t talk about your education and your skills. Talk about what their audience wants to learn and how you can help them with your expertise.
To maximize the effectiveness of your podcast appearances, at the end of the podcast, ask the listeners to visit a special follow-up link. This link on your website should give them a way to follow up with you. Prompt them to sign up for your email list, schedule a free consultation, or add you on LinkedIn.
If you can offer them a bonus that relates to what you talked about on the podcast (mini eBook, whitepaper, free chapter of a book, etc.) for signing up to your email list, you’ll get far more sign-ups.
Anyone can write articles — but only experts get the chance to speak on podcasts.
Trade Associations -> Guest Posting
Actively contributing to trade associations and being a valuable member is a fantastic way to find business opportunities.
Many of these trade associations have a publication that you can write for.
If you don’t get a lot of traffic to your website yet and are looking for some initial traffic, you can “borrow” the audience of trade associations and other industry blogs to bring you more visibility.
Associations like IMC, CMC, AIBP are good examples of what these organizations offer online. They have guest publications, newsletters, member forums, etc.
These online forms of trade associations can be leveraged for not only guest posting but other opportunities as well. Use them to connect with other consultants. Look for projects to contribute too. If you write for them, include their logo on your website to enhance your social proof.
Trade associations exist online, and if you can join one, you’ll find many opportunities for both networking and marketing. Look for ones you can join, and contribute by guest posting. Make sure your guest post features a link back to your website.
The great thing about digital marketing for consultants is that you don’t have to try a million different tactics. Do at least 3 of these methods. Or even better — master two of them.
You want to be efficient with the time you spend marketing yourself online. You can’t do that if you keep trying new things and don’t get good at a few proven methods.
Consider where buyers in your industry hang out online. What websites do they learn from? Who are the influencers that they listen to? What kind of content best helps solve problems in their business? What type of publication or article would draw interest?
You want to be efficient by working on methods that will bring you the most credibility, demonstrate the most trust, and position you as that trusted advisor that businesses want to hire.
Take some time to review your website and digital presence. These methods are predicated on you having a well-designed, professional website. Your website is your digital marketing hub, and your prospects are judging you by it. Does it demonstrate credibility and trust? Can you track or count the number of leads that you’ve gotten through your digital marketing or website in the last month?
If the answer to any of the above questions is no and you want to attract qualified leads at scale through your website, it’s time to take action!