Building your consulting practice

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A straightforward tutorial on how small consulting firms can build their businesses using strategic marketing and sales techniques at a low cost.

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Building your consulting practice

  1. 1. Building Your Consulting Practice eTutorial From Buzzfile.com Copyright © 2013 Buzzfile. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Building Your Consulting Practice www.buzzfile.com 2 One of the most difficult things for individual consultants or small consulting practices to do is find the time and money to market their services. You know the problem – you’re so busy serving your existing clients that you don’t know where to find the time to get new clients. This e-tutorial is designed to help you analyze your business, target your market, and find quality leads. We’ll also provide some helpful hints about how to network and promote yourself. It’s all easy and designed to help you build your business like a marketing pro.  Analyze your customer base  Identify your universe of potential customers  Sale & marketing techniques Table of Contents
  3. 3. Building Your Consulting Practice: Analyze Your Customer Base www.buzzfile.com 3 Let’s start by using an example of a consultant in Albuquerque, NM. Neal has one large client in the specialty construction business. He has several other clients that are small accounting firms. Let’s take a look at his largest client first, and figure out, exactly, what industry they are in so that he can see if there are similar businesses in his area. We’ll start with using Buzzfile – a free business database with over 21 Million U.S. companies in over 18,000 industries. Begin by entering the name of the customer, then put in the city and state so that you can narrow your search quickly. You’ll “Add” each criteria into your Search Criteria box. Then Click on “Get results” from that box to go to the Company Page. The first step for Neal is to look at these customer bases and see where his opportunities may lie.
  4. 4. Building Your Consulting Practice: Analyze Your Customer Base www.buzzfile.com 4 The Sector, Category and Industry that the customer is displayed so that we can look for similar companies in the same categories. Businesses are labelled by Sector (the highest level), then Category, and finally Industry. You can click on any level and find similar businesses. Starting at the Industry level will give more precise results, and moving up to a higher level will give similar, but not as exact matches. COMPANY PAGE The estimated revenue and number of employees are important indicators when searching for likely prospects. SEARCH RESULTS To make things easier, companies in similar categories that are nearby are listed as well..
  5. 5. Building Your Consulting Practice: Identify Potential Customers www.buzzfile.com Analyzing your customer base allows you to understand what kind of customers are most likely to use your services based on who has engaged you in the past. Some types of businesses that You can put in your city, county or state to find businesses near you in the industry you’ve identified. You also have the option you put in some criteria to narrow down your results based on revenue or number of employees. Select the Sector, Category and Industry you’ve identified you are servicing now represent a much larger opportunity for growth, others may just provide a few additional leads. This analysis will help you decide what new companies may simply lead to making some sales calls, and which may be large enough to consider a more structured marketing effort. Start this process by using what you learned about the Industry , Revenues and Number of Employees your current customers have. Let’s continue with the example of the glass and glazing company that our consultant in Albuquerque NM has as a current customer and see if there are similar companies to target. 5 In some cases, information about the demographics of the neighborhood that a business resides in is of value and that could be entered as well. However, for Neal, that is not relevant to his target market.
  6. 6. Building Your Consulting Practice: Identify Potential Customers www.buzzfile.com 6 SEARCH RESULTS There is only one company in Albuquerque that is the same size as Neal’s customer. This may be an individual sales prospect but it’s clear that this industry doesn’t represent a large market in his area. So, let’s drill down and analyze more of his customer base and see what kind of results we get. Accounting FirmsGlass & Glazing Customer Prospect
  7. 7. Building Your Consulting Practice: Identify Potential Customers www.buzzfile.com Think about your customers and their needs when searching for new prospects. If you are a consultant, a very small business may not have the money or desire for extra services. A very large company may have the resources to hire someone with your skill set full time. 7 You can put in your city or state to find businesses near you in the industry you’ve identified. Select the Sector, Category and Industry you’ve identified. In this case, the Category was specific enough, and refining the search further by Industry didn’t seem necessary. A prior search of all “Accounting, auditing an bookkeeping” companies indicated that a minimum of 5 employee through a maximum of 25 employees would create a good universe of prospects. $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ REVENUES EMPLOYEES The first search of “Accounting, auditing and bookkeeping” in Albuquerque NM returned 434 results. 371 of these companies had less than 5 employees and 12 had more than 25 employees. A best guess of “not too small” and “not too big” set the search criteria at 5 – 25 employees returning a universe of 51 results. EXAMPLE Let’s see the results
  8. 8. Building Your Consulting Practice: Identify Potential Customers www.buzzfile.com 8 45 companies is a great result – enough to create an effective, but manageable sales & marketing program. SEARCH RESULTS
  9. 9. Building Your Consulting Practice: Identify Potential Customers www.buzzfile.com 9 To further analyze and refine your results, sort on any field by clicking on the column header. Click a second time to reverse the order of the sort results. Buzzfile search results always indicate if a company is a “Single” location, a Branch” of a larger company, or the “Headquarters” for multi-location companies. If a company is listed as a “Branch,” when you make your initial sales call, ask if decisions are made locally or the “Headquarters” level – this will allow you to adjust your sales plan and make the selling process more effective. HQ Branch Branch Branch or Single Location
  10. 10. Building Your Consulting Practice: Sales & Marketing Techniques www.buzzfile.com Sales doesn’t always come easy for consultants. Being an expert in technology, payroll or another skill set doesn’t necessarily extend to being a top sales person. In addition, many people have a hard time selling themselves. The good news is that effective sales is about developing a relationship by listening to the needs of others. Your responses should show your expertise and build confidence in your abilities. This approach is called “consultative selling” and it is the approach that the best sales pros use. Getting introductions to potential clients is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door so don’t be shy about telling others you are looking to expand your business. 10 also shows that you don’t take getting a referral for granted. If you get a new customer through a referral, don’t forget to let your client know and thank them with a small gift or a note. Talk to your existing clients. Tell them that you want to build your consulting practice and you want to make sure that they are satisfied with your service before you ask them to recommend them to others. This approach will give you some constructive feedback if there are any reservations about providing a referral. It ASK FOR REFERRALS START NETWORKING Let friends and business colleagues know that you are looking for contacts to build your practice. If you aren’t yet using LinkedIn, set up a profile and connect with people who have worked with or for in the past. Check out their recent and past employment history, you may find that they have worked in an industry you want to target. Make sure you can give a 1 minute overview of what you do and can name the types of customers you are looking for. This will let others know what you need and if they can help you. And don’t make assumptions about who could be of most value. There is an old adage called “the power of weak connections” where someone who knows someone who knows you can give you a great lead.
  11. 11. Building Your Consulting Practice: Sales & Marketing Techniques www.buzzfile.com Marketing allows you to reach many prospects with one message. One or more methods can be used, and a combination of approaches is usually the most effective: 11  Simple letter (on letterhead stationery) with a 1- page sales sheet OR  Postcard introducing your services. You can print out a letterhead and your letter on a good home office printer and print envelopes directly with your return address and the prospect’s address. If you don’t have graphic design skills, look through the templates for Word; you can easily create a sales sheet that looks professional. A local copy shop can print out a color page on nice paper for low cost. DIRECT MAIL If you want to standout, and increase your open rate, pick out an interesting envelope. Postcards can be printed inexpensively though online digital printers like PrintingForLess.com and designed using a Word template. Office supply stores have postcard-weight paper if you want to print yourself. A 5 ½ “ x 8 ½ “ postcard is a nice size – big enough to get your message across and to get the reader’s attention. Follow up your mailing about 7– 10 days later with a phone call if you have a manageable size list. You don’t need to send out all mail pieces at once. If you have a list of 300, you can send out 30 / week over 10 weeks and set aside a specific time to go through and call. Put your call time in your calendar and make it part of your routine.
  12. 12. Building Your Consulting Practice: Sales & Marketing Techniques www.buzzfile.com 12 Consultants typically have an area of expertise that the companies they want to service lack. Free seminars or training sessions are a great draw. First, if you are targeting a specific industry, see if they have a local association in your area. They may offer monthly meetings or other opportunities for speakers. If so, work though them. If there isn’t a specific industry associations, there may be some small business organizations that will have an audience that meets your needs. If there isn’t an organization to work through, consider finding a venue and setting up your own seminar. Often restaurants or hotels will have a meeting room. IN-PERSON MARKETING Look for companies that lease shared office spaces and ask if they would rent a conference room for a few hours. A 5 ½ “ x 8 ½ “ postcard is a nice size – big enough to get your message across and to get the reader’s attention. Follow up your mailing about 7– 10 days later with a phone call if you have a manageable size list. You don’t need to send out all mail pieces at once. If you have a list of 300, you can send out 30 / week over 10 weeks and set aside a specific time to go through and call. Put your call time in your calendar and make it part of your routine.

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