Of all the internet marketing fads out there, content marketing is by far the single most important in generating demand for consulting businesses.
That’s because it’s principles are intertwined with solution selling, and the “prove it to me” nature of the business. It’s all about “bringing the meat” to convince the client and not banging on their head with a cleaver.
Let’s make the case by working backwards…
Challenges in Marketing Consulting Services
What makes marketing consulting services so difficult is the pure vagueness that surrounds it.
When you think about it:
- There really aren’t any barriers to becoming a consultant. All you need is knowledge and experience. Sure, you could get certified by an organization like ICMA, but you don’t need it to get in the business.
- There’s no one type of consultant. Peoples views range from campy, swindling types on House of Lies to pocket protectors and blue button downs. There are management consultants, image consultants and even horse consultants. Everybody’s a consultant!
- Consultants sell results which, to my knowledge, aren’t bottled or boxed. You’re selling an intangible promise to improve somebody’s situation.
- Potential customers might not even know that services like yours exist! This is especially true for deep niche players.
As you can imagine, clients can have some trust issues.
After all, you’re not selling blue widgets and consulting projects aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every customer is different.
There’s a lot of “show me” that has to happen.
Thomas Smith wrote Successful Advertising back in 1885 and gave his theory that it takes about 20 views of an advertisement to get a customer to buy.
That was a long time ago and things have changed a bit, but the moral of the story still rings true: persistence is just as important as messaging.
So, the burning question is: How do consultants attract prospects and keep them interested long enough to get the sale moving?
And, the answer is simple: given ’em what they need.
Content Marketing in a Nutshell
Content marketing is all about helping customers by delivering the insight and knowledge they need to move toward solving their problems.
If you’re a compliance consultants, that might mean sharing your SOX 404 Compliance – Lessons Learned deck with executive prospects. Or, maybe a blog post on How to Overcome Difficult Stakeholders with PMO Directors. You could even send out a monthly newsletter titled “Tales from the Field” about the great stuff you’re working on with clients to…all of your other clients!
The point is: focus on your customers, create great content that’s relevant to them and, get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
By providing helpful content to prospects on your website, you separate your consulting practice from the crowd and give your the client what they need to make a decision: confidence.
Confidence that you understand their problem, have worked with people like them before and that you can deliver as promised.
And, the more content you have, the more reasons somebody has to come back to your website. Or, for somebody else to share a link to it, Tweet about it or, for somebody to stumble upon you when searching Google.
For consultants, this means creating:
- Articles and Blog Posts
- White Papers
- Presentations (e.g. PowerPoint decks)
- Case Studies
- eBooks and other guides
- Videos and podcasts
Publishing to draw business is hardly a new idea. Consultants and professionals have been writing for generations to position themselves as “go-to” experts.
What has changed is that, with Al Gore’s Internet and software like WordPress, you don’t have to wait for an agent to get your work out there.
And, with Google and social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, you can spread the word quicker than ever before at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.
Easy Peasy, right?
Summarizing the Benefits
Putting it all together…content marketing is a perfect fit for consultants because it:
Demonstrates expertise – There’s really no better means for establishing yourself as an expert in a field than having works published in your name. PhD candidates must publish. Economists publish. Consultants can and should publish. What more effective for your target audience than showing them you understand their predicaments and that you have the skills to solve their problems?
Makes You More Findable – The more content you have, the better chance you have of being found via search. The more good content you have, the more people will spread the word by linking to your consulting business on their site or, through social media. Still, quantity and quality matter.
Positions Your Brand – The more widely recognized your name becomes in your consulting field, the better the odds are that you’re going to be able to reel in the bigger fish and have a steady stream of people lining up to use your services. Using your writing style, expertise and visual branding, you can set the message on what clients should expect when they hire you.
Provides an outlet for new capabilities, skills, etc. – You’re constantly working with different clients on different challenges and learning some new tricks.
Travels well to client meetings – Gone are the days of printing a thousand brochures in advance to leave behind at client meetings. Having a content library complete with case studies, white papers and articles at the ready makes prepping for meetings a lot easier. Rather than talk around an outdated flyer, you can print up those writings that are most relevant to your client’s problem in a jiffy.
Draws in warm leads – The best benefit, by far, is that customers come in ready to buy. If a prospect reaches out to you after having read your latest “Lessons Learned” or “How to” article, they’re already thinking you have the right stuff.
Sound Good? Here’s the next Step
Before you dive in to content marketing cannonball style, there are some questions you need to answer:
- What kind of information are clients looking for when they’re interested in buying consulting services?
- Who is your target buyer? What’s are they looking for? What are their pain points?
- What specific content needs to be created?
- How will you plan the content and get it produced so you won’t going crazy?
- Now that something is published, how will you spread the word about said awesome content?
- Are you tracking how your content is performing?
In our next post, we’ll take a look at how customers make the decision to buy consulting services, the questions they ask and, when they ask them.