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Episode 218: Marketing Your Consulting Services Effectively—with Michael “Buzz” Buzinski

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting. In this show, we're going to talk about marketing. Specifically, how to demystify some of the marketing tactics that you can use to grow your consulting business and hit upon those things that actually are not a good use of your time. I brought on someone who does this all the time, Michael "Buzz" Buzinski, who's going to walk us through his go-to strategies and some of the things that he thinks you should avoid when you're doing your marketing. Let's get started.

Hi. Want to welcome to the show today, Michael "Buzz" Buzinski. Buzz, welcome to the show.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: How's it going, Deb?

Deb Zahn: It's great. I'm so happy to have you here. Let's start off, tell folks what you do.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: What do I do?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Oh, my gosh, I do so many things. No. My main gig is a marketing strategist. I've worked with literally, I should say, over 1,200 brands over the last 17 years. My entrepreneurial career. My secret power is creating predictably profitable marketing campaigns and strategies.

Deb Zahn: Imagine that. That's a wonderful thing.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Because so many people don't know how to do that. It's tough. It's hard. The formula's forever changing, which is probably why I like it so much because if it was just the same thing over and over again, I'd get really bored.

Deb Zahn: Exactly. But they keep you on your toes. That's actually what we're going to talk about today is we're going to talk about for service-based businesses, which consulting, obviously, is the one we're going to focus on. What are the best ways to market for the purpose of profit and not just for the purpose of getting likes and all of that stuff. Let me ask you my first question because I know, particularly for new consultants, they hear marketing, and unless they've been in marketing, they cringe and shut down emotionally. Because they're like, "Ah, it just sounds so hard." So if you're standing in front of a consultant, brand new, and you're trying to say to them, "Look, marketing is an important part of the mix," what would you tell them?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: If they told me it wasn't part of it, then they are just don't know any better. You don't know what you don't know. It's funny because a lot of consultants, and a lot of professional services, I should say, altogether, they go into business to serve.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: They're servants. They're servant leaders. That's a great aspect of being a consultant. Problem is you got to run a business around it. A lot of folks think, "Well, I'm just going to use my networking and my word-of-mouth, and all these other things." That's great until you get busy. You're going to end up in this cycle. It's either going to be in fulfillment or sales. Fulfillment or sales. That rollercoaster is what burns most all of the consultants I've ever met, who don't do it anymore, out. My dad actually retired from Kaiser Permanente.

Deb Zahn: I worked there.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: There you go.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. So did my husband.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Oh, there you go. Yeah, my mom and my dad both worked there. That's actually where they met. That's funny. Anyway, he had a PhD, the whole nine yards. What his job was, was to help people get raises. Not raises, but promotions within Kaiser. He was taking middle management, getting them to upper management, upper management to VP level stuff. That was his whole gig for the last couple of years of his career there.

When he got out, he's like, "I can help other people do this." So he started the business. And then he came to his son, who's been in business for over a decade and in marketing because he didn't understand any of that. He was in business management. All of his background was in business management. All of his college degrees up through PhD was all about business management and leadership.

A year in, he quit because he couldn't get over how hard it was to get the sales off the ground, how much hustle is there. All the consultants listening right now know that, getting that first client's sometimes the hardest thing. Unless somebody who is like, "Hey, Buzz, can you help me?" That's how I got into business, originally. I had a little part-time thing where I was in the Air Force for 10 years. or I had friends who would get out and they're like, "Buzz, you're good at this marketing ..." I had a band, so I was always marketing my band and all the other stuff. I had a side gig, a little side hustle there. But they would come to me because they knew I was good at graphic design, stuff like that. So you're known for something, and people ask you for it.

Those first are great. The people you know, those are easy sells. They already trust you. It's when you start selling to people you don't know. That's where marketing kicks in.

People forget that marketing is really just the magnet that draws people in. It's not the advertising dollars that you're talking about. Those are two different things. When you're first starting out, you want to ignore the advertising pitches and you want to lean into the marketing pitches because if you don't have strong marketing, then people don't know who you are. That's why ignoring it, you're just inevitably putting yourself into that fulfillment sales rollercoaster.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I'm a practicing consultant, but when I started, even getting work from people I knew because I didn't know how to talk about what I did. So I'm like, "I can do anything in healthcare."

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Oh, yes.

Deb Zahn: That's so huge. What does that mean? But at some point, you have to go beyond your current spheres and within your current network to be able to get a reliable pipeline that you can be secure that you're always going to get the income in and not be on that horrible, horrible rollercoaster that you described, which happens all the time. It happens all the time.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: It happens more times than it needs to.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: I mean, even COVID has made it even worse, but really since social media marketing came in and you had all of these gurus who were “gurus,” I say. Guru's not really a good thing. Most consultants hate when they're called gurus because they know what they're talking about rather than hyping up what they think they know what they're talking about. Everybody who's listening is probably doing the nodding of the head right now.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: As a consultant, I understand. As a fractional consultant, I understand, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: When you're working through the messaging, that right there is your marketing. So few people. Because if they can't paint a picture of who you are supposed to be to them in their brain, you become a fog.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Not like a good fog of war, just a fog. Like you just came out of anesthesia. You don't what the heck happened. You don't know what day it is.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. I love that. You hit upon actually what my next question, which is common mistakes. I know when I started and I said, "I'm a healthcare consultant," means nothing because healthcare is-

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: You just said healthcare. Healthcare means so many different things.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: That's why when people say, "What do you do?" I say, "I do integrated marketing." They don't know what the heck that is, but it intrigues them. But if I just said marketing, they're like, "Oh, OK." Because you know the word healthcare. You know the word marketing. You might even know the word real estate. Say you're a real estate consultant. "Well, what kind of real estate consultant? What do you actually do?" We're really leaning into integrated marketing because integrated marketing basically is literally what it says. You integrate your message in all the channels that it needs to be in, and then you automate it, which is the second, I'm going to lean on your question there, the mistakes. The second issue is that when they do start marketing, they don't automate anything. Now, I'm not talking the generic automation of email marketing and drip campaigns and stuff like that. That's some of it, but only if you do it correctly, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Consultants need consultants. Just like baseball players need coaches, and football players...any athlete and any business, really, we need consultants in the things that we're not really good at. We need people who can get us through it. Either they're going to get us through it or they're going to have somebody do it for them. It's the only two options you have. Otherwise you're going to be stuck not just in a rollercoaster that's going up and down, but rollercoasters going in a circle. You're just going up and down in the same circle.

Deb Zahn: While it's going up and down.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah, while it's going up and down. It's going to do this. You're going to get sick. It's like a bad gravitron, and you can't get out.

Deb Zahn: That's right. No one wants to be on that ride. Let me paint a picture for you and you can tell me what's different about integrated marketing and the way you're describing it. What I see a lot of new consultants do is...Back in the day when I became a consultant, social media was not a huge thing. It is now, but it wasn't a huge thing. I'm old enough that I think it existed, but it wasn't ...

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: We're both old enough. It's OK.

Deb Zahn: I know. It's OK. Gen Xers unite. What happens is, I see either two versions, is they're terrified of marketing, or they only think that marketing equals social media. They'll get on, and they'll post something, usually one thing, and then nothing happens. They're like, "See, it doesn't work." Or they'll go all in, they'll start posting like a mad person, and then nothing happens, "See, marketing doesn't work."

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Right.

Deb Zahn: That's sort of a limited view. If you were to expand their minds, what would you tell them?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Well, that's one tactic. Integrated marketing is integrating multiple tactics at the same time and testing them over time. Because if you rely on one channel...Let's use Facebook because this was a big thing just a few years ago. When iOS 14 came out, third-party data became extremely...It used to be, before iOS 13, 14, let me say this again. Before iOS 14 came out, we were able to use third-party data to target people in ads. There were people who didn't know anything about marketing, but they understood how to use the platform to target exactly who they wanted. They would put a bunch of ads out there. Whichever one hit, they would use that and scale it. Then third-party data went away. Now, we're not going to get into why all that happened because that's a bunch of politics. But the thing is this, now first-party data is the only thing we have.

Now we have to understand how to talk to people in different channels because not everybody talks the same, depending each of their channels. The IG version...or the Instagram version of Buzz does not sound like the LinkedIn version of Buzz, does not sound like the Facebook version of Buzz, does not sound like the Twitter version of Buzz, does not sound like on the website, does not sound...It sounds a little like my blog. My blog and LinkedIn probably sound the most familiar, as far as that goes. Because each of the users on each of those...I go to each of those channels for different reasons, just like everybody else. So when we're integrating our marketing, we're not just worried about one tactic because if we do that, we come very singular in where we get. It's just like, we don't want to just rely on referrals because when the referrals dry up, there's nothing else to go to.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Horrible. That's why we have to integrate many ways of getting business: networking, referrals, JVs, social media, blogs, authority marketing, SEO, ads, all of these things. Now, when you're brand new, you don't have the bandwidth or the money to do all of them at the same time, but if you don't start with an integrated system, an integrated methodology, that means that as you get busier, you're going to have to slow down to speed back up. But right now you've got the bandwidth. So getting it all figured out now so that you already know the plays ...

You ever watch football? You got the coach with all of the calls on that big sheet on both sides. He's all calling and people are going back and forth. And then they go up in the top area where all the coordinators are sitting up high, where they've got the eye of God. And then they've got pamphlets upon pamphlets. They've gone through every single play that could possibly come at them. They did their research before. They reviewed the tape. For us, we do the marketing research. "What is it going to look like? When do we want to look at it?" Dot, dot, dot, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Then it's off our plate until we get there. But then we don't have to stop to do the research all over again. We already got it. Your people are not going to change that fast. It's, "When do you need this stuff?" Because you don't need it right away.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: That's the huge difference. And, as you get something that starts working, that means you got cashflow to start testing the next thing. You test them against each other because you want winners. You're working your own messaging against each other, each of the channels, as you grow out. That way you can start automating a lot of things. Now all you're doing is just catching the inbound marketing results. It pushes away the need to spend ad dollars further and further and further out.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Let's pause because one other thing that I’m thinking as hearing this is that, if you have a plan, and that plan obviously based on you know who you ultimately want to work with. So, it's not me saying healthcare, it's me saying this sector in healthcare that has these particular wants and needs and desires that, "Oh, by the way, I happen to know a ton about and I can help them." You've done that front end work, and then you've done your market research, so you know what resonates with people. What are people spending money on? What are the types of results that they're trying to achieve that I can actually do. All of that stuff. But if you've got really a marketing plan, even if you can't or aren't going to implement it all at once, then you bring it on as you need it, and as you start to get gigs in and you can start to afford to do some other things. Is that kind of the idea?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: 100%. You know how many times I get on...Just on a consulting call yesterday. She's like, "I want to get into marketing." She hasn't even figured out what her actual offer is.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: OK. She's a dance consultant for history museums.

Deb Zahn: That's pretty cool.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah. Yeah. She's like, "There's like 80 of them in my state." I was like, "Yeah, but you're going to sell that once to each of those 80. “Oh, no, they'll come back.” I was like, "No, they won't." So within 45 minutes, we elevated who she was actually going to be talking to. All of the work that she's doing now is finding people to say yes to the offer that we created right there.

The thing is this, she's probably going to come back to me and say, "You know what? That's not what actually ended up selling." I know that. It's OK. You're going to go out there and say, "Why do these people say no? What about my offer is failing?" And then you're going to start tweaking it and tweaking it. The fulfillment's probably going to be exactly the same as it was, it's just how you're talking about it. Your messaging and how you approach these conversations will continue to edit themselves. Once you start selling it, you have now found your marketing message because what doesn't work in sales calls will not work in marketing.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: That's why they call it sales and marketing. They feed off of each other.

Deb Zahn: Wait, what? You want those worlds to come together? Imagine that.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yes. I mean, hey, you might be old enough to remember this when we were kids, when they had the departments in bigger companies with sales and marketing, not sales department and marketing department.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It baffles me that they are separate because how could those possibly be separate? That is the same thing. So if you get on a discovery call, let's say you've done some good marketing or did some good outreach and you get on a discovery call, if you start saying something different, then that is going to be baffling to the people who agreed to have the call with you. You got to have it nailed.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Congruency is the golden ticket to success when it comes to sales. Yeah, you don't want the bait and switch of your messaging. People do it to themselves. It's not even, "Well, the marketing said this, and the sales guy said this." No. People, solopreneurs will do that to themselves. They'll be like, "Whatever it takes to get the appointment." And then they have to lay out the actual truth. It's like, "God, no. You want to pre-qualify them in the conversation before you get them into that discovery call."

A good discovery call's going to take you anywhere between a half an hour, to some people, up to an hour and a half. If you have the wrong person in the room, you have just wasted their time and your time, and neither of you get that back. That's the worst. It would be better to pre-qualify them and then find out that they're not a good fit, but maybe they know other people who are. Find out how they could be a referral source for you that you'll just pay them for those. "Tell you what, instead of you having to worry about what you're worrying about, how about I pay you to introduce me to the people who I can actually help."

Deb Zahn: Oh.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: "What do you mean I got to pay people for referrals? You should just give them to me."

Deb Zahn: Let's dig into the client a little bit because that's also often an orientation problem that a lot of new consultants unfortunately fall into, which is understandable because, "I’ve got to get business. I’ve got to get income in. Oh, my gosh, I put my shingle up; nothing's happening." But their orientation is towards themselves and their business, and not an orientation towards the client. Why would a client want to work with them? When you're thinking about developing a marketing strategy, how do you help them think about the client in such a way that it actually yields results?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: The first thing to do is remember that the client doesn't care what you know until they know how much you care.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: It's all about them. It has nothing to do with you. Has nothing to do with your credentials. You can see, I have the folks video, you guys see behind me. I've got a bunch of those, bunch of pretty...There's telly awards, marketing awards, and all the other stuff. For some people that means something, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: When I first started, we weren't a big agency, so I actually had a moniker...a slogan, I should say, was less prestige, more results.

Deb Zahn: That's great.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: And then I found out that all of my employees are like, "No, we need the prestige because we need it in our CVs for our resumes for the next job." That type of thing.

Deb Zahn: You're like, "Well, that's a different goal."

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah. I get it. Young kids, that's what it was. So we did it for a while. I mean, I didn't write any of those, the award packages, I just created the results so we could get those awards. That was great for them. But your client doesn't usually care about that, OK?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Your case studies are what they worry about. The case studies are just what happened to other clients who worked with you. So when we're doing our marketing, we need to make sure that we are client-centric or prospect centric. We need to be present to their pain. As a consultant, there's only two things you can do. You can either solve a problem or help them attain a dream. Usually, the only thing that's holding them back from attaining their dream is some problem they have. So when we really boil it down...I start with two because we have a lot of people who are inspirational consultants. They're like, "No, I helped them meet their goal." It's like, "Yeah, what's between them and the goal? What's stopping them? Some problem. We're all problem solvers. There's a pain behind every problem. You're a pain reliever. So talk to the pain because that pain is very loud in their head. If you can tell them that that pain can go away, if you work with them ..." with you, sorry, "then they're going to start listening because they want that pain gone."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: People will take action to get rid of pain faster than they will take action to get pleasure. It's scientifically and psychologically proven. People avoid pain. They will not do as much work to avoid pain as they will to get pleasure.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: So if everything you say is all about leaving that pain, then you're going to have a lot easier way to getting them into a discovery call because they're qualified for that. Then it becomes less about what you charge. Because it's like, "Well, what's the pain worth? What happens when you get that pain? What do you get out of not having that pain anymore, besides just not having that pain, that discomfort?" The discomfort, yeah, being without discomfort is priceless, but most people can't really put that dollar sign behind them, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: If you turn around and say, "Well, what can you get done...what can you achieve without this roadblock, without this problem, without this pain?" They're going to start giving you, "Well, I can do X, Y, Z dot, dot, dot." What does that mean for your bottom line? Because you're usually, as a consultant, you're either helping an individual get more from their life, so they're either going to be more productive, more productive, probably there's a dollar sign behind that, or you're talking to businesses. What's business and business for? Create profit. If you can show them more profit...My job's real easy. What do I do? I create more profit for my clients. That's my only goal. That's why all of my...even my book, it talks about three KPIs to profit. Revenue, that's all that counts. So if you can focus all of your marketing at that, is solving that and showing how you have a unique way of doing that, for a unique niche of people who have that problem, you have more business than you can handle.

Deb Zahn: That's right. If you're speaking to it, that shows you care about it enough to have done the work to figure out, what's getting in their way? What are causing people problems? What are they trying to get beyond so that they can get to their aspiration? One of my huge pet peeves is when someone goes into a discovery call and they say, "What keeps you up at night?" Which is the laziest question on the planet because what it basically signals is: "I didn't care enough to know enough about you ahead of time, to try and make some good educated guesses about what's going on with you." I assume same thing in marketing.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah. I mean, you can't say that in marketing. Now, you could say, "Does X, Y, Z keep you up at night?" But to be honest with you, I mean, do you want to work with people who are so riddled with anxiety that they're up at night worrying about it? Those are neurotic clients. You know what I'm saying? Who wants neurotic clients? Let's get people who sleep well at night. Be careful who you bring into your circle.

The beginning of last year, we launched our fractional chief marketing officer service, where we go in and we do the whole thing for a client. About, oh, November, I was ready to fire both of the ones that we had taken on because one, we had the wrong offer. We promised too many things, but then we also brought in the wrong clients. They didn't want to listen. It was like there were no people.

Deb Zahn: Great combo. Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: All the things were misaligned, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: We sold the wrong offer, and we sold it to the wrong people. Once you have the right offer, only give it to the people who are a right fit for the offer.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love this because, I agree with it, there is a fit in terms of, is your working style, is your personnel...You don't want to be mirror images, but you want to know that you can do good work together. You can only do good work together under certain circumstances. But one of the other things that I've heard you talk about elsewhere, which I love, is paying attention to the profitability or the value per clients that you're serving now. Say a little bit more about that. Because I think, again, with a lot of new consultants, reasonably, it's like, "I’ve got to get clients. I’ve got to get clients," and they're not thinking about what the cost of some of those clients are. I'd love to have you share your thinking on that.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Love that topic. There are two things we have to worry about, money coming in, what your value is, and the bandwidth it takes to serve somebody. The two biggest things in this realm right here, average revenue per client and profitability of clients, that I see happen, especially with consultants...I just had a consultant I was talking to...actually, two consultants this week already, and it's only Tuesday, that we talked about is that they were not charging enough. They're like, "Well, I don't feel like I can do that because I haven't been in business that long." It's like, "No, either you're in business and you can do the work or you don't. Either they believe you or they don't." That's it. There is no other...It's just like, "That's it. There's nothing else you can do." The problem with discounting your services below what you're worth is that you now discount what you can offer because you got to pay the bills. The bills don't change per what you charge. Your bills are your bills.

So if you sit there and say, "Well, I'm going to do a discount right now, and I'll push them up later," which is the hardest thing to do. Believe me, I did it for way too long. And you take on, say, five clients that take up 100% of the time, but you're only charging 80% of what you're worth, you now only have the bandwidth of 80%...You only have the bandwidth. You only have so much bandwidth, 100% bandwidth. But if you take on too many, now you can only give them 80% because you've billed out for 100% of your time.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: So when you discount your prices, you are discounting your service to your clients. They can't get 100% of you unless you bill 100% what you're worth. That's the first half.

Deb Zahn: Love that.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Second half is the PITA discount, the pain in the arse, OK?

Deb Zahn: Yes, I've heard that term before, and I love it.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: The PITA discount...We're not talking about the discount we get at Lowe's when we see a good deal. We're talking about the bank's discount. I always talk backwards. They think you're doing them a favor when you get a discount, but no, they're charging you more. We literally had that when I had a huge creative agency. When we would say, "What's the PITA discount?" That was, "How much more time is it going to take for us to make this client happy? Is it going to take us 20% more? Than we got to charge 20% more because they're taking up 20% more bandwidth. That means our value that we have to give is 20% more." Because if I charge the good client the same amount as my PITA client, I have to rob from Peter to pay PITA.

Deb Zahn: I love that. Well, and there is, you have to do extra work to manage the drama.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: If you don't charge for it, you're going to steal from somebody else.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: That's what I'm talking about. OK. Now, let's go one step further. What does that do to the morale? If you're a solopreneur, your morale, your energy. If you have a team, what does that do to your team's morale and your team's energy for other clients?

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: If you have somebody who's sucking the air out of the room, and then the next person comes in, there's no oxygen for anybody.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. We've all had them. If you haven't had one yet, I hate to tell you, you. They will happen. So part of the question which you ask, which I think you love is, one, why have them? Because you can say no, and no with the opportunity costs that are associated with those low profitability and pain in the arse clients. And then if you decide to work with them for whatever reason, and there are reasons to, then you have to add...I actually call it the drama factor. You have to actually add something to your price to make sure you account for the work that it will take to manage that drama because it ain't managing itself.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Right. I have a consultant that...a consultant friend of mine. In his contract, he has a list of things they do not do.

Deb Zahn: I love it.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Setting expectations before you get started will save you a lot of headache and heartache along the way.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: When people say, "Well, you don't really need a contract. You don't need a long contract or anything." I was like, "No, you do, actually. You might not need it full of legalese all the time, but you sure the heck should be setting your scope of work very clearly. Do not leave it open-ended." I used to do that. "Oh, we'll just take care of it. 'Well, what about this?' Yeah, that's covered in the “and everything else:  clause." Right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: When you do that, you're setting yourself up for people who will just take advantage of that loophole that you've created for yourself.

Deb Zahn: You've invited them to. Yeah, I actually have...I created, and this is back in the day before I was independent, I actually created a checklist of things to include in your scope and in, essentially, a contract to avoid some of those problems. People would say things like, "Oh, we're going to do a retreat." My question would be, "Is it half a day? Is it a full day? Is it two days? Is it 90 minutes?" Because your client is probably thinking something different than you. And guess what? Now you're going to be in a tricky client conversation because you did not clarify those assumptions. If you're unwilling to have difficult conversations with clients, you're going to lose money.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: You're going to lose money every single time.

Deb Zahn: I can't help but think so, and I love that you talk about this, that this also has to relate to marketing in terms of how you position yourself, such that you're attracting the right clients. Also, clients have an expectation when they're meeting with you. Tell me how you loop this back to integrated marketing.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Remember, we talked about the people who said yes. We talked about the language it took to get them to say yes. The language it gets to get the right person to say yes will most likely drive the wrong person away. So if you just talk to your perfect client profile, you will actually filter out a huge chunk of unqualified or PITAesque prospects. So clarity in who you're talking to and how they need to be talked to, what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, what they need to hear. Because when you start saying what they want to hear and doing what they want you to do, you stop being a good consultant.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: OK? You are there for what they need. You're a consultant. This is not a luxury item. They need you. You provide a service that is crucial to their success. Period. If you don't believe that, go get another job. I'm just going to tell you that right now because you're going to be a miserable consultant if you do not believe that. If you look at your service as, "Well, they don't really need me." Then you need to take a look at your service and get clear on what you actually provide as a service because that just means your offer is not needed. If it's not needed, especially for B2B, it's not going to happen.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: You're going to sell probably about 20% of what you could, if you just found the actual need. A lot of people create services that nobody need.

Deb Zahn: Right. Or don't need enough to actually put money out for them.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Especially in business. Especially in business. But now, with inflation, consumers are just as worried about their money and frugal with their money as ever. So if you're not selling something they need, or at least show them why they need it...because a lot of times we're really offering solutions to problems they don't even know they have.

Deb Zahn: Right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: We got to be convincing in that, "Hey, by the way, you don't know what you don't know." How many times as consultants do we tell our clients that, "You don't know what you don't know, that's why you're here"? I don't know what I don't know, and I've been doing this for 30-some-odd years, OK?

It's fine to not know. The worst part is to find out what you don't know and not take action. So even if your marketing is about teaching people about the problem, they didn't know they had, the people who are good fits will get it, and the people who aren't, won't. So that you can reduce the amount of empty discovery calls that you end up on. How many calls just like, "Oh, my gosh, I know in five minutes this person is not the right fit. Even if they bought from me, I wouldn't want them as a client"?

Deb Zahn: All right. I got to draw a red circle around that because I love it that much. Because here's the thing that folks get afraid of, and I understand the fear, and I understand the feeling of scarcity, is that, "If I don't position myself, that everybody has a good feeling about what I'm saying, I'll never get any business." What I say is the same thing you say, which is, "No, you'll actually get more of the right business if you are very, very clear, essentially, about who you most want to work with and the wonderful things that you can help them achieve."

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Exactly. In my book, I talk about going back to clients you already have and ask them...In the case of the book, we use the rule 26 is 26%. It was like, "Find out if they would pay 26% more to get the same service. Find out how many people say yes." Whoever says yes, you don't have to raise their prices, but find out what they love about you, that they would pay you over a quarter or more what they're paying you right now to have you on their team.

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Everything they say is gold. Everything they say is gold. Whatever they say, you start repeating that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: "My best clients say that they love me because X, Y, Z. My best clients have this problem. Do you have this problem? My best clients want to see this, dot, dot, dot," right?

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Everything's leveraged off of people you already served. You don't have to be in business very long to figure that out. Usually within the first year you have that, you have figured out who you like. I tell people, when you're first starting out and you're like, "I don't know who." I'm like, " OK, well then go pick out a few types of people you think you would like, and then serve them on a short-term basis. Do a three month with them, see if you like them. If you don't like them, at the end of 90 days, you can just say, 'Thank you very much. Oh, well, we want more service.' OK, well, I'm not the right person for you. You actually want to talk to my friend over here," because your trash is another person's treasure. Your PITA is somebody else's gold mind.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: And, if you do it right, they are JV partners, meaning that they will pay you every time you give them your trash.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I love that. It's all about fit. If you pay attention to fit, even if it's scary, that's where you're going to start to get things. I know when I first started, when things started cooking is when I started to pay attention to what they said. And then that became my marketing, my outreach language, what they got emotional about because that really told me what they cared about. I don't have to then go back and come up with my own fancy pants sales copy. They just told me what they cared about.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: And then you sit there, and you go, "Does this sound like you?" At the top of your website, "We solve this problem," or, "We help these people do this without this." The X, Y, Z factor. "I solve this problem for this type of person without this headache." If you do the X, Y, Z up at the top. Or ask them the question, "Are you tired of whatever pain it is?" OK, we have a solution. Now, what you want to do is productize that solution. Give it a name. For search engine optimization, we don't call it search engine optimization. We call it digital engagement optimization because we do it different than other people. So much so that the American Marketing Association gave me one of these fancy little pieces of glass bag here as an innovative marketer.

Deb Zahn: Well played.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Done. When you have something novel, even though the outcome is the same as a lot of your other people in your market, you become novel by your unique proposition.

Deb Zahn: Mm-hmm.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: What makes you unique? OK. You find out that one degree. Doesn't have to be this huge, earth-moving thing, just one degree different. That makes you different. One degree. And then when they catch up to your one degree, you do another degree. That's fine.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. It could be what you've specifically delivered. It could also be the experience that you give them. There's lots of different ways to come at it. That's wonderful.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: One of my unique propositions is that I've been in business for 17 years. Most marketers that you will talk to, that the trying to sell you marketing, have been in business as long as you have, as far as your first couple...the people who are listening are just in their first couple years. A lot of the people who come in at...people who have just getting in business, are getting in business for themselves as well. That's a unique selling proposition. It's just the fact that I've been around that long. It's a testament to my stickiness, my sticktoitiveness. It's a testament that we can stay in business for 17 years in marketing. A lot of people know, that's hard to do. And do it successfully, even better. That you unique selling proposition is what you are always looking to put into your marketing. And you want to make sure that that marketing is laid out to where we said your pain, your productization of your solution, and what does that mean when you apply it to them? So now you're painting a picture of the afterlife of that process.

Deb Zahn: Right. Which is what they're buying.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah, they're going to come...they'll get sucked in by the alleviation of pain. They buy on the emotion of how they're going to feel after they don't have that pain.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Love it, love it, love it. Well, Buzz, I love talking about this stuff. We could go on and on easily.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: You have to bring me back. That's just-

Deb Zahn: We're going to definitely have to bring you back. We have way too much fun on this. Where can folks find you?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: OK, the Buzzworthy Integrated Marketing is at If you want to check out the rule of 26, which is for service-based businesses, like consultants. Three steps to doubling your website revenue. You can check that out at

Deb Zahn: Nice. We will have links to all of that in the show notes. Let me ask you the last question. When you're not doing fabulous things in the marketing world, how do you bring that balance to your life? How does that work?

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Well, I call it departmentalization. That's the biggest piece. I used to be really bad at departmentalizing things. Even though I'd been in the service for 10 years and you learn how to departmentalize. That's how you function because you're in high stress situations and things that you would never have imagined yourself in, but you still have to produce. You have to do your job. Do your job. I got very emotional. I had an emotional attachment to my business when I got out. So I wasn't able to departmentalize my clients. When I had one bad client, it would ruined my whole day.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: To the point where it would be one o'clock in the afternoon, got a bad call, I would just tell my team I got to go. Right?

Deb Zahn: I hear you.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Yeah, right? Now, it's much better. I learned it from basically...I learned to do that with my life as well. When I'm at work, I'm at work. My wife will tell you, the one thing that bugs me the most is when she comes into my office because I have a home office. When I'm in the flow and she walks in, I get the most upset because you have now broken the segmentation of my day. But when I walk out of the office, she gets 100% of me.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: I close the door, literally, figuratively, and literally.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: That's my key to balance.

Deb Zahn: That's great. Love it, love it, love it. Well, Buzz, I got to thank you so much for coming on. I'm definitely going to have you come on again because there are so many things that we could talk about related to marketing, but thanks so much for your time today.

Michael “Buzz” Buzinski: Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

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