Building and sustaining a successful consulting business requires you to market your services and conduct prospective client outreach on an ongoing basis. Marketing and outreach are not things you do just when projects are ending. Why? Because the lead times for getting business can vary greatly. Even after you get contracts, those engagements don’t always come to fruition, and delays in projects starting are common. That's why having a robust pipeline fo business is essential.
But how do you know what marketing and outreach to do? What is going to have the best return on investment of your time, energy, and resources?
These are reasonable questions to ask. They help you avoid scattershot, “throw spaghetti on the wall” approaches that too many consultants do in the absence of having a deliberate plan.
Creating Focus with Segmentation
One of the best tools you can use to make decisions about what to do is segmentation, that is, segmenting your marketing and outreach targets so that they receive the types and intensity of marketing and outreach that makes the most sense for them.
Segmentation also allows you to find the sweet spot between an overly broad approach that is unwieldy and overwhelming, and something that is so narrow that you don’t have enough prospects to reach out to. You also want to know the difference between folks in your market who may or may not generate contracts and quality prospects who are more likely to lead to contracts. If you know those distinctions, you can better focus your approach.
Three Easy Segments
Segmentation doesn’t have to be fancy to be helpful. I use the following three segments, which I’ll explain in detail below:
Other ideal clients and the people who know them
Hot prospects are people who know you well and who you could easily get a meeting with. You also know that they have some type of a demand that you could potentially help them with. (Note that a demand is a need that they've recognized and are willing to pay to solve.)
They fall into the hot category because you have good reason to believe that if you spend
extra time and energy cultivating them, you will likely get a contract with them within a couple months. Prospects that fall within this segment are your top priorities for doing direct outreach, especially when you first start consulting. As you build your business, this segment could include past and existing clients.
Medium-Hot Prospects are the people who know you or know you by reputation and whom you could likely get a meeting with. Getting a meeting is not a slam dunk, but you have good reason to believe that you could get one. You may not know exactly what they have a demand for, but you have reason to believe that they might want something that you have to offer. You think if you cultivate them, you could possibly get a contract within three or four months. The folks that fall into this segment are your next tier of prospects, who you will approach via direct outreach.
Other Ideal Clients and the People Who Know Them
Everybody else in your market and niche who is your ideal client—that is, who you most want to get business from—still needs to be exposed to you and your value. You also want to include the people who can influence your ideal clients because these people can connect you to new people who may need your help. Producing targeted marketing that reaches and engages this segment of folks is one of the ways that you can create leads and prospects.
Big Net and Little Net Strategies
After you’ve created your segments, how do you decide what to do with them? You can use what I call big net and little net strategies to engage them.
Using a fishing analogy, big net strategies are for the universe or large subset of your ideal clients in your market. It’s intended to be a broad approach. You're after big numbers of people. You're not going to spend as much of your time or energy cultivating these folks, which means you're going to get a lower conversion rate (i.e., converting prospects into clients). But that's OK. That's why the math of having big numbers helps you. If you have 500 people that you have reached, and you convert 1% of them to a client, you have 5 clients. Big net strategies include things like social media posts, articles, events, presentations, speaking engagements, case studies, and educational webinars. You can listen to a replay of my training webinar How to Get Consulting Clients for more detail about specific marketing strategies that will make your little net efforts even more effective.
Little net strategies are used when you're after a specific type of fish, namely, your hot and medium-hot prospects. This is by design a precision approach. You’re going to be targeting lower numbers of people. That’s good because you are going to expend greater effort cultivating them. Higher quality prospects and more cultivation means you’ll have a higher conversion rate. That higher conversion rate makes it worth the extra effort. Little net strategies include direct outreach and meetings. This also could include customized speaking engagements, events, presentations, and webinars specifically for hot and medium-hot prospects.
Segmentation is a Tool for You
An important thing to keep in mind is that segmentation is a tool for you; you are not a tool for segmentation. So don’t get lost in a complicated process. Only do what is helpful for you to make decisions about marketing and outreach. There isn’t a perfect way to do it. There’s only what works for you. And you should refine it over time as you see what works best for you.
Hopefully, this will enable you to focus your marketing and outreach efforts and have a greater yield so you can spend more time doing the best part of consulting, which is serving your clients.
Do You Need to Action Your Plan More Quickly?
If you need help creating your segments and figuring out your marketing and outreach plan, I’m hosting a weekend virtual intensive retreat. Over 2+ days, I will work with a small group of consultants to get them ready to get clients and start to build a pipeline of work for their consulting businesses. The next one starts on October 23, 2020. Find out more or, better still, schedule a time to chat with me to see if it’s right for you here.