Consulting businesses are growing in popularity, and it seems that there are enough potential clients for all of them. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So why not start your own consulting business?
For starters, acquiring new customers is not a stepping stone to worry about. Most consulting businesses stumble further along the way, right when they are supposed to grow the most. It is then when it becomes challenging to offer the right consulting services and to keep the team satisfied.
This is something you should consider too unless you’re playing for second best only.
How to run a successful consulting business?
Don’t worry, it is still not rocket science. If you are an aspiring marketing consultant or work in the human resources consulting area, there is plenty you can do to improve your brand.
This post is for those who know and those who don’t know how this is done.
Keep the business under control at all times
As the consulting business grows, make sure you stay organized and true to your standards, even if you are crammed with work and short on resources. Great standards attract potential clients and keep them on board.
Luckily for you, most of the managerial tasks can be outsourced to a software solution and not to an actual person. Appointment scheduling, for instance, is one of the tasks that can help them most in a consulting business.
This way, you will save both resources and time, and deliver efficient service. Clients will have the possibility to manage their appointments and reach you wherever they are. The biggest advantage of the online tool is that human errors will be avoided, and there will be no overbooking.
The favorite tool of consulting businesses is Trafft. You can use it even if your work takes place online, thanks to the responsive booking page and advanced scheduling. The tool enables direct meetings and online payments. It will also make communication more reliable with SMS notifications and email reminders.
It doesn’t matter how complicated your scheduling is. Trafft can handle it. It also has a variety of other useful features, such as custom pricing for any type of agency.
Identify your skills and your strengths upfront
If you’re going back and forth on your own consulting business idea, it is probably because you have the necessary knowledge for it. Choose an area you specialize in, such as a marketing consultant, so that you can provide the most value to your customers.
Go for what you do best, and stand out from your competition. You will be able to provide better advice and better service, and customers will appreciate this. Consider having new certification in your fields and getting international certificates; you can always take the best LSAT prep courses or TOEFL exam preparations to have global certification in the subject you will need.
Try to answer the following questions:
- What are your business goals and what are you passionate about?
- Is there an industry you know particularly well, human resources consulting, for instance?
- What can you bring to the market?
- What is your expertise?
Identify the things you can do particularly well, and use them to your advantage. Remember that to start a consulting business you may also need some licenses and certifications.
Get acquainted with the Elevator Pitch
The elevator pitch is the first step toward building a customer base. What we mean with this is a short overview of how you solve particular problems, and how this sets you apart from your competitors.
You may go around a bit and explain why you are passionate about this industry, but we recommend you stick to the basics. A consulting service is specific and intentional, and customers want you to address their exact issues. For instance, if you work in human resources, let them know you can help retain talented professionals.
In the long run, your elevator pitch will become your value proposition and the core of your marketing structure. Potential clients will be interested to learn more, so wait for the right time to tell the story of how your consulting firm came to be.
Build relationships first, and revenue second
It is true, that the whole purpose of running a consulting business is to earn money. And yet, you can’t make money if you don’t build trust first. It is kind of a vicious circle, and you don’t want to run around forever.
The key to good consulting service is to listen, not to speak. Hear what your client has to say before you lock them out with costs and shop talk. If they see you are interested in more than making profits, they may hire you as their long-term sales consultant and refer you to other firms.
Plus, good connections last, and you will always be their number one choice for consulting services.
As in any other area, communication has paramount importance for a new business. Make the experience great, and keep in touch with customers the way successful consultants do. They will know how to appreciate this.
Don’t let your social media posts affect your consulting firm
Let’s do a quick test and research your consulting business on Google. What comes up?
Does this result make you happy? Would it intrigue potential customers?
Odds are good there is a forgotten Facebook account or Twitts you wish you never wrote. These things can harm your consulting business, and result in potential clients not trusting you. The very first step is to delete or hide such posts and turn things around with professional blogs and articles.
A very good place to start a consulting business is LinkedIn. This is the richest customer base for consulting services, and also a place where you can promote your work.
This is how you can enhance your LinkedIn profile:
- Complete it. Potential clients will do deep-dive research on a new business, so make sure everything is there.
- Get a personalized URL for the profile. LinkedIn gives you this option.
- Showcase your skills and your best work, and ask customers for recommendations.
- The headshot must be professional and friendly. The same goes for the short description of your work.
Do some quality branding
You are not only running a consulting business. You are promoting problem solutions.
You want to sell and be effective while doing less and developing a unique consulting business model.
This is what your service should reflect. Great branding will help you be remembered and attractive on the market. If you follow industry trends, you will sell more. As simple as that.
Before anything else, analyze your problems and shortcomings, and see how they affect your results. Keep the offer goal-oriented, and tell customers right up front what your consulting business model can do for them.
This refers to all aspects of your branding strategy: wording, logo, name, and even colors.
Provide external validation of your work for new customers
This may as well be the most efficient consulting firm model to consider. Your work is great, we have no doubts about it. But how is that different from the thousands of consulting services out there? It is time to play big.
Regardless of its advancements, a consulting business is a conservative business. It is difficult to reinvent the wheel and do something others didn’t think of. This makes us pretty dependent on competition, and pretty eager to make a unique move that sets us apart.
The good news is the list does go on. You can run your own blog with case studies or even get customers to do this for you. You can pursue and get awards and certifications, work alongside regulatory bodies, and much more.
The best consulting firms are run by people who know how to network. If this is your case, you’ve done at least half of the job.
Reach out to a successful client, and ask them to refer you to their business partners. Make the deal even better by offering them discounts next time they come to you. Customers will have no problem doing this if they rely on your consulting business.
Each time you complete a project successfully, contact the customer:
- Thank them for choosing your consulting business
- List the results you’ve achieved as cohesive bullet points
- Gather feedback and testimonials, and publish those upon permission
- Ask for referrals at the very end
Draw the line when you have to
Launching your own business is always difficult, and you need as many friends as you can get. A consulting business is no exception to this rule. As a result, you may accept jobs that are not worth it, and which cost you much more time than you have available.
Time is not the only thing that suffers here. Quality does too. If you want to play big, hunt for good offers and big customers, and give them this time.
You can do this by learning to say ‘no’. You will only be able to deliver top work to customers that matter to you.
Charge on a project basis
Let’s talk earnings now. The whole reason why we buy things is that we expect something from them. We want results.
This is the approach you should follow. Estimate the project and offer it against a fixed price. Customers prefer that to an hourly payment, as they can plan.
Another benefit for you is that they stay focused on the lasting result, and have a clear overview of the quality of your work. Follow your baseline requirements. Wherever necessary, offer several different pricing scenarios based on the delivered value.
Running a great consulting business requires several excellent qualities and skills, and most of those are already there. You need to learn how to conquer the market and cater to customer preferences. Be a listener and a communicator, and keep an open eye for details. Invest in your marketing and your tools, and take the game to the next level. This is the only way to start a consulting business that can make a change.
Once you are inside, keep organized and make informed decisions. Involve your customers in all possible instances, and have them refer you to business partners. Last but not least, make use of quality software for a consulting business.
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