The marketing challenges and opportunities facing knowledge-based businesses are very different from firms selling products. Chris Kaday suggests ten ways to help spread the word about your knowledge-based consultancy
There are more and more individuals trying to convert their knowledge, skill and experience into a viable business than ever before. And yet many are struggling to get their consultancies off the ground.
Here are ten top tips that are designed to help anyone thinking of setting up a knowledge-based business or those who would like to be producing more results in their current business for less effort.
1. Make a plan
You might be working on your own but that's no reason why you shouldn’t have a business action plan setting out:
- precisely what you want to earn in the coming year;
- how many projects at an average project value you need to gain;
- how many opportunities and proposals you need to make to get these;
- what marketing you will use to create these opportunities;
- the running costs of the business;
- how you will deliver the business you win;
- any specific challenges you face and how you will address them; and
- what profit you expect to make.
Don't worry, you don't need to write more than a few pages with the key figures set out and the things you have to do against them month by month. Every business, no matter what the size, should have a written marketing plan.
When you look at many knowledge-based businesses and their websites, the list of services the individuals claim to deliver can be long. Many think the more you offer, the more opportunities you get - but the reverse is true. Clients want specialists not generalists and you will be doing them and yourself a big favour by focusing on a narrow offering that makes a specific gain or solves a problem.
By choosing one particular business area or skill to promote and deliver you can quickly build a reputation and a successful business. It also means your website is more focused and you can more easily use SEO , blogs, articles and social media to dominate that space. Being a specialist also helps in networking - people immediately understand both what you do and whether your services could be useful to them or someone they know.
3. Keep it simple
Distil the essence of your proposition to the absolute essentials of what you deliver and the results you achieve. Create an elevator pitch - a brief but compelling description of what you do and what you can deliver that takes no more than a few seconds to say.
I attend a lot of networking events and often hear mumbled and fumbled attempts at an elevator pitch after the initial handshake. OK so what's mine? Well I often say I help people make their first million. That always gets a smile and they usually say -gosh I could do with someone like you or how do you do that? I follow it with the fact that I am one of the few business advisors who has actually made millions himself, so I can mentor from direct experience. That might sound a bit boastful, but it is always said with a smile and it gets the conversation off to a great start.
4. Focus on results
Your prospects and clients are far more interested in the results you achieve than the techniques and methods you use to deliver them. Remember the buyer's first reaction on hearing any proposition - "what's in it for me?". And yet so many websites are cluttered with methodology that gets in the way of the bottom line benefits . Your website copy, emails and conversations with customers will be far more effective if you talk benefits - the real difference your knowledge makes to those you work with.
5. Make offers
When people read your website content do they see a list of services and a contact page? Lots of knowledge-based sites are like this with the business owner providing no specifics and no fees. The way to get around this is to continually make offers. A process, an audit, a workshop - in fact anything you can deliver for a set fee or even for free. Webinars and podcasts , for instance, are a great way of engaging with your audience to establish reputation, share knowledge and build trust. They also help brush up your presentation skills.
6. Find partners
It is hard setting out on your own in any commercial enterprise and especially one that relies on you to be getting and delivering business all at the same time. It is also hard to create the kind of exposure and contacts you need, especially in the early days. Assuming you have adopted a niche approach, you can easily find others in your area who deliver complementary but non-competing services. The idea is to work with them to market your services together. Grow your databases together and pass leads around too. You will also have someone who is in a similar position to yourself and could be a great business buddy.
7. Be yourself
Some people think that as soon as they set out to attract business clients, they have to adopt the kind of persona that they would never use if you met them socially. They try to look corporate and scatter their websites with stock pictures of office buildings and people staring at computer screens. If you want to make lasting connections with potential clients, the golden rule is be yourself. Authenticity works so don't try to be someone you are not.
8. Be social
If you want to meet people who match your target audience it’s vital to prioritise social media. If you run a business-to-business consultancy, then you should certainly be active on LinkedIn . By engaging with users, joining relevant groups and offering your own expertise you will quickly build up followers who could become your online champions and supporters as well as potential clients. Facebook and Twitter are also widely used by businesses to keep up with industry developments and to keep in touch with key players and prospects. .
9. Give it away
Apparently, my grandfather, who I never met, used to say cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back a thousand-fold. I believe in this 100% and I give away my thoughts, ideas and advice all the time. And you know what? It comes back in recommendations , opportunities, direct business and the satisfaction of knowing I have made a real difference to somebody. Take a look at the top business advisor sites and you will see they give away lots of useful advice and resources. By demonstrating and sharing their knowledge they build trust in their followers and position themselves as an expert in their field.
10. Never stop learning
Of course, you have some experience and knowledge that you want to promote and deliver but it shouldn't end there. Although you might well follow the tried and tested methods you have acquired over the years, there is also a need to learn new aspects of your field and maybe even have your views and assertions challenged too. Find out what others are saying and doing in your chosen area - it is always good to keep up with the competition. Attend trade shows and conferences and read books about your subject. This will either confirm what you do or add more - hopefully both.
Written by Chris Kaday.