How Consulting Firms Create Demand

Show your ideal clients what they don't know yet, and why it matters.

Yesterday I wrote about why common marketing advice doesn't work for consulting firms.

Most marketers strongly rely on the idea of frequent and quick iterations, using customer feedback to tweak your positioning and design an offering that fits with what the market wants.

That's simply not possible for most consultants:

  • Consulting engagements are typically confidential, making it hard for you to compare your services with those of your competitors.
  • Consulting is delivered by people, and it takes time for people to change. To create or iterate the services you offer you and your team might need to acquire skills and cultivate expertise - which takes time.
  • Consulting engagements are not scalable, and if you're specialized (like most boutique firms are) there's a limited number of companies you could serve. The best way to test new offerings is through one-on-one conversations.

You can and should make changes to your positioning to impact how prospects perceive you, but this is gradual and should happen over time.

Constantly changing your niche or launching a new offering every week will amount to nothing. Prospects won't see you as an expert in their space, your messaging will not be effective, and you won't be able to learn which services your clients could really benefit from.

My biggest argument against adopting a "fluid" positioning and constantly "adapting to what the market wants", however, is a simple one.

Your dream clients are not sure what they want, because they don't know what they don't know.

Unaware Needs

Finding no signs of existing interest doesn't mean companies will not benefit from your service. More often than not, they just don't know it yet.

Juggling different tasks and priorities, executives don't have enough time, expertise, or budget to take care of it all. They are doing things the best way they can, or know how to. If they were aware and convinced of the need to make changes in their business, they would already be searching for external support.

So rather than waiting for them to raise their hand, you can show them what are the risks and opportunities that you can help them with, but they don't know yet.

How? By offering them relevant information, insights, and ideas.

That's how consultants create demand.

Three Steps To Create Demand For Your Consulting Firm

Once we understand that to create demand we must help our potential clients understand the risks and opportunities we can help them with by presenting ideas, our task becomes easier to tackle.

There are three challenges:

  1. Understanding your clients: You need to discover what are the risks and opportunities for our ideal clients. Then, identify which of those we can help them with, and which are likely to be expensive and important to them.
  2. Learning to communicate your ideas: Your ideal clients must be able to understand those risks and opportunities, and why they are relevant to their business.
  3. Earning your clients' attention: You need to get those insights in front of your clients. People can't engage in a conversation if they don't know you exist. People can't trust you if they don't know you exist.

When we look at these three challenges, it's easy to notice what the most important thing to create demand is: knowing what your clients' world looks like.

The better you know them, the easier it is to identify big risks and opportunities and talk as they talk. Understanding where they hang out and get their information from - blogs, communities, online platforms, events - will make it easier for you to earn visibility.

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