To Create Demand, Check Your Assumptions First

Beware generic marketing advice.

Time to continue exploring demand generation for consulting firms.

We started this series in this post, where I argued there are only two ways to increase interest in your consulting offerings:

  1. By capturing existing demand in your market.
  2. By creating new demand for your services.

The easiest way to sell something is to offer people what they already want. That's why the biggest (and only meaningful) advantage of tapping into existing demand is the shorter sales cycle.

In yesterday's post, however, I shared the downsides of it. It's more difficult to sell value, can drag you to work with bad fit clients that weaken your positioning, and might simply not be feasible for many consulting firms.

Before exploring the other alternative - creating demand and interest where there is none - I want to shine a light on assumptions you may take as true, but are not.

Looking For Good Advice

Most B2B marketing advice that you come across, especially on the internet, is not relevant for consulting firms.

I'm not entirely sure why, but I suspect this happens due to a combination of (1) the fact the number of marketers specialized in serving consulting firms is small, and (2) the ones that do seem to have a weaker digital presence, making relevant marketing advice much harder to find for consultants.

So you should be skeptical of what you read and listen to (including this!). In this short post I hinted that, for consultants, having a high client acquisition cost (CAC) is not inherently a bad thing. The advice and best practices around creating market demand are also not useful for consulting firms.

Startup culture and the most influential marketers you read strongly rely on the idea of frequent and quick iterations. Using customer feedback, you should tweak your positioning to stand out among the competition. And design an offering that fits what the market wants.

That's simply not possible for consultants.

The False Assumptions

Of course, consultants come in all sizes and shapes. But unless you sell online products (courses, books, community) and/or highly productized consulting services (using an agency model), the lean and agile method will not work for you.

Here are some common assumptions used:

  • You can quickly see what competitors and substitute brands are doing.
  • You can quickly change the components, ingredients, packaging, label, or even the name of a product.
  • You can quickly test changes in scale (for example, using paid advertising to drive traffic simultaneously to multiple offerings, A/B testing every detail).

Notice the speed - you can quickly change the way people perceive your offerings. Now let's compare those assumptions to the world of boutique consulting firms:

  • Consulting engagements are typically confidential, and witnessed by only a small group of people at a time.
  • Consulting is delivered by people, and it takes time for people to change. Acquiring skills and cultivating expertise requires exposure, reflection, and repetition.
  • Consulting engagements are not scalable, and your target audience is typically small. The best way to test new offerings is through one-on-one conversations.

Common advice on positioning and demand generation doesn't work for consultants. We can try to move some pieces with the hope people will perceive us differently, but it's usually not effective - and even if it works, this won't happen quickly.

Tomorrow, we'll incorporate these assumptions to show how you can effectively create demand for your consulting services.

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