Stop Pitching Me Inbound Leads

Context matters - good consultants take the time to explore it.

Inbound leads are not the solution to all your problems.

I repeat: inbound leads are not the solution to all your problems. This statement is polarizing. Content creators, SEO specialists, and the vast majority of digital marketers out there will feel personally attacked by it.

But it's true, and we can get there by thinking from first principles:

  • Premise 1: A can cause B.
  • Premise 2: B can cause C.
  • Conclusion: We don't necessarily need A to get C.

I don't know any consulting firm whose true goal is to get inbound leads. What you really want, most of the time, is to increase revenue or profit. Win more and/or bigger projects. Or increase your hourly rate, so you can earn more while working less.

You could argue that some consultants also want to improve their reputation within their niche, which is a less quantifiable success indicator. But why? A stronger brand and reputation leads to higher fees, which leads us back to revenue.

Notice that this is not about inbound leads - we can replace it with any kind of leads, appointments, followers, listeners, subscribers. They are not the root of our worries.

In our logic statements, leads are "A". Revenue/profit is "C". What's "B" then?

It could be any step in the buying process that your consulting clients go through:

  • Maybe it's someone visiting your website.
  • Maybe it's someone filling up a contact form.
  • Maybe it's the first call between you and a potential client.
  • Maybe it's when a prospect has openly expressed interest in your services.
  • Maybe it's when you send a new project proposal for approval.  

This might sound obvious, but when you break the buying process down into smaller and smaller pieces (A, B, C...) three things become clear:

  1. Forget recipes, explore context: You have 100 different ways to do A, 500 hundred different activities that generate B, and thousands of tactics to generate C... you get the idea. Is not about doing the "right" thing, but selecting which combination of initiatives you are willing to invest your time, energy, and money to build the consulting business that you want. Context matters.
  2. Optimize for the system, not the parts: Imagine there's a specific inbound marketing tactic that can 100x your amount of leads. That's an attractive offering - until you find out none of those leads is a good fit to become clients. The best way to avoid optimizing parts and hurting the system is by understanding how it works, and being crystal clear on what your end goals are. Again, context matters.
  3. It's continually changing: To compare initiatives we need numbers, but business is not an exact science. How much more effective it is to maintain your own blog vs write posts for partners and trade associations? It depends on who you're writing to, how you're doing it, and when you do it. Even when you adopt benchmarks for your industry, your audience and offerings will change over time. Repeat it with me: context matters.

So how can we explore context? What are the criteria we consultants can use to pick, experiment, and optimize the way we market and sell their services?

I'll share my answer to this tomorrow. But until then, don't trust anyone who pitches you a solution before diagnosing your consulting business.

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