At least once a month, a new consultant reaches out to me looking for help to build an audience. What do you think I say to them?
Being a consultant myself, I ask them questions. When a prospect comes to you self-diagnosed, you must act just like a doctor hearing his patient ask for a specific medicine before sharing the symptoms. Chances are what they think they need is wrong, or at least biased and incomplete.
The Desired Outcome
So I ask them "Why?", and "What would an audience do for you?" The vast majority mentions that this would help increase their visibility. Have a bigger distribution. Get more clients. And they're right.
But my job is to give them expert advice, not to act as an order-taker. So I ask, "But is there a specific reason why you want to build an audience? Because there are many other ways you can produce the same outcomes - get more clients - without having an audience."
That's when their faces change, and they realize something is wrong with their logic.
Consultants come to me with the goal of increasing their LinkedIn followers, growing their email list, or having more prospects tune in for their webinars. They’ve been told that that’s how you grow your consulting firm. But they’ve been told wrong.
It’s not that building an audience to eventually get some clients doesn’t work. It’s that there are far faster, less energy-intensive ways to find clients.
There are some consulting businesses for which having an audience is critical - in special those who sell productized services and digital products. But there are far more (and generally more profitable firms, too) that have no audience. They might not even have an email list or a CRM system.
Running The Numbers
If you're like me and work with a handful of clients every year, your business is based on 1:1 relationships. Your time is spent making personal connections and creating demand with selected prospects. I don't need more than 30 or 40 conversations to keep my pipeline full and healthy.
Now let's say you sell online workshops and have a goal of 100 clients a year. It doesn’t sound that different, right? It’s a factor of 20.
But since your effectiveness drops abruptly when you move away from a high-touch offer into a more scalable one, the real impact of this is huge:
- Let's say the average conversion rate on a landing page for this is 2-3%. This means you need more than 4,000 people to land on your landing page.
- If the click-thru rate on your sales emails is about 15-20%, you need to have an email list with about 22,800 subscribers to hit your traffic goal.
So now, instead of finding 40 people to talk to, you need to find 22,800 to join your list.
Sure, it might be easier to convince someone to subscribe to your newsletter than to jump on a call with you. And you can certainly hit those goals with higher conversion rates and a smaller audience. But I wouldn't bet my money on it.
There's No Right Answer
Would you rather talk to 40 people, or 22,800? Both work and are compelling in their own way. There's not a single business model you can work with, and you're free to mix and match different offerings.
Some consultants love to create and share their ideas in public, even if it takes time for their audience to grow and mature. Others might hate the pressure of consistent publishing, and are not interested in learning how to work the algorithms.
And even those who love having an audience might not choose to run their consulting firm that way - which is the case for many of the consulting partners I know. They simply find it more appealing, and understand that going directly to their ideal clients takes less time to market on a day-to-day basis, leads to results much faster, and feels more challenging and rewarding to them.
Whatever you do, remember that there are no single recipes in marketing. You might want to build an audience, but you certainly don't need one.