People buy from people they know, like, and trust.
Every single consultant I speak to believes this affirmation to be true. Partners and founders, junior consultants, and marketing staff nod their heads in agreement. But something is not right.
The vast majority of consulting firms that run some kind of proactive marketing initiative don't nurture or build a relationship with executives in their dream accounts before reaching out.
I believe the main reason for this dissonance is lack of knowledge - they don't know how to do it effectively, or were told that the only way to do it is through paid advertising.
My Thoughts On Paid Advertising
Here's an exercise to challenge how you think about advertising: Ask yourself where do your buyers spend most of their time, and which of those places don't display ads.
When you think about it, there are quite a few:
- Working on documents (Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, Powerpoint)
- Working with software (Salesforce, Hubspot, Asana, Basecamp)
- Talking to colleagues and peers (Slack, Teams, Zoom, Skype)
All of those places don't support ads. We could also include some content platforms such as Spotify or Youtube, where you can't place any banner ads - but let's play it safe and leave them out.
Now imagine that starting tomorrow, you could display ads on every single one of those platforms. You could be everywhere your buyers are! Would that work?
You'd certainly catch their attention, but not necessarily generate meaningful interest. What I know for sure is that the demand to place those ads would be significant, so you'd need to invest a significant amount of money to be omnipresent in your buyer's world.
Paid advertising is a valid tactic to raise awareness, but not the only one - and certainly not the most cost-effective for most specialized consultants to build relationships.
My Favorite Nurturing Initiatives For Consultants
There are a lot of tactics that are cost-effective and work for consultants. They are, of course, specific to your specialization decision, position in the marketplace, and existing network of contacts.
Here are my favorite ones:
- Offer value through 1:1 organic engagement. Connect on LinkedIn (or any other channel they use) with your buyers, engage with their content, start conversations. This is time-consuming, so you must do the hard work of identifying and prioritizing dream accounts before starting.
- Offer visibility and social status. Invite buyers to be interviewed for your blog or podcast. You can also ask them to be the guest speaker on your next online workshop or presentation.
- Offer networking opportunities. Run an event for your niche and invite buyers to join it. Virtual events are particularly cost-effective and can include multiple webinars and guest speakers. You can also offer private workshops for some selected companies (dream accounts).
Do these initiatives involve more work than running ads? You can bet. But they will also be much more affordable. Whenever possible, choose the most inefficient medium to build trust - it will likely be the most effective one.
You are not a tech startup or direct-to-consumer brand that needs to do everything in scale. You are a specialized consultant, and there's only a small number of firms in the market that would most benefit from your expertise. Act accordingly.
It's important to highlight that tactics are not timeless. What works today might not be effective (or even feasible) tomorrow. But this list might give you some ideas to experiment with.