The Road Less Traveled

A thought-provoking marketing analogy.

“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.”

This is a quote from American comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and something that many consultants should keep in mind. Especially when planning and picking their marketing channels.

Partners often come to me with "innovative" ways to promote their service and brand. Join the latest social platform, perform guerilla marketing in open spaces... I've heard it all.

Sure, running experiments is a must. Sure, these ideas might work out well. But they are high-risk bets that can distract you from what works.

To illustrate this, I came up with the road analogy.

Welcome To The City

Your consulting firm is a car, and the way you do marketing is by constantly driving around the city. You make sure to pass in front of people's homes, so they can see through their window that you exist. Sometimes you might also knock on some doors, to proactively start conversations.

But some things make this a challenging task:

  • Not every home is a good fit for your services. If you are specialized, you may see signs that the owner might need your help (like seeing a two-story house with broken windows). But you can never know for sure.
  • Other cars are driving around. Other consulting firms are also promoting their message (which is unique but sometimes similar to yours). Since people are not always by their window, you need to be constantly around if you want to be seen.
  • You don't have a complete and accurate map. People are constantly moving house. There are also parts of the city that you don't know yet, which you need to access via new roads that have just been built.

There are a lot of things to think about here. How you should design and paint your car so it's recognizable. When and how often you should knock on doors.

But let's focus on only one: What road are you taking?

Choosing The Road

Here are the options:

  1. Take the few roads which contain the highest number of two-story houses with broken windows, according to your ever-changing map.
  2. Explore the recently-built roads.

There are pros and cons for each.

If you choose #1 you will for sure find good-fit prospects in there, even if some of them changed location. You can invest most of your time and energy driving through the same roads, which also means you will soon be able to do it with your eyes closed - you know where every turn and bump are, avoiding accidents.

The bad thing is that other consultants think like you, and this leads to traffic. Many cars are using the well-mapped roads, so you move slowly. Also, it becomes more difficult for people to notice your car just by looking at the road. Unless you are very different from the others, you will probably need to knock on some doors when you start.

If you choose #2, you move fast. People are not sure what they are going to find by taking those new roads, so there are only a few cars in the street. The chances of you getting noticed by the people in the area are much higher. You may even be the first two-story-house-window-repairing specialist they ever meet!

But you might not find any two-story house in there. Actually, you might need to drive through a dozen new roads to find potential clients. There are no clear signs yet, which also increases the risks of accidents - there's no point in learning how to navigate those streets, since you might never use them again.

My Take

If I'm the average boutique consulting firm, I'll pick the #1 option without blinking. The main reason for it is simple:

Since I sell high-ticket engagements and only work with a handful of clients every year, I know that there are enough houses there to keep me busy.

Heavy traffic implies that those who take these roads see a good return from doing so. And what happens if more and more of your ideal clients change location? I'll simply invest in an updated map and follow the cars that are similar to me.

Of course, if you have a 10-people team and ambitious growth goals, it can be interesting to send 1 or 2 of them to explore new avenues. But if your consulting practice is doing less than 7-figures a year, stick with the basics and learn how to execute them consistently.

You're free to tinker with new ideas, as long as it doesn't force you to stop doing what works.

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