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3 Tips to Expand Your Consulting Firm’s Market

There’s a rich, hidden vein of project opportunities for your consulting firm—projects that your consulting firm may not have been in the running to receive. With the proper outlook and actions, you can reveal and win them.

Usage of certain consumer products such as toothpaste and toilet paper are fairly constant—you’re unlikely to persuade consumers to use more of them or to use them on more occasions.

However, manufacturers of other types of fast-moving consumer goods, such as tahini, cheese and chocolate chips know that the right marketing and promotion strategies can increase usage and purchases.* Manufacturers call this “expandable consumption.”

Can your consulting firm tap into expandable consumption, or is consulting a fixed-consumption product?

Logical answer: Consulting is fixed consumption.

Consulting isn’t an impulse purchase like chocolate bars, parmesan crisps or Teslas. You can only win a consulting project when a client has a need for your consulting firm, and needs aren’t expandable or discretionary.

Experience-based answer: Consulting is expandable consumption.

Clients hire your consulting firm when the client is aware of a need, urgently wants to solve it, considers consulting as a viable solution, and qualifies your consulting firm as the best solution. Awareness, urgency, consideration set and qualification are all expandable!*

By far, the easiest way to tap into expandable consumption is to enter the consideration set more often.

Clients are not thinking of your firm as a solution when they’re thinking about their problem. But they could, and they should.

Surprisingly, perhaps, consulting is a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” proposition. Clients’ squeakiest problems commandeer their attention and budgets, and squeaky consulting firms win a disproportionate portion of the projects that are up for grabs.

Your consulting firm needs to be squeakier

And by squeaky, I mean your consulting firm needs to be communicating more often and in more ways to your clients and prospects. Your consulting firm should be top-of-mind when your client is thinking about their problems.

3 Tips to Expand Your Consulting Firm’s Market

Actively Build Visibility

More touchpoints with more prospects leads to more calls about potential projects. Said simply, engage in marketing. Frequently, consistently, and in ways that maximize your consulting firm’s reach and exposure.

Not every marketing activity will produce an ROI or obvious consulting client. Accept that fact and commit to investing your consulting firm’s time, money and energy into the Five Marketing Musts.

Focus on Hot Buttons

Your consulting firm will receive more inquiries if you focus your marketing efforts on the issues that your prospects are most concerned with.

This tip seems almost too obvious to mention, yet many consulting firms’ articles, whitepapers, webinars, podcasts and other marketing efforts highlight what’s interesting and important to the consulting firm.

Impose a litmus test for every marketing piece you send into the world:

Is this marketing piece addressing a hot topic that our clients are already talking about?

Create High-Touch Engagements

When you construct your consulting approach, opt for interactive, high-touch approaches with long tails.

You’d think that your consulting firm would be top-of-mind with your current, active clients. And you’d be wrong. They’re not thinking about you when you’re not across the table (or internet).

Therefore, build more interactions into your consulting projects, such as regular, non-project-related calls, opportunities to literally or digitally “walk the halls,” work sessions and post-implementation check-in sessions.

By the way, the wrong way to tap into expandable consumption is to try to communicate that you solve many, many, many problems. That’s counterproductive.

You should, of course, also take steps to ensure your consulting firm stands out as a credible, reliable, easy-to-adopt solution.

Increasing awareness of the need your consulting firm solves and agitating the urgency can expand consumption too. Consider those as secondary strategies—since they’re not Fishing Where the Fish Are, they require much more work to achieve less results.

In your experience, have you found the consumption of consulting services to be expandable? I’d love to hear a quick example, case study or other ideas from you.


14 Comments
  1. Clive Griffiths
    March 3, 2021 at 5:42 am Reply

    Cracking article this week David. This sentence is going in my notebook.

    Consulting is a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” proposition.

    • David A. Fields
      March 3, 2021 at 6:26 am Reply

      Cool beans, Clive… as long as you pay attention to your notebook! (Is it squeaky?) When my business was built on hiring consultants, I definitely hired folks who were reaching out to me more.

      Thanks for chiming in with your reaction, Clive.

  2. Tom
    March 3, 2021 at 6:42 am Reply

    David
    Your points are right on the money!

    • David A. Fields
      March 3, 2021 at 7:55 am Reply

      Glad they worked for you, Tom–and I appreciate you letting me know.

  3. Kenny
    March 3, 2021 at 7:33 am Reply

    I do agree that you need excuses to be literally in front of the client so that you are front of mind when it matters.

    Would love to hear more concrete examples of “digital walk the hall” activities.

    • David A. Fields
      March 3, 2021 at 8:03 am Reply

      Here’s an example email:

      Hey Kenny! You didn’t see me this morning. That may not seem strange to you, but was weird for me because I was chatting with Sally this morning, and back in the pre-pandemic days whenever I met with Sally I would pop my head into your office to say Hi.
      Consider this popping my head in! I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Can we jump on the phone for 5 minutes?

      That’s one example. Plenty of others. Thanks for the great question, Kenny.

  4. Stuart Reid
    March 3, 2021 at 9:20 am Reply

    I loved your litmus test David. Much easier to engage my prospects in something that already interests them, than in something that just interests me! Right side up again.

    I’m curious what the Five Marketing Musts are that you referred to…

    • David A. Fields
      March 3, 2021 at 10:08 am Reply

      Bingo! Exactly right, Stuart. That’s the whole basis of making consulting easy: offer what clients want. Crazy, right?

      The Five Marketing Musts are fully described, with plenty of helpful tips, in this book. A short overview is in this article.

  5. Einar Runarsson
    March 4, 2021 at 2:12 am Reply

    Aaaaargh, you are so right, but I do solve many, many, many problems! I try to do the research and narrow my approach to a specific problem to solve when there is a specific prospect with specific problem. But Ihave a huge challenge when it comes to communicating on social media, where I don’t feel I have the luxury to exclude any problem I can solve.
    Inputs apreciated!

    • David A. Fields
      March 4, 2021 at 6:45 am Reply

      Einar, you’re facing a challenge that’s common to many small consultancies–especially solo consultants, and that keeps them small! You’re confusing what you do, with how you market yourself.

      The fact that you solve many, many problems is irrelevant and counterproductive from a marketing standpoint. Choose one. It’s easy to think that by talking about a broad range of problems, you’re opening yourself up to more opportunities. The opposite is true: you’re just revealing yourself as a generalist, which is not what clients want.

      If you’re struggling to find a steady stream of clients and large projects, then you don’t have the luxury of being unfocused.

      Thanks for being willing to share your challenge, Einar (and for giving me an opportunity to step onto the soapbox for a minute)!

      • Eric McKee
        March 4, 2021 at 11:37 am Reply

        Thanks David, for your insight. As a solo entrepreneur, I too have struggled with this issue. Is there a difference between marketing yourself and the skills and abilities that you can provide the client? The book “Range” comes to mind where it discusses how generalists triumph in a specialized world. I can provide many different services but typically clients focus on one area. Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate your articles.

        • David A. Fields
          March 4, 2021 at 9:02 pm

          Interesting question, Eric. The idea that generalists “triumph” in a specialized world sounds nice… and for consultants, it flies in the face of research and evidence. The research on consulting purchases shows irrefutably that buyers of consulting services prefer specialists–particularly when they’re buying from a small firm.

          That’s not to say you’re doomed to fail as a generalist–just that it’s much harder to create a predictable revenue stream and much, much harder to scale your consultancy. As a generalist, you’re winning business despite your lack of focus, not because of it.

          The benefits of specialization for consultants apply to individuals and to small firms (under $100m/year). Our clients that are in the $100m/year range are often much more focused than consultants who struggle to win $1m in business per year.

          Thanks for providing the opportunity to shed more light on this topic, Eric

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