Is your consulting firm like toothpaste? In case you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out where this is going, there’s an easy answer: No. Of course not. Your offering isn’t creamy and there’s no limit to how much consulting you can bring on a plane.
But adopting a classic marketing strategy used to sell toothpaste will help your consulting firm grow.If you’ve read any marketing or sales how-to book, you’ve been exhorted to “find your customer’s pain” and to explain how you can resolve that pain.
That’s sound advice for marketing your consulting firm. Zero in on your prospects’ unsolved problem or unachieved aspiration.
Following that sound advice positions your consulting firm to hit solid singles and doubles. If you want to hit grand-slams with your consulting firm, move past the basic “market to a pain” approach.
Imagine yourself back in 1979, when hurricanes wore exclusively female names and posting a note required tape or a thumbtack. Your weekly episode of Dallas was interrupted by a commercial showing two women approaching a supermarket shelf:
Exasperated mom: “I don’t care what everybody’s doing. You’re using a fluoride paste to fight cavities.”
Demanding teen daughter: “Mom, I need this gel for fresh breath.”
Nosy lady who’d get arrested for HIPAA violations in today’s world: “My family uses double protection Aquafresh.”
Reassuring announcer: “Aquafresh gives you all the cavity fighting fluoride of the leading paste, and all the breath freshener of the leading gel.”
What’s going on in this commercial that launched a new toothpaste into the top ranks of the category? In a word:
The advertisers didn’t simply highlight a pain (you’re at risk of cavities, halitosis or both) or an aspiration (you want fresh breath and strong teeth). They dramatized the conflict: a cavity-fighting paste is not a breath-freshening gel.
Your consulting prospects always have a conflict. If there were no conflict, then your prospects would have already achieved their goals.
Your problem-based sales and marketing might utilize a Fishing Line such as, “We work with chocolate chips manufacturers who are struggling with throughput.”
If you’re of the aspirational ilk (like most consulting firms), your Fishing Line sounds like, “We help chocolate chip manufacturers increase throughput.”
But if you’re focused on conflict, then your entry point is: “Chocolate chip manufacturers know that increasing throughput causes the chips to melt.” Then, after your prospect nods his head in agreement, you bust out your toothpaste conflict-resolving promise: “We work with manufacturers who want to increase throughput costs without chip melt issues.”
Solving a problem is good consulting.
Resolving a conflict is great, consulting firm marketing.
Your Next Steps
Improve your current Fishing Line and your other marketing communication by following these three steps:
- Provoke the Pain – Don’t be afraid to needle the sore spot. Make the pain or obstacle your consulting prospects are facing more salient, scary, and concrete.
- Deepen the Desire – Paint a more vivid picture of the dream you’re promising. Focus on the soft benefits and emotional wins.
- Call Out the Conflict – Loudly echo your prospects’ “this isn’t possible” beliefs. The more intractable you make the conflict appear, the more attractive your solution becomes.
Have you used conflict to market your offering? If you haven’t, how could you?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.