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How to Easily Improve the Effectiveness of Your Consulting Firm’s Marketing

You are probably falling prey to a couple of biases when determining which relationships your consulting firm should nurture, and that’s costing you business. Fortunately, as you’ll see below, you can correct the biases easily.

You know that most of your consulting firm’s projects—which, for now, I’ll assume are focused on pain au chocolat optimization—emanate from your Network Core. (If you don’t know that, please spend a few minutes with this book.)

Therefore, you focus your consulting firm’s outreach and relationship-nurturing efforts on your Network Core.

Except, in all likelihood you’re including people who shouldn’t be in your Network Core and you’re overlooking important contacts. Those problems are conspiring to reduce the effectiveness of your consulting firm’s business development activities.

We can remedy the situation and boost your consulting firm’s business development results with guidance from Alvin, Bailey and Benita.


ALVIN is the CEO of the Furry Fishball Chair company and you’ve known him for years. (Their product.) Since you have an excellent, collegial rapport with Alvin, you classify him as an A relationship. Groovy.

As a CEO, Alvin is a decision-maker who could hire a consulting firm like yours for the mid-six-figure fees you so richly deserve. Therefore, you classify him as a 1 (a decision-maker).

But there’s a problem: you’ve succumbed to the Familiarity Bias.

Familiarity Bias

As your relationship with a contact deepens, your belief that they can help your consulting firm win business increases disproportionately.

Yes, Alvin is a decision-maker, and yes, you’re buddies. As a result you want to think that he would buy services from your consulting firm. But Furry Fishball Chairs will never need help with dough density, pastry pass-through parameters, or any of the other areas in which your consulting firm specializes.

Alvin may buy consulting services, but, realistically, he won’t buy from your consulting firm. Therefore, he’s not a 1. Take him out of the A1 box. At best he’s an A2 and, quite possibly, he’s an A3 who doesn’t belong in your Network Core at all despite his CEO title.

Action Step: Scour your A1s and remove anyone who wouldn’t/can’t actually buy the services your consulting firm offers. They may be in the wrong industry, the wrong function, a business that is too small or one that is too large. Don’t let your strong relationship blind you to the fact that they’re not really buyers.


BAILEY is a Sr. Temperature Analyst whom you know well thanks to your consulting firm’s work with Patty’s Erie Bakery, where Bailey works.

Bailey is in the bottom layer of the management cake; however, you respect her work, like her, and believe she’s a fan of your consulting firm. You classify her as an A2. She’s not a decision-maker, but you have a great relationship and maybe she could introduce you to someone who could bring you in on a project.

Familiarity Bias has struck again. (As has the Direct Connection Bias—more on that later.)

Because you think very positively of Bailey, you overestimate her ability to help your consulting firm win projects.

The reality is Bailey barely rises to the level of a weak A2. She can introduce you to one person who might be another link on the way to a decision-maker. Even though you like Bailey immensely, she should be reclassified as an A3.

Action Step: Reevaluate your A2s and remove anyone whose influence is weak—either because they can’t introduce you directly to buyers of your consulting firm’s services or because the number/quality of buyers they can introduce you to is low.


Finally we reach BENITA, who is a confectionery critic with Croissant Quarterly. She also hosts the Pastry Podcast and YellowCake YouTube channel, both of which are widely followed. You’ve crossed paths a couple of times with Benita and she interviewed you once for an article.

You classified Benita as a B (moderate relationship) and a 3 because she doesn’t work at any prospective clients and probably never will.

Oops. You’ve been hoodwinked by the Direct Connection Bias.

Direct Connection Bias

When considering the influence power of contacts, closeness with decision-makers tends to be overvalued, and reach tends to be undervalued.

Benita doesn’t work at a potential client, so you discount her importance. However, her reach is enormous and if you create a close relationship with her, she could potentially expose your consulting firm to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of high-potential decision-makers.

Action Step: Search for strong 2s in your consulting firm’s contact list. Pay particular attention to any contacts that have broad reach in your target market. Provisionally elevate strong B2s into your Network Core and actively nurture those relationships.


Your consulting firm’s time and energy for relationship building is limited.

Hence, it’s essential that you focus your energy on your Network Core, and equally essential that you rid your Network Core of the Familiarity Bias and Direct Connection Bias.

Can you think of a contact you’ve been nurturing who has been a waste of time, or an influencer who deserves more of your attention? Below, please share one opportunity to improve your Network Core.

  1. Elliott Holland
    July 21, 2021 at 6:08 am Reply

    You are spot on! Another way to look at this topic is understand the core persona that you’re targeting with your nurturing and marketing messages. Have you defined your core customer persona too broadly (Alvin & Bailey) [I made this mistake for years]. Your core persona should be a person who can consume your key services and can make the decision to buy them. With Benita, you should also realize who influences your core persona and realize that the “Benita’s” influence to 10 – 50 of your core customer personas and therefore become a high value person to market to and build with. Thanks David!

    • David A. Fields
      July 21, 2021 at 6:57 am Reply

      Excellent spin on the idea, Elliott. Defining your target market too broadly dilutes your marketing efforts and makes your consulting firm less attractive. Conversely, defining your target market precisely makes it easy to spot high-value influencers.

      Thanks for the great addition to the discussion, Elliott!

  2. Tom
    July 21, 2021 at 6:27 am Reply

    I found this very interesting – especially the various biases. I would think that while you are executing an engagement, it is the perfect time to expand your Network Core as you learn more about the organization and they learn more about you and your work. I would think we could look for opportunities to learn more about the organization and actively seek out new introductions. We could also ask our sponsors who else in their organization or others they may know that may benefit from our services.

    • David A. Fields
      July 21, 2021 at 7:04 am Reply

      Absolutely right, Tom. “Walking the halls” at a current client is a tried and truth method of expanding your network, increasing your exposure and building your business. Similarly, if your current buyers are well-connected to other high-potential prospects in their organization, your buyers can be decision-makers and strong influencers!

      While you’re expanding your network, though, it’s important to keep in mind whether each person you meet deserves to be in your Network Core–particularly if you have limited time/energy for relationship-nurturing. Ultimately, you want a huge (say, 300) cadre of A1s that will be the source of endless business.

      I appreciate your questions, Tom and your expansion of the topic.

  3. Kay Palmer
    July 21, 2021 at 8:42 am Reply

    Another piece of the Familiarity Bias is that there are really NICE people out there. This article provided clarity for me, in that most of the really nice people I meet, though they are interesting to talk to and have built exciting businesses they are not in a position to hire my consulting firm. But I have put them in the A1 box because I like them as people though they they would not be a potential client.

    • David A. Fields
      July 21, 2021 at 8:46 am Reply

      Yep, that’s what happens, Kay. People who are easy to talk with are the ones we pick out from the list when we’re making our outreach list for the day or week. Unfortunately, those aren’t necessarily the best prospects. (That’s one reason why you shouldn’t select from your contact list–your assistant should just hand you the next five people to reach out to.)

      Great case study, Kay. I look forward to hearing from you what happens when you eliminate those false A1s and focus your efforts on higher-potential contacts.

  4. Ruth S Winett
    July 21, 2021 at 9:40 am Reply

    I wish I had read this article when I started my business years ago.

    • David A. Fields
      July 21, 2021 at 10:20 am Reply

      Aren’t you glad you read the article now, instead of years from now?! I’m glad you joined the conversation, Ruth.

  5. Christopher
    July 21, 2021 at 10:42 am Reply

    Defining a Network Core is not necessarily quick and easy stuff to do. In my experience, the relationship part is the simpler of the two.

    I’ve often struggled with getting the “influence” right and categorizing people correctly as a 1, 2, or 3.

    The key question I always ask and you highlight is can they “buy services from your consulting firm” (1s) or do they have influence on people who can (2s).

    In my implementation of the Core network strategy for my firm I’ve changed influence to “relevance.” And ask, is this person relevant to buying the services I offer.

    You have a great perspective on eliminating wasted time with our BD efforts. Thanks.

    • David A. Fields
      July 22, 2021 at 8:00 am Reply

      You’re absolutely right, Chris. Identifying a Network Core is one of those assignments that looks like it should be a simple, 30-minute exercise and is, in fact, more often a challenging, multi-day effort (that must be updated regularly). Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

      Relevance rather than Influence is fine. Whatever the label, you’re headed in the right direction. One important nuance that the article tried to point out is that the “…do they have influence…” question really has two parts: How many potential prospects can they expose my firm to, and how much weight does their opinion carry?

      Thanks for highlighting a couple of important aspects of building a Network Core, Chris. Your dedication to this is impressive and inspiring.

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