If your consulting firm’s offerings aren’t generating gleaming stacks of revenue, it’s time to develop a Level 3 Offering.
You’re not alone if the projects that sustained your consulting business in the past have recently become difficult to close.
Prospective clients are confused about how to please their own customers, or are caught in the grip of uncertainty. As a result, they no longer view your consulting firm and your solution as an obvious, easily-justified choice.
New times, new conditions, new market reality.
Or, perhaps you’ve realized that you need to change up your offerings in order to elevate your consulting firm to the next level of success.
Either way, your consulting firm needs to revamp, or craft from scratch, your offering to achieve your ambitions.
The Basics of Building Offerings
Every consulting firm leader understands the basics of crafting a consulting offering:
- Identify a market need.
- Develop a solution.
- (Optional, but helpful) Pinpoint advantages versus competitive solutions.
Those basics plus a handful of M&Ms prompt the following three offering-development questions:
- What’s the pain experienced by our target market? (If your consulting firm doesn’t target a tightly-defined market, this question is harder to answer.)
- What’s a compelling solution to that pain?
- Is there anything that would differentiate our consulting firm’s solution from competitive alternatives?
The new offering you develop by answering those questions will either pivot you to a higher level of success or spin you down the path of frustration. The difference is determined by one factor:
Who answers the offering-development questions.
There are three levels of consulting firm offering that correspond to who answers the offering-development questions.
The Three Levels of Consulting Firm Offerings
Level 1 – Firm-Driven Offering
Level 1 is based on the 3GR approach to product development. (3GR = Three Guys/Gals in a Room, brainstorming ideas)
It’s easy and fast. You and one or two (or a few more) people you trust reframe the offering-development questions:
- What do we think the market need is?
- What’s a solution we could offer that interests us and fits our capabilities?
- As we look at competitive offerings, how could we make ours better or, at least, different?
You develop your best answers based on your collective knowledge, experience and expertise.
What you develop should work because, after all, you’re all smart and well informed.
Level 1 offerings tend to under perform expectations, though. The 3GR approach leads to the consulting equivalents of these spiffy products:
Meat shredder claws
No matter how savvy your 3GR group is, you’re still developing your offering by looking inside and answering the questions yourself. You’re upside down. (Right-Side Up vs. upside down is explained in this book.)
Level 2 – Market-Informed Offering
Level 2 adds a dose of Right-Side Up thinking into the mix. Rather than relying on your intuition and experience to determine the market need, you solicit feedback from your contacts. You use inquiries like these:
- What challenges are you facing right now that you really need to solve? (i.e., what keeps you up at night?)
- Think of every professional service provider you’ve paid over the past three months—for what challenges did you hire them to help you?
To develop your consulting firm’s new offering you answer the same, three offering-development questions. Now, though, you have the benefit of a well-sourced, relevant market need.
Your offering is market-informed, and because you know you’re addressing a proven market need, you’ll definitely be able to drum up opportunities.
Level 3 – Market-Created Offering
The most effective consulting firm offerings are completely, 100% Right-Side Up. To pivot to a Level 3 offering, conduct the same, need-identifying market research you busted out for your Level 2 offering.
Then, collect two more pieces of information from your contacts:
- What would the perfect solution to your challenge look like?
- How is your perfect solution different from what you could (or do or did) get now?
This approach requires more time, research and probing conversations with your consulting firm’s contacts. However, it produces killer offerings because your clients have essentially designed your offering for themselves.
Note: developing a Level 3 offering is not the same as co-creating a project with a single client then marketing that approach out to your other clients and prospects. A Level 3 offering requires input from multiple contacts in your target market.
Have you been changing your offerings at all, recently? If so, how?
Text and images are © 2020 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.