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The Big Lie You Probably Believe About Your Consulting Firm

At last count, there are 2,398 programs, vehicles and channels for you to market your consulting firm. Approximately. You can buy yourself some SEO tactics, media packages, space on a speaker platform or the perfect webinar system. Myriad spending choices all devoted to solving your biggest problem: You’re not in front of enough buyers. You need more visibility!

That is your biggest problem, right? If you could just get in front of more prospects your business would explode. That’s the story spun by folks peddling those marketing opportunities. But they’re lying to you.

You don’t have a visibility problem.

You have an impact problem.

The prospects you’re in front of aren’t paying attention. Your message slides off them like chocolate syrup cascading from a superhydrophobic tennis shoe.

Fortunately, I’ve got good news: your prospects haven’t been sprayed with a special coating (as far as I know). Hmmm, that’s not news.

Let’s try this instead: Before you invest in spreading your message, make your content much, much stickier. If you don’t, your marketing efforts will be highly inefficient. You’ll find yourself frustrated, suspicious and prone to accusations like, “The claims they made about this tactic were lies, lies, lies!”

How do you solve an impact problem? I’m glad you asked.

To create impact you have to be relevant and meaningful.

Relevant means prospects think you’re talking about them. The more specifically your target description applies to them, the more relevant you’ll sound. One consultant I work with tells prospects he works with newly-promoted pharmaceutical executives. If you’ve just become a VP at Pfizer, your ears perk up when you hear that description. It’s relevant to you.


Meaningful signifies you solve a problem or help achieve an aspiration that your prospect strongly needs and wants now. Right now. Again, specificity is your friend. While you might think clients would jump all over “improve organizational effectiveness” or “identify growth strategies,” the truth is those promises are far too generic. Even when executives start with a need that vague, they’re tightly focused by the time they reach the “buy now” state of mind.

Important Note: Pandering is neither relevant nor meaningful.  

When you’re hungry for business, it’s tempting to say whatever you think a prospect wants to hear. Gosh, you’re a banker? I just happen to work with bankers. In fact, bankers are my specialty. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

You can get a conversation or two started that way and maybe even win a few projects. But before long even you won’t know what you do or what you’re good at. Then winning business becomes harder and harder. And you start believing the tale that all you need is more visibility.


If you have a couple of light-duty weeks as the year draws to a close, take the time to truly narrow in on what you do. Who is your target? What specific problem do you solve? You’ll find you’re far more likely to win business from everyone you’re in front of.

And then you can focus on visibility. Because the truth is once you have impact, you should invest in marketing to become better known. That’s no lie.

I’m curious, what else do you think generates impact?

  1. Dave
    December 16, 2015 at 10:43 am Reply

    THE BASICS! This is the issue I help clients deal with all the time. Why is it so difficult for me to do for myself? (Any stick figure can chime in here.) Thanks for the reminder to focus on the basics.

    • David A. Fields
      December 16, 2015 at 11:28 am Reply

      Because it's tough to work on your own business even when you're an expert!

  2. Diana
    December 16, 2015 at 11:46 am Reply

    David, another inspiring and thought-provoking post!

    How about this semi-relevant metaphor? To hit a home run, keep your eyes on the ball, not on the field.

    • David A. Fields
      December 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm Reply

      I like that, Diana. You definitely need to have an impact with the ball before you can worry about running the bases.

  3. Jaime Campbell
    December 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm Reply

    How about:
    We work with funded startups and $1-$10M companies who are looking for dramatic growth. 2x, 3x, 5x growth. If the head of a company wants to keep on keepin’ on and they just need some basic accounting to keep the IRS off their backs, we can provide some wonderful referrals. If a company is ready for growth and need financial clarity in order to get there, then it might make sense to work with us.

    Last year we helped a company double revenues while tripling staff and reducing financial risk related to paying that staff by aligning pay with performance instead of time spent being busy.

    • 'David A. Fields
      December 16, 2015 at 1:53 pm Reply

      Jaime, that’s a good start. I think you’ll be better served by highlighting the situation and/or target more. “$1-10M companies who are looking for dramatic growth” is pretty generic. You may or may not be speaking to me. If you said, “Consultants under $10M who need a better handle on their finances in order to achieve dramatic growth,” then I’d conclude you specialize in businesses like mine.

      • Jaime Campbell
        December 16, 2015 at 4:01 pm Reply

        Indeed! Thank you.

  4. Lacey
    December 16, 2015 at 4:15 pm Reply

    Good Afternoon, David.

    Thanks so much for the ‘Made to Stick’ Commander’s Intent refresher! There’s no message if there’s no core.

    Your post reminds me of Denzel Washington’s attorney Joe Miller in the Jonathan Demme film ‘Philadelphia’, using the “explain to me like I’m a (4-, 5-, 6-) year old” questioning technique. Prospects can’t relate to our messaging if we’re not abundantly clear how it applies to them.

    Thanks, as always, for your brilliant & timely posts.

    • David A. Fields
      December 16, 2015 at 5:26 pm Reply

      Exactly, Lacey. It doesn’t matter if we think we’re straightforward and clever; our prospects hold the yardsticks measuring our verbal power. Thank you for contributing the Philadelphia example to the conversation.

  5. Lori Silverman
    December 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm Reply


    You allude to a third piece in one of your comments. What I’ll call languaging. You can be relevant and meaningful and still not connect with your target. Because they use different words to search for your services. This might sound simplistic on first blush, cause hey, we should know the correct words to use, right? Case in point, my former husband, who is a branding/marketing guru, decided to undertake without telling me, a Google ad word test on one of my websites to see if he could drive traffic. The words that people commonly use when speaking about the topic generated little traffic; those that seemed not so relevant got a really good conversion rate. It’s been hugely insightful – for me and for him. I think we also need to be mindful that the words people search by and those they use in conversation to discuss the exact same subject, may not be the same. So you may need to alter your message depending on the medium.

    Thanks for letting me comment,

    • David A. Fields
      December 16, 2015 at 8:30 pm Reply

      That’s an outstanding point, Lori. In fact, that’s probably worthy of a blog post on its own. As experts in our fields we easily forget how clients who haven’t been sheep-dipped think and talk about the issues we address. Your insights about different language in different media is new to me. Will be interesting to look into it. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

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