Ten Must-Do Ideas For a Successful Consulting Practice
- September 23, 2022
It’s a cliché in writing business articles: everybody’s got a top ten list. I suppose I’m no exception. However, here’s what I think the following list of ten ideas means to you: it’s a realistic and low-cost approach to taking control of your practice and its success. These ideas don’t take a lot of money to implement but they will take your time and attention. That said, here are my top ten ideas for your consulting practice’s success:
1. Niche, Revenue, and Expense Strategy. I think most of the popular thinkers on modern business strategy would tell you not to create a business plan. That’s because you should be doing rather than dreaming and documenting, and I can completely agree with that. However, you do want to flesh out at least three ideas and have them constant in your head: who is your niche, how do you make money, and how will you control your expenses. You must thoroughly understand your customer and how your unique product, service, or approach will address their needs; you must develop multiple lines of revenue (preferably both passive and direct income) that have survivability in variable market conditions; you must totally understand your expense model. Notice: this isn’t a book or a manual, and it’s likely nothing you would submit to a venture capitalist or the SBA for loan – it’s maybe two or three written pages. It is, though, your critically-considered map to success. Change this document over time; add to it and extend your thinking, but don’t spend too much time developing a rich business plan. Allow your business to organically evolve over time based on these three principles, and make minor corrections and adjustments where necessary.
2. Website. Your site is your electronic presence and marketing engine. It sells you even if you’re not around. If the site looks amateur and incomplete, you’ve lost your chance to make a good first impression. In fact, if you’re going to spend your startup capital on something, spend the money on the website that is content management oriented – like a site powered by Drupal or WordPress. These sites are relatively simple, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and analytics-oriented, and allow you to modify and update content fluidly without having to worry about the technical problems or HTML. Have your site hosted; don’t do it yourself. The idea here is to make the site a vehicle for your ideas as much as your products and services, and is tailored to how search engines compile content. Use Google Analytics to create baseline metrics to best understand how your local market is responding to your online presence. If you don’t understand nor use Analytics, it’s time to learn: Analytics will be one means of gauging your marketing strategy and local visibility to consumers.
3. Local Directory Listing. The Yellowpages and their competitors now offer directory listings in print and online that are isolated to your local marketplace. That makes a listing a great deal more affordable – under $300/year in most cases. The size and complexity of this ad is not important. What is important is that – as a part of their service – they add your business to up to nine search engine directories that then point back to your website, distribute keywords and product information electronically to downstream subscribers to directory listings, and establishing greater legitimacy and relevance for your business. Your goal here isn’t to be seen in the printed Yellowpages book but to be seen electronically by users and search engines. Along with your website, a paid listing with your local Yellowpages is one of the best investments you can make as a young start-up.
4. Local SEM. Again, we must look towards search engines for assistance in improving your company’s visibility. Yahoo!, MSN, and Google each have local business listings that can be submitted for free. What this listing does is correlate to their mapping products so that – when somebody is searching for a local business in your area of expertise – your name appears on the map. The listing usually requires verification over the phone or by mail, but again, it establishes credibility with the search engines and builds upon your Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
5. Blog, Video, Content. As a part of your website, begin creating content. Whether or not that content is blogged material, video, ebooks, or some other form of searchable data, your SEM strategy will depend on you adding new and fresh ideas to your website. You don’t need to spend your waking hours doing this – perhaps twice per week, create new content that can be added to your site. More content builds on your SEM strategy. Try to build critical keywords relevant to your business in this body of work; for example, I focus on small business in my local metro area, so I will re-use language that focuses on technology issues related to this market segment.
6. Business Cards. Whereas the website is an online presentation of you and your competencies, the business card speaks volumes to your professionalism, appearance, and attitude. Don’t print these on your local inkjet printer – go out and get a box of 250 from a professional printer. Understand that the card represents you and the last thing you want to project that you’re sloppy and a spendthrift when it comes to your image. Your card will help pull on-ground acquaintances into your content-rich website and into your social media feed; leverage that.
7. Office, Voice, and Data Strategy. As a technology consultant, these three expenses are probably going to be the largest considerations in your expense strategy. If you’re a technology person, chances are, you already have a working space in your home. Unless that your business model calls for entertaining clients at a professional facility, try to avoid creating a redundant space and long-term liability that generates no revenue. Employ Skype and Google Voice to route all of your voice and voicemail needs across your ISP; use eFax; limit the amount of actual live calls you use with your cell phone. If your business model doesn’t require a specific application portfolio, acquire immediate capability at the lowest cost through open source (Ubuntu, OpenOffice, Google Docs, Thunderbird). Make yourself mobile and reachable at the lowest possible cost.
8. On-ground Networking. Although at first glance it can appear peevish, tiresome, and cliquey, do not underestimate the need to get out, meet people, shake hands, and establish trusting relationships with other businesses and even your perceived competitors. Join your local Business Networking International (BNI) chapter or your chamber. Establish meaningful relationships with other business owners. Start small, spread out, and introduce yourself to others – allow word-of-mouth and referrals to speak for you even when you aren’t directly marketing yourself. Spend at least 5-10 hours a month in attending on-ground networking events.
9. On-line Networking. Meanwhile, for more direct marketing to an interested market, try online marketing channels like liveperson.com, guru.com, ifreelance.com, elance.com, or odesk.com. What’s nice about these channels is that you can get started right away to meet interested clients and establish a good working relationship. To earn that business, you may have to put in the midnight oil and take the first project at a loss, but once you’ve established that relationship, then you’re able to recover some of those expenses in the long term – particularly when the customer comes back to you for more advice and services.
10. Social Networking. Pick two social network platforms and use them to announce services, updates to your business, new content added to your website, and to build your personality. I would recommend Linked-In and Twitter. People do business with those who they trust – social media is an opportunity to build trust and to build your personal brand: to reveal a bit of your personality that others would find compelling enough to listen to you, and to buy your services. Don’t – ever- underestimate the importance of Twitter in establishing a body of people who are listening to your ideas. Grow and cultivate that audience like a treasured asset.
Finally, have fun. If what you do stresses you and your family out, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work, and won’t benefit anyone. Do what you love. If you don’t love technology consulting or offering technology services, avoid taking any of these steps; this isn’t the line of work for you.
Source by Russell Mickler
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