The Built-in, Human-Centered Way Boost Your Consulting Firm’s Growth

By Lynn Swayze

Oct 04

If you've ever struggled to maintain your marketing mojo, you're not alone.

According to a ConsultantSuccess.com survey of over 34,000 consultants, 6% of consultants don't market at all, and 14% only market when they need a new client. That might be because according to that same survey, 37% cited referrals as their biggest source of clients (1). But how do you control for variances if your marketing strategy is waiting for the phone to ring?

Before I go into that, I admit that yes, this survey went to individual consultants and not big consulting firms. But if you've been in the consulting world for any length of time, you know the same thing holds true for larger firms too.

I mean really, how many firms rely on a team of expensive sales teams, rather than leveraging the power of marketing to fuel sales? How many have mediocre marketing, if any marketing at all? How many rely on word of mouth, rather than true lead generation?

Too many, is my guess, considering that 63% of tech executives cite revenue growth as their biggest priority (2) despite all these expensive sales teams and "brand awareness" in place!

And the reason why isn't too hard to figure out. Marketing is hard when the way it's always been done still works okay enough.

Plus, in order to market your firm, you have to be on social media, ideally daily. You have to blog, ideally tackling as many keywords as possible (3). You have to have people at conferences making connections and talking to leads. And you have to somehow coordinate all of this on a limited marketing budget with limited internal staff.

It's a lot!

But what if you could make marketing a win-win for your bottom line and your top talent?

(Talent which, if left unchecked, will become your competition tomorrow thanks to the growing gig economy.)

Herein lies the hidden secret of powerhouse firms: expert-driven marketing.

The Power of Building Expertise

What if I told you that you could engage and retain your best talent while also dramatically increasing the visibility and perceived authority of your brand? What if I told you that you could marry your employee's natural desire for excellence and expertise with your own marketing goals?

It's possible. Here's how.

First, it's essential to recognize and accept that you have experts in your midst. Sure, they're "just employees" now. But thanks to the gig economy, thebest will leave and start their own firms if not allowed to grow. This is fine. (In fact, I help consultants do it all the time.) But there will always be those that will stay if given the opportunity and respect. And those are the people you want to stay and grow at your organization, rather than someone else's!

(And if you don't have "the best" working for you, shame on you. Hire better, and train up! And also use this strategy, because it will attract more "A Players" to your organization.)

Second, it's essential that you recognize that your employees are your best marketing asset. Your employees are the "face" of your organization. The best ones are already doing marketing efforts you aren't even tracking. They're attending trainings and gaining professional expertise. They're talking to clients. They're explaining what they do to other experts at meetups and conferences. They're interacting on social media. The best are even writing books, speaking at conferences, and starting projects on the side.

If you recognize that you have people like this in your organization, the natural question should be, "How do we use what these employees are already doing to grow our company?"

The Expert Marketing Strategy

Step 1: Get Your Data in Line

Before you start, make sure that you can track the ROI of any marketing effort, whether that's a social media post, an article, a lead magnet (white paper, webinar, etc), a conference, a meetup, a sales person outreach, referrals, et cetera. You should be able to say, with certainty, exactly how many sales come from each marketing and sales effort.

If you can't, it's going to be hard to justify why you're going to do steps 2-4 to leadership. So do this first. It's good marketing anyway.

(Pro tip: funnels are the best way to capture leads from activities. Implement them.)

Once you have that down, move to step 2.

Step 2: Identify the Experts

Step 2 involves identifying the "A Players" who are already doing some of the activities identified. Here are some qualities to look for:

  • They blog about industry/professional topics on their own
  • They attend conferences/meetups
  • They speak at conferences/meetups
  • They regularly seek more industry training and certification
  • They volunteer to train others in the organization
  • They stay up-to-date on the industry they're in
  • They refer people to you, either clients or good employees
  • They've written a book or training course on the topic
  • They've volunteered to help with marketing (writing articles, etc) before

If you can't find anyone in your organization doing this, then there are a few causes. One is that there isn't a culture of trust, and people are hiding their activities. Another reason is that you simply don't have good people with a specialty of some kind, or with enough professional experience. A third reason is that you simply aren't looking hard enough. IF you truly don't have any, then you'll need to create them. More on that in step 4.

A great way to formally attract these experts is to create a marketing program which outright calls them out. This program should allow opportunities for:

  • Writing articles and other marketing materials
  • Speaking at conferences (with company support!)
  • Attending conferences and meetups (with company support!)
  • Helping communicate between marketing and sales
  • Becoming an "ambassador" on social media (while still having a personal life)
  • Developing professional expertise and positioning

Starting an initiative like this should attract the A Players you're looking for.

Once you've identified a few, start Step 3.

Step 3: Nurture the Experts

Step 3 is where you really nurture your experts. In this stage, pretend like each employee "expert" you have is their own marketing funnel. What would you do if you had to pin all your sales hopes and dreams on this one person?

You'd do things like...

  • Help them specialize in an area they love (and of course, which aligns with a service you offer)
  • Get them the certifications/training they'd need to be competitive in that area. (Training you're likely already going to give them anyway, amiright?)
  • Have them become more visible as a brand ambassador for your business by writing articles on your site, social media, industry sites, etc. The more they do themselves, the less you'll have to scramble to create.

(Hint: SQL Server professionals and organizations do this really, really well... so much that there are almost "celebrities" in this industry.)

  • Get them training so they can become conference speakers. This will boost their authority and yours at the same time. Send them with some sales people so you can generate sales conversations. Make sure there's a funnel there - a way to generate leads you can market to after-the-fact.
  • Procure book deals for them. If you're in the tech industry, look at organizations like Wiley and what-not. If you wanted to really own it, you could even self-publish these books. Use them as a way to generate leads with a book funnel with ads, or on your employee's signatures. Make your employee the "trusted expert" behind the marketing campaign, so they're the "guru" people want to follow. (HubSpot is one organization that does this well.)
  • Or if that's too extreme, have your employee generate write white papers or other lead magnets, such as webinars or training. Put them front and center alongside all of their expertise, praise, etc., which you'll leverage for your benefit. (Remember, proof and specificity sell.)

Done right, you'll get a ton of marketing content that's valuable and relevant to your ideal buyer, yet you can still control the conversation and track return on investment.

Let me repeat: Your best employees will be doing this anyway. Either you nurture them and capitalize on it, or you lose out on easy, built-in marketing.

Okay, so let's say you've done all that and are seeing growth.

How do you make it even better? Why, you train more of course!

Step 4: Groom New Experts

The next step is to groom new experts.

This is the ideal track for your hungry junior consultants. Pair them with a rockstar who's already doing what I mention in Step 3, and have the senior consultant mentor the junior consultant. Junior consultants are still "feeling out" where they want to land, and mentoring is good for them anyway. And junior consultants will be more likely to stay longer than the 2 year average if you give them advancement and opportunities to prove themselves and move up the ladder?

At this point, you should have a stable of experts who are marketing your firm without too much hand-holding. Done right, your experts, sales people, and marketing should be completely aligned.

Done right, you'll have tracked your efforts and will see a return on investment pretty quickly.

The ROI of Implementation

Even better, you SHOULD start attracting more rockstars. Like begets like, and talented people want to work where other talented people are. But wait, there's more! Over time, you should see the following benefits from implementing this program:

  • Increased employee retention
  • Increased employee engagement
  • Increased marketing ROI (esp. because you know your numbers!)
  • Decreased sales resistance
  • Decreased marketing costs
  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Increased client satisfaction
  • Increased market share
  • Improved marketing-sales-consultant alignment

As I said, this is win-win-win if done right.

Caveat

One caveat I wish to point out is that not all rockstar employees are extroverted. In fact, some employees will be extraordinary at what they do and also not want to be in the limelight. That's okay, and should not be adversely punished. If possible, provide low key opportunities for these employees to share their expertise and knowledge. But if they don't, they should not be punished for not "doing their part". This type of program should identify the people who already have the drive for these activities, not force team members to be who they are not.

I also want to point out that some employee-experts will leave despite your best nurturing. That's okay, and to be expected. Praise them and support them and who knows... they may be the person to open the doors to the next big win for you.

So I want to know... have you implemented this at your organization? Or have you seen it implemented by a brand you follow? I'd love to hear your comments below.

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References:

  1. https://www.consultingsuccess.com/marketing-for-consultants-study
  2. https://www.bdo.com/insights/industries/technology/2018-bdo-technology-outlook-survey
  3. https://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/marketing/6-major-trends-for-b2b-technology-marketers-in-2019-according-to-the-content-marketing-institute/
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About the Author

Direct Response Copywriter Lynn Swayze has specialized in Consultant Marketing and Information Marketing since she jumped on the scene in 2014. She's worked with big names like Agora, Kevin Rogers, John Bowen, Mike Weiss, Jason Hanson, and more. She works as CMO to IDRM LLP and is a staff copywriter at several organizations.

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