How do you market your consulting business - effectively? If you are considering becoming an independent consultant or working independent already you have asked yourself this question.
Branding is a difficult process for all small businesses, especially in a competitive environment.
How will you set yourself apart from all the others?
Things are even more challenging when your business is "you." But heed some of our tips for branding your consulting business, and with a little hard work, you'll be on your way to cultivating a distinctive and respectable brand.
When you start out as an independent consultant, it’s important to remember that you are now the brand. Apart from all of the “traditional” ways to market yourself, there are new emerging ways to ensure your small business is visible not only on the Internet but also in your community and amongst your colleagues. Everything you do, say, or publish on the internet reflects on your consulting firm.
If you’ve done any reading on starting a business you’ll already be familiar with the Elevator Pitch: a short, concise, and most importantly compelling statement about your business (you!). Your elevator pitch is something that describes your consulting firm and can be told in the time it takes for an imaginary elevator ride. In short, you should be able to give a potential consulting client your elevator speech in no longer than thirty seconds. Although it may seem more appropriate for a “traditional business,” this technique will help you focus on what is really important about your personal consulting brand and share that information quickly with other people.
A credible website is the backbone to building any good brand. Your website should properly represent you and your skills. It is likely to be the first place potential clients look when they’re checking out your consulting credentials, so make sure it is well written, up-to-date, and professional. The quality of your website often speaks to the quality of your work; don’t let your website badmouth you. Get professional help, and get candid feedback from your professional community.
Blogging has multiple benefits for the independent contractor. It’s a way to get your thoughts down and track your progress as you move along your journey to becoming a consultant. But it is also a creative outlet that allows you to share your expertise and reach an audience you may not connect with through traditional methods of marketing. If writing isn’t really your thing, consider outsourcing this to a freelancer or ghost writer. You could always dictate what you want to say and ask your writer to put it together as a blog post on your behalf. Just remember an outdated or poorly written blog can hurt more than it helps, so make a commitment to quality. The quality of your blog will suggest to potential clients the quality of your consulting work and services.
Social networking has become a marketing force to be reckoned with. How better to speak directly to people who are interested in the same things you are, and leverage word of mouth referrals to win new consulting clients? To brand your business online, you should be on LinkedIn and Twitter. Consider also creating a Facebook business page. Your professional profiles should contain all of the important information your clients may need, and must be updated with current content. Be careful to always keep it professional when it comes to your business profiles, and maintain a consistent "personal brand!" It is also good netiquette to ensure you are not spamming all of your social networking contacts at every opportunity. Find a balance between sharing what is interesting to you and what is related to your business. Be a sensible social networker!
Social networking isn’t just about linking up with friends and colleagues. To be fully active online you should be bookmarking the content you create on your website, your blog, and any other online activity. The purpose of bookmarking is to bring exposure to your work through additional avenues. Creating backlinks to your site from several other sites also raises your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – so you can kill two Internet birds with one stone! Prioritize the big three sites -- Delicious, Digg, Stumble Upon -- to get going with your bookmarks.
If you are charismatic and have something powerful to share, then use your expertise to create a podcast or video blog. Give your listeners and viewers a real sense of who you are as an expert and a professional. By sharing your personality, you begin the circle of trust that can be so difficult to achieve in this anonymous Internet world! Use your best material to express your passion and excitement for your work…potential clients will catch on and feed off your inspiration! For best results, get a friend or colleague to help you set up good lighting and professional looking editing (for your intros and titles).
Start meeting people! Networking in real life is one of the biggest secrets of consulting success. You are the best representative for your brand, so get out there and start talking yourself up! If you really want to start a consulting firm, get involved with your industry publicly by attending relevant conferences, local meet-ups, or promotional events. Be sure to go armed with your elevator pitch, lots of business cards, and a fearless attitude. Dress professionally and make a good impression on the people you meet. Word of mouth is often the best form of advertisement and meeting people casts a wide net of opportunity for your new business.
Here's to your consulting success!
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