How do you market your consulting business effectively? If you’re considering becoming an independent consultant or if you’re already self-employed, you’ve likely asked yourself this question.
Branding is a difficult process for all small businesses, especially in a competitive environment. Things are even more challenging when your business is “you.” Follow these tips for marketing 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. There are many new, emerging ways to market yourself to ensure your small business is visible not only on the Internet, but also in your community and among your colleagues. Remember, everything you do, say, or publish on the online reflects on your business.
If you’ve done any reading on starting a business, you’re likely familiar with the elevator pitch: a concise, and compelling statement describing your business. You should be able to give a potential client your elevator speech in no more than 30 seconds. Although this technique may be more common in traditional business, it will help highlight what’s important about your personal brand and share information quickly with others.
A credible website is the backbone to building a good brand. Your website is likely to be the first place potential clients look when they’re researching 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, so be sure to employ professional design help if needed, and ask for candid feedback from friends and colleagues.
Establishing yourself as a thought leader is one of the most effective marketing tools for independent contractors. Blogging via your own website or through a channel such as LinkedIn is a creative outlet that allows you to share your expertise and reach an audience you may not connect with through traditional marketing methods. Speaking opportunities are another way to promote your name and voice. Reach out to professional organizations, research conferences, and local media and offer to share your expertise.
Social networking has become a marketing force to be reckoned with. What better way to speak directly to people with similar interests, and leverage word of mouth referrals to win new clients? To brand your business online, start with LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Your professional profiles should contain important information clients may need, and must be updated with current content. To maintain professionalism, don’t spam your social network contacts at every opportunity. Work to find a balance between sharing what’s interesting to you and what’s related to your business.
Social networking isn’t just about linking up with friends and colleagues. To be fully active online, bookmark the content you create on your website or blog. By bookmarking, you can bring exposure to your work through additional avenues. Creating backlinks to your site from several other sites can also raise your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). To start your bookmarks, prioritize the big three sites: Delicious, Dig, and Stumble Upon.
If you are charismatic and have something powerful to share, then use your expertise to create a podcast or video blog. Give listeners and viewers a sense of who you are as an expert and a professional. By sharing your personality, you can begin to build a circle of trust and drive new clients to your business. For best results, get a friend or colleague to help set lighting and edit for introductions and titles.
Networking in real life is one of the biggest secrets of consulting success. You are the best representative for your brand, so become involved with your industry publically by attending relevant conferences, local meet-ups, or promotional events. Be sure to go armed with your elevator pitch, business cards, and a fearless attitude.