The consulting profession is more difficult than other professions because you have to be vigilant about marketing in order to have steady work. If you have a set of marketing tools—basics that will work with any set of clients—you will be in the right position to land the big corporate job you’ve been looking for.

The Plan

A plan is basic to any marketing strategy. According to Betty Daoust, business writer and Ph.D., you will want to have work lined up six months in advance. This will require having a comprehensive plan of activities for the next year. After crafting a general road map, identify your market niche and ideal client. Write down the skills that you have that differentiate you from other consultants, and perform adequate market research so that you know where work opportunities may arise. As a general rule, having a market niche in an area of consulting with high barriers to entry will lead to more steady business. What education or skills might be useful for gaining access to that part of the market? Will it require gaining expertise in another area (i.e. healthcare systems)? Having versatility will increase your marketability. Second, identify your prospective clients so that you will know how to reach them. This will require research about what newspapers and magazines they read, websites they frequent, or even areas they work in. Once you have compiled this information, you can make use of the following tools in order to make the catch.

The Tools

1. Industry Conferences

Industry events are a great way to get your name out to the right people. You can network by reconnecting with old clients and meeting new ones at workshops or seminars. If possible, volunteer to host a workshop or participate in a panel discussion to showcase your skills to potential clients.

2. Pro Bono Work

Apart from industry conferences, you can host your own workshops and speaking engagements on topics which you are knowledgeable about in the community. These events are a way to give back to the community by offering free information, but also serve as a networking opportunity. Try hosting the event in an area close to your potential clients so that it attracts the right group. Offering pro bono work to friends or potential clients is also an effective means of getting referrals or repeat customers.

3. Professional Groups

Another strategy that you will want to take advantage of is joining professional groups. Business Network International (BNI) is a worldwide business networking organization with chapters around the world that gives members access to workshops, tradeshows, and networking opportunities. LinkedIn is an online community of business professionals used for networking and addressing business-related questions. By participating in industry-related discussions you can demonstrate your expertise. Your next big client could be reading.

As a part of your association, there is probably some type of journal. Volunteer to write for it, as other people in the industry will be reading it. If it is good enough, they may make a referral for you.

Professional consulting groups:

4. Web Resources

Your website will offer the first glimpse of your company to future clients, so make an adequate investment with professional graphics and content. Consider purchasing advertising space on Google Adwords to help drive more traffic or adding microsites to your website to help drive traffic. A microsite can be an article or piece of information about a specific topic, event—anything informative or interesting to potential customers. Another convenient strategy is having your business listed on an online directory or web index.

5. Old Clients

There is consensus among consultants that the best source for landing new jobs is former clients. Former clients make referrals or offer repeat business. In order to take advantage of this valuable source of organic marketing, keep in touch with old clients. Send them a letter every so often letting them know of any new strategies for analysis that you have developed, or call every so often to inquire about potential projects. Often even if they don’t have any work themselves they can think of someone who does.

Marketing your consulting services to land corporate clients is a lot about diligence and making the most of a basic set of tools. Diligence means keeping in touch with old clients and sticking to a detailed plan. Generally, the more active that you are in your community and industry, the more people (and clients) will notice you. Lastly, don’t be afraid of doing things for free in order to prove your skills. People are conservative: they don’t want to pay for something that they don’t know is good, so prove to them that you’re worth the investment.

Sources:

1) Mid-Atlantic Consultants Network: “10 Strategies for Getting Consulting Clients”

2) eZine: “Marketing Tips for Consultants”

3) eHow: “How to Find Clients for Consulting”

4) LinkedIn: “Selling consulting services. How to find new clients?”

5) GoingWare: “Market Yourself: Tips for High Tech Consultants”