One of the most important aspects of establishing and marketing yourself as a consultant is developing a ‘product’ set. Clients have problems buying advice and expertise in the abstract form: they’re much happier buying something specific.
You want to be seen as specialist, expert and knowledgeable. So package your expertise into ‘products’ that clients understand and recognise.
If you have extensive facilities management experience, you may want to sell your ‘ PEAP® - Property Economics Assessment Portfolio’ product. Or, if you're not an Organisations Development consultant, a ‘Human Resource Optimisation Package’ .
A neatly packaged product concept, for which you’ve identified a market need, is far easier to consume than some generalised expertise. You may be able to offer the generalised expertise later, off the back of a successful ‘product’ sale.
Getting the marketing right
The other aspect of selling skills you’ll need to address is marketing. There are no short cuts here, though a successful marketing campaign needn’t cost the earth.
However, your start-up budget is unlikely to run to a launch advertising campaign in the general business press or sector-specific specialist journals. Even given a lot of cash -- unless you sustain it over time it is unlikely to yield results.
It’s better by far to start the process by networking like mad. Contact everyone you know, and tell them what you’re doing. This is likely to yield most of your early enquiries, particularly as you’re going to be building on your current areas of expertise. You may well know your first client already: in some cases this may even be your last employer.
But effective networking is a powerful marketing tool when used, and it would be unusual if your follow-on work doesn’t come from referrals from these initial clients or others you contact who know you and your capabilities.
What you need to buy
"It’s better by far to start the process by networking like mad. "
In terms of marketing collateral, you’ll need business cards. Make sure they look high quality and expensive. Avoid using the printing machines at your local railway station. They look cheap because they are cheap, and they make you look cheap by implication. Go to the expense of using two colours: it looks more professional. It also looks better on your letterhead and compliments slips, which you will also need.
Next, you will want to invest in a web site. In today’s business environment you are expected to have one, and most of your prospective clients will browse it to get an idea of who you are and what you do. Make sure it looks professional -- not like it was designed by your friend who does this as a hobby!
Another way to promote your new consultancy business is to get articles published in leading journals in your chosen sector. This should cost you little but time (and it will take up a lot of that…), providing you are a confident author with something interesting to say. Don’t expect masses of leads from your first few appearances in print, but such promotion will do your professional reputation no harm, and you can always re-use the material on your web site, in mail-outs to clients and prospects, and in new business presentations.