How to Market a Small Consulting Firm Online

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BY DOUG AND POLLY WHITE Special Envoys

QUESTION: I spun the wheels trying to market my small consulting business. I did AdWords and Facebook campaigns with little return on investment. The world of SEO has become much more complex than I can imagine or time. Do you have a recommendation for marketing my business online?

ANSWER: First of all, we suggest you don’t jump to the conclusion that Facebook or SEO (Search Engine Optimization – improving the chances of your website showing up when someone searches for selected keywords) won’t do you any good. good. In fact, before you spend more time or money on marketing, we suggest you take a step back and answer the first three questions every business should answer. These questions are:

1. Why should a potential customer buy your product or service over a competitor’s?

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In your case, why should a potential client hire you to advise them rather than using another adviser or not hiring any adviser at all? It may seem like a simple question. Trust us. It’s not. But, if you can’t clearly and concisely explain why someone should hire you, don’t expect potential clients to be able to answer the question either.

Although this question can be difficult to answer, the good news is that there are only two possible answers: because your offer costs less or because it is different from those of your competitors. In your particular situation, we doubt that reading a low-cost approach is the best way to go. Sure, your rates should be reasonable, but a marketing message that says “Hire me to help you solve the most important problems of your life because I’m cheap” doesn’t strike us as a winning strategy.

We think you’ll need to position your offer in a way that makes it clear why you’re uniquely qualified to help people. It probably means focusing your practice. You may focus on marriage counseling or working with emotionally troubled teenagers. Once you’ve decided on a goal, you’ll need to be able to articulate the ways your offering is different and better. Why are you more qualified than other advisors in the narrow field you have chosen?

2. Is there a market segment that values ​​the things that make your offering different and is it big enough to support your business?

Once you have identified what makes your offer different, you will need to determine if there is a market for the elements that make your offer different. We use the silly example that you could market a skunk flavored Popsicle. It would be different. There is nothing like it in supermarkets. However, we don’t think there would be a big enough market for the new Popsicle to justify producing such a thing. Confirm that a market segment values ​​what differentiates your offering. Next, verify that the segment is large enough to support your activity.

3. How will you reach your target market segment with your message?

The final step is to determine the most cost-effective way to let your target market segment know what makes your offering unique – the thing that segment appreciates. Maybe social media, SEO, or an email campaign is the best way to reach your market, but maybe not. You will only know if you answer the first two questions that every business must answer.

It may be Marketing 101, but we’ve seen far too many people wasting money on Internet-based marketing programs that weren’t right for them. The internet is sexy. It can also be a colossal waste of money if it’s not the right channel for your business. Answering the three questions above will ensure you get a positive return on your marketing investment.

Doug and Polly White own a significant stake in Gather, a company that designs, builds and operates collaborative workspaces. Polly focuses on human resources, people management and human systems. Doug’s areas of expertise are business strategy, operations and finance.

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