Today’s economy has turned a lot of valuable employees into consultants. You have oodles of specific knowledge, you know there are companies that can use it, and you want to launch your own consulting business. Trouble is, you are an engineer, an operations manager, an financial analyst, a technical writer… not a marketer.
By now you’ve figured out that marketing yourself as a consultant requires specific action – it’s definitely not a case of, “If you build it, they will come.” Never fear, I have some ideas to help you establish your reputation as an expert, get your name out there, and begin building your consulting business by the end of the week!
Day #1 – Your Marketing Plan
You don’t have to spend weeks putting together your business or marketing plan, and you don’t have to pay someone to do it for you. The real value of putting together a solid plan is the way it makes you think through different scenarios, the competition, and the product you will be offering. A really great plan will also keep you on track as you build your business and it should be considered a working document – edit and change it as frequently as necessary.
Answer each of the following questions in writing and please don’t take more than 15 minutes per.
Who is your ideal client? Consider size of company, industry, for profit or not. This is your absolute ideal, not a listing of any type of company that might be able to use your services. Describe who you want to work for. Focused marketing will pay off far greater than a shotgun approach.
What work do you want to do? Similar to the first question, describe your ideal work. If you would like, you can create a separate description for secondary work.
How do you want to work? Telecommute, onsite, or a combination? Do you want to travel?
Why does your ideal client want you? Describe your core competencies and how you are different from the average consultant.
Now you need to flip it over – What type of client business do you not want to work for? What work do you not want to do? How do you not want to work?
Day #2 – Your Resume
You do need to put some time in to presenting your experience and core competencies in a couple of different ways. First, start with your standard resume. There is much material available on creating a great resume so I’ll not spend time on that topic. Once your resume is complete, create the following three complimentary items:
- One Sheet
- Online Bio
- Elevator Speech
A One Sheet is marketing collateral about your consulting business, designed to pique the interest of the reader. Where your resume is a professional, legal document that describes in detail where you have been, your One Sheet summarizes where you are going. Use present tense, bullets, lots of white space. Your One Sheet should be able to be read or scanned in a very short amount of time and provide a brief overview of your talents.
Next, continue to distill your marketing message down to a 30-second statement that speaks to your value proposition. Your elevator speech is not your job title. When someone asks you what you do and you answer, “I am a consultant,” you’ve just missed an opportunity to market yourself to an interested party. Your elevator speech should tell a story about who you are and what drives you.
I am on a mission to assist microbusiness owners in using the Internet to grow their business, interact with customers and clients, and level the playing field against much larger competition. The term “small business” is a misnomer — there is a vast difference in resources between a small-business with as many as 500 employees, and the entrepreneur who is going it alone. I have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that face these solopreneurs and I help them use Web 2.0 technologies to reach huge audiences with nothing but a great product, a laptop, and a pile of creativity.
Finally, create an awesome online bio to be used primarily on LinkedIn and your blog.
Judi Young is a writer and entrepreneur on a mission to assist small and micro businesses worldwide in joining the online conversation. Follow her blog…, where you can also link to her on Facebook and Twitter.
Day # 3 – Social Networking
How successful would you be at a live business networking event if you came in like a politician 10 minutes late to a campaign stop — in a mad hurry to shake every hand and pass out brochures and free pens, spieling off your top three campaign promises, not interested in chatting with and getting to know people, only in talking about yourself, your services, your consulting business. Believe it or not, there are people right now treating social networking as a campaign stop. It’s the biggest mistake you can make.
Instead, treat your online socializing and networking connections as you treat real live people at networking events:
- Listen 80%, Talk 20%
- Always be polite and respectful
- Offer and provide assistance, advice, information
- Provide your online business card (web or blog address) for more information
If you connect with someone who likes and respects you, and has a need for your services, they will seek you out.
You may already have a personal Facebook page. It is acceptable, even encouraged, to provide your professional contacts a glimpse into your personal life-to a degree. If you use Facebook regularly to keep up with friends and family, post pictures, and make political statements, you may want to consider whether your Facebook activity puts you in the best possible light with your clients. Maintaining a Facebook page is not critical to your success as a consultant, so you may wish to continue using Facebook as your personal site and rely on LinkedIn to socialize professionally. Tip: Farmville, MafiaWars, and other Facebook applications are generally considered to be in bad form in a professional environment.
LinkedIn is the most important site for a consultant to be active on. How did we connect with past colleagues, current business contacts, and other professionals prior to LinkedIn? Once you have your resume and marketing plan completed, sign up for a LinkedIn personal account (free) and start connecting. The initial LinkedIn process will walk you through connecting to colleagues already in their database. You cannot have too many connections on LinkedIn, so reach out to everyone you have worked with no matter how long ago. Next, connect to everyone you currently do business with-your real estate agent, your insurance agent, your lawyer, baker, and your children’s teacher.
Now comes the tough part: You must get recommendations in order to build Social Proof. Ask for 20 recommendations via LinkedIn today. Right now. LinkedIn makes it very easy. Just locate the Recommendations selection under Profile and select as many as 200 of your contacts. You can use the standard LinkedIn text in your request or customize it with your own words. LinkedIn sends out an individual message to each of the contacts you specified with your request for a recommendation. Now return the favor. Without being prompted, write recommendations for people you’ve worked with. View a few recommendations first and simply follow the format.
LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to begin to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to provide assistance to your new connections worldwide. Search out and join all groups that are interesting. You can find groups based on your industry, hobbies, geographic location, alma mater (don’t forget high school), and so on. For the purposes of networking for your consulting business, select groups with more than 1,000 members. LinkedIn limits the number of groups to which you can belong to 50, and some groups require approval by a group manager so there may be a bit of a wait before you can join.
Once you join groups that are interesting to you, spend a bit of time perusing active discussions for the group before you dive in and begin answering questions.
Finally, status updates-it is important for you to begin posting your status at least three times per day. You can reference a good article you read online (use /bit.ly to shorten URLs), tell everyone what you are working on, or talk about what you had for breakfast. The important thing is that you provide some insight to your day, show that you are being productive, and stay connected.
Unless you want to consult in social media, it is not necessary that you become a twitterer. Tweeting regularly could help you up your social cred and increase contacts, however it is something you can undertake on day five and beyond.
Day #4 – Article Marketing and Your Blog
LinkedIn and Article Marketing are the one-two punch of your marketing strategy. You will begin writing industry-specific articles that establish you as a thought-leader and a subject-matter expert and you will publish them to your blog. You will also blast them out to Article Marketing sites and to Digg.
Article Marketing simply means publishing your original article to the Internet via sites that are dedicated to distributing such articles. Effective Article Marketing increases your overall exposure and establishes you as an expert in your field.
Your blog primarily exists as a landing place to hold your articles and allow your community to connect with you. Yahoo, Google, and Posterous are very quick and easy blogs to set up. I use and love WordPress, but will admit that there was a learning curve in understanding the interface, setting up widgets and so on. I recommend you set up a very easy blog to begin and roll that in to a more advanced platform down the road.
Writing and publishing articles for mass consumption is a bit daunting, so I’ve come up with this quick exercise to help. Find a kitchen timer and set it for 2 hours.
1. Create a free account on EzineArticles.
2. Create a free account on Digg.
3. Write an industry-specific article, in under 90-minutes.
Unless you regularly write for your industry, you might have a problem getting started. I personally stared off in to space for two days trying to think of a topic. Just pick something, anything, to get you started. Your second article will be much better, and the third better than that. How about the top 5 things I need to know about your industry? Or top 5 things to consider when hiring a consultant?
4. Publish your article on EzineArticles and Digg.
Whew. You did it. Ok, so I rushed you and this first one probably won’t get picked up, but the publishing process should no longer be scary. Pretty soon you will be jotting down article ideas on gum wrappers while stuck in traffic.
There are many other Article Marketing distribution sites that you can use; a quick Google search will produce many hits. Try businessknowhow and buzzle, and then find more on your own.
Each time you write a new article, spend a few minutes searching discussion forums for appropriate conversations. Quote your article as an answer to a question and be sure to provide a link to your blog.
Day #5 and Ongoing- Use Your Resources
Just as you will be giving away some of your key knowledge in order to establish credibility, so are others. There is much free, valuable information on the Internet. Check out my blog to find links to sites aimed at small and micro business owners and more tips.