This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Consulting Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Eileen Figure Sandlin explain how you can start a profitable consulting business, no matter whether your consulting business will focus on HR placement, computer troubleshooting, or anything else you can dream up. In this edited excerpt, the authors describe five methods you can use to market your new consulting business.
Once your new business is established, it's time to start marketing your services to potential clients. After all, if your consulting service has no clients, then you have no business. But you must remember that selling your consulting services isn't the same as selling a car or a house -- your job is harder because you're marketing your services to people who may not even be aware they need those services.
Here's a look at some of the conventional methods favored by consultants to get the word out about your business:
Direct mail. Direct mail is a powerful way to drum up new business because it's targeted to exactly the audience you want to reach. You create or rent a targeted prospect list, then send your prospective clients a sales letter, brochure, flier or "lumpy envelope" with a gift enclosed, all describing the consulting services you offer.
Here are some tips for creating attention-getting direct mail:
- Personalize your sales message. Use a mail merge program and address each envelope to the recipient by name. In the same way, your sales letter inside the envelope should be directed to that recipient by name.
- Put a compelling message on the outside of the envelope. "Free," "Limited time offer," and "Act now" are all powerful attention-getters that can induce the recipient to open the envelope.
- Stress the benefits of your offer, and give all the pertinent details in your sales letter. Then make it easy to respond or request information. Give your phone number, e-mail address and website URL--and include a postage-paid postcard or envelope, too, so it's impossible not to get back to you if the interest is there.
Cold calls. Another way to reach out to prospective clients is through cold calling, which is the process of contacting prospects who weren't expecting a sales call from you and trying to sell them on your services. Most people absolutely abhor cold calling, but when you're starting a new business, it's a good idea to try a mix of techniques to land new business, which means you should give it a shot.
There are some ground rules for successful cold calling. First, be prepared to be rejected. To get at least one prospect to say yes, you may have to make between 20 and 30 contacts with people who have the authority to hire you. Next, try phoning between the hours of 6 and 8:30 a.m. -- it can be a great time to catch someone when they might be more receptive to your sales pitch. Second, practice your pitch, both out loud and in front of a supportive business colleague or friend. Ask for feedback on the effectiveness and sincerity of your delivery, and make adjustments as necessary.
Advertising. Because traditional advertising can be expensive, it's important to spend your advertising dollars wisely. Depending on the type of services you offer, it may be necessary to advertise in specialized trade journals or magazines. In addition to placing ads in the full print run of a publication, you also should consider advertising in any specialty sections that might include a "Consultants Directory" or "Directory of Consulting Services."
Another useful though expensive advertising tool is your local Yellow Pages. You'll automatically receive a line ad (consisting of your company name and phone number) in the Yellow Pages when you install a business phone line, but you might want to consider taking a larger ad in the book--people often assume that since you've spent extra money on that display ad, you may be more established and even more professional than those consultants who didn't advertise.
Newsletters. Newsletters can be an effective tool when it comes to rounding up clients for your consulting business. Through newsletters, you can present news of interest to potential clients and remind former clients that you're still alive and kicking--and available if they need help again.
A typical newsletter published by a consultant will include:
- News of importance to the industry. You can collect information from a variety of sources, including magazines, newspapers, professional journals, websites, etc. Just make sure you credit the source of each news item you use.
- Editorials and opinions. Here's your chance to sound off on a particular subject related to your consulting field.
- Tips for success. Tell your readers how they can do their jobs better.
Referrals. This often-overlooked method of finding new clients is an easy marketing activity. All you have to do is wait until you've finished your consulting assignment, confirm that your client is completely satisfied, then ask for a referral. Rather than putting your client on the spot, send a note or a short letter thanking them for their business and asking for the names of any colleagues, friends or business associates who might be good prospects for your services.