Are you a consultant looking for the best way to build your practice in 2006? With the new year fast approaching, it's time to create a program that combines sales and marketing to get the bottom-line results you need.
Consultants thrive in every field imaginable. And whether you're a computer, wedding, nursing or agricultural consultant, it takes a lot more than a business card and an accompanying brochure or website to move your prospects through the sales cycle. Here are three steps you can take now to grow your practice in the new year:
1. Create sales support tools. Interpersonal relationships are at the heart of successful consulting, and sales tactics and techniques play as strong a role in building a consulting practice as marketing. It's essential to create a unified group of collateral materials that support the sales process and establish your company's image and marketing themes.
Think through your typical contact sequence, noting all the "touch" points, and list the types of tools necessary to support your efforts. For example, a first meeting with a prospect may require a business card, a company brochure or an information package. For your second meeting, you may need a presentation and a summary to leave behind. If you don't already have all the collateral materials you need, fill in the gaps. Make sure your tools have a unified design theme, colors and copy points. This will ensure your marketing materials reinforce your image and core message every step of the way.
2. Commit to an annual campaign. Many consultants fall short when it comes to establishing a well-rounded marketing program, leaving the entire weight of the company's success resting squarely on their sales abilities. Well-targeted and planned marketing efforts can reduce the need for constant sales activity by producing leads and moving prospects further along in the sales cycle.
At any given moment, you have cold, warm and hot prospects. Cold prospects are best reached through search media, including print directories and online paid search. Print advertising in targeted publications will reach both cold and warm prospects. Other tools for motivating warm prospects include direct mail (particularly dimensional mail to B2B prospects) and e-mail to permission-based, in-house lists that send click-throughs to a professional website. When it comes to hot pros-pects, one-on-one interaction is usually required to close sales.
3. Ask for business. If referrals play an important role in building your practice, you need a full-blown marketing campaign targeting influencers or influentials. For B2B marketers, influencers are professionals who work with your best prospects and recommend consultants in your field. (Tax preparers often recommend financial consultants, for example.) If you're targeting B2B influencers for referral business, your first step is to identify them through networking or gathering basic intelligence, and set up one-on-one meetings to learn about their needs. Then it's essential to build relationships over time using a combination of phone calls, e-mail, direct-mail newsletters or postcards, meetings and more.
For consumer marketers, influentials may be your prospects' friends, neighbors or family members-these people are most likely to generate word-of-mouth. Advertising, PR and direct-mail campaigns can be effective ways to reach and motivate influentials. So can making referral requests. For example, an energy consultant who has just completed a successful evaluation of a client's home might leave behind a satisfaction survey asking for referrals.
To build your practice in 2006, design an integrated sales and marketing program, including sales support materials through marketing campaigns. Reach out to your best prospects, and watch your business take a successful leap forward in the new year.