Dump the Buzzwords: What Actually Persuades Clients to Hire a Boutique Consultancy

“Luk, how is our Mission & Vision statement on our homepage?” A consultancy owner asked me this question a while ago.

My answer: “Why don’t you just delete that from your consultancy’s homepage because nobody really cares?”

As mean as it sounded, this is indeed the case. I see many consultancies proudly displaying their mission and vision type of content, thinking this will have an impact on prospects. While internally important, this messaging is externally meaningless.

This is just one of the examples of what some boutique consultancies think prospects pay attention to, but prospects have absolutely zero interest in it. Another example would be boring messaging along the lines of the high standards of quality they always aspire to and how agile their approach to each client is. 

My take? These are just table stakes that every prospect expects from their potential business partner.

How prospects start their consultancy journey

There are all sorts of ways in which decision-makers or their team members come across consultancies and then learn more about them:

  • Through Google search when looking for answers to specific questions and through general Google search for a particular consultancy and its leaders;
  • Through social media like LinkedIn, where consultancies’ thought leaders offer practical, insightful advice that’s relevant to the prospect’s pain point, as well as their profiles;
  • By getting a recommendation from a current/former colleague or another network member;
  • By attending an industry event where the consultancy’s leader is presenting;
  • By looking at the company’s website: homepage, service, the blog
  • Through case studies or other readily available forms of social proof
  • By subscribing to newsletters

What are they looking to establish through this independent preliminary review?


87% of clients say trust is more important for their purchasing decisions in consulting services due to COVID!

They want to see (1) if the consultancy is a right fit for their specific needs and (2) whether the consultancy’s expertise and service delivery can be trusted.

Source research indicates, “Consulting firms that succeed will be those with propositions that deliver faster, better solutions.” Here is a helpful chart by Source that shows how buyers think when evaluating potential business partners among consultancies.

Source research

Recommended reading: Consultancies Must Rethink the Way Their Prospects Buy

Eliminating the fluff

Don’t get me wrong; vision and value statements are essential to building the internal culture. They should be thoughtfully approached and adhered to internally. They should unite the team and inspire it.

However, boutique consultancies should make no mistake – they have nearly zero business development value. That’s not what “closes the deal”.

Similarly, I’ve seen many boutique consultancies put a lot of effort into and allocate a significant portion of their digital real estate to ‘boring table stakes’. Here, I’m talking about run-of-the-mill messaging like:

  • high-quality service delivery
  • experienced teams
  • innovative approaches
  • strong client relationships
  • operating with agility and flexibility
  • sustainable and ethical practices
    to name a few… (I get told 100s of these)

These are just table stakes! Boutique consultancies cannot make a difference by explaining that they have an experienced team with superb client relationships. That’s really basic stuff, and everybody says it, unfortunately. It’s also pretty much expected by prospects as a given. 

Just like with vision and mission statements, while these are important values and standards to uphold internally, they have very little – if any – business development value. 

What prospects look for during the evaluation stage

So if vision and mission statements and table stakes rhetoric don’t impress prospects, then what does? 

Here are the four foundational elements I’ve observed consultancy buyers give the most weight to in their decision-making process.

#1. Crystal clear specialisation and value proposition

Clients want to have their problems solved by those with deep expertise. Specialists can achieve, in general, significantly stronger results, understand specific problems with higher granularity, and provide support in a more efficient manner than jack-of-all-trades consultancies. 

So, one of the first things that prospects evaluate is whether a consultancy appears to be the right match in its area of expertise.

“You won’t get what you want unless you are what you want” is what I like to say to my consultancy clients when evaluating their business strategy.  

Here is what I mean. More than ever before, the consultancy market is crowded, noisy, and challenging. Most consultancies are easily replaceable because they don’t have the deep expertise to solve high-value client problems. They might get hired because of their pricing, not because they’re the best in their field.

To create a different reality, consultancies must be clear about what they want and what they are. This clarity and purpose should then be distilled into a value proposition – one that will clearly present the differentiation of the firm, its strength, and its ability to resolve high-value problems.

Recommended reading: How Consultancies Can Get Started With Value Proposition Design

#2. Proprietary, proven methodologies, processes, or frameworks

The consultancies that lead the pack have developed their own methodologies or tools – approaches that have been honed over time and can tackle challenges in ways others haven't even thought of. 

They can do that by focusing on a narrow set of problems and engaging in repetitive processes. Over time, this allows them to perfect processes and develop signature methodologies. Applying these signature methodologies becomes a highly efficient process that delivers predictable results.

And that’s what clients want – predictability and robust results. They want to see the highest possible ROI and minimise risk. 

Recommended reading: Why Repetition Is the Path to Becoming a High-Performance Consultancy

#3. Measurable and predictable results, proven by client testimonials

The real differentiators are those consultancies that can point to clear, quantifiable outcomes from their engagements – results that meet and exceed client expectations, backed by glowing, outcome-based testimonials and use cases. 

Knowing that a consultancy has already applied its signature methodology and frameworks on dozens of similar clients with similar problems in the past and consistently achieved strong results provides peace of mind – guarantees of sorts. The prospect will have trust that the consultancy is not just winging it.

Recommended reading: The Best Consulting Pitch I’ve Ever Seen

#4. Education and original research

In my experience, leading consultancy firms contribute to advancing their (narrow) field through publishing cutting-edge use cases, proprietary research, insightful data, or analysis of specific trends and lessons learned from previous (similar) projects. 

Prospects know that, too. According to the 2024 Edelman-LinkedIn study, 73% of decision-makers say that an organisation’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities than marketing materials. The same study found that 70% of C-suite executives said that thought leadership had led them to reconsider their current vendor relationship, and 54% realised that other vendors might better understand their challenges and needs due to the thought leadership.

Recommended reading: Why You Should Share Your Expertise To Grow Your Consulting Business

In conclusion

What I would like for boutique consultancies to take away from this article is two-fold:

  1. There is a distinction between what is essential internally and what matters externally. The two don’t necessarily overlap. A vision, mission statement, and values are internally relevant foundational elements. However, they do little for business development.

  2. Externally important messaging resonates with prospects the most when it engages them through educational content, builds trust through social proof, and shows how working with the consultancy minimises the risk and increases the value for the prospect.

Understanding what consulting service buyers are truly looking for is crucial for boutique consultancies aiming to stand out in a crowded market. So I invite boutique consultancy owners to take an outside look at their consultancy. Objectively. And adjust their messaging accordingly.

Interested in receiving all my learnings to become a better consultant? No spam, no BS. Pure teaching! Subscribe to my newsletter.

Share this article on