The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.
Contrary to popular belief, marketing is not merely about selling stuff. Marketing in consulting is all about building long-term visibility and trust.
As I’ve seen time and time again, consultants don’t like marketing and sales. Many of the Consultants I’ve met in the past believe that marketing is beneath them. This type of thinking is just plain wrong.
Marketing is not separate from you, as a consultant. Whether you like it or not, you are marketing yourself all of the time. A good consultant is a good marketer of his/her expertise (Luk Smeyers).
It’s extremely important for you as a consultant you move past this strange marketing belief and start embracing marketing as a critical trust-building, visibility-improving activity.
Unfortunately, many of the marketing departments in larger consulting firms are not really focused on supporting the senior people or experts with developing and maintaining their external visibility and to help them with building trust in their markets/industry.
I’ve been meeting with lots of consultants from the large consulting firms in the past few years.
Here’s their overarching comment on the marketing function in their organizations: marketing is excellent in event-driven PR, (monitoring/policing) corporate branding, in organizing all kinds of client happenings (and they are very good at it), in building generic firm/brand exposure, and doing some across-the-board social media to (re)share (mostly excellent) global content or to promote corporate events (or to report from those events).
Here are a few quotes from partners from large consultancy firms I talked to during my ‘Visible Authority Research Project’ in 2019 (read here the outcomes of my research):
Quote 1: “Going towards a more visible niche position for myself would require me to be more clear on the story I would bring and it would be hard to manage that without strong support from the marketing team.”
Quote 2: “We don’t know the specific marketing tools that are running today or which are possible for us. I will need help knowing how to leverage marketing tech to build a brand around myself.”
Quote 3: “We’re doing more or less no marketing at the moment. We’re just networking. Most of our clients are people I already know.”
Senior consultants are looking at marketing to get more support as visible experts and thought leaders.
There’s a lot of excellent corporate branding work, they admit, but what they are concerned about, compared to some of the (new) digitally-driven (often smaller) consultancies, is the lack of specific playbooks and processes to propel their external visibility in key strategic areas of the firm.
A little amount of - often inconsistent - corporate external PR and press communications (an article here and there) won’t help them to establish a strong digital footprint as authorities, they are telling me.
Authorities in key strategic consulting domains in the firm (e.g. cyber security, advanced analytics, digital transformations, organizational transformation,...), are often left to their own devices and don’t get the personalized marketing support they need.
It’s a big missed opportunity not to combine the power of the consulting firm’s brand with the visibility of the expert in the market/industry!
On top, not creating that unique blend, is a risky choice, given that some aggressive (mostly smaller and newer) players are rocking the (digital marketing) boat and are putting expert faces to the services they provide.
It’s a scary thought for many consultants that those smaller guys are only 1 click away from their clients. With client loyalty at an all-time low, that is keeping experts and authorities awake at night (Luk Smeyers).
Even some of the very big firms are changing their approach towards ‘creating authorities’ step by step. Have a look at this page from McKinsey, promoting its experts in change management and transformation.
I am doing quite a bit of workshops with consultancy firms and in this article, I’ve summarized below how senior consultants and marketing departments can start collaborate to improve the consultant’s visible authority in the market.
Make sure you absolutely ‘claim the subject’ (your expertise domain) big time and grow your visibility by giving people (prospects AND existing clients) an abundance of trust in your expertise! Join forces with marketing (even if you don’t like it) to get their unique support (see list below), to start leveraging martech (marketing technology), and drive the digital agenda to grow your consulting business (and visibility) in your market/industry.
Cash-flow into your business is in direct proportion to communication flowing out. Whenever I find a business that is struggling, it is often a reflection of poor communications going out, not enough communications going out, or both. In general, I find a six week cycle between communication and cash-flow. Stop communicating today and in six weeks you will see an impact on your cash-flow (Robert Kyosaki).
Add a new focus area in your marketing portfolio: building visibility for specific authorities in your firm (from key strategic business lines) with (highly automated) content-driven inbound (smart) marketing approaches. Immediately start adding new specific KPI’s to all your authority-related, thought leadership marketing objectives. Instead of measuring ‘the brand’ (if at all, I’ve seen poor data availability), you also start measuring the impact of your critical thought leadership activities.
Here’s a recent experience: I did a virtual workshop for the marketing team of a large consultancy firm and they explained to me they had started to cautiously mirror some of the activities and playbooks of a high-end management agency of famous sports stars. Apparently, they were learning a lot from them how that (well-known) agency was organizing the (digital & data-driven) marketing of their ‘authorities’ (famous sport stars).
Your expertise will sit alone, shipwrecked and starving on a distant desert island, unless you stand up and start calling attention to the work you do and the problems you are committed to solve (Tom McMakin in 'Why Clients Buy', see my book summary).
1. Align: make sure marketing and your selection of authorities from key strategic business lines, align on the visibility and trust-building goals and co-own the agenda, objectives and KPI’s.
2. Collaborate: maybe marketing and consultants haven’t worked together yet on the visible authority agenda but just put this new collaboration format to work for your organization. Period.
3. Go fast: you don’t have a lot of choices but to join forces quickly. Keep this in mind: your competition is moving forward aggressively (it’s amazing what is going on right now!). You will need to jointly propel the digital and data-driven thought leadership status of selected top experts in your firm to stand out in an overcrowded, extremely competitive consulting market.
Educate your buyers, show them best practice, tell them what to look out for, give them valuable tips on how to achieve success, demonstrate how you have helped others in their shoes (Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton in 'Valuable Content Marketing', see my book summary)
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Hello, I’m Luk Smeyers and I’m guiding consultants through the journey of growing their business by helping them transform into visible authorities. I have been in consulting businesses for almost 20 years, in very different roles: as European CHRO in a global consultancy, as a startup founder in an analytics consultancy, and as a leader in a 'Big 4' consultancy, post-acquisition of the startup. I had the privilege of achieving global visibility as a consultant and I never had to sell, persuade, or negotiate as a result. I have now bundled all those experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, struggles, and failures from managing and growing that visibility in the past years.
The Visible Authority is a brand of:
Luk Smeyers BVBA
Offices in Leuven (BE) and Munich (DE)