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.
Don’t settle for the short-term vanity. It’s the people who stick with it the longest, that reap the largest rewards (Nicolas Cole)
I’ve never been afraid of openly sharing all my expertise.
People often ask me: ‘Why the heck are you openly sharing all your expertise and learnings? Aren’t you afraid that, by sharing your ‘secrets’, your clients won’t need you anymore?
My easy and relaxed answer to this is that clients have to know, like, and trust us before they buy. It’s the essence of good content marketing. Consulting is a credence business and sharing your expertise is the only thing that can build this trust (and visibility).
Let me provide you with a personal example. A few years ago, I gave the opening keynote speech at an international conference. The learnings I’d presented had intrigued this HRD. She asked me for my contact information and promised to call me to discuss a collaboration.
Months went by, without a single call from her. However, she kept receiving my new case studies in the background as she was subscribed to our email list. Six months later, her assistant called for a meeting.
It was one of those many meetings where I sat in front of the ‘buyer’ with a printed stack of my case studies and articles on the desk. She apologized for the delay in getting back to me. She had to prepare a business case for consultancy investment, and that took her a while.
“Your case studies and articles had been my best source of information to prepare the business case for your support,” she admitted to me with a big smile.
The HR Director finally got the approval from her boss (just before we met), and at the end of our meeting, she gave me the go-ahead for one of the most rewarding consulting projects I’ve ever done. Amazing!
This project with the HR Director was born out of having openly shared all my learnings. That’s what the client told me, at least.
The collaboration ‘pitch’ (the 60' meeting in her office) was nothing more than a friendly handshake to get started right away.
No need to explain, persuade, sell, or negotiate.
1. Expertise tops content.
Clients are looking for the bigger picture: your qualifications and years of experience that you bring to the table. Content can never replace that! Our clients pay us to help them to apply our expertise to their specific situation.
Openly sharing your expertise sends a message that you are not afraid to reveal your expertise because you are that confident in your own skills and knowledge. It sends a powerful message that you have a lot more to offer because of how freely you share your knowledge.
2. Content doesn't replace implementation.
Even with profound reading about experiences and learnings from other projects, most non-experts will always struggle with executing a complex implementation, even with a step-by-step instruction ‘the IKEA-way’. If prospects are in dare need of support, your content will never be THE solution to them. But YOU are!
3. Content builds trust.
Sharing content is the best possible way to build a strong and credible reputation as a consultant. Without trust in your expertise, you won’t get that call to meet. And if they don’t call you, you will never know, unfortunately. I learned this from Seth Godin: 'Give people an abundance of confidence in your expertise by creating an abundance of value and share it again and again.'
Show your prospects who you are, what you do, how you solve client problems, what clients can learn from your experience, your struggles and failures.
4. Content builds visibility.
If you are reluctant to embrace content-driven marketing, nobody will ever find you on the internet. In a world where professional services buyers act like consumers and can find anything in seconds, how on earth will you be found? As Google’s SEO Starter Guide puts it, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.”
Did you know that 90% of professional service buyers check out a consultant’s expertise online before making a decision whether or not to get in touch with them? And did you know that a striking 80% of potential consultants put themselves out of the picture straight away because of their poor online profile and/or the lack of visible expertise? (Data from Hinge Research Institute)
5. Content builds a mental connection.
The more you write about how YOU have solved the problems of your clients, the more clients will relate to you and build a mental connection with you over time. Important though: your writing should be 'pain-resolution content'. Clients should immediately recognize their pains in your stories (that's what I did: storytelling from the problem-solving project trenches).
The more you open up, the more people will relate to you! (Tim Denning)
6. Writing & sharing content deepens your expertise.
There's no better way to deepen your expertise than writing about it and sharing it. In the spirit of one of my great 'masters', Nobel Price winner Feynman (known for his ability to clearly explain difficult topics such as quantum physics for virtually everybody): 'The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to transfer it to another'.
7. Sharing content provides you with data.
I am obsessed with studying and researching what my prospects and existing clients are reading from me, how much time they invest in reading my stuff, what exactly they focus on when reading, how often they come back to read, how long they stay on my blog, what their click-thru behaviors are, etc.
It's the most important research database to understand the interests & behaviors of your prospects and clients. I couldn't have been successful in the past without these data, you bet.
8. Content sharing is a pre-qualification tool.
In the early years of my consulting work, I received quite a big volume of inquiry calls from 'non-ideal' clients. However, the more I wrote about the work I was doing, the more 'ideal clients' calls I got. Step by step, my writing (and speaking) became my most important client pre-qualification tool.
The prospects who contacted me knew exactly what I was doing, which problems I was solving, what kind of projects I was involved in. In fact, once my content-driven visibility got established, I almost never got non-ideal inquiries anymore.
9. Content sharing propels conversion.
Regularly publishing authoritative, unique content is not a feel-good strategy that you can’t really measure. It’s a data-driven approach to maximize the return on your investment - the investment of time, effort, and other resources you dedicate to creating thoughtful content pieces.
Here’s the stat to prove that: Website conversion rate is nearly 6x higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs 0.5%)!
Like it or not but your content is the key driver of the TLC process: from Traffic to Leads to Clients. About 80% of the traffic to my website originates from the content that I am sharing. My content has always been like 'my assets': the more I wrote, the more traffic and ultimately the more clients I got. Your content should be organized in such a way it drives leads to your consulting business. Sounds like a no-brainer, or?
And, of course, the ROI of sharing your expertise in the form of thought leadership content is in the growth of your subscribers. Growing your subscriber's list empowers you to communicated directly to your target audience and is one of the best ways to share your content. It's a growth loop – the more valuable content you share, the more subscribers you will accumulate, the more opportunities you get to share your content.
10. Content is your alternative hiring tool.
For about a decade, I received an almost infinite number of spontaneous applications of top experts who wanted to work with me/us. They had been reading my content and became keen to join what we were doing. Just like with prospects, your content is building trust with candidates. If they can't find anything 'trust-building' about you, you will struggle much more to attract top talent (or contractors to support your growth).
Related Content: Why Thought Leadership Will Be Developing A Consulting Business
“But Luk, aren’t we just revealing all our secrets to our competitors?” I get a variation of this question pretty often. To be frank, the thought of competitors trying to “steal my thunder” never really crossed my mind when I was developing my authority and market recognition.
Sure, your competitors will get a better understanding of what you do and how you do it. So what? They can’t replicate what you know and how you deliver value. Your ultimate value comes from your knowledge and the ability to translate that knowledge into problem-solving work you deliver for your clients. Your content is a way to make your target audience aware of your expertise, to develop trust, and gain visibility. It’s never going to replace what you can deliver to your clients.
So any attempts by your competition to replicate your content will come off as inauthentic. And buyers, when given a choice, will always pick the original, not a copycat.
As a subject matter expert, you should see your role as that of a leader. Leaders proactively raise questions that other consultants hesitate to ask. Leaders discover patterns and trends. Leaders do not offer superficial solutions. When addressing problems, they go to the very heart of the issue. Leaders are generous with their knowledge because they are confident in the value of their offering.
And here’s the thing – your market knows. Your prospects know which consultants are considered to be leaders.
According to Grist’s research findings, 91% of senior executives see thought leadership as critical or important to who they choose as advisor. So think about all the potential clients you are guaranteed to miss out on without a thought-leadership-based content strategy.
Adopt a leader’s mindset. Don’t worry about your competitors. You will be looking at them in the rearview mirror anyway.
Marketing in consulting isn’t about pushing a product or service on a customer who doesn’t need it.
Instead, marketing is about sharing your knowledge and providing something of authentic value to your followers, prospects or clients.
Your consulting expertise is probably not truly exceptional but YOU certainly are. If you are struggling to start developing your content, start with telling the authentic story of your project struggles, your suffering in the trenches, your dealing with bottlenecks, the way you’ve solved critical client problems, and what others can learn from it.
Even if all of this could be profoundly personal, potential clients will quickly recognize their own problems in your story and can truly connect with you.
Content marketing is not a sales tool. It’s designed to build visibility, trust & authority. It has enabled me to create consulting opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Related article: For Consultants, Marketing Is Unbelievably Easy
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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)