Starting your own consulting firm can be overwhelming. You feel confident in your knowledge and expertise, but being great at what you do doesn’t automatically translate to having a whole host of clients, clamoring at your door.
To guarantee that you have a steady flow of clients, you must establish a client generation system. With the acquisition of just six to eight more clients, most marketing firms go from surviving to thriving. So if you can take these simple steps to establish a process for attracting prospects and nurturing them appropriately, you can make a world of difference for your business long-term.
Here are the five marketing funnels that every consultant must build in order to grow their business.
1. Prospect Nurture Funnel
Of course, the first step to landing new clients is attracting new prospects and appropriately caring for them. In today’s digital marketing landscape, there are many places you can turn to if you’re looking to attract new prospects.
Search remains a major channel for B2Bs, so making sure you have a strong SEO strategy and are running AdWords campaigns is one critical way to get noticed by new prospects. Social media ads, on Facebook and LinkedIn, especially, are another way for B2Bs to reach the appropriate audience.
And even in our digital world, old school tactics still hold weight. A study out of Temple University demonstrated the effectiveness of print ads; people spend a long time reading them, have a stronger emotional reaction to them, and are more likely to recall information they read in print than online.
Once you’ve made initial contact with a prospect, creating an email series to nurture the relationship is the logical next step. Start with an offer to welcome them into the fold. From there, create a series that’s set to trigger based on certain actions the prospect takes. By personalizing the content they receive, you go a long way to building up their trust in your business.
Share the most useful content and tools from your consulting practice. Once you’ve proven your value over the course of several emails, follow up with a call to action. If they take you up on the offer, you know that they’re a hot lead and worthy of additional time and attention.
2. Speaking Funnel
I’ve been talking about the idea of speaking for leads for many years now. When you have the opportunity to get up in front of an audience for 45 minutes and prove your expertise and value as a marketing consultant, it’s an incredibly powerful thing.
Whether you’re hosting a webinar or giving an in-person speech, presenting on a topic you’re knowledgeable about and sharing information that adds value for your audience is essentially like giving a sales pitch to a room full of prospects all at once. Rather than having to set up 30, 60, or 100 separate sales calls, you’ve done it all in one hour-long presentation.
After you’ve given your talk, follow up with your audience via email. Present them with a limited-time offer—something just for them that will entice them to act right away. This encourages them to take the leap immediately after they’ve had a great experience hearing from you about your business.
Continue to follow up with emails that add value: an FAQ series, meaningful content, a case study showing how you helped one of your existing customers achieve their marketing goals. With every email they receive, they’ll reflect fondly on the value they received from your initial presentation. And hopefully, they’ll eventually move towards being a hot lead that can be nurtured further.
3. Partnering and Network Funnel
When it comes to finding new leads, it’s often best to tap into your existing networks. Cold emails or calls can easily be ignored. But when you reach out to your network of connections and partners, you’re likely to find greater success.
When you meet someone in the real world, follow up with them by connecting on LinkedIn. It’s also possible to connect with new people through LinkedIn alone, but if you do that, it’s best to do your research before reaching out. People can tell when they’re receiving the copy-pasted introductory message. Taking a few extra minutes to get to know something about the individual you’re messaging and referencing that in your first message can go a long way to them accepting your request to connect.
Once you’ve made that initial contact with someone, do not move right to the sale! We’ve all gotten that cold pitch from a stranger before, and it often feels icky. That’s because they haven’t gotten to know you, and so their offer for help feels insincere.
Instead, the best way to reach out to those in your network is to start by adding value. Share something that you think would be of interest to that individual. If you’re talking to someone who owns a commercial real estate firm, send them that article you just saw about the state of commercial development in your city. Once you’ve shown that you can add value, ask them about their goals. What do they want to achieve with their business, and how do they hope to get there? If there’s an opportunity for you to help them reach those goals, let them know about your relevant solution.
If they have a goal that’s outside the bounds of marketing, you can still help! Take a look at your network of partners and refer them to a fellow business owner you know and trust to get the job done. Even though this won’t immediately lead to business for you, when this prospect has a great experience with your trusted partner, they’ll think of you fondly as the person that brought them together. And your partner will appreciate that you referred a great client their way and will look to do the same for you in the future.
4. Sales Follow-up Funnel
These first three funnels were for prospects who were earlier on in the process. But what about those prospects with whom you’ve met and presented a sales pitch? As you might have guessed, there’s a funnel for them, too.
Once you meet with someone in-person or over the phone, this is the time when they might start to get cold feet. Sure, they think you’re great, but now they’re considering the very real commitment of signing a contract and writing you a check.
It’s your job to continue to dazzle them and convince them that the work you do is well worth the price. Start by sending your prospect a personalized video recap of your discussion. This shows that you listened and took careful notes during the meeting, and it allows you to ensure that you’re both still on the same page.
From there, send them a case study that demonstrates the potential value of working with you. You have the power to eliminate the problems they’re facing in their marketing, and you have proof that you’ve done it for other happy customers in the past.
If you haven’t won them over totally yet, offer to meet up again. This is your opportunity to address any lingering objections and to prove once more that you’re a great listener who understands and cares about the problems they face.
After that second meeting is the time to send another set of follow-up communications. Begin by sharing a piece of information or content that made you think of them. This is a low-pressure way for you to stay top-of-mind with your prospect as they continue to weigh their options. Finally, give it one last check-in. Sometimes your success in winning over a prospect is more about persistence than any of your marketing skills.
5. Referral Funnel
Once you’ve gotten more happy customers on board, it’s time to establish a referral funnel. Referrals are the engine that will power your business; creating a situation where happy customers can easily pass your name along to others in their network guarantees you a steady stream of business for years to come.
Start by setting the table with an email. When you get a referral from an existing customer, reach out to provide a brief outline of what you do, and indicate that you’d love to set up a time to chat to learn more about their challenges and see how you can help.
Once you’ve met in person or over the phone, follow up—just as you should after a sales pitch—with a video recap. Again, this provides you the opportunity to send your prospect a personalized video that outlines their questions and concerns and indicates the solutions you’d propose and next steps.
Follow that up with a list of FAQs that you often get from prospects and customers. People who are just dipping their toes in the waters of hiring a marketing consultant often have many of the same fears and concerns. You sharing this list of FAQs can help your prospect see that their doubts are normal and may help to assuage them.
Next up, share a valuable resource or tool you have on hand. This can be something like an ebook or recording of a webinar, or it might be a checklist or infographic. No matter what it is, make sure it’s something that adds value and addresses the specific concerns this prospect outlined in your initial call.
From there, offer to hop on the phone or meet in person again. Very often, prospects need a second opportunity to ask a whole new set of questions that have arisen as they’ve been thinking about partnering with a marketing consultant.
Finally, after that second call, share a case study from your business. Now that they’ve had the opportunity to meet with you twice and feel confident in your abilities and expertise, an additional example of you doing great work for another business owner can be the final bit of information they need to seal the deal.
Most consultants have the power to transform their business from so-so to stellar with the addition of only a handful of clients. But to win over new business, you have to build a series of simple, repeatable funnels to nurture your leads and take them through the process to become full-fledged customers. This client generation system empowers you to continuously move prospects down the customer journey towards becoming happy, long-term clients who repeat and refer your business often.