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The 5 Funnels Every Consultant Should Build

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.

42 10 Ways to Supercharge Your B2B Lead Generation Efforts

B2B lead generation seems to be a mystery to many marketers. Just do a search on the topic and you’ll find little that’s helpful.

In my opinion, there are two reasons for this. One – people are searching for that one killer lead tactic that will mask all ills or, Two – people fail to realize that successful B2B lead generation is made up of activities that are by nature very hard to quantify and pin down.

B2B Lead Generation

The latter then leads to plenty of articles spouting the virtues of practices such as inbound marketing and content marketing, but little hard advice on how to make any of it pay.

Here’s my take – the real problem lies in the fact that you don’t simply generate a lead today, you guide it.

You can no longer run an ad that say’s “hey, we’ve got what you’re looking for come and get it” and expect much. Once a prospect actually knows what they are looking for, they’re already looking for a price.

Nope, it’s a process that involves many components working together that just happen to culminate in “a lead or click,” but know this, that click isn’t the thing; it’s merely the vehicle. Don’t get caught in the trap of relying on that kind of measure to show you what’s working.

Proper lead generation – or lead guiding – goes more like this – 1) Hey, here’s the real problem you need to address, 2) hey, here are a couple ways you might start to think about that problem, 3) hey, here’s one specific way to solve that problem and maybe, just maybe, 4) hey, here’s why we might be the right one to help you fix that problem.

This kind of process comes to life in the combination of the right activities delivered at the right time in the customer’s journey. It takes a mindset of consistently calling to action while consistently offering to loop a prospect back into consuming more content.

Below are ten B2B lead generation practices that must be used in some combination to guide the act of building a steady stream of highly qualified leads. No matter if you run a marketing department tasked with generating leads or you’re an individual sales person trying fill the lead gap, this is your plan of action.

1) Answer focused blogging

I know everyone tells you that you must be blogging today, but simply waking up on a Monday and deciding what to say is what leads to immediate blogging burnout. You must blog, but you must do it with intention.

Here’s the easiest way to do that. Go to your sent email folder and find a dozen or so questions you’ve answered from clients and prospective clients.

Now, turn each of those into blog posts.

Then, think about the questions your prospects might be asking or thinking before they ever consider your product or service as a possible solution.

For example, I was speaking to a group of Franchise print shops and asked them to tell me what questions a prospective customer might be asking at the earliest part of the their journey to find a print shop.

As you might have guessed most said things like – can I trust this shop, is there a print shop nearby, what should I print? But here’s the thing – there may be a few that are asking those kinds of question, but most are still asking – “How do I get more sales, how do I find more leads, how do I increase my conversion rates?”

The point is that to make blogging pay as a lead generation source you’ve first got to start answering those kinds of questions.

Dig up as many of those types of questions and put them on an editorial calendar for your blogging efforts for the next six months.

Once you get good at that you can turn a series of relevant posts into other forms of content such as videos and eBooks.

2) Social relationship building

Many B2B businesses are looking for a few dozen good clients, so I find it odd that they get sucked into the friends, likes and followers trap.

Social media as a lead generation tool is simply a really powerful way to build and nurture relationships. Stop using it as a broadcast tool and start thinking about influencing and adding value around 50 or 100 prospects.

Go to LinkedIn and leave all those industry and job title related groups you signed up for and find two or three groups where your actual prospects hang out and look for advice. Start asking and answering questions in these groups. Start building targeted prospect lists in these groups using LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool.

Start building trusted relationships based on your expertise and your network, start referring others and connecting these people to the tools, answers and resources they need and you’ll start to generation the right leads in social media.

3) Seminars and webinars

For many B2B lead generation environments, the most effective tactic involves in person education through events like seminars and webinars.

When a prospect gets to see and hear that you provide valuable advice, that you seem like a nice enough sort and that you have an answer or two for the precise challenges they are struggling with at the moment, some instant magic can occur.

Never mind that from a content creation stand point the ongoing series you create can also be turned into a powerful trust building asset or even a product in itself.

Here are some examples created by Duct Tape Marketing Consultants Vicki James and Kevin Jordan.

Like so many of the tactics in this post, this one relies on integration and follow-up via one or more of the tactics listed here.

4) Sponsor and be sponsored

We all want referrals, right? There’s no question that the best form of lead generation is the right kind of referral ushered to your door. And yet, few people actively promote this very form of lead generation – if it happens, it happens by accident.

I’ve built the bulk of my consulting and speaking business on the sponsor and be sponsored concept.

Here’s how it works.

Create an information rich, education focused eBook and/or webinar and reach out to other related businesses and ask them if they would like to cobrand the eBook or offer the webinar to their network free of charge.

Many know that they should be offering this kind of information, but haven’t gotten around to it so they will see your offer as a blessing and you’ll receive the benefit of essentially being referred to their entire network.

I’ve used this idea in tandem to great effect as well.

An organization will ask me to speak to their members and I’ll double up by allowing them to use an eBook I’ve created related to the topic. This way I reach the members in attendance, but I’ll also gain awareness throughout the group and give those that heard me speak deeper insight into how they could work with me.

But, you don’t have to stop there.

Go out and find someone else’s great eBook or webinar and arrange to cobrand that content as a lead generation magnet for yourself. One of the more popular lead capture options I have on my site is an eBook on Fee Based Selling written by my friends at FreshBooks.

Slideshare is a great site for finding people that might be great webinar guests and a search on Google for “yourtopic” filetype:pdf will turn up nothing but eBook related to the topics you choose.

5) Sequential lead magnets

I went fly fishing recently and I found this clear deep hole in the river where fish were actively rising to the top to eat. Things had been pretty slow to that point so I put some dry flies on and cast right on their noses.

Immediately my targeted fish rose, took a look and swam away. I kept at it, offering new casts and new flies and eventually after a number of presentations I would catch the fish.

Few things generate quality leads like a series of sequential offers that lead prospects deeper and deeper into your educational grip.

By setting up a process that by nature moves your prospect along, exposes them to increasingly valuable content and opportunities to get to know your approach better you set up relationship where it begins to feel as though you are working with a client as opposed to nurturing a lead.

You can accomplish this process through a sequential series of videos or even a series of checklists, each offering more pieces to the puzzle. One of the keys to this approach is that you sell the value of the series and set the expectation that your prospect is going on a journey of value.

6) Small batch direct mail

I return once again to the idea of smaller is better. I know we all want to do that blast thing and have it rain leads, but the more personal you can get the better.

You will receive far greater results targeting 50 or 100 ideal prospects a month and reaching out with a personalized letter outlining one highly actionable idea than any other form of mass communication out there.

For example, imagine getting a personal letter that included a statement like this: “We’ve found over the years that our customers want to know how to generate more leads. We’ve also found that one of the most effective ways to actually do this is [fill in your killer tactic here]” If you would like to receive more tips like this or learn how to more fully employ this idea please visit our video series here [your URL].”

7) Relevant warm calling

I would never advocate cold calling, although plenty of people still do it. The problem is that the notion of cold implies dumb calling. I still get calls today from people who start off by saying that they would like to come by and spend 30 minutes of my time learning what I do to see if there are any synergies.

First off, let me say that if you use the word synergies you probably aren’t going sell me anything, but further, let me say that it is nearly impossible to not know what my business does – heck, you wouldn’t have to work that hard to have my family medical history and some knowledge of my music and food choices, so no call should ever be cold.

Picking up the phone and connecting after thoroughly researching relevant and personalized discussion topics is how you create warm calls.

Let’s back up to the previous point concerning small batch direct mail. A powerful way to up the response of said small batch mail is to claim in that letter that you intend to call the recipient next Tuesday to talk about several more ways they can increase their sales.

Very affordable technology exists today that would let you know which of the letter recipients visited the link in your letter and might just be ready for a call. Most marketing automation tools such as those from Marketo, Infusionsoft and Salesforce incorporate this kind of technology.

You can begin to inject this idea into other lead generation elements as well. If you have a webinar sign up form start asking for phone numbers. You don’t have to make it mandatory, but try reaching out to a few that provide the number simply as a way to make sure they have what they need, offer to answer questions about the event or even send them a tool for note taking.

You don’t have to be a pest when you call people, in fact, don’t sell, just be useful. Even useful voice message follow ups will let people know you are human and aren’t going to hard sell anything.

Reaching out via the telephone in a useful manner will help build trust for your other lead generation initiatives.

8) Smart networking

My friend Derek Coburn has written a tremendous book on networking called – Networking Is Not Working. If you have not read it highly recommend.

Coburn debunks the value of the traditional meet and dump kind of networking that people tend to waste their time doing.

If you want to make networking pay you have to look at it as a tool for connecting others rather than getting connected.

Here’s the difference – instead of reaching into LinkedIn to see who you can connect with, reach into your existing network and find a handful of people that need to meet some shining stars in your network.

In fact, start looking to connect with more and more people who can help your connections instead of help you.

When you view networking as your opportunity to build bridges that help others – guess what happens – you become a lead magnet.

Yes this takes time and effort and it can be hard to quantify right off the bat, but building lead momentum isn’t for those who are afraid of work.

9) Interview ideal clients

I intentionally stayed away from the word podcast because so many people don’t want to be podcasters. Here’s the thing though, I don’t want you be a podcaster any more than I want you to be a blogger – but you absolutely must have a blog!

Here’s what I want you to do. Create a podcast so you can gain access to your ideal clients in a highly leveraged way.

If you want to work with CEOs of mid size manufacturing companies then create a show where you interview successful CEOs of mid size manufacturing companies who just happen to be happy to share their journey to success with your listeners.

Okay, maybe you don’t have any listeners, but your guests don’t need to know that and while you are building your following you’ll be getting some awesome content that helps you build authority in the space you work and just might land you in a conversation with a prime prospect.

Podcasting is not as complicated as it might sound and there are plenty of resources, such as The Podcast Answer Man, to help teach you what you need to know to turn this into a lead generation play.

10) Paid traffic

I’ve placed advertising as the final piece of the B2B lead generation list not because I don’t think it has much value, but because it’s so much more effective when you are doing many of the other elements prior to buying ads.

Ironically advertising is the easiest tactic – anyone with some cash can throw up ads and generate a few clicks and maybe even leads with very little effort. The only problem is that the leads are often uneducated and unqualified.

The way to create the highest quality leads is to invest in teaching them how to be ideal clients. When you employ many of the previous tactics you can use your advertising to drive prospects to any number of educational opportunities, such as video tips, webinars, eBooks, and, now that you have one, your podcast, knowing that the traffic you send to these elements will do the proper job of educating and ultimately selling.

Here’s some of my favorite plays for paid traffic

You’ve probably run across some of these suggestions in search for lead generation answers, but the real point here is that you’ve got to employ numerous lead generation tactics, working together, in order to create lead momentum.