Making marketing work

If you read only one section in this book, let it be this one. Copy it, highlight it, or place a bookmark in it, but come back to it. It's the best refresher on keeping your marketing on course.

► Remember Your Values

Periodically compare your practice performance to your original plans. First, identify your ultimate goals, what you hoped to accomplish—for clients and for yourself—financially, professionally, and personally. Do they still hold true? Is what you're now doing a career or an interim step? Will your findings change the potential clients you plan to target and the development of your marketing plan?

Examine your role in the consulting industry; determine the part you want to play. Does it conform to how you want to lead your life? By looking to the future, you can find guidelines that will motivate you to take the steps you need to succeed.

► Select Your Targets

Define your market and thoroughly research it from top to bottom. Understand the competitive environment and identify your rivals' strengths and weaknesses. Discover what the market and potential clients need. Find hot-button issues you can address, but don't select too many targets. Choose an industry segment or a group of companies to target even if you specialize in a specific business function, such as finance, fulfillment, or production.

Concentrate your efforts on markets that need your expertise or are underserved. If you enter a crowded market, be prepared to make a marketing splash to overcome the advantage held by incumbent firms.

► Distinguish Yourself

Consultants tend to market their services similarly: Their materials look the same, contain the same words, and provide the same charts. Even their Web sites and brochures look alike. However, consulting is a huge industry filled with many highly branded and talent-rich firms. Use their marketing similarity to your advantage; distinguish yourself because most clients are looking for fresh ideas.

Resist temptation and don't look at other consultants' marketing materials until you've developed your own concepts. Create distance, stand out, be provocative, and don't worry about alienating potential clients. Those who may be offended are probably companies you should avoid. Offer something special and different, or you won't get business. It's that simple.

► Create Your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan identifies you and the value and approach you bring to the market. It describes, in direct, simple terms, your firm and your ongoing marketing program. It forces you to boil down your marketing ideas to their essence and to express them so that clients, potential clients, consultants, and collaborators can clearly understand your meaning. Your marketing plan is the centerpiece of your marketing approach and determines how you'll be regarded in the market.

► Choose Your Marketing Weapons

Focus on your Web site and identify other sales tactics, such as speaking, writing, publishing, and publicity. Choose weapons that will spread your message through various media outlets. Identify the members of your staff who will be responsible for the various elements of your campaign, including design, execution, and measurement. Determine the order in which you plan to launch each marketing initiative and coordinate it with the rest of your campaign.

Don't kick off all your marketing measures at once. Instead, stagger your initiatives and execute your plan methodically to obtain frequent exposure over an extended period. Don't blow your entire budget all at once or prospective clients will soon forget about you. Keep reminding them and they'll not only notice you, they'll give you credibility and accept you as a viable player in the industry.

► Set Up a Marketing Calendar

Identify how and when you would like to launch your program to market your consulting services. Design a precise, step-by-step listing of how you wish to proceed, but make it flexible enough to accommodate change. Build in substantial lead time so that you can prepare and coordinate all items entered on your calendar. Write a separate plan for the preparation and testing of your marketing materials before your campaign begins.

► Launch Your Marketing Program

Follow your marketing calendar even if it doesn't seem to be producing results. Avoid the temptation to alter it for at least a few months. If you have designed it carefully and thoroughly tested it, the plan should work, so give it time. At some point, your program should begin to create momentum and build, but the process may be gradual and take more time than you expect.

If, after some time has passed, it seems clear that a part of your marketing plan is not working or generating the momentum you need, see what you can add to get it going. If that fails, change course and move in other directions.

Implement all items at the times designated on your marketing calendar. Your clients and prospects will expect—and hopefully look forward to receiving—your zine, articles, and other materials. Meet your deadlines; plan ahead. Anticipate when projects, proposals, or other interruptions could demand your attention and try to stagger them so they won't arise when you're putting out your zine or writing an article.

In marketing, consistency and continuity pay big dividends. If you suspend or delay your program, you risk losing the benefits of the exposure you've worked so hard to get. Keep in mind that your competitors will still be marketing. In fact, in your absence, they may even step up their marketing efforts.

► Measure Performance

Identify which of your marketing approaches are working and which are not. Also determine how well they're doing. Many consultants don't track the return on investment from each of their marketing efforts. Instead, they assume that when a program creates leads, it's worth the investment.

Monitor how well each marketing initiative is serving to bring in leads. Any efforts that are not producing leads should be reassessed. A consultant who wrote a series of articles for a human resources magazine received responses only from readers who were searching for jobs. When the consultant broadened his focus and published pieces in other industry journals, leads poured in.

► Regenerate

Sooner or later, every plan needs revision. Conditions always change and your plan must be flexible enough to address the new order. Review the results of your marketing efforts every quarter and add or subtract weapons from your arsenal accordingly. Also consider changing your order for rolling out various marketing initiatives. On the basis of your review, you may decide to offer new services or employ new market weapons.

Three simple words summarize how consultants succeed with guerrilla marketing:

1. Action

2. Passion

3. Creativity

These three words represent the difference between those who sell a few projects and those who build sustainable, profitable consulting practices. This is a great time to be a consultant. More than ever, clients need help, and they are open to the new ideas and approaches that you can supply. Let guerrilla marketing lead the way and help you finish first.

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