The internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunity when it comes to marketing and generating new business leads. And from one-man-bands to SMEs and global enterprises, consultancies are now reaping the benefits of having an online lead generation strategy in place.
Yet even with all the digital tools, communication channels, and online marketing tactics now in play, the most successful route to securing new business remains word of mouth. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore online! It has a hugely important role to play here too, as nowadays after a recommendation is given, the first place a potential prospect will head is online. They’ll want to check out the company and/or consultant and what they find will guide their next steps. If they can’t find anything then the chances are pretty slim that they will take it any further.
So getting it right online is a must, whether you’re going for it with your online lead generation, or your focus is entirely offline and you just want something to support that.
To help you check your strategy is the strongest it can be, we’ve pulled together a list of the 5 biggest mistakes that consultancy firms can make when it comes to online lead generation. These are the most common traps to try and avoid:
Mistake 1. Not having the basics in place
Everything needs to stem from your basic brand promise. What makes you unique? What makes you stand out from the crowd? It’s a competitive marketplace so to generate new leads your offer needs to be more appealing than everybody else’s.
Here’s what you need to look at:
Have clear USPs
Develop a short and long form explanation of what you do. Be sure to avoid any jargon and to make every word count. Nobody will be interested in what can be assumed anyway – terms like you ‘have the best people’ and ‘achieve results’ are general and leave no real impression. Try to be specific, include numbers and detail the benefits and/or results you can bring to your customers.
Present strong personal branding
People do business with people, so never underestimate the power of your personal brand. Make sure you’re well represented, for example by having your photos professionally taken and ensure all the information about you is up to date. Remember to check LinkedIn, and any other online profiles, to check they are also the strongest they can be. What impression are they giving of you? What information, skills and experience is being shared?
Use an excellent CRM solution
Networking is king when it comes to the consulting world and generating new business, so you need software that can handle your unique needs. You need to be able to take notes and keep track on all your interactions.
Share compelling case studies and testimonials
Both of these items take effort to put together, however they are worth their weight in gold if you get them right. Take the time to develop both. For testimonials, don’t expect people to write them themselves. If they are willing to give you one then write a suggested draft for them to sign off. Saves them time and is far more likely to get you an answer quickly, plus the specific comments you would like to have.
Know your key benefits
It is very easy to rattle off all the features of a service, but it’s much more important to be able to talk clearly about the results you can help your clients’ achieve. These are the benefits that you need to bring to the table. Wording these well can take time but it will help you with your future marketing materials and in showing why people work with you.
Mistake 2. Not having a clear strategy mapped out
Sometimes consultancies, particularly if they are small and time and resources are in short supply, may be tempted to skip fully thinking through a detailed strategy. Instead, they may try out ideas as a bit of jerk reaction – such as jumping on the latest ideas they’ve read about, or trying something out that seems to be working for others.
When it comes to making lead generation work, though, it is vital to have a strategy. Think what your goal is, what success will look like and how you will get there. Then give yourself an appropriate amount of time to test out and follow your strategy. Stick to it until you have done a good amount of time and can effectively review it.
Some key pointers to keep in mind when it comes to your strategy are:
Consider offering a free consultation
As a consultant, you need people to know you, like you and trust you. This is difficult if the customer only has your website and a brochure to rely on. As a strategic move in your marketing, consider putting together some form of offer that leads can request, which will give them a taste of what it’s like to work with you. It will require little commitment on their part but still give them the perfect opportunity to get to know you.
Examples of how to this include: free consultation (make sure you outline the exact contents of this and what you’ll provide), a workshop with the client (doesn’t have to be free, could be for a lower fee), or a mini-project.
Once you’ve figured out which offer would work for you, then market that instead of your actual services.
Show yourself to be an expert
A key way to get seen and to create a good impression is to position yourself as an expert and continually demonstrate your expertise. As part of your strategy, try to regularly produce materials and undertake activity that will show off your knowledge and experience. Aim to find opportunities for speaking engagements, anything from small talks to bigger seminars, so you can get out there.
Know where your target clients can be found
Whether you work off a list of desired clients or want to attract a generic buyer persona, you need to know where you can find your targets. Are they definitely a fan and active on Twitter? If not then building up your own Twitter profile isn’t going to be a helpful use of time. It could be that offline networking events are where you need to be focusing your efforts. Do your research and make sure you are where your potential clients can meet you.
Mistake 3. Generating mediocre content
As part of your strategy include the aim of creating a lot of content around your field of expertise. This will be crucial when it comes to lead generation success. The buzz word here is quality. For example, when you write an e-book, make it the best there is available on the subject. Don’t settle for anything less. Quality will always win over quantity, particularly in the case of consultants where your business is driven on your expertise. Here’s how you do it:
Take your time and research your topic well. Add lots of references, again choosing sources of quality material. If doesn’t matter whether you can personally write well or not – make sure the presentation is impeccable and the content itself is excellent by retaining the skills of a copy editor and then hand it over to a graphic designer who can make it look visually appealing.
Try not to rely too heavily on stock photography, i.e. images you can purchase in from photo and graphics libraries. You’ll often find the same images are used all over the place, instantly making you look and feel generic. Instead, consider creating your own stock photo library with a professional photographer. They could take pictures of you doing your work in various scenarios which will then give you an original, and professional look.
How you come across when speaking to an audience is very important. Get it right and it can work very well for lead generation. To make your offering as strong as it can be invest time in a public speaking coach, to help you articulate your speeches and structure them well. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ isn’t just a running joke, unfortunately, it’s still happening. Don’t fall into this trap. Have engaging slides with more visual than verbal content. You can always prepare a handout with more detailed written content on it, to give out afterwards.
Mistake 4. Neglecting offline marketing
With all the excitement of online lead generation, it’s easy to forget that one-on-one networking remains one of the most successful tactics available, for generating new leads and new business. Likewise, the action of picking up the phone to catch up with leads – when did you last engage your leads in an actual conversation?
If you are a bigger firm you may think about organizing your own in-person event to invite specific accounts to. Or if you don’t have the budget for that, perhaps you could team up with other consultants or a bigger firm, to host a joint event.
Mistake 5. Trying to be all things to all people
Are you trying to be everything to everybody? Instead, follow the lead of many of the most successful consultants and carve out your niche – then become the best in that niche. Rule your field and start building a specialist reputation that will spread far and wide.
The idea is to be known for your particular field of expertise (and the more precise that is the better), then during conversations, people may mention you to others…”Oh for that you should really speak to….”.
In the end, it all comes down to focusing on building the relationships that are important for your business and ongoing success. Consultants are people who work with people, never forget that in your marketing and lead generation activities.