I’ve been a marketing consultant for many years, working with all sorts of small business owners. Not only that, but I’ve also spent a lot of time with fellow marketing consultants, having developed the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
The topic of this podcast relates to any business, but especially to those in a service business or those who are marketing consultants. When you’re running this type of business, the key to success is developing a specific method for keeping clients happy and getting them increasingly better results over the years.
My business took off when I realized that there was a process to doing this, and in the intervening years, I’ve created a three step system, which I share with the Consultant Network, that helps them to keep clients for three years or longer. Today, I’m going to share that process with you.
1. Develop a Repeatable Process
Having a process that you can repeat and get better at is one of the secrets to scaling a consulting firm and keeping clients longer.
The Duct Tape Marketing System is our repeatable system. It relies heavily on the idea of placing strategy before tactics; we call our practice strategy first. We help our clients understand who their ideal client is, what their core message and value proposition are, and then use content as the voice of that strategy. All of this is mapped out over the customer journey, or what we call the marketing hourglass. Any client that walks through our door gets a variation of this service. After that, we get into build, grow, and ignite—our terminology for our implementation steps.
This allows us to have a repeatable process that isn’t simply cookie cutter. In reality, 80 percent of small businesses all need the same 80 percent of services. They just need those services applied in slightly different ways, depending on the specifics of their business and their core strengths. That is really what the consulting part of the job is; the other stuff is about implementation.
Beyond the repeatable marketing system for developing your strategy, you must also have a repeatable methodology. Every client is educated the same way, converted the same way, the discovery process and research you do for the client is managed the same way. You not only have a repeatable process for getting them results, you also have a repeatable process for their experience.
Our system is also built around the fact that marketing is always changing and evolving. We have 11 channels that our approach is built around.
We have to understand that all of these channels exist, and our job is to look at where each business is and then see which channels make sense for them. For example, if a business has an outdated website and no social media presence, they’re not going to be ready to start a podcast. We’ve got to go back to basics with them and get those foundational steps up and running before moving on to other channels.
We use the build, grow, and ignite roadmap to show a client how they’ll move down the roadmap. We charge a monthly retainer fee and can show a client exactly where we’re going to take them. A lot of consultants sell a project or specific result; we show clients how they have the ability to grow over the years if they stick with us and our broader plan for their business.
2. You Need a Consistent Flow of Leads (and a Process to Convert Them)
You don’t need a ton of leads or a complicated funnel to find them, you just need to make those leads convert. You need to get to a point where 50, 60, or 80 percent of those leads see a compelling reason to hire you.
A lot of consultants can get by with only a handful of clients at any given time. That means you only need to be speaking to two or three leads—as long as they’re the right leads—every month.
It’s important to establish a set of funnels. Don’t just put all of your prospecting eggs in one basket. Network with strategic partners to tap into their existing set of customers and contacts. Go out and speak at relevant events and conferences, establishing yourself as a thought leader and showing to people the value that you could add to their business, should they choose to hire you.
Content plays a huge role in the prospecting process. I’ve been speaking a lot recently about the value of hub pages.
If you want an example for how a hub page looks in the wild, check out our local marketing guide. This page is structured in a way that looks like an online course, and it contains everything you could want to know about local marketing. A lot of this content was written long before we created this hub page, but it was scattered everywhere.
We know people are looking for information about this broad topic, so we built a hub pages where we’ve taken all of our relevant content that we’ve written over the years, and structured it in a way that would be helpful for someone looking for a total crash course on the topic.
Then on the page we include a content upgrade—someone looking for local marketing tips is probably interested in the local SEO checklist, too. From there, we capture their email address and are able to start a conversation that gets us on the road to nurturing that lead.
Once we’ve shared information via our hub page and gotten the attention of leads with a content upgrade, we offer our Total Online Presence Audit. As a part of this audit process, we’ll look at your website and understand the message; look at the content, structure, SEO, paid leads, competitive landscape; and then provide you with a full report and recommendations on what should be your top priorities.
We charge a little money for this service. And the reason we do this is because it attracts leads that have the mentality of wanting to invest in their marketing. We’re then able to use the research from the Total Online Presence Audit to put together a thoughtful, specific proposal for that business, should they choose to engage us for marketing services.
This approach not only allows us to convert more people, but to also convert them to a higher priced fee. Customers get bought into wanting to really fix the problems we’ve identified, and then we’re able to convince them of the value of investing in a broader marketing strategy.
3. Have Trained Partners and an Account Team
Unless you’re just doing strategy consulting and not offering any sort of implementation, you’re going to need extra hands to help you get it all done. It doesn’t make sense for you as the consultant who’s building the business to spend time on implementation for each of your clients. You need to be free to do the higher level thinking on behalf of your clients and on scaling your own business.
Bringing in a team of qualified partners and an account team allows you to free up your time. And when your process is repeatable, it’s easy to delegate tasks to this team.
There are components of a repeatable process that you can train outside people to do. There are so many great freelance remote workers out there; you as the consultant can do the strategic thinking, but then you can ask the account manager to deal with the more tactical work.
They can also manage reporting. An account manager is able to keep track of both your clients and your partners, communicating with them on a weekly basis. You as the consultant can then stay at the strategic level, but you can remain in clients’ fields of vision each week so that they know they’re being taken care of.
Bonus Step: Invest in a Mentor and Community
When you’re a solopreneur, it’s important to have a community for feedback and support. You want proof that you’re not crazy, help finding new clients, and feedback on your strategy and approach.
Working by yourself in a room every day can be lonely and leave you feeling disconnected. Finding a community that is doing the same thing you’re doing can be extremely valuable (both in growing your business and keeping your spirits high).
If you’re a consultant and anything resonates that you’ve heard here today resonates, check out ducttape.me/discover for information on upcoming live trainings with me, where I walk you through the methodology of our Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
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