This three-part article series lays out a high-impact business development framework for consulting firms. This is a practical framework for Partners and Directors to implement. It is based on core concepts of authority marketing and value-driven selling and can be used to consistently grow your consulting client base over time.
This business development framework is specifically designed for:
- Consulting firms with 20-500 consultants
- Partners and Directors responsible for growing the firm’s client base who can dedicate time for new client acquisition
- Firms that have a sales and marketing budget that covers more than business lunches, travel and the occasional industry event
This business development framework employs a three-legged approach including unique content (inbound leg #1), direct sales process (outbound leg #2) and structured client referrals (inbound leg #3) to drive new growth opportunities.
PART 1: Content Marketing to Acquire New Consulting Clients
3 GOALS of this Business Development Framework
GOAL #1: Generate Inbound Targeted Client Leads
GOAL #2: Build Market Authority
GOAL #3: Significantly Expand Your Consulting Firm’s Market Reach
Publishing unique, high-value content that delivers true value to your target clients is an essential component of growing a consulting practice.
Yet, most firms struggle with producing and distributing enough quality content, leaving a large gap in their business development process.
Investing in a high-quality content marketing program is one of the best growth strategies a consulting firm can take.
The 101: Before publishing anything, you need to clearly identify your ideal target reader, their pains and challenges. You need to offer a clear solution using keywords your prospective clients search for. Creating a publishing schedule and generating quality content consistently requires outside assistance. Otherwise it will simply get swept under the rug in the face of client demands. You must promote and deliver your content directly to your prospects. Finally, you need to leverage your content investment to capture new client leads.
Step 1: Focus on 2-3 Channels
Focus on 2-3 content publishing and distribution channels, then maximize them.
- Your Website / Blog. It takes awhile for Google to find your content. But you can accelerate content discovery with promotion and social sharing. Building your website into a captive evergreen IP asset yields tremendous ROI over time.
- LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn for targeted network-building. Then publish and share content directly with your network of ideal prospects. You can also share to LinkedIn Groups (with a valuable lead-in like an industry question) as long as the group owner allows it. Posting to your LinkedIn company page will help, but only if you have a large follower base.
- Third Party Platforms. Medium, BuzzFeed, SlideShare and industry hubs accept high-quality content submissions. These are excellent for getting your name out quickly to millions of readers. They can help build a web of backlinks to your website contact pages or opt-in offers (white papers, calculators, etc.)
- Guest Posting (blogs, industry hubs, podcasts, magazines). Positioning your firm leaders as contributors with popular industry education channels is a high-impact strategy that can yield immediate targeted traffic / leads, and push up your search engine rankings. This is best done by retaining an expert who knows how to reach very busy editors and position you properly.
- Industry Niche Speaking Engagements. Make a list of smaller, niche-focused industry events and networking groups, then contact the organizer with an offer to speak. There is no better venue to reach a targeted captive audience.
- Webinars (aka Live Training). A monthly webinar strategy can yield a substantial increase in new clients and build your opted-in list of target prospects. Webinars are more complex to run (it helps to have 3rd party assistance) but they are highly impactful for authority-building and lead generation.
- Video Blog. Adding video to your blog content substantially boosts its perceived value and creates engaging content for your email newsletter. You can brand your video series as you would a podcast. In many cases screen share videos work fine and are as easy to produce as giving a standard PowerPoint presentation. If you do talking head type videos, make sure you have top quality production but don’t overdo it — your videos should be focused on educational content and nobody cares about high definition video, soundtracks or sexy trailers. HINT: YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world so using it for your video publishing can get you nearly double the search results.
- Podcast. Setting up and producing a podcast takes some technical effort and promotion to create a following, so this is more of a long-term strategy. A podcast can be in single voice (i.e. you speaking about a topic) or an interview format. Podcast episodes can be incorporated into your website and articles for greater distribution, and publishing the transcript in text format creates content for search engines to index.
Step 2: Promote Your Content
Content typically takes a few months to start generating incoming targeted traffic if you rely solely on search engines. However, when using content to build your consulting firm using this business growth framework, you must accelerate the rate at which your prospects find and respond to it. This means paid promotion.
NOTE: The content marketing goal with this business development framework is to produce fewer pieces of ultra-high quality, in-depth, long form content. Then distribute that content to as many potential target buyers as possible. This reduces the burden of content creation (problematic for most consulting firms). It positions you as a leading market authority with as a many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Here are several effective ways to promote your content as part of an effective consulting business development framework:
- Team Sharing Strategy. You can create a structured content sharing strategy within your consulting firm. Each time a member of your team publishes content, the rest of your employees are notified. They must then share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- Content Discovery Platforms / Native Ad Networks. Services like Taboola, Revcontent, AdNow and Outbrain will promote your content to targeted readers on mass media outlets like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Bloomberg, etc. You can control the keywords, demographics, location and other filters so your content is only promoted to the right target niche.
- QuuuPromote.co. Quuu is a social content-curation-and-sharing platform where you can post high-quality unique blog posts. You can select the niche content pool to add your post. Once approved, thousands of Quuu members can then draw from this pool and automatically post your article to their social media streams on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. via Buffer. In a nutshell, this can get your blog post hundreds of shares and thousands of impressions across multiple relevant third-party social media accounts. (HERE’S AN EXAMPLE we promoted on Quuu that yielded 133 shares and 2k+ clicks in 1 month: https://www.funnelprofit.com/how-to-become-a-linkedin-social-media-manager/)
- LinkedIn Sponsored Posts. Sponsoring your posts on LinkedIn can yield a strong flow of potential clients and make this business development framework come alive. The key strength of LinkedIn is your ability to hyper-target your ad spend (this has been improving since Microsoft brought in its Bing Ads experts to work with the LinkedIn Ads team). Although the click flow is not as high on LinkedIn as Facebook or Twitter, the quality of leads is far superior, particularly in the B2B space. This an excellent strategy to expand your follower base on LinkedIn, which you can then publish to repeatedly for no additional cost.
- Google AdWords PPC. PPC ads may make sense for your market niche if there is enough search activity on Google for the services you offer.
- YouTube Ads. If you are publishing video content on YouTube, running ads to promote your videos will significantly increase your channel followers, and generate potential high-value client leads. Make sure your videos and video descriptions have clear calls-to-action and links to your website lead capture pages (or phone numbers).
Step 3: Opt-In Lead Capture System
You must have an opt-in lead capture system integrated with your content. This gives prospects a clear path to contact you and add themselves to your prospect database. This is an essential part of a content-driven business development framework for consulting firms.
An opt-in lead capture system includes:
- Content Upgrades / Lead Magnets. A relevant and valuable free offer, tool or resource the prospective client can sign up to get using an opt-in form. Each piece of long-form content should have its own “lead magnet” or “content upgrade” that is directly relevant to the content topic, and delivers a small slice of value. Examples include a PDF checklist, value calculator, white paper, recorded interview, video mini-course, free copy of a new book, recorded webinar, etc.
- Landing Pages. A landing page is a dedicated page designed solely to offer a valuable free product or service and capture opt-in leads to your email database. The prospect is automatically emailed the item he or she signed up for with an email autoresponder. You can then add these individuals to your email newsletter, CRM, etc. for further follow up. Landing page builders like Leadpages or Instapage or often used to increase conversions. You can link to these pages from your blog posts, articles on third-party platforms, videos, within PDFs, in PowerPoint presentations, etc.
- Email Opt-In Forms. These are the forms you install on your website to capture contact data and add new prospective clients to your database.
- Contact Page. Many potential clients prefer to contact your firm by phone instead of email. This adds a personal touch and short-cuts the process of getting to a discovery call. You can add links to your Contact Page in your content, or even list your phone number directly (although this isn’t recommended — if your contact information changes, it’s nearly impossible to go back and correct it once you’ve distributed your content across multiple platforms).
Content marketing is an essential part of a consulting business development framework. Content is a high-ROI investment that consulting firms can ramp up over time.
The key is to create unique, high-quality, long form content that delivers significant value to your target readers.
Promoting your content increases distribution and engagement.
Integrating lead capture tools will then create a flow of incoming new client opportunities.
Following this business development framework with your consulting firm will drive client growth and create substantial revenue-generating assets.
To learn more about a virtually bulletproof content strategy for growing your consulting firm, visit our content marketing funnels page.