The best way to market your business is through your group of business contacts and friends. This is called networking and I’m not talking about LANs. There is a separate topic in our entrepreneurship that covers marketing so I will not dwell on it much. Just keep in mind that you don’t need to advertise to market your services. Remember about networking, in twelve years of consulting I never spent a dime on advertising but I was marketing my services all the time. The best way to get new projects is thru referrals.
The Benefits of Marketing:
* Focuses your business and your efforts
§ Determine the wants of your target market
§ Helps you adapt your business to the market
* Makes you do today what is needed to secure additional business
* Makes you visible
* Improves your organization
Your Target market
You should determine three things about your target market:
1. The geographic range
2. Types of businesses
3. Expertise of your client base
One way of analyzing your intended market is via a market survey. If you intend to send out a survey keep it short, and send it to a limited number of clients. You may have some difficulty getting many of the recipients to take the time to fill out the survey so don’t expect to receive all surveys back. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope to increase potential responses. The best way to survey is to conduct one yourself by visiting all of the clients you find in your target market. This is pretty easy if you are going to market your consulting services to a limited client type such as lawyer offices.
What you want to learn from a survey? The most important thing to learn, is there a potential need for your service? You want to become aware of possible opportunities and problems. Additionally you want to learn specific buying patterns and how you can exploit those patterns.
Promoting Your Business
There are three ways to attract business clients. These include
* Using friends and associates as your first clients
* Advertising the products and/or services you offer
* Establish a reputation for excellence in your chosen field
The first and third item are part of “networking” and either you have a good network of friends and business associates or you need to develop one. It takes time to establish a good list of contacts, but professional meetings and volunteer organizations are a good way to start.
The second item is true “advertising” and like I stated earlier I have not ever needed to spend any money on that. If your consulting business is new to an area or a new career for you then you will need to advertise some. Newspapers, Yellow pages, and professional journals are very appropriate ways to advertise. I know that some of my associates have run a column in the local paper titled something like “Ask the Tech” where it appears that they are providing answers to clients questions and there by established them as the local “Expert!”.
If you have a good relationship with an established business, you can provide services that compliment an established businesses service, such as, joining with a legal firm or electronics store. The important thing with these relationships is to establish up front any fiscal or legal arrangements. Perhaps you can start the relationship by providing the partner lower cost service in exchange for their reputation.
Good partners include the following: medical practices, dentist office, opticians, office supply stores, electronic retailers and wholesalers, non-profit organizations, office communes, educational institutions, and many more.
How Much do you Spend?
The best plan is to allocate a certain percentage of your time and money on marketing. If you are an independent consultant, you may find that your first contract may require nearly all your time completing the task. Then when that project is done you may find yourself with nothing to do. To eliminate this “feast or famine” scenario, you need to perform consulting and marketing simultaneously. What I found was that I spent about 10 to 15% of my time marketing so I believe that is about how much time/money you need to devote to marketing. Of course, you may need to allocate more or less depending on the specific area you are choosing for you services.
The type of marketing you will need to do will depend on the type of business client that you want to attract. As your business consulting progresses you will need to evaluate and adjust your marketing plan.