Interview Transcript Draft
Mike Zipursky: Hi, everyone! It’s Michael Zipursky here from Consulting Success. And today on the line, I have Rochelle Moulton.
Rochelle’s a serial consultant (maybe I just invented that term) and now works with authors, artists and consultants to help develop their brands as well as revenue models and strategy.
Rochelle worked at a large consulting firm, and then started her own consulting business and grew that, sold it six years later and then worked in a few different business and consulting roles before really getting into her current company.
Again, I’m really excited to have Rochelle on today’s show. So Rochelle, welcome!
Rochelle Moulton: Thank you, Michael. I’m happy to be here.
Mike Zipursky: Is that a term I just invented – ‘serial consultant’?
Rochelle Moulton: I like that. I’ve heard of serial entrepreneur, but yeah, serial consultant sounds like it just fits.
Mike Zipursky: Same thing: I’ve heard the entrepreneur thing used many times by people and I was always interested when people call themselves serial entrepreneurs, but you can say it about someone else so I thought that would be a good fit for you.
Let’s get started. Rochelle, you helped one of your clients go from earning $500 each speech to earning $15,000 per speech. That’s a massive jump. What did you do to help them?
Rochelle Moulton: It was a massive jump. Thinking about it, we did it in 18 months which is even more fabulous.
Let me give you a little bit of back story. When I met the client, he had just published his second book. He was just coming back from his book tour. The books were a great niche. It tied to his area of expertise. So that was all good. But he’d never approached his speaking business the same way he did the books. And so he was literally flying around the country for $500 a speech. So a travel day there, a travel day back and a day there. He was working 3 days for $500, but here, he was selling all these books. It made no sense.
Where we started was he first agreed he would not do another speech for $500 unless it was for a cause near and dear to his heart. And then what we did is we really zeroed in on what was his value as a speaker. What was the experience that he delivered, and how could we take that and package that in a way that the potential clients could really see the value? And then we can start to wretch it up his speaking fee.
This was someone who is an absolute expert in his field and the experience he delivered was teaching people about his field, but also having them changed. They had an experience when they were all together and they were never the same afterwards.
And as we started to focus on that then we took him from $500 – first, we took him to $2,500. And frankly, we could have taken him faster but he was worried that he might not get the gig. So we took him $2,500 then $5,000 then $7,500 and we kind of skipped over the $10,000 and went right to $15,000.
Mike Zipursky: And how did that work then? As you’re helping this client to increase their consulting rates, are they one day at $5,000 and then the next day, $7,500? How do you decide the timing of when to make that increase?
Rochelle Moulton: In this particular case, I would say it was more art than science and it wasn’t a flat number because we didn’t put the number out there anywhere other than directly in a conversation; email or voice with a potential client.
A lot of it would depend on who the client was and a lot of times the client were associations that wanted a speaker on a particular topic. For us, it’s not unlike having a negotiation with a client that is hiring you to do consulting. You have to decide what your fee is. And the fee isn’t always your hourly rate times the number of hours it’s going to take you to do it. It’s value-building and sometimes it’s how much budget the client has.
Even when he was doing speeches for $5,000, he would occasionally do some for $2,500 but he wouldn’t get on a plane to do it.
Mike Zipursky: Right. And so the actual change that was happening within – you said it was kind of re-packaging what he was providing, a clear focus on value. Was all of that then taken and was it put into his marketing materials or was it just used in speaking with prospective clients? How did he actually take what you taught him, and showed him and then put it into action? What was the actual kind of outcome of that in a sense of format and such?
Rochelle Moulton: Sure. And I think the takeaway for your audience is when somebody looks at your website, you have to make them not work for it. They need to be able to see what you speak about and the results you can get from that speaking.
What we did is we took his books and we narrowed them down into three speaking topics. And then we wrote about a paragraph about each one; not a lot and put that up on the website so that people who were trolling for speakers could at least see an idea of what they would speak to.
We also had some video on the site. Interestingly enough, we did not have a __[05:47] which is pretty common in the world of speaking. We didn’t. But we had him in enough other venues that you could really see his talent. And we did his testimonials, not extensively, but we used some. That was all available online.
Typically in the negotiation stage for the speech, we had a Speaker’s Packet ready to go which would have photograph, bio, a brief outline of the speech. But again – and this is true for most speakers – you’re customizing your speech for each client. That part is a consultative process.
Mike Zipursky: That’s great information. Thanks for sharing that.
Let’s hit a little bit of history right now and talk about how you got started in this business. You started working at a large firm. You’re doing lots of travel. You became a partner there. But then you left. Why?
Rochelle Moulton: I just didn’t want to do that big travel every week, work 80 hours a week routine and the firm that I left to start was designed around a flexibility model. That was really the draw to me. I wanted to be able to do that; high-quality work because I love the work that I did with the big firm, but I wanted to be able to do it on my terms.
Mike Zipursky: And when you were making that deciding to leave, did you have – oftentimes consultants ask me, they kind of bring up questions around when is the right time to leave, and they have concerns around income and fear of what might happen. Did you have anything like that?
Rochelle Moulton: I would be a pure liar if I didn’t tell you I was scared to death when I did it. But it’s one of those things where, I think, you have to decide is it worth the risk and what happens if you do fail? And I just felt like I had enough experience and background that for whatever reason I fail, that I never thought I would, that I would be able to pick myself up, brush myself off, have a great story to tell to another employer.
But the other thing – and I counsel new consultants on this all the time – is that you do have to have some cash. You maybe don’t need as much now as you did then because technology is so much less expensive and you can work out of your house. But I think you’ve got to have enough cash that you’re not sweating bullets when you’re sitting in front of a potential client because they’ll smell your fear and desperation. We’ve all been there.
Mike Zipursky: Definitely. That’s good to hear. I think it’s always important to kind of put things in perspective for people. Oftentimes you read something in a book or an article and you’re not really getting the whole truth behind. You just kind of see the positive and the end result without really understanding what went into that. I always like to try and give our listeners kind of the real insight into the negatives or the challenge as well and not just the successes.
Rochelle Moulton: Well I think the other part of that is that we all have to give ourselves the time to make those decisions. And for some people, they need a lot of time. Some people need a little. I think it probably took me about a year. I’m usually a pretty fast decision-maker, but that was a big change. I really wanted to be sure that I was ready to leave the place that I’d really loved for so long.
Mike Zipursky: That makes complete sense.
Rochelle, later you started a consulting company called Quest. You sold out to Arthur Anderson six years later. Looking back for the consultants listening to this that have an interest in building and in selling their own company, are there any tips or things that you wish you would have known beforehand.
Rochelle Moulton: I guess I knew backwards, not ahead of time, is to really build your brand. In our case, it was a group of mostly women, some men who were working flexibly. We built the brand. We intentionally named the company with the first letter of ‘Q’ because we thought it would be easier for people to find us because they’d say “Oh, that company that starts with ‘Q’.” They would find us easier. So we did that intentionally. We did the building of our workforce intentionally. What I would have done differently, I think, is I would have marketed it differently. I think we would have grown faster and still been able to keep pace with that growth.
But what I did do that I think was really key is that we built a reputation with our clients in the main City of Chicago that we did business in. And so that’s what enabled us when we were ready to sell to actually have potential buyers who were interested in talking to us.
Mike Zipursky: So like specifically, can you do a few examples of what you did to prepare for that?
Rochelle Moulton: Yeah, it’s funny because I think it’s been long enough that I can talk about it now. One of our clients was Arthur Anderson. We were working with them to help retain women in the tax practice and then get them to partner.
In that process, we developed a really deep relationship with the tax partners that we were working with like we did with all of our clients. That was just part of our (I say ‘our’ – that group) but it’s also my core belief that you have deep, close relationships with clients and you care about them personally and professionally.
When we got to the point where we realized we were ready to sell and it was a very delicate conversation, but I did approach the lead person there to let them know that we were putting ourselves on the market because I didn’t want to him to hear from somebody else. I wanted him to hear it directly from me. I was really, quite honestly, completely flabbergasted when he then turned and said “We want to be part of that process. We want to look at you.” And ultimately, they were the buyers.
Mike Zipursky: I guess the key takeaway from that it sounds like is, obviously, caring for your clients which kind of goes without saying but really keeping that relationship in a good place because you never know what’s going to happen and you want to leave all those doors open. And in your case, a client turned to the company that purchased your company.
Rochelle Moulton: Well, yeah, and I think it can sound trite to say it but I really do believe this is you have to put the clients’ interest first. And so I’ve had situations where I’ve said to a client “You know, I think this is what you need. I don’t know that we can give it to you. We can help you find that, but this is what – from my perspective and what I know about you – this is what you need.”
When you put that client’s interest first, it just makes a lot of things easier. It’s easier to put their interest first if you know that you’ve got the integrity that another client or another handful of clients are going to be waiting for you. You say ‘no’ to one and a door opens somewhere else.
Mike Zipursky: For sure.
Through that acquisition, you’re now working at Arthur Anderson. Things are going very well and then, boom! The whole __[13:34] thing happens. No longer are you able to work there. You spent the next couple of years testing out different business ideas. You’re doing some coaching and then one day you get an email from a company, Spherion [13:47], which is another large firm that asked you to move back to Chicago and run their coaching-consulting practice, if I remember from our conversation correctly.
Why do you think they chose you?
Rochelle Moulton: I’d tell you, first I was surprised because I’ve been kind of out the game for a couple of years. But I think it was because two things: they had an outplacement business. I knew absolutely nothing about running an outplacement business and I was very upfront about that. And they said “That’s okay. We’ve got lots of people who get the outplacement business. What we don’t have are people who understand how to run a consulting practice.”
And the minute they said that, that’s when I knew that it was just going to happen. And it actually it did probably happen over maybe a six-week period. It was pretty fast change.
I think it was really entirely that – and of course we had chemistry. If we didn’t have chemistry, I wouldn’t have been there. But I think that was the key reason.
Mike Zipursky: And then after working at Spherion, you decided to start your own consulting practice. You told me that things are going really well, that you were able to get enough business just from your own network that you built up over the years. But then in 2008 the recession happens, clients aren’t returning your calls anymore. What did you do?
Rochelle Moulton: You mean after the panic?
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, exactly.
Rochelle Moulton: Well it was interesting because before that happened, my work was mostly with firms. I did some work with big firms because that’s what I’d come out of, but I also did work with some boutiques. When all of a sudden none of the firms were returning my calls because they were so panicked about letting people inside their organization go, I got this serendipitous call from someone that I knew and I’d worked with her when she was part of the company. And she said “You know, with all this economic stuff, I feel like I really need to work on my brand. And I need to make an investment in me.” And she said “I want to hire you to do that for me.” And that was really the first one.
When I started doing that, I kind of never looked back because I love working with people who are really focused on how they can be really good and how they can build their business, their practice and sometimes their firm – depending on who it is.
Mike Zipursky: It’s interesting how that happens where something that is unexpected and challenging event takes place, but from that, as long as you keep your head up, you’re doing the right things, you’re working hard, new opportunities always arise.
Rochelle Moulton: Yes. Like when the world zigs, you have to zag.
Mike Zipursky: Right, exactly.
You also told me around June of 2009 you started blogging. And you said that was a huge factor in your marketing. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Rochelle Moulton: I cannot tell you how fabulous that turned out to be. It’s not even just the blogging. It’s also having a digital presence.
So in 2009, in June, I started my first group on LinkedIn and then I started a blog – not really intending to do it regularly. I just thought I would experiment a little bit. And I’ve been writing pretty much weekly since then.
So I started blogging in June. I got my first client digitally in August.
Mike Zipursky: And was that from blogging or…
Rochelle Moulton: It was a combination. It was actually that I had posted something about the LinkedIn group that I started in another group, in an alumni group actually. And he reached out to me and hired me virtually.
Mike Zipursky: Beautiful
Rochelle Moulton: Yeah, and that’s where it started. And then I also got onto Twitter which was then very new in June of ’09. So I was an early adaptor. Always have been. Early on, I think I had periods where I sort of let Twitter __[17:57] because not as many of my potential clients were on it at that point. And then as Twitter grew in influence, I became more active there, and of course, on LinkedIn. Much less so on Facebook. Now literally, all of my non-referral business is driven through primarily Twitter although there are some interaction with LinkedIn.
Mike Zipursky: I want to dig in to this a little bit more because these days there’s kind of a debate going on where you have one side that says that social media is a waste of time. You’re never going to generate business through it. People kind of – I don’t know, when they have nothing better to do, they go onto Twitter, and they share pictures of cats, and take photos of what they’re eating, and share some links and this and that.
And the other side of the coin is saying ‘No. I’m social media. It’s providing a strong return on investment for my brand and for my business.’ And as you said ‘I’m generating clients through it.’
Let’s go a little bit deeper into this. What are you actually doing on Twitter that’s allowing you to get business from it?
Rochelle Moulton: The first thing is you have to know where your potential clients are. And in my case, I’ve done the work. I know my clients are on Twitter or I wouldn’t be spending time there.
Mike Zipursky: Sorry to cut you off there, but I think it’s important – so how do you know that? If someone says “Okay, that’s a really good point.” How can they actually go about figuring out whether their clients are on Twitter? What would you suggest around that?
Rochelle Moulton: And when I say clients, I mean future clients. What you have to know is who are you targeting.
So let’s take an example. Let’s say you’re targeting Chief Marketing Officers of Fortune 500 companies. You can do a search on Twitter for CMO or you can spell it out and you can start to look and see who’s actually there. So you have to do some homework.
The other thing you can do is you can do it by – that’s by position. You can also do it by geography. You can do it by interest. You can search on keywords. So really, you got to do your homework. And there’s a lot of people who are on Facebook, for example, but are not interested in the B2B message when they’re on there who are very interested when they’re on LinkedIn or on Twitter.
Mike Zipursky: So that’s Step 1 is to make sure that your prospective clients, that your ideal clients are on Twitter. What’s Step 2?
Rochelle Moulton: For me, Step 2 was – remember, I already had the blog and Twitter, of course, is simply just a giant microblog. And so I used Twitter initially as a distribution system for my blog posts.
And so I would reach out to, primarily, consultants at that time. I really added authors a couple of years later. And so that would be how I would get my blog out there and people would share it. And then in addition to that because Twitter – contrary to popular opinion – Twitter isn’t just about broadcasting. Twitter is about engaging.
And so I would reach out to people based on keyword searches that I did that I thought might be interesting. And I would also make a habit of giving. And when I say ‘giving’, I just mean doing small favors for people. So as much as I was broadcasting and pushing out, I was also allowing people to come in, and ask questions and sometimes just connect on a personal level because we had a joint interest in something.
Mike Zipursky: And so would you then – going back to Step 1 – once you’ve found those people, so you would then follow them so that you could kind of see what’s happening and then engage with based on what they were tweeting about? Is that the way you go about it?
Rochelle Moulton: Exactly. I mean, there’s different strategies you can use…Twitter and mine is more of a one-to-one strategy. So pretty much, unless they’re spammers, if somebody follows me, I follow them. So I have a feed with a lot of people. I personally use the List function so I can keep it straight.
So I have groups of people that, for example, are interested in marketing, advertising, branding. I have groups of people that are consultants and are interested in consulting topics. I have leadership people that I like to retweet because they have interesting things to say or sales and business development people.
Yeah, I really treat it like a giant audience. But I don’t want to misconstrue that I have the illusion that I have a personal relationship with all of these people. I absolutely don’t. But I have personal relationships with quite a few and I’ve met some really interesting people, obviously clients, on there as well.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, that’s great.
And so would you say that that’s – aside from referrals – I think you may have mentioned this, but just to confirm for myself and everyone listening – that Twitter is actually probably maybe your second biggest source of business?
Rochelle Moulton: Yeah, I mean it depends on the months. Some months it’s my biggest source. This month, for example, it probably is. Yeah, I just closed one referral client and three Twitter clients in the last, I guess, two weeks.
Mike Zipursky: Great! That’s wonderful.
Let’s get into today’s action byte. In today’s action byte, Rochelle, you said you’re going to share how consultants can create client avatars which is a way to visualize your ideal client as a real person, which sounds a little bit strange but you’re going to tell us more about that. I’ll let you take this one away.
Rochelle Moulton: I’m laughing when you say that, Michael, because I’m actually looking at a picture of you while we speak. I’m using that inspiration.
Mike Zipursky: Thank you. So tell me about my avatar.
Rochelle Moulton: First, let me just say why I believe the avatar makes sense. It’s because it’s kind of related to that comment about your Twitter audience. You really have to be as effective as you possibly can be in marketing. You need to be exquisitely clear on who you’re marketing and selling to.
I look at the client avatar as – yes, it’s a detailed profile of your ideal client, but it gives you sort of a visceral way to get into their head, and know how to market to them and communicate with them.
So let’s talk about how to create it. I really think about this in three steps. The first step is to go back through your career to date. And if you’re a new consultant, go back to the work you’ve done before that. And start by picturing all of your sweet spot clients. These are people or projects or experiences where you would replicate them in a heartbeat. It’s where you were kind of jamming on all cylinders and you loved the work and the people.
Make a list. And I would take several days to make that list just so you come back because you’ll remember things that you’d forgotten. Take a few days and just jot them down and keep reviewing it.
And then second step is that when you have the full list, look at what they have in common. I always start with sort of the superficial things. Are they male/female? How old are they? Are they top dog in the organization? Are they a rising star? Is it big corporations? Is it small businesses? Is it the business owner? Is it the Function Head? You’re teasing out what they have in common.
And then the third step is sometimes the hardest for people, but do it anyway, which is you want to drill down to what marketers would call psychographics. For your sweet spot clients, that’s their personality, their life experiences, their values, their attitudes, their preferences – kind of what makes them tick. And you want to go from the real simple to the totally sublime. Are they married or single? Do they have kids/no kids? Divorced? So you start to think about the experience that someone’s had who falls into some of those categories. What do they read? What are their favorite TV shows or movies? What music do they want to listen to? What are their core life beliefs? Do they believe that the world is a safe, happy place or it’s dangerous? Who do they trust for information? The one I also like is what do they secretly fear?
When you start to dig in like that, you wind up with this, I believe, crystal-clear picture in your mind or on paper of that ideal client is if he/she is a person. And then when you create marketing and selling materials, they are your audience.
Mike Zipursky: This is so powerful. This is information that most people when they’re creating their marketing and sales materials, they don’t really give thought. They think that they know who their ideal clients are and enough about them. But really, without going through a process like this, you don’t really have that deep insight into who they are. I think this is a great process.
Just to review it again, Step 1 is to create that list of your best clients; the ones that you’d want to replicate. Step 2 is to look for their kind of common traits and list those out. And then Step 3 is to kind of do a little bit of psychographics around the people that you’ve put into this list and what they have in common. And the psychographics would be things like what makes them tick, their fears, their values, their attributes. Maybe another one right where they would go to get their information. All these kinds of things that would then really influence your marketing materials and that sort of thing, right?
Rochelle Moulton: Exactly. And maybe a way to think about this is if you think about great marketing and advertising, they always make you feel something. Even just videos on Facebook: the most powerful ones, the ones that get shared the most make you feel something.
And when you go through this process, kind of like the movie. I mean, you can literally step into your client’s skin and see the world through their eyes. Then when you do that, you can not only communicate to them, you can connect with them on something that’s emotional, and compelling, and visceral and real.
Mike Zipursky: I think that’s great advice.
Rochelle Moulton: It’s powerful stuff when you do it.
Mike Zipursky: Definitely is. I like your twist on this. This is similar to what some people call kind of creating the buyer persona. I appreciate, Rochelle, how you’ve boiled this down into really three steps. Of course there’s a bit of a process within each of these, but I think everyone listening can really take this away, and go back and do this as an exercise themselves and list other clients, look for what they have in common, and then dig a little bit deeper and create some of those psychographics around their values, and fears and what makes them tick and so on to really get a much clearer picture, as you said, of who their ideal consulting clients are so that they can then market to them much more effectively.
Rochelle Moulton: Yeah, and I think the only thing I would add to that is that sometimes consultants were paid to be smart, were paid to think and in this case, it’s about feeling. So when you go through this exercise, it’s really easy not to go deep enough on that last step. But I push clients to do it because that’s where the nuggets are. That’s where you’re going to find what can really draw people to you so that the money you spend on marketing isn’t wasted.
Mike Zipursky: I completely agree with you and I really like how you’ve laid out this process. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Rochelle Moulton: Absolutely!
Mike Zipursky: Wonderful! Well, Rochelle, this has been a lot of fun. Thank you so much for getting on the call today and so generously sharing with all of our listeners.
Rochelle Moulton: Well, thank you, Michael. It’s been really fun. I love talking about avatars, so any time.
Mike Zipursky: Sounds good. Enjoy the rest of the day. Take care.
Rochelle Moulton: You, too. Take care.