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Marketing for Consultants: Strategies, Budget, ROI and More: Survey Results

We recently conducted a survey on marketing for consultants where we asked our readers 3 questions:

  1. What type of marketing do you spend the most time on?
  2. Which of the above has made your business the most money?
  3. How much money do you spend on average marketing your business each year?

The responses came flooding in. My spreadsheet filled, I put on my glasses and got down to making sense of all the data.

After crunching the numbers here are the survey results. I’d love to hear what you think about them in the comments below.

We’d like to share these results with as many consultants as possible, so feel free to use the social media buttons to the left to share this on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

What Type of Marketing Do You Spend the Most Time On?

How much time consultants spend on marketing (pie chart)
As you can see, it’s quite clear that consultants that took the survey tend to favor working on generating referrals and developing their network. These two marketing methods are known to be effective for any service professional so this doesn’t come as a surprise.

Interesting to note is that few consultants spend time on advertising their consulting business. As a consultant, I can tell you that advertising in a very targeted fashion can generate a strong ROI. Opportunity exists here. Social media and educational marketing through writing and reports also came in at 10% and 9% respectively.

Here are the same results as above but in a bar chart format.

How much time do consultants spend on marketing (bar chart)

What Type of Marketing Makes Consultants the Most Money?

This is what you’ve been waiting for, right? After going through hundreds of responses below you’ll find the marketing strategies and tactics that are making consultants, the ones that took this survey, the most money.

Marketing strategies most effective for consultants (pie chart)

From these results we can see that referrals and networking generating the highest ROI for consultants. Behind those were presentations and seminars at 9% and cold calling at 8%. Many people have said cold calling is dead. These results clearly show that while it may not be the most ‘comfortable’ marketing method or the most efficient, it does generate consulting revenue.

Here is a bar chart of the same data.

Marketing strategies that make consultants the most money (bar chart)

How Much Money Do Consultants Spend Marketing Their Business?

Here we looked at how much money consultants spend each year marketing their business. The numbers are all over the place on this one.

How much do consultants spend on marketing (data)

The data suggests that the average consultants spend on an annual basis is $7,462 USD marketing their business. The highest amount was $200,000 and the second highest was $120,000. This was an anonymous survey so I don’t know who these people are. But I would love to do an interview with them (so if you’re reading get in touch).

The lowest anyone spent was $0. And yes, there were several people claiming to spend nothing on marketing. This either means you’re totally new to marketing and have not yet recognized the importance of marketing to build your consulting business. Or, you’re so well established that you don’t need to promote your business at all and the phones are constantly ringing (or your inbox is full, and I’m not talking about spam).

I found this data to be too vague. So I dug into the numbers to create a chart that would be more valuable for you (at least I hope it is).

How much money do consultants spend on marketing (bar chart)

The above chart clearly shows how much money consultants are spending on marketing their businesses. About 20% of consultants are spending more than $6000 annually. More than 25% spend $2000-$5000 each year. And about 45% of consultants spend less than $1500 a year.

What do you make of this data? This is the first time we’ve conducted a survey like this but I think, based on the response we received, I might want to run this again.

Look forward to your comments, thoughts and questions below and feel free to share this with your colleagues and other consultants.


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36 thoughts on “Marketing for Consultants: Strategies, Budget, ROI and More: Survey Results

  1. These are great results to the survey. It’s pretty powerful to see what everyone else is spending on markting and where they’re placing their efforts.

    It’s also a very compelling argument for the power of networking and referrals.

    -Joshua Yoder

  2. Thank you for sharing the results. I guess I’m not surprised – building relationships, referrals, and partnerships is the way to go. Those are the tools that have worked best for me too. I’m surprised to hear that people are saying that cold calling is dead! Cold Calling is very much alive, with one caveat. You can’t just cold call and pitch your services anymore. No one has time for that. You have to call with something valuable for your prospect. Say something like, “I’ve shopped at your store/eaten at your restaurant/been a customer of yours before and I’ve been thinking about the way you do X. I have a few recommendations on how you can improve X. They are A, B, and C. Let’s meet to chat about it a little bit.” When prospects see that you’ve done some homework and legwork, they respond completely differently.

    • Joe – great point on cold calling. That definitely is a more effective approach. Always place the focus on value for the client/prospect.

  3. I don’t know what to think as it would be helpful to know what revenue or new clients etc. were gained as a result of the dollars spent. Also, it would help to know which of the many options used have the best results.

    Thank-you for sharing the information to date.

  4. I just had a conversation with someone about the most effective tools, she is not a consultant and blogging for her is huge and networking is lukewarm. For me (marketing consultant) it is the opposite networking is my bread and butter and my blog generates very little business.

    Great study, I also think that those who claim to spend $0 are likely relying on social media or ignoring some of the costs that don’t “seem” like marketing expenses.

    • Brandi – many people still view marketing as an expense when they need to consider it an investment.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is a great, helpful survey. Thanks for asking the questions and crunching the numbers!

    I have a few follow-up questions. We can see how much time people spend on different marketing strategies. How much money are they spending on each method? Since most people are spending time on networking and referrals, and the average amount people are spending on marketing is about $7500, what are they spending money on? What are the most effective ways to spend money for building networks and referrals?

    • Richard – great questions. I can’t provide answers based on the data. We made the survey simple for a purpose, to get lots of responses. But after seeing how popular this was we’ll consider running another survey in much greater detail. Regarding your last question, you can invest in going to hi-quality events and conferences where your clients/prospects will be, as well as set up a referral system where you award customers with gifts and other items they will appreciate and find valuable – it costs money to do this but it helps build a WOW experience and creates loyalty.

  6. Miguel says:

    How many people responded? Did I miss this?

  7. Info says:

    Great work, you guys simply rock. Just one suggestion, can you guys also gather results or findings regarding the return on the marketing efforts?

    • Not from the limited data we collected this time. But we may extend this into a follow up survey.

  8. Well said. I think today everyone has assess to knowledge and information. One should not be shy in seeking help from others who know better then you. Most consultants do feel that they are better then others and it is below their dignity to learn from others.
    The day you get this feeling according to me your growth stops and you remain there where you are. Hope you agree with me
    Consultants can not become larger then life.

  9. Harbims says:

    Thanks for sharing the results, can we know how many consultant participated in this survey.


  10. Dpoulos says:

    Interesting results, my practice is growing and I’m dead average on the spend and the activity division, and it strikes me as correct that we spend the most time on the things that make us the most money – even rats can manage to push the button that brings the food! I notice that a lot of my “marketing” expenses are related to fueling networking activities, setting up and promoting presentations, and setting up circumstances where these types of activities can occur – professional memberships, event registration fees, directory listings etc.

  11. this is great data and very valuable since it shows for new consultants like myself that there is a need to spend time on marketing your business

  12. Moiz Vaswadawala says:

    Was this survey limited to a particular geography, if yes which geo did this cover.
    Would deal survey outcome apply to developing/emerging markets.

    • Moiz – the survey was not limited to geography. Consultants from around the world took part in this.

  13. Prasanna Hiwase says:

    Dear Michael,
    Can you thow some light on Indian Market regarding the Management Consulting Business?
    I would like to know the trends in Indian Market.

  14. Seabelo45 says:

    Thank you for such valuable infomation…. as a new consultant I now know where to mostly focus regarding my marking.

  15. April says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for putting this survey together. I am not surprised by the results.
    It confirms that face to face meetings and personal contact , connecting with people is the most effective way to get new business. Once people talk with you and trust you can truly bring value to them and their business they will hire you.

  16. Wendell N. says:

    To try to get a look at how effective the amount of time spent on these marketing efforts is, I crunched the numbers of Mr. Zipursky’s survey results to produce one more indicator. This barometer is obtained by simply dividing the percent of money made by the percent of time spent to generate those income amounts resulting in a quotient in which the higher the value the more productive that activity was in generating monetary payoff.

    In a business with as many variables as consulting it is hard to take any of these factors by themselves as income is almost always the result of multiple factors. However if you are spending a high percentage of your time on some of the lower performing endeavors, you may wish to reprioritize these marketing strategies. Although publicity work and writing articles and reports were no-shows on the money producing list they probably were a contributing factor combined with others; or, at the least, make the Esteem or Self-actualization levels of Maslow’s pyramid and are a learning experience.

    % Money Made % Time Spent ProductivityQuotient

    Referrals 38 19 2.00
    Cold Calling 8 5 1.60
    Networking 30 22 1.36
    Presentations/Sem 9 10 0.90
    Direct Mail 3 6 0.50
    Banners/Email Ads 3 6 0.50
    Print Ads 1 2 0.50
    Joint Ventures 2 5 0.40
    Blogging 2 6 0.33
    Social Media 2 10 0.20
    Publicity Work 0 1 0.00
    Articles/Reports 0 9 0.00

    * Not sure how well this table will show up in a post but maybe it is readable.

    • Wendell – thanks for crunching some additional numbers. You’re correct that there are many factors and this initial survey doesn’t really provide enough data to give a full picture, but glad to see that many readers found it valuable.

  17. Evan says:

    Thank you for the info. It helped me strengthen my beliefs in the direction I’m taking are good for generating business. And, thank you for the time to do this and not make it a teaser.

    All the best,

  18. Islam says:

    Nice one
    but i have a problem in reading the charts
    I am color blind 🙂
    any way, Thanks for the efforts

    All the best,

  19. Kasra Sorouri says:

    thank you Michael
    It was appreciative job.

  20. Michael, thanks for the survey. This issue hasn’t been studied too often!

  21. Keith says:

    Great data! I know the average spend was around $7500, but looking at the graph it seems like the median spend may be half that. Do you have the median spend from the survey? (since average is heavily influenced by outliers)

  22. Deema says:

    very helpful, thank you for compiling! can you give examples on “Networking” spend?

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