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Marketing for Consultants: Survey Results [Infographic]

We asked over 10,000 consultants how they market their services, what is and isn’t working for them, and other juicy details about their consulting business. Here are the results from our survey and we welcome you to share this with others.

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Marketing for Consultants: Survey Results

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40 thoughts on “Marketing for Consultants: Survey Results [Infographic]

  1. Well, that confirms that Networking and Referrals produce the best results. All the rest are time wasters and procrastination.

    • Actually Trudy, I don’t think it does.

      It shows what’s popular. And where most of the income per consultant comes from.

      But since 74% of survey respondents earn less that $100K per year from consulting, it could well be that networking and referrals are exactly what the strugglers are doing (I suspect that’s the case for networking. I doubt it’s the case for referrals).

      It could also be that the high earners are doing one or two of the less popular activities. Blogging, cold calling, who knows. Since there are so few high earners, what they’re doing differently is masked by the mass of lower earners.


      • Ian has it right. What this is showing is not what is most effective, but what most consultants are doing.
        It appears that consultants don’t do very much marketing at all – which is exactly the problem.
        I think everyone would say they network or seek referrals. But what does that mean exactly? Do they have a process in place to develop leads through networking? Do they have a consistent outreach in place to generate referrrals?
        My guess is that their networking and referring marketing is much more passive than that.

        • John says:

          There may be some disagreement about the most effective methods, but what about the least effective i.e. print advertising, publicity, direct mail. Is there consensus that those methods are least effective?

          • Good question. I know some consultants who’ve had great success with direct mail. And a smaller number that use publicity (particularly getting interviewed by the media as an expert) to great effect. Advertising tends to be for the bigger firms.

            But there are exceptions to every rule.

        • I’d be interested in seeing a cut of the data to see if there is any difference between what the high earners do and the lower earners. As you say Bob, it might still be that they don’t do much so it will be difficult to tell. I suspect some very high earners have long established referral networks – but that doesn’t help the fledgeling consultant who doesn’t have those!

      • mary says:

        Ian, what you said might partially be true, however, Micheal can assist to
        resolve this by cross analyzing where most of the income per consultant comes
        from versus annual income per consultant, this will show us a good picture of a
        possible positive action we all can learn to earn better.

        @ Micheal, kindly check your mail. I can assist.

    • Gordon Dahl says:

      I beg to differ slightly. What it does show is that most consultants spend most of their available time networking or chasing after referrals. Since most of them do not, yet (?), spend much time on other marketing activities, these activities, obviously, cannot produce a reasonable income. However, just look at Joint Ventures, Online Advertising, Email Marketing, and Presentations/Seminars. If one would increase time spend on these activities to the same level as networking (i.e. 25-35%), one could expect a favorable increase in income from these sources. So, the question for me is: What would happen, if you spent more time on other marketing activities?

      • Gordon – great question. All of these methods can work well if the product/service + market fit is in place and if the execution is strong.

        • Gordon Dahl says:

          I think this is what I was aiming at. As a next step, it would be interesting to find out, why certain methods dominate and others are hardly used at all. Is it because consultants simply follow the footsteps and more time-tested methods of their mentors, or are there other reasons behind it?

  2. John Scott says:

    There may be some disagreement about the most effective methods, but what about the least effective i.e. print advertising, publicity, direct mail. Is there consensus that those methods are least effective?

    • John – great question. While the data seems to point to that, personal experience (for my companies and those of colleagues) direct mail and print advertising have been very effective at one point or another. It depends on the market, the product or service, and how well they are executed. I’m working on an article that will cover this topic in more detail and will publish it on this site soon.

      • Richard Soracco says:

        I agree with Michael. Execution is the only thing that
        counts in marketing. And, don’t you think that many people avoid many forms of advertising because of their inability to do it effectively?

  3. Ian sent in a great question:

    “I was wondering if you were able to split out/correlate responses.
    Interesting to see, for example, two different charts on the marketing approaches used/that make the most. One for consultants earning <$100K (or maybe $200K). One for those earning more. Wonder if there's a difference?"

    I ran a quick calculation of the results for 'which type of marketing is making consultants the most money' on 2 groups.

    The first, consultants earning between $100,000-$200,000. As with the rest of the groups, this one also found Referrals to be their most effective marketing method. However, Networking was just behind in spot #2.

    For the next group, I expanded the criteria to include people making between $200,000 and $2M. The results were almost identical.

    For fun I broke out another group. This one between $250,000 and $5M. In this group, only a few cited Networking as a money maker for them. Referrals is still important for them. But so too are Presentations/Seminars and Articles/Reports.

    • That’s interesting. The big earners network less but present/write more. So I’m guessing they building a brand and their expert positioning in the marketplace.

    • John says:

      Great Information Michael

  4. What a really useful piece of research. Referrals and networking need to be at the top of the list for me from now on. Thank you for the information.

    • Margaret – glad you found this useful. Just remember, not all networking is ‘created equal’. To get the most out of networking you need a focused approach.

  5. Wonder who were interviewed for the survey? Were they the top performers? We have a global network and each Advisor does it a little different even though we have a proven system. The ones that implement the system customized to their situation are successful.

    • David – all levels of consultants took part in this survey. Looking at the data I’d say there are many ‘top’ performers as well as ‘new-entrants’. Your point is valid and I agree that the best results in marketing are achieved when you apply a proven process in a customized way that suits your buyers in the best way possible and provides them with the most value and strongest positioning.

  6. Steve says:

    Totally agree with Ian, it shows whats popular and based on those stats it isn’t working that well at all. It seems as though the “easier” ways to put yourself in front of people are chosen, yet if the mix was changed results could well improve dramatically…its shows me that other areas are being ignored and that in itself could be opportunity.

    • Indeed Steve, that’s a great way to think about it. The data shows that it’s not only the “easier” ways (as you call it…though some people are scared to death by networking events), we can also see that the low cost methods are being used the most. Again, a great opportunity presents itself for those willing to invest in themselves and their business.

  7. Peter Hall says:

    In the discussion around “top performers” and “strugglers” I think it is useful to consider the expectations of the person that has taken up the role of consultant. Many that I see have come from a long corporate life, are well off and basically looking for a transition to retirement over a 15 year span. So they start out as a consultant and gradually shift to being a professional company director.
    Many are very happy to be earning a comfortable return below $100K and actually avoid major stressful projects. If they work from a home office they hang out at networking events as more of a social activity with the benefits of getting some work at the same time.
    Now not all consultants are in this demographic group but my own research would indicate the number is significant.
    Another interesting component of the data is the large proportion of “Project Fee” revenue and it will be interesting to see if this changes over time. Project based revenue is an indication of a transactional relationship with the client. There are a growing number of consulting models that are moving away from this to retainer based sustainable revenue to avoid the feast and famine experienced by many consultants.

    • Peter – your point on ‘happy to be earning a comfortable return…’ is well made and one that I will take into account in our next survey. Thank you

      • Peter Hall says:

        I am using a gap analysis approach in some of my work with clients also. This looks at the gap between where they are now and where they think they should be, then prioritises by the size of the gap. There are some great online tools for advisors that do this and produce great reports.
        The same concept could be applied to consultant ‘ambitions’ and it may produce some interesting results, especially when matched with age bracket.
        I am active in a number of global non profit networks and I would say the average consultant in those groups is male around 55 y.o. and values the self directed lifestyle most.

        • Excellent point Peter. Although having a self directed lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean a lower income, it does mean different approaches are needed.

          • Absolutely agree. I suppose what I see is that the effort level motivation dwindles as the revenue increases for many but not all.
            Sometimes it’s that consultants haven’t found ways to get leverage that allows them to do more with less effort.
            Cloud based tools like diagnostics, gap analysis, bench marking have allowed me to automate the non value adding steps like collecting information, to focus on the bits that add value like – advice.

  8. GKTogobo says:

    Great insights Michael. How may of the respondents were female? Its always interesting to see the split based on gender. I would also be very interested in knowing the return on investment for each marketing approach. It makes it easier to compare like for like. Great post. love the use of infographics

    • Thanks Griselda. We didn’t segment by gender, though that’s a good idea for our next survey.

  9. Dave says:

    MIchael, this was very helpful. Thanks for sharing. I do have a question about using surveys as marketing tools, though. It’s great that you are able to reach such a large pool of respondents in a short period of time, but for those of us with less visibility do you think an ongoing survey can be successful or is it important to have a final “deadline”?

    • Dave – glad you found this helpful. It depends on what type of data you wan to collect. If the goal is to show a trend or results then once you reach enough responses it should provide an indication that is stable and won’t change drastically if more people took the survey. If your survey is to gather client feedback, having that come in on an on-going basis is worthwhile and in fact we do this in one of our businesses – continual and constant feedback is a good thing.

  10. Philippe Huysveld says:

    Impressive Survey, Interesting Results, Great Work as always, Michael !
    This precious data provides a key guideline for consultants.
    Philippe Huysveld

  11. Ameen Ahsan says:

    Good data. Nice presentation.

  12. Wow! Nice infographic about marketing consultant, it shows the progressive results

  13. I know this is 10 months old, but some great data and a great infograph you put together, Michael. I am surprised blogging/speaking are not used more. I just think a blog is such a good investment as it can produce leads 24/7/365 and for years to come from one blog post.

    Of course it is a big time investment/commitment, but with the proper strategy, it pays off in the long run.

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