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Marketing Strategies for Consultants Study: 2018

I’m excited to share the results of our 2018 Marketing Strategies for Consultants Study.

Marketing is always a hot topic for consultants. Many struggle with it. Few excel in it. All must do it to attract new clients and grow their business.

In this study, we polled our list of 33,000 consultants and asked them about their marketing — and you’ll learn how you compare to other consultants when it comes to your own marketing.

Marketing Strategies for Consultants Study Explained

In the 2018 Marketing for Consultants study, we collected answers and data on:

  • How consultants spend most of their time marketing
  • What marketing techniques bring in the most revenue
  • How much money consultants spend on marketing every year
  • The number of clients consultants work with per year

It’s useful to know these numbers as a benchmark so you can learn something about your own marketing, and how you may be able to make improvements to it. At the end, you’ll find our key takeaways from this data.

Marketing for Consultants Poll Demographics

Let’s take a look at some of the demographics regarding the consultants who answered our survey.


consulting business locations worldwide


gender demographics for consultants



consulting age statistics from marketing survey

Out of more than 33,000 consultants polled:

  • 72.1% are male
  • 55.7% are from North America
  • 28.1% are 50-60
  • 26.8% are 40-50
  • 21% are 60+
  • 19.9% are 30-40
  • 4.1% are 20-30

All of these variables give us a baseline of the types of consultants who are taking our survey, and how that may impact the marketing methods that they use (and are most useful for them).

Most Popular Marketing Strategies for Consultants

most time-consuming marketing strategies for consultants

This data comes from asking consultants how they spend most of their time marketing their business.

As you might have expected, 22.7% (the most popular answer) of consultants spend most of their time working to get referrals. Keep this in mind for the next point.

Consultants spend more than 50% of their time using more traditional, offline methods for marketing their consulting business.

  • 18% of consultants spend most of their time on networking and events.
  • 9.3% spend most of their time on speaking and events.
  • 9% spend most of their time on LinkedIn Outreach
  • 8.7% spend most of their time on social media
  • 8.2% spend most of their time on email marketing
  • 7.1% spend most of their time making phone calls
  • 5.5% spend most of their time on blogging
  • 4.6% spend most of their time on writing articles
  • 2.5% spend most of their time on online ads
  • 1.9% spend most of their time on joint ventures and direct/print advertising
  • 0.5% spend most of their time on publicity/media

Most Effective Marketing Strategies for Consultants

best marketing strategies for consultants by ROI

This next data point comes from asking consultants which marketing method earned them the most money.

A whopping 43.7% of consultants said that referrals were their highest earning money-making marketing tactic — which is significant compared to the 22.7% in the last piece of data.

The other methods are quite similar to the amount of output put into them.

  • 21% say Networking and events made them the most money
  • 9.6% say speaking/presentations made them the most money
  • 5.2% say making phone calls made them the most money
  • 4.6% say LinkedIn outreach made them the most money
  • 3.8% say email marketing made them the most money
  • 2.7% say online advertising made them the most money
  • 2.5% say joint ventures made them the most money
  • 2.5% say writing articles and reports made them the most money
  • 2.2% say social media made them the most money
  • 1.1% say blogging made them the most money
  • 0.8% say direct mail and print advertising made them the most money
  • 0.3% say publicity/media made them the most money

Yet many online tactics didn’t stack up when it comes to revenue earned. More on this in the key takeaways.

How Much Consultants Spend on Marketing Each Year

marketing budgets for consultants and firms

Most consultant’s don’t spend very much on their marketing each year.

Nearly 50% of consultants spend less than $1000 on marketing each year — and the higher the marketing budget, the fewer consultants.

  • 34.4% of consultants spend $1000-$5000 on their marketing each year
  • 15.3% of consultants spend $5000-$25K on their marketing each year
  • 1.6% spend $25K-$50K
  • 1.4% spend more than $100K+

Consultants who see success with their marketing are willing to spend the money to make it happen — and see a solid return on their investment.

Consultant Annual Income 2018

annual income for consultants

This poll saw a pretty even spread when it comes to how much these consultants are earning in this business.

22.4% of consultants are making a decent income in their business at $80K-$150K per year.

  • 21.9% are making $25K-$80K
  • 18.3% are making $5000-$25K
  • 14.5% are making $150K-$300K
  • 6.3% are making $300K-$1M
  • 1.1% are making $1M-$3M
  • 0.8% are making $3M+

As we can see, these consultants are at many stages when it comes to their business. A large chunk (22.7%) are making well over 6-figures and beyond each year.

Why People Start Their Own Consulting Business

why people start consulting businesses

In one of our most personal questions, we asked consultants the #1 reason why they became a consultant.

The vast majority said that they wanted to realize their potential (32.5%) and become their own boss (25.7%).

  • 15.8% said their #1 reason was having a flexible schedule
  • 9.3% said it was because they got laid off from their job
  • 7.4% said it was the unlimited earning potential

Some of the other interesting responses were:

  • Time with family
  • Creating impact
  • Retirement activity to use knowledge
  • Am an expert in my subject field
  • Love the work of serving different clients

Consultants start their own business for a variety of different reasons, and they are what you might expect — the freedom, earning potential, and flexibility.

How Many Clients Consultants Work With Per Year

how many clients do consultants have per year

We also asked consultants how much clients they actually work with each year.

Most consultants in our poll (31.7%) only work with 3-6 clients per year. And 24.9% only work with 1-3 clients.

  • 24.6% work with 6-12 clients per year
  • 10.1% work with 12-20 clients per year
  • 4.6% work with 20-40 clients per year
  • 4.1% work with 40+ clients per year

You don’t have to work with a ton of new clients to make a significant income. Repeat business and ongoing work can provide a sizeable portion of your profits each year — you don’t have to be chasing new clients all the time if you can help your current clients succeed in new ways.

How Many Employees/Contractors Consultants Have

average number of employees in consulting firms

The vast majority of consultants polled here (67.2%) are self-employed, and 21.3% having 1-3 employees.

  • 6.6% have 3-5 employees
  • 2.5% have 5-19 employees
  • 1.6% have 10-25 employees
  • 0.8% have more than 25 employees

how many part-time contractors consulting use per year

The majority of consultants polled (40.2%) work with 1-3 part-time workers or contractors each year. 31.7% don’t work with any part-time workers.

  • 16.9% work with 3-5 part-time workers each year
  • 6.8% work with 5-10 part-time workers each year
  • 4.1% work with 10-25 part-time workers each year

So while hiring an employee is not for everyone, hiring contractors and part-time workers to round out your weaknesses and do some of your time-consuming tasks is a fantastic idea for building a more profitable consulting business.

Key Takeaways

Referrals are still king for marketing your consulting business. They don’t cost much (if anything), and will likely give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Consultants struggle with digital marketing. This may very well be linked to the fact that consultants are very conservative with their advertising budget.

The more time you have in your consulting business, the bigger the network you can create — making traditional marketing methods like referrals much easier for you if you work at it.

More than 50% of consultants work with less than 6 clients per year, meaning you don’t have to become a marketing pro to make a good income — but you must be great at adding more value and winning repeat business.

You can make a great income being self-employed, but hiring contractors to handle your more time-consuming tasks so you can focus on your more important work is the approach top-performing consultants use.

We hope you enjoyed this poll and that it helped you get a better understanding of how you can improve your own marketing.

And at Consulting Success, helping consultants with their marketing is one of our areas of expertise.

If you want to learn how you can market your business through a systematic way of attracting, conversing, and closing new consulting clients consistently, we’ve got the expertise to help. Our coaching program for consultants is built specifically to help you gain clarity in your marketing so you can never again worry about where your next client (or paycheck) is coming from.

What are your thoughts on the results of this poll?

Did anything surprise you?

If you’d like us to ask a question you’re curious about in one of our next polls, let us know in the comments below.


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8 thoughts on “Marketing Strategies for Consultants Study: 2018

  1. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for the insights! Somehow it suprised me and somehow it did not. For example, that so much marketing is still happening offline (not measurable, not scalable) instead of online. I guess doing consulting and being an entrepreneur are still two different pairs of shoes ;).
    Best regards

    • Andreas – thanks for the comment. While harder to measure, we’re seeing many offline activities done well produce even greater results than online.

      Marketing consulting services isn’t a one-model fits all activity. Lots of variables. For some, online is the most effective path. For others, offline.

      The key is to find the right strategy and tactics that work for your specific situation and that are supported by a strong foundation.

      • David Garner says:

        I’ve been on both sides, marketing online in a company with broadly based business services, and off-line for a legal consultancy with a very discrete service. For the off-line company, clients insist on anonymity — no website, no online advertising, and rock-solid NDA with no prospect for disclosures of highly recognizable clients. The ROI on the latter (off-line) and overall profit margin is substantial.

  2. Hey Michael,
    It’s great analytics or says very well researched. Your article is really helpful for me because it is a great combination of topic research & official numbers.

  3. Thank you Michael.
    This is powerful especially for a young but driven consultant like myself.

  4. A very good information based on research and results in different locations and countries. It is really very useful and give indication on some issues that were not known as facts. Yes, we might assume that consulting marketing can be effective using this or that method but now we know facts and more.
    Thank you Michael

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