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The Four Stages of Marketing Maturity For Consultants

By Michael Zipursky
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Let’s talk about how marketing changes based on the current level of maturity of your consulting business.

The first thing that’s really important to understand here is that it’s your marketing will change not just based on the maturity of your business, but really on the maturity of the marketing in your business.

What I mean by that is you may be in business for 10 years already, but you’ve received all your business from your own network and referrals and so forth.

And so that really means that the maturity of your marketing is almost zero because you haven’t done very much in the marketing department.

In the early days of your outreach, you should be very focused on getting in front of ideal clients.

When I say the maturity of your marketing is based on where you’re at in your business, it’s not about how old your business is or how many years you’ve been doing consulting for — it really depends on what stage your marketing is at within your business.

So you might be in 10 years into your business or you might be one year into your business, or you might just be getting started, but what I’m going to share with you is really framed as to where you are right now in the marketing cycle of your business.

Direct Marketing for Consultants: The Early Stage

If you’re in the early stages, which means that you don’t have that much business coming your way, you might still be receiving some from your networking connections, but really if you’re very early stage typically meaning that you’re just getting your consulting business off the ground, then you’re going to spend a lot more time — and should spend a lot more time — on outreach.

And when I say outreach, what I mean is looking at and contacting your network, your connections, looking for ideal clients, or looking for referrals.

So every person that you meet or these you speak to that is either in your network or part of your connections should either be an ideal client or they should be someone who can refer you to an ideal client.

You shouldn’t be meeting anyone else in that. In the early days, that’s really where you should be focused.

The third one here is direct clients.

In the early days of your outreach, you should be very focused on getting in front of ideal clients.

This means going direct. This is about going direct to your ideal clients, or to your network, or to your connections: to either get referrals or ideal clients.

That’s where most of your time should be spent in the early days.

You might say well I’ve heard that that blogging is very good, or doing webinars is very good, or whatever else.

Yes, all those things can be good, but the challenge with blogging or writing articles for other publications is that they can take time.

Yes, you should be working on them — but at this stage you should be spending eighty percent of your time focused on doing outreach.

That remaining 20 percent can be spent on what I call authority building activities.

Authority building activities can be blogging, writing for other publications, and speaking.

All these things are good because the reality is when you, when you land a speaking engagement, that puts you in front of a lot of ideal clients if it’s the right kind of engagement quite quickly.

consultant hosting a speaking engagement

But again, to get to the point where you, where you can actually reach out to a conference or an event, find out when their next one is, apply for it, hear back from it, and that’s months down the line – it’s still months before you get in front of that audience.

Whereas when you go direct, you can get in front of people like today or tomorrow.

Going direct is much more effective in the early stages.

Inbound Marketing for Consultants: The Middle Stage

The mid-stage is that your time should be split roughly around 60 percent doing outreach and about 40 percent in doing authority.

Another way of thinking about authority is inbound: meaning you put content ideas, information out and people come to you.

The reason why you want to have this kind of split is that when you’re at the mid-stage, you’re already receiving some consulting clients and business and there are things happening.

But now, it’s all about what you can do to accelerate that.

And if you spend too much of your time only doing authority and inbound at the mid-stage, it might mean that your short-term profits and your short-term a acquisition of new clients can take a real hit.

So you want to be aware of that and that’s why you still want to be putting a good deal of effort into outreach, but starting to accelerate and increase your authority so that you’re building those longer-term assets to attract more clients.

The Developed Stage of Marketing Maturity

And when you get to the developed stage, then really what’s going to happen is that you’re going to be doing almost a hundred percent in authority or inbound.

And the reason for this is very simple. When you get to that late, more developed stage, you’re going to already have plenty of business coming your way.

consulting firm discussing inbound leads

People will be reaching out to you. You’re going to be getting inquiries. Leads will be coming through your website or through all different kinds of speaking engagements that you’ve been building up through these other stages.

You don’t need to spend as much time going out and sending emails or connecting with people on LinkedIn or doing other methods like that because all you’ll already have enough leads and inquiries coming into your business.

But if you’re the early stage and you try and do what a company should be doing with their marketing, then you’re going to face a real uphill battle.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t get there. You might say:

“Well Michael, but I know people that just blogged and were very successful with that.”

Yes — but in most cases asked them how long do they really need to blog for before they started getting clients?

It can take some time.

I know for us it’s a quite a few years of putting in a lot of content before we had enough inbound coming in — and that’s why we always needed to balance that by doing direct outreach, building relationships, getting in front of ideal clients or going out and looking for what we call active referrals: seeking people who can connect you with ideal clients.

Want To Advance To The Next Stage In Your Consulting Business?

This is how the marketing maturity mix should be or how you should allocate your time and focus as your business grows from early to mid-stage, and mid-stage to kind of late and more developed.

It’ll shift from outreach to more inbound.

If you’re looking for help with your own marketing and advancing to that next stage so you can attract more clients consistently, just reach out to us at Consulting Success®.

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