The biggest marketing mystery for professionals, consultants and small service businesses is how to attract high-paying clients on a regular and consistent basis. Clients want to hire the authority in the field. The key is to be a thought leader who is sought and bought, not just another professional who has to continually tell and sell to find clients.
Ironically, many professionals and consultants feel business development is too time consuming, expensive, or undignified. Even if they try a business development program, most professionals, consultants and small business owners are frustrated by a lack of results. They even worry if business development would ever work for them.
No wonder they are doubtful and worried. According to a thought leader from the Harvard Business School, David Maister, the typical sales and marketing hype that works for retailers and manufacturers is not only a waste of time and money for professionals and consultants, it actually makes them less attractive to prospective clients.
However, research has proven there is a better way. There is a proven process for business development with integrity that generates a 400% to 2000% return on your investment. Call it the Thought Leader Model, and the most successful professional service and consulting firms use it to attract more high-paying clients than they can handle.
If you struggle to keep your pipeline filled with qualified prospects, you are not alone. Management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.” To do this, a business must answer three classic questions: What is our business? Who is our client? What does our client consider valuable? (Drucker, 1954, The Practice of Management). All businesses struggle with this. Especially independent professionals, solo consultants, and small business owners.
Science backs me up. Ten years of research with thousands of independent professionals, solo consultants and small business owners that I have undertaken (chronicled in my book Client Seduction) clearly demonstrates they can fill a pipeline with qualified prospects in as little as 30 days by offering advice to prospects on how to overcome their most pressing problems.
Does the Thought Leader Model really work, or is this just for uber gifted gurus? Here are just a few concrete examples:
- Through an informational website and electronic newsletter, one consultant added an additional $100,000 in annual revenue from speaking engagements and sales of information products within two years.
- In 45 days one consultant to the home building industry was able to launch a website and thought leader campaign that helped him double his business in a year.
- Using the speaking strategy alone, a web marketing solo consultant was able to double his income and add $100,000 of revenue in one year.
- By switching over to the Thought Leader Model, a marketing services firm was able to receive a 2000% return on investment from its new business development campaign that featured how-to advice seminars and articles from senior executives.
- When an IT consultant gave up cold calling and switched to the model, the quality of his leads dramatically improved and closed deals quickly increased by 25%.
- Through getting published and public speaking, a group of labor lawyers has grown in a few years from a regional practice to a national firm.
- A well established regional accounting firm reported they were able to accomplish more business development in six months with the model than they had in three years on their own.
- An advertising agency used the strategy to double revenues from $4.5 to $9.6 million in five years and earn a spot in the Ad Age 500.
What should you do to increase revenues by being a thought leader? First, understand that generating prospects is an investment and should be measured like any other investment.
Rather than creating a brochure, start by writing how-to articles. Those articles turn into speeches and seminars. Eventually, you gather the articles and publish a book through a strategy called print on demand independent publishing (you can do it in less than 90 days and for less than a $1,000). Does it work? Here are a list of three business best-seller titles by consultants that started out independently published (Source: Southwest Airlines LUV +0.88% Spirit, March 2005):
- The One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson: picked up by William Morrow & Co. and proceeded to sell 12 million copies.
- In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters (of McKinsey & Co.): in its first year, sold more than 25,000 copies directly to consumers—then Warner sold 10 million more.
- Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Weiss Roberts: sold half a million copies before being picked up by Warner.
Overall, quit wasting money on ineffective means like brochures, advertising and sponsorships. The best business development investment you can make is to create informative websites, host persuasive seminars, book speaking engagements and get published as a columnist and eventually as the author of a book. Your goal should be to become one of the most sought-after authority in your field.
Henry DeVries, Contributor I write about marketing for companies, causes and career