Consultant Marketing Start-up Checklist

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There’s more to it then hanging out your shingle.

A lot more.

I had breakfast with an old friend the other day. He’s about to embark on consulting full time having been a CFO who found software so good he bought the North American rights.  In that situation he had a safety net. He was supported by his previous firm and the software developer. Now, he’s about to step out onto the high wire with no net.

A walk on the high wire

It takes courage, expertise and some luck to go from zero to full engagement in the consulting business. I’ve been privy to this journey for more young men and women than I care to count. Those that made it for the long term put a check in the box next to these things:

Savings to last at least 6 months in the style to which they have grown accustomed.

An initial engagement for their previous company or a client of that company.

Corporate filing in the state they are setting up their business

Defined Product/Service that is desired by identified prospects

A name for the company.A Vision, Mission and Position

A Persona that establishes a brand based on a real value proposition.

Courage to network your way to new business

A door on their office.

Step by step

Savings are the crunch element for folks that are married and/or have family. All the zeal you feel for this new adventure may seem to have been accepted by your spouse and the kids but I guarantee you that going backwards in terms of their socio-economic status is not going to play out well. You need to, as quickly as possible regenerate the “grouch bag funds” so that a set back occur in your business you can stick to it.

Initial Engagement is what keeps just about every successful consultant above water in year one according to our annual Consultant Marketing Survey. It gives you a safety margin where you are providing a service that is familiar but now performed at arm’s length. Often, this connection with a previous employer is extended as it is beneficial to both parties. But because you have control of when the work is done you can engage in the activities necessary to develop your consulting business.

Corporate Filing is essential if you are going to operate legally. It is a good idea to find your corporate attorney now before you open the doors. I recommend looking for a business attorney that operates from a small or home office nearby. I went to an attorney in one of those downtown towers and realized what those paneled offices cost me after few years. My current attorney has a home office but makes house calls! Every person I’ve referred to him tells me he has kept all his high-end litigator capability but shifted his personality from downtown to down home.

The primary options are C-Corporation, S-Corporation or LLC. Your lawyer can help you select which is best for you. The key is that you have a corporate shield to minimize the possibility of any suit filed against you personally.

Defined Product/Service is essential. Some of you may think that is obvious. It is and it isn’t. Some people try to start a consulting business without having the expertise to solve a problem that their prospects have. If you don’t know what your prospects want or need, how can you present yourself? You need to define the problem you can help solve in customer terms. More importantly you need to state the solution in way they can understand it and see as advantageous to them.

That phrase “identified prospects” was not just filler. Never assume that because your old company has a problem that all other companies have the same problem. Never assume that the same solution will work in every company. Never assume that this one problem will last as long as you want to maintain your practice. Before you step out on the wire make sure there is a market for what you have to sell.

A name is where a misstep occurs most often. I made this mistake. We get so full of what we know everyone needs and our different approach that we overlook the obvious:

  • People will identify your name with your practice more than any made-up name. Lawyers know this. So do CPAs. Plus a slew of consultants. You can tell the one’ that have learned this lesson over time by the way they begin to incorporate their name into their logotype.
  • Unless the name you choose is based on something well-known in the industry you are working in the probability of anyone understanding it is between slim and none.
  • If you base your company name on your process or part of it or a numeric outcome you are asking the prospect to make a leap which only you have made in understanding.

Vision, Mission and Position Your Vision is where you want the company to go in the future. Vision statements often include superlatives and competitive viewpoints. Generally it is for those that work for the company.

Mission is not your vision for the future of your company.

Mission is not your goals or objectives.

Mission is not something you are going toward or even something you are trying to become.

Mission is what your company is. It is why your company exists.

A vision statement is for the company and stake holders.

A mission statement is for the company and general public.

A positioning statement is for the targeted general public.

A brand is the sum of perceptions about the company in the general public.

Persona Everything you do has an impact on the people that become your clients. Don’t overlook the basics as you go to market.

Your Persona is a Core of Trust wrapped round by Product, Price and Passage encased in your Name.

Initially, the Core of Trust is you. If you operate solo it will always be. With a partner or multiple partners (an ensemble) you all have to ascribe to the same central beliefs about your business.

Because you can’t fool customers for long.

Customers see your company from the outside in. They rely on how your decisions impact them to make judgements about you

Courage Stepping out on your own is not easy. You are, in all likelihood, going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you want your business to grow and prosper. Every business is built on Networking. Every business. It will be up to you to go wherever prospects gather to get to know them and how you can serve them. You will need to find away to say something that makes you memorable. Weak statements don’t work. You’ll need to understand 30-Second Marketing TM at a minimum. And buckle up Bunkie stepping into the limelight and speaking about your expertise could get you more leads in less time than all the social media campaigns.

A door on your office is needed because if you work from home you’ll find yourself working well into the evening and on weekends. That is not good whether you are single or married with or without children. Learn to close the door and get a life. Isn’t that part of why you decided to do this?

And so it goes.


Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for crafting on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com

Consultant Marketing Visual Cues

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Little things can mean a lot.

Start at the top, with hair or the lack of it. That works whether you are male or female. Unruly hair that looks like a frightened rooster just won’t get it. On the other hand being expertly coifed and looking like a model may be a bit much. The key is to fit in to the comfort zone of the audience and be just one notch above it.

You want to get to trust. Trusted advisors get the contracts.

One notch better

If there is a single piece of advice in this regard, that is it. Recently, at a conference attended by top independent consultants from across the country one topic that ran through the lunch room was that clients were asking that the men not wear ties. The consensus was that was a good idea until key players in a meeting showed up in cravats!

I’ve not worn a tie since 1990 when I opened my practice. But I wear special shirts when I do a keynote that have a hidden placket and a collar that buttons tight to the neck. I have them in both black and white. My notch down is a turtle neck worn with a sport coat.

The women at the lunch table simple laughed and said the one notch above was a good idea but the way to do it was not power suits. Their advice was to have great high value accessories—scarves, purses, and most important, shoes. One noted that women knew expensive shoes the way guys know cars.

A signature item

A few of my clients have considered trying to stand out by linking themselves with key items of equipment. One was forever trading up his laptop to the smallest, lightest and most advanced until one of his clients asked how much time he spent after each upgrade learning to use it.

For awhile one client was over the moon about his expensive fountain pen until a CEO told him that he never bought a pen in his life and had no intention of doing so.

Cars, watches, airplanes, etc. Those don’t matter to most of the folks that sign the checks. They are, at best, borrowed marks of excellence. Only something that relates uniquely to you will generate the memorability you are after.

One of my clients uses a tangled skein of purple wool to visualize the money knots in all our minds when she’s speaking. The color is the same that is used in her “Untangler” logo.

Graphic consistency

I started with your appearance because the human face recognition skills far surpass our visual cognition in every other area. We are better at sensing when something is amiss then when all is okay. Other graphic elements to consider:

Color The color in your logotype needs to be the same wherever it is employed. If the color plays a major part in identifying you. It needs to be consistent. Where?

  • Business cards
  • Letterhead
  • Website
  • Signage
  • Vehicles
  • White Papers
  • Brochures
  • Presentations
  • On-line Content

Typography The type style you use for your logo may be so singular that it will prove too hard to read if used for all the text in your materials. That is not always the case. The critical decision here is the selection of a single type style for all the required word elements—headlines, subheads, text, captions and even footnotes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to make it all easily readable.

If you tend to produce a lot of your own content there are a couple other tips you may want to employ:

  • Try to keep your line length under 50 characters. Tess show that the human eye tends to tire if the line length is too long. Apparently, resetting to the next line “wakes up” the eye.
  • Use flush left ragged right. Do not use the other options available in Word (Center, Flush right ragged left and Justified) All of those are harder to read.
  • Multiple columns of information tends to be perceived as for business purposes.
  • Eye traps (bolds, underlines, italics, bullets, lists, indents, and initial caps) can enhance read through.
  • Use reverse (white type on black background) very sparingly.

Process Diagrams I never met a consultant that didn’t have a process. Like most of us they like to have diagrams that help explain their unique approach. Too often those diagrams are drawn anew each time. Again, consistency is the most direct route to Trust.

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The style of the diagram also needs to be constant. This is particularly true if there is motion or implied motion in the process. That is why I use a gyroscope as the primary overall illustration for the Z-axis Process. You can use a photo or a graphic extracted from a photo or linear graphics. Arrows can be hard-edged or brush strokes, open or filled in. Here’s a hard edged example straight out of Word

Whether you use hard edged or loose design the key is to keep it the same throughout and to use the same descriptors throughout.

Photography/Illustration Be careful to assure that your photos are all the same level of quality. If you use color photos, do so on everything (unless you have a historic black and white or tinted photo that lends credence to your “About” story) Seldom if ever should you swap back and forth between photography and illustration. Pick one and stick with it.

Most importantly, be sure all your designs look like they came from the same family. A good designer can give you a “look” that helps brand you, make you memorable and get you one step closer to becoming a trusted advisor.

Like mama said, “Mind your Ps and Qs and use consistent Visual cues!”

And so it goes.

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Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing and Brand development advice that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com

Consultant Marketing Content

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Yes, we live in a digital world.

Yes, every business needs some content to fulfill marketing needs.

Everything you need and nuthin’ you don’t.

There is no one size fits all. Each practice must build the content that will answer the questions prospects ask and maintain the contact over time. No two are the same. You and your clients are a different equation from all the others out there.  It comes down to these functions:

  • Starting a relationship
  • Maintaining the connection
  • Supporting Referral Sources

The start of something big.

Run the numbers. You’ll find that conversion rates for digital offers are at best 1 to 2%. Direct marketing using more traditional media may get you up to 5%. Networking because it is so personal can generate about 30% new contacts if you operate in the right circles. Speaking to an appropriate audience, if you understand how to reel people in from the podium, can range up to 70%.

No matter which approach you use, you first need to determine exactly who your best prospect is and learn what they want to know about the solutions you offer to their problems. You need to know how they define the job they want done and where they are in relation to that concern. You must also understand that you must be available to take their order when they are ready to buy.

The purchase journey is not a linear path. These days, because of the ease of access to all kinds of information sources the average buyer may move from broad information gathering to supplier specifics and back to more general information any number of times before making a purchase decision.

All you want to capture initially is:

  • Name
  • E-mail
  • Smart Phone Number

I find that having a singular offer makes getting that information more efficient for you and prospects. I recommend offering what is commonly referred to as a “lead magnet” in the parlance of digital marketing. This will vary based on your business and that of your ideal clients. I find that Checklists, Worksheets and Quick Guides work best.

In digital situations I use a form to fill out on a landing page which grants a download to the e-mail given after the data is entered. The contact data is put into a CRM for further attention. I suggest that in Networking situations the item be mentioned as available and that the consultant will send it personally if the contact data is furnished. Usually a business card is exchanged. Speaking to a small group you can simply make the offer and ask for a card to be given to you to assure its delivery. With larger groups you need to have what I call a feedback card which is placed on every seat. The feedback card carries a way to write in contact information (and perhaps respond to a survey question or two) on one side and the same pitch you would use on a landing page on the other side.

Staying connected

Most of my clients connect with the C-suite, usually with the CEO. When I asked one what sort of content he wanted to receive he answered:

“Don’t give me stuff I’ve already seen in business publications. Give me the benefit of your thinking that is relevant to me. Be consistent. I appreciate it when information arrives at the same time each week and in the same form. That way when I get something out of the ordinary, I know it is important.

In a lot of consulting businesses (particularly financial) the industry sends out information quarterly at best. That is not good enough. In order to stay top of mind with a prospect, client or referral source you need to touch them at least once every four weeks. And more often is better.

That’s why I recommend a weekly contact of some sort. The best options are:

  • Blog
  • Video Blog
  • Podcast

In addition, I recommend that high end consultants provide everyone on their e-mail list a Newsletter on a monthly basis. Based on feedback from their clients a recap of the weekly items provided is the best received. I’ve been told that it makes for a good way to provide staff with solid information quickly and to give other CEOs a quick way to get a fix on a consultant that might help them.

A Recommendation beats a Referral

A referral can be as simple as, “Here’s a number for someone that might help you.” These days, a notch up from that is the e-mail introduction. Both are helpful but a full-bore recommendation is more powerful.

A recommendation is when a person who knows you and your consulting capability invites you to a meal with a prospect and proceeds to sell your services over the meal. Done properly, all you do is take the order.

But in order to be able to do that, your recommender must know about your success and your failures. She or he must know how you have developed. The only way that can happen is if you consistently provide that information. That means you need to identify those Recommenders and Referrers and kept hm informed. One of the best ways I’ve seen is to continually change your e-mail signature to incorporate short outcome- oriented testimonials. It also helps to provide these known sources of new business with copies of your case histories as soon as they are issued.

Personalization of all the materials you send them will pay dividends.

And so it goes.

Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing and Brand development advice that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com