Yes, I’m more than a little squirelly.
Yes, I’d like to go back to business as usual.
No. That is not going to happen.
Maybe in Korea or New Zealand but not in the United States. It is never boing to be the same for consultants here.
The virus had a negative impact on over 85% of consultants that responded to our annual survey! They said things like this:
- “People will have to get better at online marketing because onsite is taking a hit.”
- “Business will never be the same–smaller locations, work from home, telecommuting, more younger people, more technical”
- “We will use more virtual communications, marketing and delivery. Agility might become more important to clients and prospects.”
An on-line happy hour
Tribal customs die hard. A client sent me a Zoom recording of an exit meeting following a successful engagement with a client company. The entire team had gathered by Zoom with a drink at hand to celebrate the work they had done together, work which will ultimately make the company stronger as they emerge from the social distancing requirements.
Six months ago they would have met in a local tavern, clinked glasses and bottles in shared toasts and enjoyed the camaraderie of a group that had come to know each other better than before because of their shared experience.
Shared memories are a significant part of what happens in any consulting engagement. A happy hour gathering is a pleasant way to share them. That won’t go away when the country “opens for business.” We can expect social gatherings to continue. The only question is when.
“We are a solution. That will continue”
That was one respondent’s take on what the future of consultant marketing has in store.
She was right.
That is what consultants do. They help solve problems which may not always be apparent to the folks that wind up hiring them. That won’t change. But the digital wind has picked up force in the last five years.
The digital shift
Another respondent said, “There will be more digital than ever before.”
Back in 2015, out of 100 billion monthly Google searches, those from mobile devices finally surpassed desktops for the first time. WordPress powered 25% of web sites as of early November. Usage of both has soared. A shift to digital has finally started to impact Consultant marketing.
Referral Marketing is still, far and away the most used consultant marketing strategy. But selling online and internet marketing are showing significant gains across all three of the categories we’ve been studying all these years (start up, growth and established firms). Internet marketing is now preferred over networking, direct marketing and chasing new contracts from former employers and clients.
Controversial and social media
In follow up conversations via old -fashioned phone calls and using the bright shiny technology of the moment (Zoom) I found myself looking for a way to summarize what was working for those who were using digital marketing to their advantage. Here’s what I came to believe:
“Controversial gets you heard. Proof gets you hired.”
Building a brand onsite or online requires a unique trust-based identity that is memorable. You need a hook. Being controversial is one way to do that. The few consultants that go out of their way to be controversial do it with the end in mind not just as a knee-jerk reaction.
They consider the question or concern and based on their knowledge of similar situations and successes in the past disagree with the common assessment providing convincing arguments for their viewpoint based on solid analytics.
The awareness of their name/company name has grown exponentially as has their ability to generate new business from sources they had not considered before. Yes, they still must find a way to interview prospects, analyze their situation and provide a value-based proposal. Yes, they have to provide clarity and speed to solutions. Yes, they need to keep their eyes and ears open for follow-on work. But they no longer discount the source of the initial contact.
After the “All clear”
There will be “New Normal.” The established firms will be the first to take advantage of the digital technology to build a business development approach. A few will structure business development around powerful video capabilities almost like establishing a “personality newscaster.” Some will do ongoing research with an eye toward finding the areas where “common knowledge” ain’t. A segment will build a “tribe” that become willing purchasers of individual products, events and subscription services. My short- hand way of identifying these approaches is:
- Video Personality
- Opposite Viewer
The biggest shift
One major shift will happen because of the Coronavirus. The strip mall and other shopping centers will be converted to housing locations faster than it has been happening already. Small and medium businesses will abandon the idea of having leased offices. They will shift to home offices renting shared offices and meeting spaces on an as-needed basis. Larger companies will take a long look at the lower cost of providing all the equipment needed for a home office versus the cost of “cubicle farms” as they digitize more and more of the administrivia.
I’m betting that along the way we’ll find some new ways to take care of our “social critter” needs.
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 advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.