Monthly Archives: February 2013

Lead Generator #15 – Networking…

Consulting isn’t just about expertise — it is also about relationships. What better way to build those relationships than through networking?

Networking isn’t just for consultants. It is something you should do regardless of your career. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” True for finding new jobs… and for finding new clients.

Networking can seem painful. Many consultants are introverts — we’re thinkers and planners. We like to deal with problems and ideas, not necessarily with people. Leave that for the sales and marketing types, right?

But if you are a solo practitioner, it is up to you (and you alone) to get the business. You first need to GET the projects before you can DO the projects. That means YOU are the now sales and marketing department.

As an aside, I often advise my engineering colleagues (among the most introverted and distrustful of sales and marketing) to treat getting the business as just another challenging problem to be solved. Looking at it that way, it can even be fun. It is for me.

So how do you network? Strategically. Go where your potential clients are. Think about the niches you serve. This is not about “speed dating” or collecting business cards. Rather, you need to focus — use a rifle, not a shotgun.

And don’t overlook recommenders — others serving your markets. These include professionals (attorneys, lawyers, bankers), media (magazine editors and newspaper reporters), and yes, sales people (reps, distributors, etc.)  Some of my best business leads over the years have come from these sources.

Here are some ways to network strategically:

–Professional organizations… If you are a professional and not already a member — join today!  Participate — don’t just attend meetings. If you business is local, get involved at the local chapter level. If you business is national, get involved at the national level.  If both, well, get involved at both levels.

Volunteer to speak. Short talks and tutorial sessions provide great exposure, and help your colleagues at the same time. Special committees are good too.  We’ve done both, and it has paid off well. Plus, we’ve made a lot of good friends along the way.

One caveat — pick and choose you efforts with care, as volunteer organizations can suck up time like crazy. Don’t spread yourself too thin — you still need to make a living.

–Symposiums… Many professional organizations have annual trade shows. You should attend these too. These are an excellent opportunity to meet the movers and shakers in your industry, which include influencers like journalists and marketers.

Skip the academic sessions, and head for the tutorials. Better yet – volunteer to present – this puts you in front of potential clients. And spend time on the show floor talking to the sales/marketing folks. You’ll learn about new products/services, and often new opportunities as well.

–Trade & Civic organizations… Think about places your clients and potential clients hang out to network. Then plug into those networks, at least on an occasional basis.

For example, if you are an accountant serving a local business market, consider joining local Rotary or Lions clubs. If you are an accountant serving a special niche such as HOAs (home owners associations), consider joining the local or national HOA group. (Yes, such groups exist.)

–Social media... Thanks to the Internet, social media offers many opportunities to expand your networks at very low cost. One caveat — do not rely solely on social media — the personal touch is still crucial.

The big four today are LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, and Google+.  My experience suggests that LinkedIn is preferred for B2B, while FaceBook shines with B2C. Done right, Twitter can be effective for both. Just joined Google+ so I have no opinions on it yet.

The key is to be where your potential clients are at. Once again — watch your time. If you are not careful, these can be addictive and can become tremendous time sucks.

Finally, don’t expect immediate results — networking is for the long term and will eventually pay off.  As a plaque in my office says, “In the pond when you least expect it, a fish will appear.” But you need to have your line in the water…

People buy from those they know, like, and trust. Networking works!

© 2013, All rights reserved.

An Ode To My Engineering Colleagues…

In celebration of Engineer’s Week, February 17-23, 2013…

You could not…

Drive to work… cook a pot roast… bake bread… take a shower… watch television… make toast… brew coffee… mow the lawn… call your mother… be cool in the summer… wash you clothes… play computer games… listen to your stereo… ride your bike… videotape a wedding… vacuum the rug… recycle you garbage… play baseball at night… be warm in the winter… fly to Hawaii… flush the toilet… or use the cash machine…

Without an Engineer! (From a sign in Daryl’s office.)

Have You Hugged Your Engineer Today? (From another sign in Daryl’s office)

© 2013, All rights reserved.

Marketing is key for both authors and consultants…

As part of my commitment to get off my butt and write my book on consulting, I attended the Indie Author Publishing Conference this weekend in Phoenix. Over 120 authors and prospective authors heard from several panels of experts that included book editors, agents, publishers, legal experts, and more.

The focus was on the business end of writing. Lots of nuts and bolts stuff – how to pitch your book to agents and editors, published vs. self published, digital books, copyright issues, and much more. Learned a LOT about the ins and outs of the book business. In fact, I’ll never look at a book the same again.

A crucial message repeated throughout the conference — marketing is key! You can write the best book in the world, but without marketing it won’t go far.

As one presenter said, “Writing is an craft — publishing is a business.” It struck me that consulting and writing are similar. If you want to make a living at either, you must first treat them as businesses.

That doesn’t mean you don’t deliver quality. It was reiterated many times — you still need to write good stuff. So it is with consulting — you still need to deliver good results.

Incidentally, it is OK to write or consult as a hobby. Many do this in retirement, or as a pleasant diversion during the working years. We moonlighted for almost ten years before going full time as consultants, and enjoyed it. Even made a few bucks along the way.

But if you want to make a living at writing or consulting, you must focus on the business end of things. And the most important aspect of both businesses is the marketing! Without clients or readers, you won’t make any money.

Here were several insights gleaned on the book business:

Publishers don’t market. They print and distribute. Any marketing they provide usually ends within the first 30 days of release. After that, it is up to YOU to promote your book.

Publishers like to see a platform. If you have a blog with 100,000 new visits per month, you can get published pretty fast. Ditto 100,000 (legitimate) follower on Facebook or Twitter. Do you have an existing fan base?  Don’t worry — even a smaller following helps.

Publishers like credibility. Have you written a book? How did it do? What about magazine articles or columns? Are you known in your market?

Publishers (particularly smaller ones) serve niches. For example, we were told that books on southwest gardening often do well in Arizona. Niche marketing works! (In this case, geography and topic.)

Publishers (particularly the larger ones) often work solely with agents. You may need the connections and guidance these specialized consultants provide.

Publishers reject a lot of stuff. Even really good stuff. So don’t give up — at least right away. But be sure you have a quality product.

Finally, it also struck me that there are many consulting opportunities in the publishing business. A prime example is the the husband and wife team of Arielle Eckstut and David Sterry. They founded and run The Book Doctors, a consultancy that helps aspiring writers get published.

Both are published authors (7 for Arielle and 12 for David), plus Arielle is an agent with a respected New York book agency. They presented a session on “How to Pitch a Book” followed by the Pitchapalooza at the end of the day. Good people!

So this weekend I learned about book publishing, and that writing and consulting have a lot in common. Marketing is key for both. Now, back to the book!

P.S. Special thanks to my favorite book store – Changing Hands in Tempe AZ – the sponsor of the conference.

© 2013, All rights reserved.

Lead Generator #14 – Directories

Directories should be a part of every consultant’s marketing strategies. The secret is to be listed in the right directories – those used by potential clients. So give some thought to where you might look to find someone like yourself.

Most directories provide search capabilities (expertise, location…), so consider your search categories. If you don’t see a good match, contact the directory owner and suggest a new category. This is particularly important if you serve a narrow niche.

Directories alone, however, are not enough. They are just a starting point, so you need to have other pieces in place. A web site is ideal, since most directories allow only minimal information.  Be sure to include your web address and e-mail in the listing.

Don’t have a web site? Set one up — even if it is a single page. Nowadays, a phone number is not enough — most people want to check you out before initiating contact.

The good news is that many directories are inexpensive or free. So where are these directories, and how do you get listed? Here are several options:

  • Professional organizations – Good for visibility with professional colleagues, which often lead to referrals. Most have on-line directories, although some still offer printed directories. Often free, but may include a nominal annual charge.
  • Trade magazines – Good for visibility with potential nationwide clients. Most have on-line directories, and some include printed directories as part of annual Buyer’s Guides. Often free, but for a nominal charge you can often enhance your listing. If offered, I recommend doing so.
  • Civic/business organizations – A good choice if your clientele is primarily local, such as legal, accounting, architecture, etc. Examples are Chambers of Commerce, Business Round Tables, etc. You may want to participate in the organization for even more visibility.
  • Technical answering services – For years, we’ve belonged to Intota (formerly Teltech),  an organization that connects businesses with peer recommended experts. Over 10,000 experts in the science, engineering, medicine, regulations, and business. Free for consultants, and you even get paid to answer simple questions (which often lead to longer consultations.)

Finally, directories are best used in conjunction with other lead generation methods, such as web sites, professional activities,  articles, presentations, etc. In fact, our experience has shown that multiple methods multiply your success.

© 2013, All rights reserved.

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