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How to Monetize Your Knowledge With a Consulting Business (Pt 1)

By Steven Imke |  SBDC Consultant 

“Having a consulting business is all about being able to monetize your knowledge.”

Steven Imke |  SBDC Consultant Tweet

Having a consulting business is all about being able to monetize your knowledge. Most consulting businesses have a very narrow, but deep knowledge of a particular subject such as cybersecurity, human resource management, the law, etc. While some consulting businesses have more than one employee, a large number are simply composed of one freelance consultant wanting to monetize their knowledge. While some consultants work with individual consumers, such as being a wedding consultant, the majority of consultants engage with other businesses and share their knowledge in exchange for a paycheck.

This post is part of a two-part series on how to monetize your knowledge as a freelance consultant. In this post, we will focus on lead generation, while the next post will look at how to pitch and write winning proposals for qualified prospects.

Targeting

The first step in starting a consulting business is to have a clear understanding of what the ideal customer looks like. According to Tim Rice, a Digital Marketer for Entrepreneur, he recommends developing an Empathy map to discover the ideal customer’s worldviews. Typically, empathy maps are a tool used by User Experience (UX) designers, but it works equally well for many businesses trying to know more about their target audience.

An empathy map uses a series of questions to try to get a handle on what is going on inside the ideal customer’s head, so that any collateral material, such as the web page for the consulting business and social media engagements demonstrates that they care and understand the customer’s situation.

 

Empathy Map

What do they say? – “I’m behind in my revenue projections”
What do they think? – “I know I could get more traction. I’m spinning my wheels when it comes to social media marketing.”
What do they do? – “I work from home and use offshore resources to do labor arbitrage. I listen to podcasts while driving, and I’m a big fitness junkie”.
What do they feel? – “I see their friends with jobs getting promotions and paid Healthcare.”

For more information on how to create an empathy map, Nick Babich has written an article titled 10 Tips to Develop Better Empathy Maps that shares how to create an empathy map in more detail.

Prospecting

With a better handle on who your ideal customer is and after making sure that all of your customer-facing content reflects that you understand their issues, it is time to start prospecting. Prospecting can come in the form of both active and passive prospecting

Active Prospecting

Many consultants resort to active prospecting. Active prospecting is about the push influencing style of persuading, and asserting to engage with prospects. The consulting business uses social media, emails, cold calls and speaking at events to pitch their service.

Most of the time, the recipient of active prospecting is not yet ready to buy and the consultant’s message falls on deaf ears. Active prospecting uses the spray and pray approach to marketing. Therefore, active prospecting can be a huge time suck, and make the consulting business appear sleazy and sales-y. If you choose to engage in active prospecting, make sure you automate the process, as the success rate is pretty low.

Passive Prospecting

Passive prospecting uses a pull influencing style of bridging and attracting to engage with prospects. Passive prospecting often involves the use of a lead magnet- which is a free offering- to incentivize a prospect to provide you with their email address in exchange for a free offer. Passive prospecting using a lead magnet has the added benefit of establishing you as the expert based on the depth and quality of the content you provided in the lead magnet and creating reciprocity since the prospect got some value from you at no cost.

Since most consulting businesses are all about working with other businesses to sell their expertise, LinkedIn is an obvious and natural platform to prospect for leads. An effective use of LinkedIn for prospecting is to write a LinkedIn post that starts with a question such as “Does your consulting business need more business?”, and then provide a relatively quick answer to the question to act as more of a teaser in the post’s text itself.

Since LinkedIn wants users to remain on the platform, if you include a link in your main post that takes the user off the LinkedIn platform- for example to your blog for more detailed information- LinkedIn will not like it and will give your post less reach. However, there is a work around that will not alert LinkedIn that your content has links intended to take the user off their platform.

When you write your LinkedIn post, you will want to include your links in a post’s comments instead of in the actual post itself. In the post, you will want to make a statement to the effect that you have more information or a link to a free tool that you will include in the first comment. For example, you might say at the end of your post like “For a more detailed answer to these questions. we have included a link to a more in-depth article in the post’s first comment”.

By including a statement that you are including more content or something for free in the first comment, you are creating a place to add your lead magnet, and a reason for the user to read your comment to access the additional content you provided. Moreover, LinkedIn will not penalize your posts reach for a link that takes the user off-platform since the links were included in the comment and not in the post.

In the first comment you should provide:

  • Any link you offered to provide them for additional information.
  • A statement such as “If you have a question. reach out to me on Twitter at…” It is best to ask them to ask a question on Twitter than to send you an email. With Twitter, they will keep the question short by forcing them to ask the question based on Twitter’s 280-character limit. Moreover, their questions will not fill up your email inbox with people looking for free advice.
  • A link to something for FREE to act as a lead magnet to get their email address.
  • Provide a link on how to get in touch with you if they want to contact you for a consulting gig.
  • A pointer to your website so the user can do more research on you.
  • A comment asking them to freely share your information with anyone else that might be interested. If you don’t ask, they will most likely not share your information, so ask for it.

For any consulting business today, video is a powerful medium to share your knowledge. Loom offers a free way to capture video and share it as a link. You can create a mini webinar that displays your desktop with your talking head in the corner, capture only your screen, or just you talking to your audience. You can then publish or download the video, and post it or include it in an email.

Related Article: How to Create Effective B2B Marketing Videos

To improve your ability to understand what does and doesn’t resonate with your audience,, you should make all of your links using bitly. You can set up a free account on bitly and then use bitly to shorten any URL. Then you can use the bitly dashboard to see how your links perform.

Qualifying

Once your prospecting has produced a lead, it is time to qualify the lead. The first step in qualifying a lead is to make sure they can make a decision. The last thing you want to do as a consulting business is to waste your time pitching to someone that is only a tire kicker or does not have the authority to make a decision.

You would be surprised about how much you can learn about a person before you meet with them. When it comes to qualifying a lead, I recommend you look at the prospect’s webpage and attempt to find them on social media. Since prospects also buy from someone that they Know, Like and Trust, you should learn to use a tool like the Lifestyle database in Reference USA to find common interests prior to moving to the pitch stage.

Next post, we will discuss the pitch meeting and how to draft a proposal

This blog, and more, can be found on Steve’s consulting blog page, SteveBizBlog.com

 

 

Tom Dougherty, Esq.

Tom is a
patent attorney with over 14 years of intellectual property experience with law
firms and in-house within companies. He regularly advises clients in all
aspects of intellectual property law including patents, trademarks, trade
secrets, copyright law, and technology and patent licensing. 

Tom was an
electrical and software engineer for over 10 years.  He currently advises
about 10 startups, which range in size from pre-revenue to $12 million
annually.  Through his many years of diverse legal experience, he has
obtained a practical entrepreneurial business philosophy which allows him to
provide a full range of intellectual property, business, and transactional
services to established and emerging growth companies.

Do I Need Business Insurance?

By Heather McBroom |  Founder of Precision Services

"You work incredibly hard to build a company, why put all that work at risk?"

Heather McBroom | Founder of Precision Services Tweet

Even though most types of insurance for your business are not required by law, it is CRUCIAL for small businesses to carry proper insurance, regardless of what kind of business you own.  The 3 main types of business insurance are General Liability, Professional Liability, and Product Liability.  The way your company is structured, LLC, Sole Proprietor, etc, plays a big part in how important it is for you to carry business insurance.  

Insurance protects your business from disasters or a potential mishap where the financial consequences could force you to close your doors.  This could include an unexpected loss due to fire, wind damage, vandalism, and hail – just to name a few.  It also could cover the business income loss while your company must remain closed during a covered claim. 

We also live in a litigious society.  In the event your company gets sued, your insurance policy covers defense costs that could often exceed thousands of dollars, even for bogus claims, before the Judge makes a decision on your case. 

Need more reasons to consider carrying business insurance?  How about peace of mind?  Rather than worrying how you are going to handle situations that may arise, you are able to concentrate on what truly matters – running your business.  Second, business insurance also makes you look credible.  Carrying business insurance shows your prospective clients and customers that you are a safe bet and have the proper protection in place if something goes wrong.  Third, it also protects your business assets.  You work incredibly hard to build a company, why put all that work at risk? 

You also may have contracts may require it.  When it comes to doing business with other companies or leasing a space for your business, it is often required that you secure the proper insurance coverages to transfer any risk for claims that arise from your negligence. 

Just as important is making sure you are carrying the CORRECT type of insurance coverage needed for your company’s individual risks.  There are multiple lines of insurance that may be needed such as General Liability, Professional Liability, Cyber Liability, Inland Marine coverage, Workers Compensation, and Commercial Auto Liability to name a few.  In addition, policies these days are limited to business description so making sure your policy has the CORRECT classification listed on the policy to cover ALL types of work your business in doing is vital.  Navigating through your policy’s EXCLUSIONS and ENDORSEMENTS to see what is specifically NOT COVERED on your policy is important also. 

How do you choose the proper insurance company and agent to insure your business?  Start by dealing with an independent agent who has access to several different insurance carriers.  Make sure your agent specializes in Commercial Insurance to ensure they know how to properly assess your company’s risk and can provide the proper insurance solutions that you need.  Commercial insurance can be complicated, so someone who specializes in this type of insurance is crucial.

Keep in mind as your business grows, your coverage needs may change.  That is why it is vital to have an insurance agent who maintains constant communication with you, comes to your location to assess your operations and risks appropriately, and explains your coverages to you in terms you understand.  We offer free policy review and no obligation quotes with over 30 of today’s top-rated insurance carriers. 

How to See Immediate Results From Your Website

By Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing

"Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website."

Tim Fitzpatrick |  SBDC Consultant + President of Rialto Marketing Tweet

Your website is the workhorse of your marketing plan. Virtually everything you do from a marketing standpoint will drive people back to your website.

Yet, most businesses make many common mistakes with their websites. Be honest, are you committing any of the following mistakes?

     You don’t clearly communicate what you do?

     You are using images that don’t reflect your business and what you offer.

     You use insider language or technobabble.

     You have way too much text.

     It’s not clear what action you want a visitor to take once they land on your site.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. You can quickly address any of the issues above by implementing the tips below.

If you choose to implement these tips, your website will become a critical element of your marketing strategy.

Here are the essential elements you should have on the home page of your website.


1. The Above The Fold Trilogy

The above the fold portion of your website (the header) is the part visitors see on their desktop before having to scroll down the page. It is the most valuable real estate on your website, and you must take advantage of it!

The job of your website header is to get visitors to read the rest of your website. To accomplish this, you should answer three questions above the fold:

     What do you offer, or what do you do?

     How will it make my life better?

     What do I need to do to buy it?

Peoples attention spans are super short. Your goal is to have any visitor be able to read and understand this information within five seconds.

2. What Are The Stakes?

What does your customer have to lose if they don’t buy from you? That’s what the stakes section needs to answer. You can easily create this content by answering the following three questions.

     What problem is your customer having that you can solve?

     How is that problem making them feel?

     Why is it wrong for them to be burdened with this problem?

Here’s an example of the stakes content for our business (marketing consulting & digital marketing services).

“Are you tired of spending money on marketing and seeing no results? We understand how frustrating this can be, but marketing your business shouldn’t be a constant challenge.”

3. Trust Building Elements

Your customers aren’t looking for a hero, they are looking for a guide to help them solve their problems. One of the characteristics of a guide is credibility.

You can easily establish credibility with customers on your website by adding a few of the following elements.

     Customer testimonials.

     Certifications/Affiliations/Accreditations

     Logos of current/past clients.

     Results you’ve achieved for clients.

     Awards you’ve won.

4. The Plan

It’s vital to demonstrate your company is easy to work with visually. The plan section of your website will accomplish this.

The goal of the plan section is to provide your customers with a path they can take to work with you. Ideally, this should be 3 steps, but no more than 4.

For example, a plan for a financial advisor might be:

     1. Schedule a Consultation

     2. Get a Financial Plan

     3. Enjoy Your Retirement

5. Value Proposition

Customers don’t buy your product or service, they buy the results they can achieve from them.

What benefits will your customer experience when buying from you? This is your value proposition. Your website should list 3 to 4 results or benefits a customer will experience when they do business with you.

6. A Clear Call to Action

People don’t typically take action unless they are told to do so. This is why it’s incredibly important for you to clearly spell out what action you want a potential customer to take.

Your call to action should be all over your website. Don’t be afraid of having it in too many places. “Learn more” and “Get started” are not clear calls to action. Here are examples of great calls to action.

     Buy Now

     Schedule An Appointment

     Get a Consultation

You should also offer something of value on your website for visitors that aren’t quite ready to buy. Things like ebooks, cheat sheets, or checklists can be offered in exchange for a name and email address. Now you’ve collected a lead you can nurture via email until they are ready to buy.

7.  Additional Elements

In addition to the six elements above, you may want to consider incorporating some of the following “bonus” elements as well.

     Video

     Core Products/Services

     Target Markets You Serve

It’s amazing how many businesses don’t have these elements on their websites. By incorporating them on your website, it will make all the difference in the world.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Make these changes to your website, and I’m sure you will generate more leads and get more customers in short order.

Tips for Securing a Business Loan

By Jackie Gonzalez |  SBDC Consultant + Business Banker, ABC Bank

"CASH FLOW not REVENUE is KING! In commercial lending the focus is on the cash available to service the debt (cash flow)."

Jackie Gonzalez |  SBDC Consultant + Business Banker, ABC Bank Tweet

Commercial bank lending is based on risk.  The higher the risk the business poses to the lender, the harder it will be to borrow.  The following tips are designed to help you present your best case to a commercial lender and increase the chances of getting the loan your business needs. 

1.     Evaluate the business – In commercial lending there are specific criteria by which your lender will evaluate your business and intangibles that may apply.  View your business through the Lender’s eyes. Know your credit score, is your business profitable, are your customers paying on time,  do you have a good reputation in the community?  Google your business, see what others are saying about you.  This will be one of the first things your lender will do when they start working on your loan request. 

2.      Repair any deficiencies you can —  Knowing what the lender expects and knowing where your business might be lacking will help you repair these deficiencies before applying for a business loan. Explain any seasonality in your business, improve your receivables management, and ensure there are no mistakes on your business and personal credit report.

3.     Make sure financial statements are in order – Make sure your financial statements are complete, correct, and in order.  Include a balance sheet and income statement.  Consider having your accountant review your financial statement to anticipate any issues a lender may raise. Understand what your financial statements say about your company.  No one expects you to be an accountant, but you should be able to explain any significant fluctuations in revenues and expenses.  

4.     Be prepared to specify how much you want to borrow and what you will use the proceeds for – Will the loan be used to purchase new equipment or capital expenditures?  Expansion or hiring? Increase in inventory? Expansion into a new facility?  The lender is required by regulation to ensure that loan proceeds are being used for legal purposes, that’s why they are so nosey! 

5.     Develop a concise business plan – Develop a plan that clearly illustrates where your business is now and how a new loan will benefit your business.  Discuss strategy, goals, and tactics.  Provide background on management, both owners and non-owners, if applicable.  Discuss your competition, marketing plans, regulatory barriers, and cash flow projections. 

6.     Be prepared to put your own money in and to personally guarantee the loan – Lenders want to share the risk, not own it entirely.  If you are expanding into a new facility, purchasing equipment, or starting a new business, you will need to have some of your own cash into the project.  If you are not willing to invest in your business, why should the bank?  Anyone who owns 20% or more of the business will be required to personally guarantee the loan.  Make sure all owners/partners are prepared before applying for a loan.

7.     CASH FLOW not REVENUE is KING! – A business owner often looks at revenue when discussing how much the business is “making”.  In commercial lending the focus is on the cash available to service the debt (cash flow).  For instance if your business has $1MM in revenue but is paying out $950,000 in costs and expenses the cash flow is $50,000 not $1MM……………..BIG difference! 

8.     Speaking of…do not try to “hide” your businesses success at tax time – Business owners can often encourage their tax prepares to include as many deductions as possible to reduce their tax liability, but that can come back to haunt a business owner.  As a business owner you should discuss with your accountant the implication of the way you file your tax returns.  It may save you a few bucks in taxes but also may prevent you from obtaining a loan in the future.

 

There are more lenders than ever before willing to lend to small businesses and many lenders can be found with a simple online search, but do your research.  Some lenders (such as online or peer to peer) may be a quick easy fix but can also cost substantially more than working with a lender in your market. 

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