This article provides useful resources related to consulting firms’ three highest priority marketing activities — thought leadership, planning and online content.
I recently came across a research report from 2010 on marketing consulting firms in the new decade by Source for Consulting. One element of the report I found fascinating was the disconnect between where management thought their marketing teams were spending their marketing effort vs. where they actually were. And then aligning that difference with where they actually should be putting their efforts. Here were the results from that portion of the research:
If I were to guess, most consulting firms are still facing these same exact hurdles today. So the question becomes how do we get to where we need to be? If you ask me, the most critical elements in this list where mid-tier consulting firms struggle most are thought leadership, planning, and online content.
Jason Mlicki recently released an article on How to Evolve from Content Marketer to Thought Leader as well as a podcast with Jeff Durocher on Making Thought Leadership Work in Consulting Firms which do a good job delving into this subject. The one element not covered in those two posts was the value of upstream marketing and aligning it with thought leadership. With upstream marketing you begin engaging with prospects earlier in the decision-making process, the point in a project where the pursuit and analysis of a problem/opportunity is still being conducted internally by the prospect. You need to begin marketing upstream with effective thought leadership. A great place to start crafting your expertise is with open communication between your marketing department and your team of consultants. Work with your consultants to uncover your clients’ true issues and how those align with your firm’s differentiators. Begin aligning your thoughts and expertise around those issues and packaging it in a way so it’s relevant to those who are in the beginning of the problem/opportunity analysis process. Some additional useful resources:
I’m a firm believer that progressive planning is the only beneficial use of time within a consulting firms marketing team. In the consulting world, needs and challenges are constantly evolving. And therefore truly effective planning cannot be done in a one time cyclical format. Marketing plans need to be built, evaluated, adjusted, and re-evaluated consistently throughout a year. I’m not saying you should cancel your annual planning session. It’s highly important and needed. It’s where you can spend the time to adequately interview your consultants to understand the recent issues clients have faced. You can also complete your market research to align what your team of consultants is saying relative to what the market is saying. And then develop your strategy to best position your firm over the next 12 months both from an upstream marketing standpoint (reaching people more in the product development phases) as well as from a downstream marketing standpoint (consulting firm validation phase).
What I am saying is that annual plan should be built with holes in it to fill in over time. For example, content calendars should only be built a quarter at a time. Develop themes based on what’s topically relevant and then identity the thought leadership that will be created, online content to be produced, supporting collateral needed, PR angles, and tradeshows to distribute the story. Also, don’t feel you have to live by the plan. Once a quarter take a few days and evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and adapt. Feel free to overhaul the strategy if needed, adjust tradeshow schedules, introduce new messaging, etc. Some additional resources:
How you present your thought leadership online today needs to be taken very seriously if you’re a consulting firm. As much work as it is for you to develop high quality thought leadership, you need to invest an equal amount of resources in how you present and publish it to your website so you get the best return from your investment. You need to focus your energy in a few places.
First, you need to be thoughtful about the diversity of content you present around a topic. We developed the Content Marketing Wheel to help our consulting firm clients think about how to develop the right mix of short-form content to attract clients and deeper, interactive content to engage them.
Next, you should focus energy towards the conversion process for your online content. You should think through what you believe the conversion process looks like for clients in the earliest stages of their journey relative to those who are closer to hiring a firm for a project. What set of call-to-actions need to be made and associated with each type of content to move the buyer through the funnel? In addition, how do you manage that conversion? How will you qualify the leads as they emerge? Some additional content on this topic:
- Developing a Proper Lead Qualification Process
- An Introduction to Marketing Automation
- How to Manage Your Website Conversions
Have a question or feel I’ve left a stone unturned (which I undoubtedly have), ask below.