During the recession of 2008, Bain & Company analyzed nearly 3900 companies. They sought to determine why some companies fail, and others thrive.
The biggest losers played defense. They…
“tried to slash and burn their way to the other side, under the misconception that extreme cost-cutting would stabilize the enterprise…Still others tolerated poor results during the downturn, waiting to see what would happen, and then finally took action — too late.”
The winners took the opposite approach.
“While they focused intensively on cost containment, [the winners] also looked beyond cost. Playing offense almost always trumps simply hunkering down, and the best companies usually gain market share during a challenging economy…The strongest companies coming out of recessions went on offense early while others thought only about survival.”
The market has already begun to bounce back. But for most of us, the pandemic has altered the way we run our consulting businesses. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit still and wait for things to return to normal. Instead, play offense.
Many businesses — your prospective clients included — face new challenges. Challenges that they are willing to invest in your expertise to solve.
What if you took an “Antifragile” approach? Where your consulting business is not only resilient — but thrives during challenging times?
With the right mindset and a creative approach, you can win consulting business during a global pandemic or economic downturn.
After reading this article, you’ll have 3 marketing strategies you can employ right now to increase deal flow and fill up your pipeline.
Winning new business doesn’t mean winning new clients.
It’s much easier to win repeat business than it is to win new clients. Your current clients already know, like you, and trust you. Right now, prioritize reaching out to current clients before new clients.
But before you inquire about their current situation and make an offer, a personal check-in goes a long way. This is a relationship business. Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to remember this.
Check on how your clients are doing before you check up on how their business is doing. A heartfelt email or phone call to show clients you are thinking of them is always appreciated.
If you get the sense that they are willing to talk about business, ask them about their current priorities.
What are they struggling with during the pandemic? What new objectives are they trying to achieve?
Can your expertise solve one of those problems? Can you help them reach their new desired future state?
If you can add value, you can make an offer — even now. Especially now.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean a full-on project.
Budgets are tightening up even for companies who are playing offense. Clients might not be open to investing in your high or medium pricing options. That doesn’t mean you need to cut your fees.
Instead, you can “down-sell” them to a productized offering.
Here’s how Dorie Clark, communications consultant & coach, did this in her business:
She had a potential client who had expressed interest in a strategy session, but over a single weekend, her client lost 40 percent of her business.
Suddenly, the client could no longer afford the strategy session.
Dorie recommended her online program as an alternative option. It was something that the client needed — a solution they could afford even after losing nearly half of their income.
Get creative with your pricing and the ways you can create value for your clients. If they deposited $10K in your bank account, what outcome could you create for them — and in what form would it be profitable for you? What about $1000? What about $100?
If your prospective clients don’t have the budget for a full project, down-sell them. Offer them something that still creates an outcome, but involves less of your involvement. These smaller offers also pave the way for larger engagements.
Your consulting clients don’t care as much about what you DO for them. They care about the RESULTS you create for them: the problems you can solve, and your ability to take them closer to their desired future state.
Virtual workshops, webinars, and remote coaching are another means to create a result. If you haven’t done much remote consulting, now’s your chance to start.
All of the tools you need are at your disposal. Everyone’s used to them now. Zoom meetings have become the norm.
If you can’t do consulting in-person, how can you deliver it virtually?
What results can you still create without being on-site? That’s where virtual coaching and consulting comes into play.
You might not be able to deliver 100% of the results or impact you could if you were onsite. But you can still create value. As you learned in the previous section, you can turn your in-person consulting service into a “virtual” version, adjusting the price as you see fit.
Solving problems, reducing pain, and adding value come first. How you do that is secondary. Chances are, your physical presence isn’t required for value creation.
What action can you take right now that will benefit you well beyond this challenging time?
Social distancing and limited travel has forced every business online. Your consulting website is now not only a credibility vehicle — but a fundamental component of your marketing and sales repertoire.
Now is the perfect time to start doing all the writing you’ve put off. Doubling-down on content creation is one of the best ways to invest in your long-term success during this time.
Write something — a book, an article, a white paper — something that brings value to the people you serve. When you write, you’re creating an asset that might not offer a short-term benefit, but will pay dividends to your consulting business over-time.
If you don’t like to write, create videos or speak on podcasts instead. Get in front of the camera and teach something that would add value to your clients. Find the top podcasts in your industry, and pitch them on having you on. Talk about the value you can add for their audience.
Most people are spending more time online these days. Producing content puts you on their radar.
For the next week, select one of the strategies above — and act on it.
Reach out to a client and ask how they’re managing the change. Listen to their problems. If you can help solve one of those problems, put together a proposal for them.
Or, write down the outcomes that your consulting services create for your clients. Brainstorm on how you could deliver that same result virtually: through a workshop, webinar, remote coaching, etc. Get creative with it. As a consultant, your thinking is your most valuable asset — not your physical presence.
Or, slice your typical engagement into pieces. Take the first piece — often, the strategy phase — and offer that as a “Discovery” project. Offer it to a potential client who might not have the budget, or the confidence, for a full engagement right now.
The pandemic has created uncomfortable constraints for consulting business owners. Now, you have a choice to make. You can hunker down, play defense, and wait for this to blow over. Or, you can accept these constraints and use them to your advantage.
Michael Zipursky is the CEO of Consulting Success® and Coach to Consultants. He has advised organizations like Financial Times, Dow Jones, RBC, and helped Panasonic launch new products into global markets, but more importantly, he’s helped over 400 consultants from around the world in over 75 industries add 6 and 7 figures to their annual revenues. Over 35,000 consultants read his weekly consulting newsletter. Michael is also the author of the Amazon Best Sellers ACT NOW: How successful consultants thrive during chaos and uncertainty, The Elite Consulting Mind and Consulting Success®, the book.