The COVID-19 pandemic has put in-person meetings on hold, but that doesn’t mean your consulting business has to slow down.
With the pivot to remote work and virtual services, online coaching sessions and consulting meetings have become more widely accepted, which means that physical location doesn’t have to hold you back from expanding to new markets. And if you play your cards right, you’ll be in great shape to continue consulting remotely even once the lockdown ends.
All it takes is a little effort and the right tactics. Here are some tips for getting started.
Build a Community
Part of your goal as a coach or consultant is not just to build a cadre of enthusiastic clients, but also to build a wider community that is mutually supportive. When your community reaches a certain critical mass, you’ll find that it starts generating new clients for your business almost effortlessly.
Think of this community as the top of your marketing and sales funnel. You’ll want to make it members only so that you can gather data and contact details when people register in order to nurture new leads and keep learning more about your target audience.
In order to attract members, you’ll need to offer free, valuable content that helps everyone to learn and grow. Don’t feel scared that people will take your freebies and leave without you seeing any business benefits. This is what lead nurturing is all about. You’re gradually building a trust relationship and establishing your brand reputation among the people who stand to benefit most from your work. When someone is ready to pay for premium consulting as a service, they’ll know to turn to you.
It’s not too difficult to set up. You can use a third-party platform like Slack to host your community’s interactions and share content, like the Spin Sucks community of marketers and communications experts. This community is an especially poignant example, because it offers loads of value, thanks to its vibrant discussions and networking opportunities, and in addition, it serves as a nurturing mechanism for the Spin Sucks paid mastermind groups, coaching programs, and other digital products.
If you’re looking to create a community that’s more branded and feels more proprietary than a third-party platform can offer, this is a relatively straightforward process using WordPress. Here, you can use a plugin like BuddyPress to manage memberships, along with Discussion Board to present a threaded, members-only forum.
You can also jack it up a level by embedding webinar rooms behind the membership gate, for regular, secure mastermind calls. Using ClickMeeting’s solution, this is easy to do, and it comes complete with pre-call reminders through email and SMS, a dedicated Q&A interface, the ability to include calls-to-action in your presentations, and replayable on-demand archives. In this way, you can create a branded world of value where you’re the orchestrator.
Periodically, with the right touch, keep placing reminders about the extra ways that you can help in a paid, one-on-one session, encouraging people to schedule a paid consulting appointment with you. You can also place premium content behind a paywall to gain revenue from members who may be looking for more but aren’t yet ready for a full consulting package.
Make Your Stand
As a consultant, people expect you to be inspirational. As the leader and founder of a growing tribe, they look to you to define the community’s standards, and that means that you have to set some.
Don’t be scared to outline the values that are dear to you. As the old saying goes, you can’t please everybody all of the time. If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up without any clear statement or uniquely identifying features, and that will undermine your ability to appeal to anyone.
So sit down and think about what your business stands for and the values that you set for your brand as a consultant. You’ll probably find that there are about half a dozen basic principles that underpin your style and general life decisions, and these will form the heart of your brand and your community’s self-definition.
For inspiration, check out this slide deck that four brand messaging professionals put together recently as a compilation of how different companies have expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks.
Standing for something doesn’t have to be only or even primarily about social issues, though. It can and should encompass what your take on business is. But whatever your brand position is, once you’ve staked it, stick to it. Bear in mind that in today’s judgmental society, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” so refusing to take a stand may also be perceived negatively.
You’re almost guaranteed to find some people who disagree with you and tell you that they won’t use your services because of your values, but there’ll be at least as many clients who do identify with them and who become even more enthusiastic supporters because of them. However, no one likes people who waffle back and forth from one position to another.
Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
When your business depends on projecting authority, you can sometimes lose sight of the fact that you also need to keep learning. As you’ve likely told your clients, if you aren’t moving forwards, you’re moving backwards. There’s no such thing as standing still, so you need to invest time and energy into growing your own skills.
We’re not just talking about recertifying in a different treatment aspect. We’re talking about expanding your business skills, improving your knowledge about marketing, and learning leadership theory. Some of the ancillary skills that you need to help grow your consulting business include:
- Social media marketing strategy, including which channels to focus on, which hashtags to use, and how to grow a committed and meaningful following
- Copywriting tactics to create blog posts that convert
- How to use marketing tools like a CMS, CRM, chatbots, email marketing automation and landing page optimization
- SEO skills to help your consulting website rank higher on search engine results pages and bring in more organic traffic
- Paid ad channels so that you’ll start to see real ROI on your media buys
- Business leadership concepts so that you can structure your consulting business into a profitable enterprise.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to find valuable content in all of these areas. HubSpot has an excellent series of free courses in all aspects of marketing, including social media marketing strategy, email marketing, and how to use a CMS.
You Set the Limits on Your Own Business Growth
COVID-19 doesn’t have to slow down your consulting business’ growth. You can take advantage of the popularity of virtual coaching sessions to reach new audiences, as long as you put in the effort to build a community, stand by your values, and keep on striving to learn more and add new skills to your toolbox.
Start putting in the work now to grow your consultancy even further, and you’ll be able to keep on reaping the benefits when the pandemic ends.