Consulting is a true “idea” driven business, and it is important to recognize that a big piece of being an “idea” driven business is focused on being able to articulate the value that your practice brings to specific issues.
Idea Driven Business: We define an idea driven business as being able to collect fees for a specific idea derivative service. Every consultant fits inside of this box regardless of the specifics of their practice. (Definition courtesy of Gadarian Digital)
Blog: A blog is defined as a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis. (Definition courtesy of Google Search)
Ergo… if you are involved in an idea driven business, which a consulting effort clearly is, the necessity of being able to convey your ideas is critical, and while not the sole vehicle for doing so, a business blog is certainly a compelling way to do so.
So without further ado (by the way I have no idea why I’m using words like ergo and ado, but I’ll stop doing that for the remainder of the post!) here we go – 10 Reasons Why Every Consultant Needs to Blog.
1) The Evolution on Pre-Sales:
If you’ve been operating your consulting practice for some time, and particularity if you are running or partnered at a consultancy that is large enough to have a stand-alone sales team, you are well aware of how pre-sales used to work. The idea was you would target potential leads so far in front of the sales cycle with the intention that when they were “ready” your firm would already be top of mind.
Well, that still works… but in contrast to the old push methods, today much of the pre-sales work is actually being conducted not by your team, but rather it is being initiated by your leads, and they are heading online to initiate these sequences. So with this in mind it is critical that your “ideas” are ready to be received when someone is interested in initiating their own interest sequences. Location #1 for these ideas is your blog.
2) This Trend Chart:
This chart displays search for the term “blog”, not volume of blogs. No matter how you cut this cake, users are actively searching the term “blog”. Perhaps the dip might be explained simply by the fact that at this point searchers are no longer unsure of what this word means and instead are using more specific search terms for their queries. Perhaps social media might be playing a role. Regardless – the fact is the term “blog” is highly searched for (over 3 billion results when I ran a Google search researching this article.)
We like trends, and generally we try to either get in front of them, or if a trend is maturing we do whatever we can to re-fashion our efforts to take advantage of it. You should do the same in your consulting practice on every level possible, including of course blogging.
3) Search & SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
If you are reading this post, you are probably already aware of SEO and how the entire field of SEO has becoming increasingly important for all of us. Search Engine Optimization makes total sense given this chart:
Yep – you read that correctly – the use of search engines stands around 90% – just slightly behind the numbers for email. Given the saturation of search in all our web activities it makes total sense that businesses need to devote serious resources to performing well in this regard.
While some businesses can be described in a single page, idea driven businesses such as consulting practices generally cannot. Further most consulting practices provide a real edge for their clients due to the ability of the consulting practice being able to parse out nuance and ultimately to deliver results that are beyond what a client might be able to obtain on their own. Typically at some point in the pre-sales effort (see point 1) the potential client is going to head over to a search engine to either attempt to self educate or to source solutions. In either scenario it is critical that you, as an expert in this particular arena are there and can demonstrably display your expertise.
Taking this even further, we can also see from this chart that the frequency of searches is much higher among people with higher income levels and higher levels of education. As a consultant if you have done any kind of marketing persona (In case you have not you might want to check out our free “buyer persona worksheet“) work I’d be hard pressed to imagine your personas didn’t factor in attributes such as higher education levels and wealth due to the fact that in order to close business you need to be talking to the right people inside a firm and generally those people are either well educated or tend to have accumulated a certain amount of wealth.
So…. search is important! Search is even more important for the demos you as a consultant are likely targeting making search a critical factor for you as well.
Beyond search being important, we have been led to believe that Google places a high value on “Freshness of Content” and clearly your blog is a great source for fresh content. And here is another link with regard to “Freshness of Content” that also features a video and quotes from Matt Cutts of Google – in this post it appears that Mr. Cutts downplays the absolute value of Freshness but certainly acknowledges the relative value.
4) Social Media:
If you step back and really think about what “WWW” means – it stands for World Wide WEB. And as the internet gets more complex (more strings in the web) with a richer array of content and solutions available online, one of the core curators and contributors in this matrix is social media.
Whether you are personally “for or against” social media really does not matter. What does matter is that your potential and actual customers are in some capacity likely active inside of social media so you need to be there too. This is particularly critical for “pre-sales” where again we have a scenario where a potential lead is now able to research and learn about you well before you are able to become aware of their need.
As of May 2013, 72% of online adults use social networking sites.
And I get it – as a consultant your buyer is not likely the 20 something who likely lacks budget authority and if they have it (budget) they might still feel they need to “invent” everything – so here is an interested chart focused on social media adoption rates over time by age groups.
Another critical aspect of social media is that it can provide a you with a deep layer of trust and validation based on third party people actively providing their own seal of approval. Just to provide a scenario…
And here are a few more interesting links related to social media:
- Marketing Statistics from Hubspot – this post goes in a few directions including social media.
- 101 Social Media and Digital Marketing Statistics from Social Media Today
- 10 Surprising Social Media Stats from Fortune Magazine (one of their most popular posts of 2013)
By the way, in case you are wondering what does social media have to do with blogging? Well assuming you are willing to drink the the social media cool-aid – what are you going to post in these networks. The answer is likely many things, but chief among them will be your amazing blog posts.
5) Follow the Spend Trend:
This is a particularly interesting spend trend that while not directly related why YOU as a consultant need to blog, it is very much about what your potential clients are doing.
This 2014 Marketing Trend Survey conducted by Strong View is filled with all kinds of interesting facts and figures but one that really leaps out is this one:
A whopping 93% of businesses responding plan to increase or maintain marketing budgets for the year!
So let’s assume that as a consultant your pool of clients is focused on entities that can afford to pay you – well duhhh! Dave – of course that is our pool of clients. Well likely that pool is primarily if not entirely made up of businesses. So now we know they are spending on marketing, and if you look further into this report you can see where they are deploying budgets, you can begin to get a very clear picture of not only where these businesses are spending, but also where logically you, as a consultant can expect to find them. A little reverse engineering as you follow the spend trend can lead to directly into their chosen digital neighborhoods and directly to their digital gardens!
Power Tip: Now that you know where they are, you can see what they are talking about (they are literally talking about it!) and you can begin to craft your own blog content strategy to align with solutioning their gaps.
When you actively blog you are actively sharing the ideas that drive your business. What better way to communicate the breadth and depth of your consultancy than to explicitly talk about it?
This is always a dicey one for consulting practices new to online marketing. They feel that by sharing some of their expertise online they are in essence providing services for free as the potential client will then turn around and simply implement your expertise without engaging you. The truth is that person was never going to hire you no matter what BUT the person that is actively looking for an elevated solution will now have a great opportunity to begin to evaluate how you might bring some valued insight to their need. Again we are in that tricky pre-sales area.
If you don’t put some skin in the game, you don’t get to play. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Instead keep doing what you’ve been doing and hope that your postcards are enough to sustain you up until you are ready to retire. I know that sounds harsh but that is reality talking.
7) Personality & Differentiation:
As a consultant there are often competitors that provide what on the face of it might seem like similar or overlapping services. Of course you know that just because a few consulting firms might be able to provide similar, or even complementary services client budgets don’t work this way – the firm that lands the client eats up the budget.
So it is critical that you can early in the stage provide adequate assurances that your firm is the right choice. A few great ways to do this are by showcasing your personality and through differentiation.
Personality Through Blogging: This is one of those concepts that are all too often lost on businesses and in particular on consulting practices. Well, where do you think those amazing ideas that you and your colleagues are coming up with come from? They come from people – and not just any people – but rather YOUR people.
Being able to provide insights into how you think and how your approach issues can provide potential leads with a great view into your process and how that process might align with their needs.
Further by introducing personality to your blogging mix, you are moving the dialogue from the conceptual into a more personal realm. For consultants this is critical so make sure you don’t leave this piece on the cutting room floor.
Differentiation: In an environment where perhaps the world might not fully appreciate and understand all the nuance that your firm brings to the process, it is critical that you as a consultant can ably and aptly convey your core ideas in ways that connect and in ways that make your firm the clear choice among what otherwise might seem like equals.
Your blog is an amazing vehicle to provide for multiple instances of differentiation. Just remember that assuming a potential lead is searching for a solution they are not being presented with only one path – instead they are potentially being exposed to what might be many good solutions. Through search they are seeing a multitude of results. Through social media they are finding many different options. If they are utilizing word of mouth they are likely talking to more than one person. So you can see how important it becomes that you are able to use your blog to help differentiate your consulting practice from the competition in order to take things to the next step in your sales sequence.
By the way, I have resisted talking about it this up until now, but if you are interested in these ideas you might want to talk a look at my ebook Better Business Blogging where I explore blogging to convey personality and blogging to establish differentiation among many other topics.
8) Can You Help? Prove it!:
I don’t know about you, but generally I find that it is very compelling when I’m looking for a business solution and I go online and can clearly see that a particular vendor can absolutely solve my problem.
With blogging, as consultants you have amazing opportunities to do just that. In terms of moving someone from a cold lead to a warm/hot lead, if they are completely aware that you can absolutely solve their need they are much more likely to move the relationship to another level.
With your blog you have the opportunity to provide multiple instances of this – to literally solve a wide variety of problems that could potentially be the exact sweet spot for a variety of distinct sets of clients with very distinct needs that your consulting practice can solve for.
And remember… most consultants do not require a massive amount of clients in order to be successful but rather they do require a select group of the right clients. Suddenly, knowing that your target audience is both smaller and considerably more specific, you can concentrate your “prove it” resources in very specific directions.
9) Ongoing Client Communication:
One area that I see many consulting practices fall down on is in the practice of ongoing client communications. More often than not, an initial engagement with a client might be limited and very specific. But when you do a great job on the initial engagement your relationship with your client deepens and you begin to establish trust.
Of course with trust comes responsibility but there is also a great opportunity to present more potential offerings and ultimately to deliver on the full breadth and scope of your consulting practice – but only if your clients are aware of everything you do.
A blog is a great resource to make this happen in a more organic manner and a great way to do this is by establishing a newsletter that you regularly distribute to your clients. Trust me me when I say that your clients are interested in good things happening at your firm – they are after all engaging with you, and in addition by regularly sharing your blog posts with your existing clients you are deepening your bonds with them (the more they know about you the better) and are also exposing them to many of your efforts that might extend beyond your direct engagement with them. Another nice benefit of continually educating your clients on your expertise and knowledge is that it enables the conversation surrounding follow-on business to be much more of a conversation rather than a sales pitch as your clients will already be pretty up-to-speed on what additional efforts you might be able to assist with.
10) Professional Discovery
The more time you spend thinking about your business and also thinking about how you communicate your business, ultimately the better you will become. Business blogging is this interesting discipline that can be considering marketing, communications, sales and many other things.
Among the many things that blogging might be, blogging is absolutely a vehicle for professional discovery.
Blogging forces you to make choices. It forces you to really consider your topics from a variety of angles and through a variety of lenses. Blogging forces you to be much more self aware (if your blog is a turd relative to your competitors don’t expect people to flock to your site). More than anything blogging forces you to really think about your business on a regular basis, and for consultants, given that the core of your business is idea driven, regularly spending time thinking about your business is critical and can lead to some amazing business breakthroughs.
Hopefully through the course of this post we’ve been able to provide you with a rich array of both statistical, anecdotal and logical thinking to impress upon you the importance and potential impact that blogging can have on your consulting practice.
The truth is we love “idea” driven businesses here at Gadarian Digital, and in fact it is a client profile that we provide deep expertise in, so over the years we have developed a very acute proficiency in our ability to appreciate, articulate and ultimately to differentiate how our consulting clients are received within their respective market places.
We’d love to hear from you below – so feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below.
Also if you are working inside of a consulting practice and feel that your overall digital marketing and communications approach could benefit from our services we’d love to hear from you.