One big challenge that most every consulting practice faces is the ability to differentiate. And in an ever more competitive world where so many very qualified individuals are leaving the traditional workforce to pursue consulting avenues, your ability to truly differentiate your practice early on in the awareness cycle is become ever more critical.
While it might seem like there are many similar consulting practices, you know that your practice is superior in many ways. But how as a consultant can you make sure your differences are clear to the interested outsider?
It might be as simple as the people. Or maybe its the process. Perhaps it is all about your approach. Relationships. Results. Vision. And you get the idea. While a group of competing consulting firms might all “do the same thing” the reality is there are many great reasons why a prospective client should chose your firm instead of another.
As consultants, how do we convey our differences in persuasive, compelling and effective manners? And more to the specific merits of this post, in a world where every consultant has a website, how do we employ online differentiation tactics to give us the separation we need to encourage that fateful “next step” in a relationship?
Inside of my work here at Gadarian Digital I spend a tremendous amount of time focused on exactly this question as a subset of our expertise surrounding the practice of Digital Identity Management on behalf of our clients, and today I’m going to share with you 33 Ways to Use Digital Means to Differentiate Your Consulting Practice and Separate from the Pack. I should also mention that I regularly review consulting sites for a variety of client engagements, and these digital differentiation tactics are items that I often see being employed by top shelf consulting practices with remarkable effectiveness (so ignore this list at your own peril!)
Some of these digital differentiation tactics require more effort than others, and some of these tactics really depend on the nature of your practice. That said, from this list hopefully you’ll be able to take one or two ideas that you can quickly implement and you’ll also be able to take a small handful of ideas that you can build towards over the coming months. And no – you should not be using all these tactics – if you do you won’t have any time to get your work done!
So without further ado – 33 Ways to Use Digital Means to Differentiate Your Consulting Practice:
- Copy – are you using the copy on your site to a maximum effect? If your language feels canned and is not inspiring this is a priority task for you. Is the copy on your site persuasive and most importantly are you using your copy to differentiate your consulting practice?
- Testimonials can go a long way in helping to explain how you’ve helped others and therefore how it is reasonable to assume that you might continue to help people in the future.
- Photos – so many ways to go with photos. Great photos of your team. Great emotive photos to further your copy efforts. Great photos to offer contrast that can enhance a digital experience. On the flip side if you are using the same stock photos that everyone else is (that girl in the conference room confidently smiling…), not only do you look ordinary but it also sends a clear signal that you are not likely to generate many original ideas – the types of ideas that clients pay a premium for so use stock photos sparingly if at all.
- A great About page. At some point in the process a prospective client is going to visit this page – make the most of it!
- A really great website design. If you are checking out your competitors and they all have great sites while yours is sub-par it is time for an upgrade. If all your competitors have sub-par sites and you manage to pull off a great looking site the differentiation advantage is yours for the taking.
- A regular podcast.
- Webinars are a great way to provide information about your practice in a very proactive manner.
- Social media – this one is tricky because so many people engage in social stuffing creating a fake optical narrative (yep – I’m talking about the accounts that go out and purchase a horde of fake followers). I don’t advise doing that. Instead, if you are going to use social media as a differentiation tactic what I advise is to actively dialogue. The idea is to use your social conversation streams as validators both in terms of there sheer existence as well as from a qualitative perspective – if you are saying great things and adding value people will notice.
- Specificity is a great tactic. While there might be a ton of consultants focused on the IT space, there are likely far fewer focused on the IT space specifically around healthcare. Being specific can be a great edge as it is not a big leap to assume a great depth of industry specific knowledge.
- Going broad can also work to your favor in terms of projecting digital differentiation – a consulting practice that is able to draw from multiple wells and can provide a wider perspective – many clients find this immensely valuable.
- Use location maps of your offices. If you have multiple offices creating a map listing out all the locations can be very powerful.
- Write a book. Writing a book requires tremendous dedication and it is assumed that by doing so the author clearly had deep domain knowledge. Authoring a book is a great differentiation tactic and it also provides potential clients with some amazing visibility into how you operate and think.
- Case studies are great opportunities to show not only how you work, but also the results your firm delivers!
- Display a “careers” tab – implying that you are doing so well that you are hiring which means that your firm is clearly in very high demand.
- Creating an eZine that establishes your firm as a regular and trusted resource for leading information in your space.
- White papers are great both as validation tactics and also for collecting emails. Although… I’m starting to see some of the much larger consulting firms allowing white paper downloads without requiring a valid email address.
- Pricing is great tactic – particularly if you list what are considered “above market” prices – this differentiation tactic can leave people thinking that you charge the prices you do because you are really good, and this tactic also can effectively remove some of the “window shoppers” too.
- Using images of tall buildings in big cities or other big things. I know we already touched on photos, but I felt this tactic deserved it’s own listing. Let’s be honest – most consulting practices do not own big buildings and yet we see consulting practices associating themselves with these types of images all the time. Why? Because clients want to believe that the firm they hire is sophisticated and knowledgeable and somehow tall buildings help encourage that feeling.
- Infographics – these can be really strong and really viral when done right.
- Word clouds are pretty easy to produce and yet they can look very powerful – if you have never used a word cloud in a post or on a page on your site I’d encourage you to try it out! If you don’t know what a word cloud is feel free to Google it – you can thank me later.
- Putting out authoritative reports, or better yet partnering with other credible organizations to co-sponsor reports. Reports are great because they appear official and often they are picked up by other sources. That doesn’t mean any monkey can simply issue a report and the universe will respond – the credibility required for this tactic takes time to build, and generally reports are a pretty intense endeavor.
- Conducting interviews with important people on your website (otherwise why would important people be on your website).
- Being a sponsor of something is a great way to show what you think is important and to contribute in a deeper way.
- Including video interviews of your team members – preferably in a building where the backdrop is a blurry building. Regardless of the background (buildings or otherwise) spend some time setting up your shots and make sure your sound quality is clean.
- Creating screencast videos showing people how to do something specific.
- Clients – listing out the clients you have worked with is very powerful
- “As Seen On…” – if you are regularly quoted or interviewed this is a wonderful differentiation tactic as the various outlets that feature you can also be great validators for your position within your professional community.
- Maximizing the impact of your footer and sidebar – one nice tactic that I see regularly used for these areas is to provide a logo carousel of either clients or the press – it is very visual and by using these established brands a consulting practice can add further perceived legitimacy to their own practice.
- Promoting speaking engagements – obviously only authoritative individuals get to speak… So if you are one of these individuals make sure to promote it on your site.
- Highlighting the depth of experience of you and your team.
- Blogging is a great tactic, and forgive my self promotion but I recently wrote a post on 10 Reasons Why Every Consultant Needs to Blog – if you haven’t seen it yet I suggest you check it out.
- Advertising is a great tactic. For some reason too many folks seem to think that all digital efforts should be “free” but as you are smart and sophisticated consultants I can say with confidence that you know better!
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of “ranking” higher for specific search terms inside of the search engines. The mechanics of SEO are a the fodder for plenty of other sites, posts and even companies but I will say that the idea that a search engine like Google elects to rank a page on your site at a higher placement sends a clear signal to everyone on the internet and serves as a very big differentiation.
And one bonus digital differentiation tactic: Guest Posting is a great way to gain new exposure for the magic of your consulting practice. (PS thanks @flevy for this great guest posting opportunity!).
As you can see there are a wide variety of ways that as consultants we can really outshine competing firms through a variety of digital differentiation tactics. And as new outlets emerge, so to will new tactics present themselves. Being in an “idea driven business” it is crucial that you are able to effectively and persuasively present your ideas (the basis of your consulting practice) in ways that will resonate with your potential client base.
Hopefully the above list will serve as a nice boost but if there is one thing I have learned time and time again – the smartest people are not the ones writing the articles but rather the ones that comment on them so please fee free to share some differentiation tactics that you’ve used to help separate your consulting practice from the pack – we can all learn from each other!