Winning new business is something that all consulting firms need to do.

But how can you attract premium clients predictably and consistently?

A BenchPress Survey found that using LinkedIn, written content marketing and email marketing were the most popular ways that consulting firms had turned to when wanting to develop new business.

But success was a different story. Most failed and didn’t get the leads they wanted. Many give up too early as it is too hard or there aren’t resources to execute.

So, what is the gap between a stagnant firm and a high-growth one?

Cracking the marketing code

Greg Roworth has grown and sold three professional service /consultancy firms, particularly in the business consultancy space.

He definitely had this challenge in each of those businesses until he “cracked the code.”

“Client acquisition for me was typically having one source of clients or client generation, which was like most people around referrals and hoping to get referrals,” Greg says.

“And luckily because we did a good job, they came reasonably frequently.

But there was never the ability to scale what we were doing by relying on referrals. It was always waiting until we got a referral. And although we managed to get enough opportunities to grow a reasonable size business, it wasn’t growing as quickly as I wanted.

So I had to come up with another way of growing my business effectively.”

Marketers need to know consulting

Marketing professional services firms is so different from other industries.

In consulting, you are selling a service. A strategy, a solution. And most marketing companies are generalists in the industry but might be specialists in the channel or type.

That’s why it is so important to pick a marketing partner (or have marketing execution & strategy carried out by a firm) that knows consulting’s unique challenges.

Greg applied his own analytical thinking to what happened.

The result was a revelation: a completely new way of looking at marketing his consulting firm.

“The process around selling to referrals almost exacerbates this challenge for us because we get used to getting a phone call or an introduction to a potential client, having a brief conversation and saying, well, let’s, let’s come and have a chat. And so we enter the sales conversation very quickly. And so any marketing that we do tries to get us in that position of getting in front of someone to have a sales conversation.

We had to take back a few steps and start to build a relationship with a potential client before they were ready for the sales conversation. And what I discovered is in that process, I was really demonstrating my authority, my expertise, and my abilities in solving the particular problems my clients had before they were even thinking about buying a service and probably, they weren’t even thinking about buying our services.

So it was about building a process, a step by step system to building that relationship where they could start to know us like us, trust us before they bought from us. So systemizing that process over that learning period was really what enabled me then to be able to scale my business and effectively get it to a point where we had clients coming reasonably consistently and predictably.”

And that’s the key with all of this: getting clients consistently and predictably.

If done with a clear focus on the target market, you can attract more premium, high-quality opportunities.

That’s authority positioning for you.

Typical mistakes in marketing a professional services firm

When starting with a marketing strategy for your consulting firm, you’d be wise to start with the end game.

And, leads shouldn’t be the only indicator.

Building brand authority or your reputation can add help attract quality clients.

But before you go lead-hunting, consider how prospects buy in consulting.

They do their homework first.

“Typically, when (my clients) want more clients they’ll come and ask, ‘how do we get more leads?’

What I’ve learned is that’s the last question to ask,” Greg says.

“It’s more about building in the authority positioning into the process first.

You’re building a system that can attract clients to you. And when you have that system of attracting clients and using authority positioning where you’re deliberately setting yourself up to be seen as the accepted authority, they can start to come to you already pre-sold.”

Demonstrate your expertise first. Leads will come off the back of that.

Having gone through a similar challenge where I initially was all things to all people in my consulting firm, I decided to niche down on one industry, and one initial service.

The results were staggeringly positive.

Meaningful differentiation can alter the sales conversation dynamics

I started to attract high-quality leads and have conversations with prospects who were attracted to my offering.

I didn’t need to sell my services. I was assessing them, instead of trying to impress these prospects.

And that’s what authority positioning can achieve: the power dynamic shifts.

Greg agrees. He even has a saying for it.

“You need to position yourself as the saviour, not the servant.

And when we talk about professional service firms, everyone’s about service, and that’s what we do as consultants, we provided a service, so it’s easy to see yourself as being a servant.

Some of the mistakes I see owners of professional service firms making is that, on their websites or in their marketing, their services are displayed prominently. Yes, the website says, maybe their name, maybe how many years they’ve been in business or their expertise and qualifications, but very prominently is “here’s the services we provide”.

And that, unfortunately, is what almost every one of their competitors does as well, which means there’s no level of differentiation.”

Try it now.

Type into Google your services. See what companies come up. Do they look different? Can you distinguish between them clearly?

That’s where content comes into it.

Authority positioning is really demonstrating your expertise or authority through content.

We put out articles on LinkedIn or YouTube videos, or educational type content where we are able to attract people because they’re on Google, they’ll find some content about how to solve their problem.

And they see us then as knowledgeable and authoritative about solving that problem and start to undertake a process where they want to find out more about, us, how we solve that problem. And by the time that they’ve answered a few questions by finding out more material that we’ve produced, they’ve got more of an idea and more of a fuel for us.

So, they’re going through that know, like and trust process themselves. By trying the bread crumbs of the content that we’ve produced strategically to help people come to that point where they decide for themselves, well, we need to talk to this guy or, we need to talk to this firm.”

Do you sell widgets or solutions?

I was talking to a client a couple of weeks ago. And the first thing is you go to the website and it’s really about the technical talk. They sell this service, that product, and they’ve listed all their specifications like a product manual.

And I get it. We usually started our consulting firm as a technician. As an accountant, or technology consultant, or project manager, or business consultant. So, we know our industry.

But that won’t attract the right kinds of clients.

Why? Because we haven’t learned about marketing.

In consulting, we get introduced to referrals, networking and word of mouth as the main drivers of new business.

Working in a mid-sized consulting firm I remember very distinctly the conversations focusing on tapping into our networks for talent and relying on relationships for new business. Marketing was one poor guy who had to pull everything together in a disintegrated way.

If you can become the authority who talks about solving that particular problem – through webinars, writing articles on LinkedIn, publishing videos on YouTube or contributing to industry publications, you get a leg-up to build your know, like and trust.

“If that content and educational process is specifically designed to lead people from that initial problem solving, level of awareness to take them through more awareness about the solutions,” Greg says.

“And when they see that you have a solution that you’ve become the authority in their eyes because you are the one teaching them about that, then they automatically come to you to get it solved.”

There’s a saying I love: people hire people who bridge the gap.

That’s what we do as consultants and in professional services. We take people from pain to solution.

Bear this in mind when you look at your website, review your pitch or try outreach on LinkedIn.

Are you bridging the gap for them? Or are you talking about the product or service?

If you want to reach & influence more ideal clients for your consulting firm, book a 15-minute discovery call with our CEO, Andy Marmont, here. And let’s see if or how we can help.

About the Author


Owner of Conqurve Content Marketing, ex-recruiter, sports writer and journalist.