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How To Brand Your Marketing Consulting Firm

Category : b to b marketing, branding, BrandingWire

17

I have a feeling this month’s BrandingWire project is going to be popular for many marketing bloggers. I’m hoping it elicits some strong opinions! Our project is to tackle how a small B2B marketing consulting firm should brand and market themselves. I know many bloggers who participate in the marketing blog community and many of them own or work for B2B marketing consulting firms. From branding to search engine marketing, the type of marketing consulting varies but the goals remain the same.

A side note – you’re going to get a different perspective from me. I happen to be on the client side BUT, have some strong opinions on how a marketing consulting firm should go about getting my business.

On occasion over the last few years, I’ve interviewed some local B2B marketing consulting firms to help us with various problems or improvements we’ve wanted to make. Rarely do the engagements go past the first meeting. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but when my small budget is on the line I better have confidence that they can perform the task at hand better than me.


Here is how I believe a marketing firm should market and brand themselves.

Stick With Who You Are: Marketing has evolved so much over the last few years that the amount of marketing functions is hard to track. There is branding, email marketing, SEM/SEO, web design, blogging, paid search, etc. We had considered outsourcing our SEO and had interviewed many consultants. I would ask each firm on the phone if they had SEO professionals in house and each would say yes. When they arrived for a meeting it was obvious the company’s web designer was now an SEO professional or they would say they’re “partnering” with another firm on this project. Well, I know a bit more than your average person about SEO so it was easy to see that they really didn’t understand the trade. I think you need to brand and market to your skills and not pretend you’re something you’re not.

Speak Out: If you’re primarily a local consulting firm, than I think you should be working at getting speaking engagements and local or national industry events. Being seen as a speaker promotes yourself as an expert and therefore shines positively upon your consulting practice.

Be That Company People Have Heard About
: Getting involved in local chamber events and doing the networking side of the business is a must. I believe alot of customer engagements start with meeting potential customers or people that can point you towards those customers at local networking events.

Be Heard: I’ll be honest, the top two or three consultants we had in were people who had blogs that I read or podcasts to which I listened. I felt like I had the chance to get to know them and learn that they were experts in their field before we even met.

Be Search-able: Whatever you do online – whether that is a website, blog, podcast, etc. – make sure you’ve optimized for local search. The first thing I did was go to Google and look for Minneapolis consultants. If I couldn’t find you online, I was going to have a tough time finding you.

Be Prepared: As a buyer of consulting services, I can tell you that I need to know about your company and with whom you’ve done business. In our first meeting I’d like to know how big or small you are, what areas of expertise you have in house, and examples of projects you’ve recently done.

How Will We Work Together?
: This might not be a popular opinion, but I think alot of branding happens as you present yourself to a prospect. I think companies can set themselves apart by how well they present their processes. Too many companies have walked into my office and left me wondering how we were going to work together. Professional presentations and outlines of how you typically go about working with customers goes a long way.

Price Wisely: I’m not the type of buyer that always jumps at the lowest price. In fact, I think the lowest bidder usually gets tossed out of consideration. How you price your services says alot about how you perceive the work you will do.

If I stepped out today and turned the Lonely Marketer into a marketing consulting firm, these are the elements on which I would focus when developing my branding and marketing strategy. Marketing consultants are in a competitive field and each step in the vendor/customer relationship is crucial.

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire! Also, stop by and see what others in the group had to say on this topic: Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Steve Woodruff, Drew McLellan, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, Olivier Blanchard.


Comments (17)

[...] Patrick Schaber [...]

Patrick,

This is really interesting for me to read as I come from the company side as well. Sticking with who you are and doing your homework on the company you’re pitching are the two key things I look for. A word of caution on capabilities presentations — keep it short and to the point. Make the meeting more about the prospect than about you. Find ways to make the slides a departure for a conversation. When presenting case studies, make sure they are good examples of your process. On second thought, make them stories, too.

Patrick,

Good post. I think the “Be Prepared” suggeston is key, but for non-technical marketing consultants that does not mean a presentation, that means listening to the clients and responding to their questions. If near the end of the meeting, there are things we want to add that were not asked, that would be the time to do so.

Valeria/Lewis,
Thanks for sharing your expert insights!

I agree with both you and probably should have written it better in the post. If the consulting firm doesn’t first learn about me and my needs before talking about themselves, the meeting will be off to a bad start.

As far as white papers and process documentation, I always like to see that as leave behinds that I can review after the meeting.

Patrick:

I’ve just printed out your blog and will use it as a checklist as I solicit new business. I’d be interested in your take about developing lasting relationships as well.

Martin

I love “be heard” … we often forget that the companies that hire us have done some of their own research before getting you in.

I am always hesitant to present “capabilities” or “credentials”. It seems to me that you either have them or you don’t … otherwise why are you having a meeting? CK has some great thinking on this … and while her approach doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, there are some great gems in the detail (will search for the link).

[...] Patrick Schaber [...]

Hey Gavin,
It’s interesting, I thought there were other “hot buttons” in my post that people who actually are marketing consulting firms would jump on. But, presenting capabilities seems to be the one.

You make an excellent point – if we’re having the meeting, I’m probably aware of capabilities. Clients typically do their homework and know what vendors bring to the table.

I’m probably a unique buyer in the sense I’m pretty anal with my limited budget and I like to know all of my options before I jump into anything.

With that said, if I was on the other side of the table, I’d be eager to show I’m more interested in the client than I am touting my own capabilities. I’m sure that’s what makes you all very successful – you listen before talking.

If I could have a do-over on my bullet point, I’d probably phrase it more along the lines of being prepared for questions by customers on experience or in-house capabilities.

This is why I enjoy being a part of this BrandingWire group! You all have great insights and always make me think.

Thanks, Gavin!

Martin,
Wow – thanks for thinking that highly of my list!

As far as building relationships, I’m pretty easy in that respect. I really enjoy the vendor/customer relationship. I truly appreciate the vendors who promise what they’re capable of and delivering on that promise. That builds loyalty.

And here is where I completely contradict myself from this discussion thread, but I appreciate those vendors that listen and take the time to understand what I need.

I’m also a big believer in treating vendors with the same respect they show you. I think it’s as much the responsibility of the customer as it is the vendor to build that lasting relationship.

Like I said, I’m pretty easy and enjoy the relationship building.

Patrick – Late to the game here, but as anothe client-side marketer I can say that our process is often one of the most well-received parts of our presentations. One client even used it almost as a project milestone checklist as they proceeded through the project with their team so they could stay organized. It’s visual which I think also helps. It clearly shows how my firm will work with its clients. Imagine that?!

Kevin,
See, I consider what you’re doing a component of good branding and marketing. I think that goes a long way towards improving the perception the vendor has of you. What are the chances of getting you do a post on that??

[...] customers do.  Patrick Schaber of The Lonely Marketer and the Branding Wire project put out his checklist on what a B2B consulting firm should do to market and brand themselves.The interesting perspective [...]

Patrick – I’m happy to talk about it, but I don’t usually blog directly about work.

And I cannot take credit for this part of our approach, it was baked before I arrived!

Great points Patrick…small businesses need to keep your points in mind when they create their content, specifically the “Stick with Who You Are.” Once you understand your own vision and culture, the types of content initiatives become more apparent (print vs. web/podcast vs. video). Mix that with your customer persona, and you’ve got a match!

Good thought, Joe! Understanding culture and initiatives plays a big role in deciding how content is distributed. This in turn is a big factor in how your business is perceived.

Very nice and informative post. You have given all the possible tips. If one follows this post as it is, success is sure to come.

Thanks for sharing your perspectives. I’m with you; a company’s brand exists only in others’ perceptions. Therefore, the name of the game is ensuring that those perceptions exist and that they’re favorable. It’s not about logos, identities, etc. as so many small companies think. Instead, it’s about who you are–and perhaps more important the value you’ll deliver to prospective clients–whether that’s taking the time to understand their needs or delivering services that achieve their objectives. Then, you need to gain visibility–because there’s no point in a “secret” brand. You provide great suggestions for accomplishing these goals!