Today I am going to show you a complete strategy for how to use content (inbound) marketing to sell productized consulting services.
This article is for you if...
- You are a consultant suffering from meeting fatigue. The reality for us as consultants is we give a lot of our value away by talking. We give away value privately during coffee conversations, lunch meetings, and free consultations. We give away value publicly in live presentations, webinar trainings, and free workshops. We talk...a lot. You are reading this because you talk a lot too, but don't always get a fair return on your effort.
- You want a strategic, leveraged approach to selling your services. When you use content marketing appropriately you can share the same content, sometimes even better content, in a more strategic way. The same piece of content can be used multiple times in multiple formats, allowing you to reach more people with the exact message you intend.
- You want more, qualified leads coming in through your website. Specifically, content marketing is the vehicle you need to drive new traffic, leads, and sales through your website. You know there is a way to do it. You've "seen" it happening. You want to apply the strategies to your own business.
If you are looking for a complete map for how to take your most powerful consulting offering and turn it into an entire, soup to nuts content marketing campaign...you've found it. Read the post below and download the worksheet. It's time to get to work.
Step 0: Create a Transformational Productized Service
Before I enter into the strategy I need to introduce a very important concept for us to agree on. Here's step zero. You need to have a productized, transformational service.
A what? I know...that's a lot of vocabulary words. Let me explain.
Transformational = to change in character or condition.
Productized Serive = a structured service with a predefined scope, pricing, duration, set of deliverable and results.
In other words, you need to offer a pre-defined, step-by-step service that delivers a specific, condition-changing result for your BEST client.
Why is this so important?
Your BEST client wants transformational (awesome). Your BEST client does not want average. Your BEST client does not want second-fiddle. Your BEST client does not want "good enough". Your BEST client is also less interested in the fact that you are well-spoken, well-educated and well-polished.
What your BEST client wants is an awesome solution for their overwhelming problem. When you look at your service does it fit in the "awesome" category? If not, you need to reconsider your offering and make improvements.
Productized services help you explain what you do. One of the traps for consultants who talk too much is over-explaining the offering to prospective clients. You talk so much that you've confused them more than you've helped them. What you thought was a "simple" explanation actually made the issue more complex for them.
Productized services break the big problem down into pieces and allow your client to see a step-by-step path from where they are to where they really want to be.
Productized services help you keep control of your consulting arrangements. If you offer open-ended consulting it's too easy for a client to shift the entire scope of your project with (what they think are) simple requests. And though they may have meant well, their ask expands the offer beyond the initial arrangement thereby changing the scope, price, duration, set of deliverable and results of your project. It's hard to run a profitable consulting company when entire projects change on a whim.
Scope creep is one of the major threats to a consulting business. When you offer a productized service, it vastly limits the opportunity for scope creep. You are free to focus in on high-level client service and your client is free to expect the high-level results you promised.
A productized, transformational service is a structured way of delivering a specific change for your BEST client. Your BEST client knows what the high level service is, how long it's going to take, how much it's going to cost and where they can expect to be at the end...before they purchase anything.
If you're trying to establish yourself with coveted positioning in the marketplace you and your BEST client have to know what makes your business special. The easiest way to establish that is to breakdown your awesome service and spell it out in a step by step, high-level service offering.
That's where you've got to get started. Now let's get into step number one of the actual content marketing strategy. In step number one you will take the big problem you solve and and break it up into smaller problems and smaller solutions.
Step 1: Break Your Service Down Into Steps
The first thing you're going to do is break the big problem up so your client can begin to appreciate each step that is involved. Picture your BEST client sitting directly in front of you as you acknowledge their smaller problem and explain how to fix it. This will allow you to create a high-level content piece around each step.
It's important to remember that this content must stand alone. It's not a teaser. It's not a short summary. It is a solution.
Why is this so important?
Your BEST client is overwhelmed by the big problem. Breaking it down into steps makes it feel more manageable. Your BEST client needs to be able to read through each content piece and "see" their end result...before they take action. Since you have helped them picture a better situation it increases their trust in you and creates excitement for the next step you want them to take.
Multiplies your lead generation. Because you took the time to make each step a stand alone content piece, you can now promote each of the content pieces separately. Now, instead of having just one ebook or one free report, you now have multiple content pieces that address the specific pain points your prospects are feeling.
Step 2: Promote Each Piece of Content Separately
Each content piece deserves its own content promotion and there is a way to promote them to get maximum leverage. See below.
Blog Post - This will be the the cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. Don't be shy about going deep and WOWing the reader. First, this will probably be their first impression of you and your business. Second, research has proven that long form content gets more social shares, better search engine results, and higher conversions that shorter content. (Is that an amazing claim or what? You can view the research for yourself on Buzzsumo's blog.)
Email Newsletter - Let your existing audience know you have created new content by sending out a short, concise, well laid out email newsletter. Many people send out a "blast" of content in their newsletter with many links to many different topics. Noah Kagan from SumoMe.com took a more focused approach in his newsletter and saw his click through rate (CTR) double from an average of ~5-6% to ~12-15% (look at step #9).
Then you syndicate your content to every relevant platform your BEST client uses. Here are 3 of the most popular syndication options.
YouTube - Depending on your specific approach you may choose not to do video marketing. But if your content marketing strategy includes video, YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users each month. It's fair to say that your BEST client visits YouTube...at some point...for some content. You should be there with the content they need.
Facebook - If you think Facebook is still just a playground for "kids" and "young adults" you are wrong...just wrong. Companies are selling soap, plane flights, medical advancements, and everything in-between on Facebook. Most importantly, the Facebook advertising platform allows you to target your BEST client (see step 3) in ways that just weren't possible before.
LinkedIn - If you are a business professional you should have a presence on LinkedIn. Period. Once you've optimized your profile the LinkedIn publishing platform provides another opportunity to post your high-level content and attract more clients to you. If you are looking for a set of best practices for their platform, Paul Shapiro wrote an excellent article on LinkedIn publishing success.
Why is this so important?
Leverage. The first big thing is leverage. Is you just created a unique problem or unique solution to a very unique problem and so you want to put that in all the right places.
Instead of having to sit down with someone and explain it over coffee, you now have a blog post you can send them to so they can digest all of what they need to digest. So instead of it being a one on one interaction by putting your content in the right place you can speak to hundreds if not thousands of people with the same effort.
Increased Conversions. Second, is that this is going to increase your conversions so your best client gets a chance to view your content in the location and in the format that makes sense for them and then they get to choose when they take the next step.
When they finally take that next step it's their choice. It's their decision. You didn't have to poke, prod or encourage them. They have made the decision to engage with you deeper. These are better quality leads. That's the value proposition on why it's important to break up the content pieces and then promote them individually in this different way.
In the next step here takes you to a landing page. When someone reads that content they see it somewhere. They read it, they enjoy it. What's their next step?
Step 3: Create a Landing Page for the Transformational Service
Create a simple landing for your transformational, productized service.
The idea here is you want to connect the dots between the small problem they just read about and the larger, strategic solution required to improve their situation. The landing page makes it plain that you understand how the two are connected and you have a solution already prepared for them.
An easy way to execute this is to take each of the content pieces you've prepared and bundle them together in a full report. The report will identify each of the smaller problems and connect them...making it plain that their individual challenges are symptoms of larger condition (which you are ready to solve).
Here are 5 core elements of any quality landing page
1 - Headline with your big idea, promise, or benefit - visitor needs to immediately "get" the value of staying on the page
2 - Image of the giveaway - this is a picture of the full report you have put together
3 - Bullet point benefits - simple, punchy ideas that set clear expectations for what is inside your report
4 - Social proof - short testimonials or support from other clients who have enjoyed your services
5 - Conversion goal – clear instructions for what you want the visitor to do next
If you want to dig a little deeper about this specific step, Unbounce has a really good article that explains each element in more detail.
Why is this so important?
Connects the dots. Your BEST client begins to see that their specific issue is related to a larger strategic problem. Better still, since you are the person that brought the a-ha moment about, clearly you are the person who can help them solve it!
Captures leads. This might be obvious, but still important to state. The landing page captures leads. Now you have a chance to follow up with them. Speaking of follow up let's take a look at what the follow up process looks like.
Step 4: Deliver Your Follow-Up Sequence
You'll want to send out five email messages that simply remind them of the appropriate next step they should take. The sequence looks like this:
Message 1: Hello and Welcome. You want to welcome your new subscriber to your list and content. You also want to remind them of what they just downloaded and encourage them to consume it as quickly as possible.
Message 2: Restate the Problem(s). The next message restates the problem(s). They downloaded your material for a reason and you need to remind them of what that reason is. Yes, you need to poke the pain point. It needs to be clear that if your new subscriber doesn't take an action, there won't be a solution. Fortunately, these problems have a solution and you would like to help them if they are ready.
Message 3: Reveal Life Without the Problem(s). Message number three shows life without the problems. Paint a picture of what life looks like after resolution. What does their business look like? Is someone important pleased with them? Has a certain daily frustration finally been settled?
Message 4: Compare Other Options. Message number four is where you compare some of the popular, lesser options. You know your BEST client has already tried to solve this problem somewhere else, with other inferior solutions. What are their other options? How do they fall short? What types of experiences might your BEST client have had before they met you? This message reflects your understanding of their situation and demonstrates that your solution fills a gap that others don't.
Message 5: Make a Final Ask. In the fifth message simply ask, "Why haven't we heard from you yet?" They've read your blog post, downloaded your free report, and received a series of messages from you. This is a low-pressure question. It's a final reminder that you are here to help.
Why is this so important?
Even the BEST clients need a reminder. We would love it if each person that downloaded our content devoured it immediately and rushed to contact us for services. Sadly, that is not typically the case.
You've got to follow-up. Remind them who you are. Remind them of their situation. Remind them that a solution is available.
Clarity around the next step. Because your BEST client is overwhelmed by the issue they legitimately may not know what to do next. Your follow-up messages help make it clear which next step is best and and what they should expect.
Speaking of the next step, here is what I recommend for you. I recommend a two-step closing process containing a discovery call and a proposal call. I'll explain below.
Step 5: Consult and Close
I have found the best way to deliver free consultations is to do a a two-step process. The first step is discover. The second step is proposal.
The Discovery Call. The first conversation focuses on discovery. They have already seen your content so you can focus more on their challenges as they understand them. Ask how they see their problem and what they believe the solution is. If you listen well enough, they might even provide some insight on why they believe you are the right person to help them.
They may also have some nuanced needs that are important to hear. Simply create an opportunity for them to tell you all of what they have to say about their particular situation.
When people respond to your email you need to set up a free consultation time with them. The simplest way to do this is offer a few times and they will pick one. You will call them at the time they select. I use a calendering system called Appointlet (www.appointlet.com) . It syncs with Google Calendar.
Either way, be sure to confirm with them when they select their time.
Listen First, Talk Second
Here is a place where you can really mess things up. Let me be very direct here: You are not on the phone to explain your business to them. Remember you are on the phone because they responded to a very specific content about a very specific service. They are already interested in what you offer. Your job is to listen and be sure what you offer can really help them. But you cannot help them make the right decision if you talk more than they do.
You need to listen as hard as you can to their situation. Open up with the conversation with "so tell me about your experience with [problem]". And then let them tell you what their experience is. You'll begin to understand if you can help them by what they tell you. You don't have to sell them anything. Part of your value is that you are letting them speak freely. This may be one of the few chances where they can hear their own thoughts. Trust me, no one else is paying this much attention to their problem. You are the only one. You just became *special* in their eyes.
Open up with the conversation with "So tell me about your experience with..."then be quiet and listen to what they say.
How do you close? Let them finish their story. Be sure to ask enough questions so that you are clear on their problem. Once you've done those two, simply ask, "Do you want help with that"?
Once you ask "Do you want help with that?" the prospective client will tell YOU the steps they are prepared to take.
And then be quiet. They will tell you exactly what they want to do. If they want to move forward, great, sign them up immediately.If they need more time they will tell you AND they will tell you why. If necessary, set a follow-up call in the next 48-72 hours.
Here is a simple script to end the call: "I heard you and understand where you are. Let me take a few days to put together a proposal for you so you can make your final decision. Does XYZ date work for you? Please be sitting next to a computer so I can walk you through everything. By they way, is there anyone else that needs to be present for our call on XYZ date/time?"
The purpose of this break is less about your need to create a proposal. The truth is you will have the program already outlined and you will just need to tailor it to their situation. Really, the next 48 to 72 hours is for them to make a decision and get comfortable about whether or not they want to work with you. They may have other questions for you on the second call, but by that time they will already be 80% percent sure if they want to work with you or not. The second call is just a confirmation and an opportunity to take payment.
Proposal. In the second conversation you are going to offer them your packaged solution. First, acknowledge what they've told you and the specifics of their situation. Second, present them with your packaged solution. It's simply a matter of if they are ready to make the purchase. Make it easy for them to decide and keep the interaction low pressure.
How to Handle the Second Consultation (Proposal)
You don't want your prospective client feeling like you are pushing them into a decision too quickly. On the first call they are making many micro decisions about your ability to help them. Did they connect with you, did you listen to them, do they feel like they can trust you? These questions along with many others will be asked and answered subconsciously.
Don't try to figure all of this out. Just stick to the plan and allow them to make whatever decision they believe is in their best interest. The second call confirms their challenges and makes sure all decision makers are on board. When you call the prospect for the second time you will walk them through a very simple proposal. All you have to do is pull up the presentation slides and email them a link to view your screen. Join.me (www.join.me) allows you to share your screen quickly and easily.
Here's your format for the second call
- Here's what I heard you say.
- Here is how I can help.
- Are you ready to get started today?
Then be quiet. They will tell you what they want to do. Be quiet as long as your energy can stand. Do not speak before they do. If they are quiet, you are quiet. Let them think. Let them talk. Let them tell you what they want to do.
Important Note #1: If you did not get a yes from their partner(s), you do not have a agreement. If you aren't sure if they have partners you need to ask. Do not begin work with the client until all decision-making parties have bought in. If this process is going to work smoothly for you and your new clients every one needs to agree and be on the same page.
Important note #2: Resist a third call with all your might.
If the prospective client wants help, great. If not, great. What I didn't want was to “talk about help” for 6, 7, or 8 free consultations. With that said, this entire strategy makes it clear there are two calls...a discovery call and a follow-up. If done right you just don't need a third call.
Extending the conversations doesn't build your authority. It ruins it.
Are there exceptions, sure, but do not build your strategy around the exceptions. Build them around the person you expect to say “YES”.
Your content describes a very specific solution. They responded because they want that solution. If they do not want to move forward that's okay, let them off the phone professionally and quickly. I promise you this will be one of the most valuable 30 to 45 minute phone calls to you or the new client has ever had. You will be a star in their eyes.
Why is this so important?
Less back and forth. Having these two purposeful conversations one after another greatly simplifies what could be a lot of back and forth between you and your BEST client. Because you've got a transformational, productized service ready for them to consume there is much less need to discuss, clarify, and negotiate.
Easier to say yes. Because the service is pre-packaged and the value is already understood, it is much easier for a prospective client to say yes. You've done your part to put a clean, easy-to-digest service together already so your new client can feel good about what they are buying and what they will receive in return.
Opens the door for a long-term relationship. Since the conversation went so smoothly, your prospective client is actually going to enjoy speaking with you. There are a number of reasons that someone buys (or doesn't buy), but you have done your job to provide them with a memorable experience in either case. You kept the free consultation low pressure. You listened to their needs. Your offered a well-understood, robust solution. This scenario sets you apart and makes it much easier for the prospect to consider working with you in the future.
In the end what have you created?
You've created an entire content marketing strategy out of your most powerful consulting offering. You no longer have to "talk so much" to create new opportunities because the content on your website is doing the heavy lifting.
But now you have a decision to make...
You and I both know that none of these strategic benefits will not magically land into your business. There is no tooth fairy, Easter bunny, or Santa Claus. You and your team are going to have to execute...and I'd like to help.
At the link below you can download a complete content marketing strategy worksheet that follows the exact steps of this post. The worksheet serves as a guide and includes a number of templates to help you complete each step. You can download it in the section below.