Your Digital Brochure – Who will be responsible?

Monday, January 20th, 2014
Digital Brochure

Digital Brochure – Exactly what you want?

Setting Priorities for Digital Marketing Materials

If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time, you have been exposed to ever more digitally-delivered sales and marketing information.

Your previous company

In addition to the usual printed annual report, brochure, tech sheets, printed ads, etc., which of these online resources have your previous employers used to attract business?

  • Interactive website
  • Facebook company page
  • LinkedIn company page
  • Twitter account
  • Sales Videos
  • Weekly or monthly e-newsletter
  • Email promotions to in-house list

Your consulting business

As you build your consulting practice, which of the items on the list do YOU plan to use? And, most important, where do you start if you want to use several of them?

1. First on the list: LinkedIn

As we have discussed before, for a professional, a well-designed LinkedIn personal profile has to be first on your list. It serves as the introduction to your consulting “brochure.” Recent statistics show that 93% of employers are using it in their search for the right people to fill their job needs. And according to Hinge Marketing, 60% of potential professional service buyers check out their target company’s social media presence (including LinkedIn) before they decide to buy.

2. Second on the list: your professional website

Every professional needs a website to serve as a digital brochure. (It serves as far more, but it is definitely the first place any potential client will look for information about you and your services.)

There are so many options for getting a website in place!

  • You can interview and hire a website designer to build a site for you at the cost of anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000; the process may take a month or two.
  • You can get a discount website built over just a few days for as little as free!
  • You can build it yourself, if you have the time and inclination.

Whatever route you choose, be sure it satisfies your needs for YOUR consulting business. Questions to keep in mind:

  1. Will the site need frequent changes or updates?
  2. Will you want to be able to make those changes yourself?
  3. Where will you get the training you need if you want to make the changes?

How the website should be designed and laid out is worth more discussion — a lot more! Here’s a link to our full manual on building a professional services website. For today, be thinking about WHO is going to do it.

3. Third on the list: your email list

Of course you don’t intend to spam your prospects and/or clients with unwanted email! But email remains the most widespread method for personal business communications. The two key words in that last sentence: personal and business.

For your emails to be personal, you must have the right address and the right name for the recipient. Think of how many “fake” or pseudo emails you have created in the past! Your prospects and clients do the same thing.  Confirm their names, their addresses, and that they WANT to hear from you when you write.

Business emails need to be carefully formatted and managed. As your business grows, you will need an email “service provider” to help you keep your marketing lists separate and updated.  If you sign up for information from The Marketing Machine®, it will be delivered with the help of Aweber, one of the most popular email and autoresponder programs. Again, for more info on effective emails as a marketing necessity, check out Better eMail Copy.

Virginia Nicols
The Marketing Machine®


I hate networking!

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

I hate networkingDoes that sound like something you might say?

Sticking with this a little bit longer, here are a couple of other statements I’ve heard from consultants about networking. Are any of them familiar to you, too?

  • “I feel like I’m intruding on a conversation that’s already in progress.”
  • “What could I possibly say to the speaker that she hasn’t heard a million times before?”
  • “It’s nice to reconnect with old friends, but as for meeting new people – it just doesn’t seem to happen!”

Coming from someone who wants to build a consulting practice, these statements are bad news. Many consultants say they get the most of their business through referrals.

And they make those referral connections through networking.

Hating networking will get in the way of your building a successful practice. So, if you need to improve your attitude and/or your networking skills, keep reading!

What do these statements reveal?

Take a look at those statements above, and you’ll see that there’s one theme common to all three: a lack of purpose. The hapless networker isn’t sure what he has to offer, or why he’s even at the networking event. Naturally, he ends up drifting around the edges of the crowd or sticking with people he already knows. Either way, it’s a waste of time.

No wonder he hates networking!

How to change the dynamic?

Great networkers are made, not born. Like every other “champion,” they follow a training regime that over time gets them to the top of their game and keeps them there.

When it comes to networking, three of the key components of training include:

  1. Set a purpose and a goal for the networking event.
  2. Figure out who you intend to meet and prepare what to say.
  3. Make sure you come away from each conversation with an appropriate next step.

Of course, this short list is misleading. Networking skills don’t develop overnight. Even setting a goal isn’t something that just “happens.”

Following a step-by-step networking training course can set you up for success.

Professional Networking Guide miniIf you need to polish up rusty networking skills, or develop some new ones altogether (for example, that include taking advantage of social media!), read more about our Professional Networking Guide. It’s packed with “how-tos” for avoiding intimidation, starting up conversations, keeping from getting stuck – and ending the conversation in a way that continues the relationship.

We’ve drawn on years of our own consulting to put this together, and added new ideas from other professional networkers.  Get more details now.

The Marketing Machine®
Virginia Nicols

Holiday Season – A Good Time to Network?

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

If you’re new to consulting, and just starting to build your business, or even if you’ve been a consultant for a while and think your reputation is well established . . .

End of the year parties and get-togethers are made for professional marketers!

The big advantages of holiday season parties:

  • You don’t have to plan your own event.
  • You don’t have to compete to get attendees — they will already be there!

So what’s the catch?

People are at a holiday party to celebrate! They have not come with the idea of doing business.

If you miss the cues, you could make a big mistake.

Still, the holiday season is the biggest season for many businesses, so business — and money — won’t be that far from anybody’s mind.

Your job is simply to bring business into the conversation at an appropriate time.

Your networking plan should make it clear how.

  1. Identify who will be at the party that you want to meet.
  2. Do your homework about that person — what is going on in her company? What’s going on in her industry?
  3. Be prepared to pose an intelligent and useful question at the right moment, to begin that all-important dialog and relationship building.

If your purpose is networking, it is not to party. Don’t confuse the two.

Don’t stuff your face while trying to present yourself as a professional.  Ditto regarding overdoing alcoholic beverages.

Yes, networking at holiday parties can be tricky, but what a shame it would be to miss a great opportunity!

If you are serious about networking, consider getting your own copy of our Professional Networking Guide. Professional Networking Guide miniIt will set you up so you’ll make it safely and effectively though the holiday season minefield.

This is a serious training piece. If networking is a part of your business marketing — and surely it is — then I believe you’ll appreciate our step-by-step approach to becoming a confident and effective professional networker.

Take a look right now!





Virginia Nicols
The Marketing Machine®

The Consultant’s Ghostwriter

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Help For the Writing-Challenged Consultant

Consultant ghostwriter

Expert at written communications?

As I read about the statistics on the lack of “functional literacy” in the City of Detroit – approaching 50%! – I got to thinking about the world of consulting and the varying degrees of coherency of proposals and reports that I’ve labored through over the years.

During this time my views have also been formed by a Rotary Literacy Conference that I ran in 1991 on the East coast of the United States, and subsequently and very recently by our dealings with college interns coming out of the University of California.

Our educational system seems to be woefully lacking in the quality of language instruction. Of course, reading and writing skills vary widely and, while I’m not really qualified to comment on the skill levels of our teachers and professors, I do wonder how professionals in our society can function without at least a better-than-average command of the language and its proper usage.

How Well Do Your Written Documents Represent You?

Proposals, white papers and reports are at the heart of professional consulting. And, while the “language of business” is distinctly more formal when dealing in the corporate world than with small businesses, communicating clearly and appropriately with the target audience is always important – and a challenge for many. This is one challenge that is not easily overcome without a formal educational foundation.

Professional Business Writers Are worth the Money You Pay Them.

A solution for the independent consultant – at least those dealing with small business owners – might be to utilize freelance writers or proofreaders, or both. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are a good place to start. It may take a number of trial runs to come up with the right resource, but the added cost for professional writing services doesn’t need to be exorbitant.

Since English is becoming the standard language of business, you will of course want to make sure your writing resource/s are fully versed in English. I would probably require that that person’s first language be the language of your audience.  (English in one part of the world may be quite different from English in another part.)

When you consider that a typical consulting assignment will bill several thousand dollars, the value of good communication far exceeds the two hundred or so dollars you might pay a ghost writer.

How Do You Keep Costs Down?

That depends on your communications style and proficiency with the language. Obviously, it you expect someone to draft a document from scratch it will take hours and cost more.

Some ways to be more efficient:

  • Clearly identify for the writer the PURPOSE of the document you want written and what you WANT THE READER TO DO.  (For example, a web page Article will have a different purpose and call to action than the Welcome Letter to a new client.)
  • Then, create a list of sentences (that include the appropriate professional jargon) and put them in the order to be presented.
  • Now, using these notes, take a stab at writing the document the way that makes sense for you.

A professional writer will easily be able to take the list and your first draft and create a good working draft.

The bottom line is that your documents are going to be read or even studied by other people in your target market. Regardless of how good an impression you make in person, you will ultimately be judged on the quality of your writing — by others who may never even meet you.

Joe Krueger
The Marketing Machine®

Have you used freelance writers in your consulting business?  How did it work out?  We will all be interested to hear your story.




Marketing Pieces for Your New Consulting Business

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The series:  Breaking Into Consulting

Picking the Look and Feel of your Logo and Marketing Collateral

Your website, business cards and stationary, proposals and reports are all key to maintaining your image. Even your invoices should reflect your brand image.

Graphic Design ImpactThe words and graphics that describe and depict your products and services have a style . . . a look and feel. And while they needn’t be identical, they do need to bear a family resemblance in order to strengthen your identity.

There are well-established rules for the use of type styles, sizes, art and colors.

Unfortunately, most non-professionals who decide to do their own design work choose the wrong type styles and use too many different ones. They tend to use flashy color combinations laid out in ways that not only defeat the purpose of the communication, but actually detract from it.

If you plan to do it yourself, unless you have professional training or talent for graphic arts, you’re best off to stick to the basics for your new consulting business: subdued colors, text treatments in preference to images, and standard layouts.

Even if you do have some training and talent, we recommend that you engage professional services to be sure you get exactly what you need.

When to hire a graphic designer

We are well aware of the inexpensive design services available over the web. In many cases, you can get a logo or other design for as little as $5! However, you must be prepared to get what you pay for . . . and that often will include some challenges with communicating with the artist (who is likely to be in another country and speak a different language).

Even if you find an artist you work comfortably with, you are the client in this case, so you do need to drive the project. Here are some of the issues you need to be familiar with:

  • What works for the web vs. what works for print
  • Color choice (psychology, color palettes)
  • Typography (difference between a Font and a Typeface)
  • Formatting styles
  • What makes a successful logo

The best resource (for the artist within you!)

We recently found the best book on graphic design!  (That’s a picture of it above.) Use it to learn more about graphic arts concepts and for sure, have it handy as you work with a hired artist. Check it out in our Library.

And let me know what you find most valuable in this book.  I’ll pass it right along to the author, Roey Pimentel.

Virginia Nicols
The Marketing Machine®

P.S. While this short post deals mostly with what we might consider “marketing collateral” (printed material), the whole discussion of graphic design applies equally well to your website. In fact, because your website is likely to be the first marketing piece potential clients really spend time with, it MUST do its marketing job. Our ebook, Website – The Hub of Your Marketing Plan, addresses all those marketing requirements that the site must meet.

Is a Brochure Essential for Starting a New Consulting Business?

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

The Series — Breaking Into Consulting

As a new consultant, you certainly have to consider what marketing collateral you need. In fact, we spend a lot of time of the whys and hows of marketing pieces – your business card, letterhead, website, etc.

The Wrong Brochure May Work Against You At This Stage.

You’re new in business and new to consulting as a professional pursuit.  You’re in a hurry to get up and running.  In consultation with your website designer, husband or marketing advisor, you may be asking:

“If I only had a beautiful brochure to give to people, wouldn’t I appear more professional? More established?”

The answer is, emphatically, “No.”  Too often, a glossy brochure meets the needs of the owner — but plays no role in meeting the needs of potential clients!

When you’re just starting out, you don’t know what you need.

As a problem solver, you don’t know what problems potential clients will be facing.  Your job is to uncover them after an introductory meeting  — and maybe, only through a thorough needs analysis. If your brochure says you solve “this sort of problem,” it may prevent that first meeting from even happening.

Later, if you find yourself specializing in solving certain types of problems, you will know how best to describe your process and results.  You may, at that time, even have case histories (carefully sanitized) to share as part of your marketing.

Therefore, the most effective brochure for the new practice may be a simple FAQ page on the website, or a typewritten list of your services on a single sheet of letterhead.

Flexibility In the Beginning Can Be Beneficial.

As you gain clients and experience and become comfortable with your “style” of consulting you will develop a better understanding of your target market’s expectations. At that point you will have a better idea of whether or not you need a printed brochure and, if so, what form it should take.

If you’re still making decisions about collateral, take another look at the suggestions here:

Day One of Your Consulting Practice

And take a look at the other posts in this series, Breaking Into Consulting.  Each has some good reminders and links to materials created by professionals and aimed directly at new consulting business owners.

The Breaking Into Consulting Series:

WARNING: While all the information mentioned here has value, I caution you about spending too much time on your marketing materials before you complete that essential first step — developing your Marketing Plan. When you’ve completed all the analysis for that plan — analysis of your own strengths and weaknesses, analysis of the marketplace and your competition, development of your strategies and even tactics, etc. — then decisions about marketing collateral will be simple and sound.

The Marketing Machine®

Take a look at our recommended guide to building a marketing plan for a professional practice. I think you’ll find it refreshingly straight-forward. And it will help you decide if and when to spend money on marketing collateral.



Consultant As Salesperson

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

How skilled are you, not just as a consultant but as a salesperson?

You’ve probably spent a considerable amount of time honing your skills and keeping current on information relative to your niche market. But have you fully analyzed how you’re going to attract and book clients? Do you think/assume they are going to sell themselves on engaging you? You do know better than that, don’t you?

The classic image of the pushy salesman is, of course, far from reality for most businesses and certainly in the world of consulting. You recognize how important it is to maintain your professional demeanor.

But, you also must realize that making sales is at the heart of building your consultancy. And, to be effective, you need to “Pull” rather than “Push” people into your proposition. How do you do that?

Reverse selling pulls prospects into your solutions to their problems.

Your prospective client has one or more challenges, problems that need solving, pain that needs attention. Most likely there is a monetary cost attached to each issue. Your task is to have your credentials available in the places the business owner will look for solutions: on line, in the news, at professional associations and available to other professionals who might refer you.

Maintaining visibility in the niche you serve is a primary goal.

In other words you want to be “findable” in ways that connect you to solving problems or providing needed services. In some cases you will be the only person a prospect contacts, particularly if it is a personal referral. In other situations, you may be one of two, three or more consultants that get interviewed.

In either case, how you come across is at least 50% of the sale. Are you pushing or pulling? Are you practiced at using consultative selling techniques?

Consultative selling = Question-based selling

How do you impress the prospect with your knowledge and problem-solving ability? If you’ve done your homework (which should include some advance research on the company), you will win his or her confidence by asking intelligent, relevant questions that penetrate the prospect’s business.

You will also be able to respond to questions by relating appropriate problem-solving stories drawn from your Accomplishments Library.

Having identified the problem, and confirmed in the prospect’s eyes that you have the wherewithal to solve it, what next? Since our focus is on sales and marketing, we will be addressing this frequently in the future. Stay tuned.

P.S.  The expressions “Consultative Selling” and “Question Based Selling” have become so well known as to become standards in the industry.  If you aren’t familiar with the origins of the terms, you might want to review them here.


Professional Sales Process

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

A Step-By-Step Series of Communications.

Timing is everything. If you attempt to close a sale before the prospect is ready, you blow it . . . and you may not get a second chance.

Most professional sales are made after the 7th, even the 12th contact. That doesn’t mean that you have to have seven or more face-to-face meetings. Far from it. The series of communications can take various forms and proceed quickly.

The objective of each contact is to secure the next step.

First we need to be clear that the real objective in each contact is to secure another, follow-on communication . . . the next step in the Sales Process.

These contacts can be:

  • A prospect reads a news report or talks to an associate who makes a recommendation
  • Prospective client responds to an ad or a published interview
  • Consultant makes, or takes, a telephone call resulting from a referral
  • Prospect receives Letter of inquiry
  •  eMail confirms a meeting, follows-up to a meeting or asks for more information
  • Face-to-face meeting to explore issues
  • In-person meeting to present proposed solution

Are there things you can do to move the sale along? Yes, and certainly “giving away” time makes your time appear less valuable.

But keep in mind that the decision to hire you rests 100% with the Prospect. Again, “jumping the gun” or “asking for the order” too soon can kill the deal. No matter how much you want the assignment and how convinced you are that you can solve the problem and satisfy the prospect, you will increase your chances of getting the assignment by not appearing hungry for work or too anxious to get the job.

Follow the step-by-step process, making sure you’re asking relevant questions along the way.

How Much is The Assignment Likely to Be Worth?

You will do well to institutionalize your Sales Process. Document it and practice it. Any stumbling or fumbling on your process will be interpreted as weakness. And, this is worth repeating: whenever you have a genuine prospect you need to as quickly as possible quantify the problem . . . determine how much the solution is likely to be worth to the client. If you set your prices based on value, and not on an hourly rate, this solution will determine in large part how much you should charge.

You may wish to revisit our article about how the charge: The Consultant’s Fee Schedule.


Consultant’s Fee Schedule

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Setting your fees is one of the single most important business decisions you will make.

Hourly rates are misleading and easily disputed.

CalclulatorIf you are new to consulting you may be tempted to peg your fees on an hourly basis to the equivalent hourly rate of your previous salary. But is that all you are worth? Remember, business must turn a profit to be viable and whatever your previous employer was paying you was at best a third of what “they” thought you were worth to them!

In addition, in our experience, most middle level managers who have taken early retirement or who were “downsized” very likely were underutilized and underpaid to start with.

Just as you may be worried about a potential client expressing dismay at paying, say $250/hr., in our experience they are just as likely to question the value of retaining you if your fees are too low.

So, the reality is that hourly rates are an arbitrary number that is impacted by your overhead and other business expenses. Particularly if you’re dealing with small business owners, they are going to be suspicious of hours, no matter how low or high the rate.

Is there an alternative? Yes . . . several.

First is hourly.  Then there are retainers. Next is payment by project. Then there’s a combination of hourly and retainer or hourly and project. It can be confusing. Rather than make any recommendation at this point, let us tell you how we charge.

We like a flat fee with per diem expenses for travel & meals and reimbursement for any out-of-pocket expenses.

What’s the size of the problem?

Before establishing a flat fee, it’s important to know the value of the project and the scope of the solution that is expected, including all deliverables. If the problem is costing the company, say, $1.6 million per month, you should be able to charge $100,000 or more, assuming you can solve the problem.

If, however, the problem is only costing $20,000, you may want to walk away from it, telling the client that you don’t feel it would be cost effective for you to spend the amount of time and resources required. Offer to help them find a less expensive solution. (Don’t be surprised if they come back and insist you take it on . . . but, that gets us into another subject, sales and posturing for another day.)

Where the problem and/or scope of work are not clear, we offer to approach the challenge in three phases.

  1. The first phase, developing the Program Plan, might cost $5,000. This results in a report with a complete analysis of the problem and specific recommendations for the solution including budget projections. That might total something like $78,400. Also included in the Program Plan is a projection for the Third Phase, the Follow-up Report.
  2. The second phase is Execution, following the Program Plan as developed.
  3. The third phase is a Summary Report and Recommended Follow-Up Action Plan.

The client signs on to the program in phases, one phase at a time. If, for example, the result of Phase One is a report that outlines the execution phase, with a budget attached, the client is able to take the outline and decline any further involvement . . . or, if they so choose, take the outline of the report’s recommendations and execute themselves or contract with someone else to execute.

As for payment, it is important to get some money up front before beginning on Phase One. We typically get 50% of the agreed-upon fee at that time, and collect the rest when the Program Plan is delivered. If the client agrees to proceed with Phases Two and Three, which are likely to be a much larger sum, you may want to schedule payment based on certain milestones in the process.

I might point out that in over three decades using this approach, we have only had two occasions where the client failed to proceed after having received the Program Plan. Obviously, the way it is presented to clients is a key factor in the “Sales Process.”

I welcome your comments on fee setting.  It’s a big subject! In fact, if you have a burning question, let’s talk on the phone.  You can reach me via the Contact Us page.

Joseph Krueger



Consultant’s Website

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Business websiteOf course you realize that these days you cannot credibly do business without a website. As soon as someone meets you, or is referred to you indirectly, they will want to “check you out.” In the professional world, that means first looking up your profile on LinkedIn, and then taking a look at your website.

What is the visitor looking for?

The visitor to your website will be looking first for these five things:

  1. Do you have the skills that will help the visitor solve whatever problem he or she has?
  2. Does your website demonstrate credibility — i.e., the professional certifications and/or connections that give the visitor a sense of comfort – and will it justify to any superiors the visitor’s interest in working with you?
  3. Does it clearly define your area of expertise and give examples of problems you address/solve?
  4. Does the site explain the process you use?
  5. Does the site make it easy for the visitor to contact you?

In past years, the classic brochure served these purposes. There is still a purpose for a brochure, but the website has taken over these initial functions. The website also offers opportunities that the brochure never did.

  • Your website allows you to more fully “develop your brand,” including selection of graphic elements, colors, illustrations, your photo, etc. Over time, your site can easily evolve as the market does or as you do.
  • You can offer examples and in-depth information to your potential clients by way of articles, white papers and case histories published on your site – a breadth of resources impossible with a simple brochure.
  • Your website can be, and should be, updated regularly to show you are actively engaged in your work.
  • Your website can offer interactivity.

If you are starting your website from scratch, you have a number of decisions to make. The most important (in our opinion) is how to be sure your site serves as a lead generation source. If you’re not getting response to your site, it becomes an expensive window dressing. A good, easy-to-navigate, basic website that will generate inquiries or serve as a starting point for meaningful dialog is 90% of its value.

Here are questions we’ve faced in building new websites over the years – and still face!

Do you want to build the site yourself? Many professionals enjoy the creative process and have the ability to master new computer skills and programs. For them, building a website can be a satisfactory way to save precious dollars during the startup phase of their practice while creating a valuable asset. You can purchase a domain name, hosting service, an appropriate website theme, and some training for an initial outlay of as little as, say, $200 dollars.

What’s your time worth? Contrary to many advertisements that declare you can “Build your site in 30 minutes!” we believe you will find it takes many hours to get the site up and functioning as you planned. You may need to hire someone to help you along the way. Typical American tech support can cost from $50/hour up. (The trick with tech support is that you must be able to guide them. They are supporting your plan, not acting as advisor.)

Should you hire a web design firm? If you know that you want “something special” for your site, you should figure a minimum price of $5,000 to hire a firm to build the site. (Prices could easily be twice that much. On the other hand, if you can provide clear and competent direction, you may be able to get away with less.) If the designers are good, they will involve you intensely at the planning stage, asking you to complete some sort of questionnaire and discussing with you the “look and feel,” any particular components you want to include, etc.

If you feel you need just a simple site, you may be able to have a designer put one together for as little as $500 or $1,000. In this case, the designer is probably using a template to speed things along. You will still be offered choices of colors, fonts, etc. If you’ve already created a logo and professional business card, you will want all your marketing pieces to have a family look.

Are you ready to provide all the copy/text for the site? Generally, unless a designer specializes in a particular industry, he or she will look to you to provide all the content for the site. The designer may suggest categories – for example, “We need biographical information here.” Or “Describe your specialty here.” – but you will have to write everything. To the extent that you can do some of this even before you make a decision about what type of site to develop, you will be ahead of the game.

Where do you find a web designer or tech support? The best way, we’ve found, is via referral. You can start your search by looking at a number of sites of friends and professional colleagues. What do you like about the sites? What don’t you like? Start a list that you can use when you interview potential designers. Pick a few sites that you really like, and track down the owner. Ask who did the site and how well the process went. You’ll immediately learn whether or not that site owner wants to make a referral!

There’s plenty more to “the website decision,” but at this point simply acknowledge you must have one, start researching “what you like,” and realize that a simple  professional-looking one-page site is better than no website at all.

Virginia Nicols

P.S. If you already have a website, but want more confidence that it’s doing its job, check out our guide: Website — The Hub of Your Marketing Plan. It’s aimed specifically at professionals.