Project Management

Marketing trends and strategies for consultants

These survey results indicate what types of marketing consultants spend time on compared with how those varying time commitments result in income.

Michael Zipursky posted this infographic about consultants' marketing strategies (among other things), and gave us permission to repost it here:

Source: Business Consulting Buzz

This represents the results of a survey of over 10,000 consultants. The first section compares marketing strategies against one another, showing both the amount of time spent on each one and the percentage of respondents who said that each strategy made them the most money. Unsurprisingly, the types of marketing on which people spend the most time are also perceived to generate the most revenue. As pointed out in the discussion at the original post, it would be difficult for any activity that most people ignore to have much of an impact on revenue. Blogging, for instance, might have the potential to be one of the more effective means of marketing, but if nobody is doing it well, then we'll never know.

Another important caveat is that the "makes the most money" is a subjective self-evaluation. It's unlikely that every one of these respondents asked every one of their clients which one of their marketing efforts led them to their door. I would venture to guess that a guess was the source of most of these answers.

More interesting to me are the categories in which the respondents spend less time for a greater (perceived) income, relative to other categories. Those are Presentations/Seminars and Referrals. Consultants appear to consider these big wins. Networking, although it seems to bring in a lot of business, appears to require even more time.

Even though 61% of the respondents claim an annual income of $71,000 or more, 78% report spending $6,000 or less on marketing efforts. It would appear from those numbers that most consultants are not aggressively marketing themselves.

Some other interesting observations: 61% of the respondents have been consulting for five years or less. Half of them have no employees -- which I would probably attribute to all of the legal hassles of having employees in most countries.

What does this data tell you? What do you think is missing?

Also read on TechRepublic

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

5 comments
rwsuarez
rwsuarez

Fascinating, Chip.  Thank you.  Without getting grubby into the statistics, your study and findings ARE of great significance to the large number of solo practitioners and small firms increasingly prevalent in the technology-rich economy and society of today.  Further, the data underscores what my 23 years of personal experience as an independent consultant suggests: that new projects and revenue largely come from referrals, networking, and presentations/seminars (public speaking).  I would guess that repeat business with existing clients falls under a different category/study.  

The importance of referrals and networking speak to the personal nature of marketing professional services, and the importance of doing good work that is positively referenceable.  Adding presentations/seminars (public speaking) to the marketing mix contributes credibility as a subject matter expert.  Everything else in the marketing mix as described is important to supporting the credibility derived from doing good work, referrals, networking and demonstrating subject matter expertise, but are secondary in terms of actually developing new business.

Thanks for the organizational structure and data on this.  
      

joerejeski
joerejeski

I'm not sure how valuable this survey is. A significant percentage are VERY small businesses. Half of the respondants are one-person shops. Most small business owners focus on working in their business, rather than on their business. Is there info on where the businesses that have 10 or more employees (only 2% of the respondandants) are investing their marketing money? My guess is they are the small percentages represented in the survey who invested in things like cold calling, email marketing, online advertising and strategic partnerships, areas where typically small business owners shy away from.

robinfgoldsmith
robinfgoldsmith

Perhaps it's not so much that spending less time produces less income as that consultants spend less time in activities they perceive will produce less income. For example, there are a jillion blogs but only a handful that anyone ever reads and fewer that might be read by someone who does not already know the consultant. The measure of spending on marketing is highly questionable, since it implies only out-of-pocket expenses which might pertain to only a few of the categories, such as (paid) advertising. It's unlikely most consultants are pricing (or at least accurately pricing) their time writing blogs and articles, attending networking opportunities, and doing all the other activities. I suspect many other consultants are like me in preferring to spend their time doing the work rather than diverting considerable time to carrying the burden of trying to keep additional consultants productively engaged. I'd guess that the already high difficulty of staying in business is magnified several times by excess overhead, especially in the form of additional staff. The other side of the coin is that too many consultants fail because they don't treat themselves as a business, which is an easier mistake to make when you're just trying to keep yourself busy. I'd also suspect the survey considered income production only from being hired by end customers. I've done a lot of speaking and found it seldom led to end customers hiring me; but it opened lots of more like wholesale opportunities with other consultants who were better at locating end customers and recognized the benefits of utilizing my skills and knowledge to get the work done well.

brian.fischer
brian.fischer

In one of your final paragraphs above you state that "78% report spending $6,000 or less on marketing efforts. It would appear from those numbers that most consultants are not aggressively marketing themselves". I don't think you can conclude that, given the data in the info graphic; that is, 74% of the marketing efforts are spent on Networking, Referrals, Social Media and Email Marketing, all of which are low / no out-of-pocket cost activities. And those activities appear to be quite effective at generating new business.

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