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How to Land Your First Client


And Someone to Say It to

The market has no shortage of prospective clients, but truly profitable projects can be few and far between. If you want to work for the most profitable clients, you’ll have to compete for and grab their attention. And for that you must have a marketing plan. A real one.

Many veteran consultants haven’t looked at their marketing plans since they were first created. As a result, they drift from project to project, getting by on meager profit margins. Guerrilla consultants, however, leave the low-profit projects for others and focus on attracting and keeping the clients that give them the opportunity for financial and professional growth.

Guerrillas begin that process by creating a one-page marketing plan that lays out how to get and hold onto profitable clients. Forget the reams of fancy charts, detailed analyses and bullet-proof competitive intelligence. You can draft your first marketing plan in seven sentences:

  • Sentence one explains the purpose of your marketing.
  • Sentence two explains how you achieve that purpose by describing the substantive benefits you provide to clients
  • Sentence three describes your target market(s).
  • Sentence four describes your niche.
  • Sentence five outlines the marketing weapons you will use.
  • Sentence six reveals the identity of your business.
  • Sentence seven provides your marketing budget.
As you create your marketing plan, remember this: you are building a platform from which to consistently communicate your ideas to prospective clients. That’s the fastest way to launch a new practice because prospective clients equate the success of a firm with consistent visibility.

So create a marketing plan that maximizes your visibility in the market. Over time, keep your business networks healthy with constant attention; establish a credible Web presence; speak for industry and trade groups; participate in studies and surveys; publish articles; and make contributions to your targeted industry association and local business community.

And, most importantly, once you begin your marketing program, never stop. You’ll reap the benefits for the long haul if you stick to your marketing guns.

When a Client Asks What Time It Is, Don’t Take His Watch

Perhaps the most serious challenge facing consultants is client skepticism. In a study by business analysis firm Ross McManus, only 35% of clients are satisfied with their consultants.

Part of the problem is that many consultants are deep subject-matter experts, but less familiar with the consulting process. Before you get too far into the business, get a firm grasp of the fundamentals of consulting, including how to:

  • Qualify each project to determine your ability to win the work and earn a profit. These two don’t always go hand-in-hand.
  • Scope projects so you and the client know what work will be done and the anticipated results. Your profit can evaporate if you have an ambiguous statement of the project scope.
  • Find the pricing strategy that’s fair to clients and protects your bottom line. Pricing services is as much an art as a science, and there are at least fifteen different pricing strategies you can use.
  • Prepare proposals that make the most of this time-consuming activity. Make sure you’re talking to the decision-maker and that the project has funding.
  • Deliver flawless work and communicate effectively with your client.
Do those five things well and you’ll have more client work than you can handle.

If you’re new to the business, interview consultants on how they handle these aspects of the business; read books, articles and reports by leading thinkers in the field; and consider joining one of the many professional associations for consultants. You can save years of learning things the hard way.

The End is the Beginning

Your clearest path to a new client is your network of former employers and others who can make introductions to get that first project kicked off. Keep in mind, though, that consulting begins and ends with results.

To succeed, you must offer and deliver undisputed value to your clients and everyone else in your network. Value is also the foundation on which you must build your marketing. Your network of colleagues won’t support you, or your business, if your value is questioned anywhere along the way.

So, before you launch your practice, give these ideas some thought. They’ll help put you on the road to long-term success.


About the Author
Michael W. McLaughlin is the co-author, with Jay Conrad Levinson, of Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants. Michael is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, and has over twenty years of consulting experience with clients in businesses of every size, from small start-ups to some of the world’s highest-profile companies. He is also the publisher of Management Consulting News. For more information, visit GuerrillaConsulting.com.

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