Running a successful coaching or consulting business takes a lot of hard work and determination. And often the most common reason that a small consultancy will fail is lack of an effective marketing strategy. Here are six ways to market your coaching or consulting, or service-based business.
1. Owned Traffic
Owned traffic is sourced directly from your assets–email list, blog posts, website, or other platforms that you have built and own outright.
Owning your traffic means taking it with you. Owned traffic is yours to migrate from platform to platform. Unlike earned traffic, if you decide to switch email service providers, you can take your email/newsletter list with you. If Facebook shuts down tomorrow, you lose all of those followers and the ability to easily communicate your offerings to them.
Understanding the complexities of the right day, time, and cadence to provide content can become a headache. With regulations changing so often, and privacy becoming more of a priority for consumers, it can be harder to remain on the right side of email. Additionally, earned traffic requires consistent high value content in order to grow an audience, and that can take more time than other strategies. You may earn the platform, but you still have to earn the audience.
2. Earned Traffic
This inbound marketing style comprises social media—Facebook, YouTube, Instagram—that require you to build a following based on your ability to understand and leverage third-party platforms, algorithms, and mechanisms for driving attention. Most coaching or consulting businesses are focused on earned traffic, leveraging a content-based strategy to build a following focused on their client avatar. The current trend is organic posts with storytelling that speak to potential client’s pain points, then invite them into your funnel via a discovery call or free consultation.
The benefit of earned traffic is that you are talking directly to your consumer. By understanding your client avatar/ideal client, you have the opportunity to gain immediate feedback from those who have the most to gain from your services. This is an opportunity to give those clients a glimpse of who you are, what you stand for, and the story behind your brand.
A con to this method is the lack of sustainability. As a coaching or consulting solopreneur, maintaining a content calendar can be even harder without the proper strategies in place. Because you and/or your marketing team may eventually run out of steam to create, you may need to hire a social media manager or content strategist to consistently engage with new people and create buzzworthy posts.
3. Paid Traffic
Paying to run ads on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Google is often combined with earned traffic. After you’ve built a substantial following and demonstrated messaging that speaks to your ideal target market through earned traffic, you can magnify those efforts with paid media campaigns. Ads management is very important when it comes to paid traffic.
Paid traffic is beneficial because it allows you to pinpoint where your message and marketing land. By selecting a specific region, age group, or other demographic, you control when, where, and who receives your message. For business owners with small budgets, Facebook has provided the lowest entry point for many small businesses to begin experimenting in the paid traffic space.
Getting to return on investment with Ads requires testing and time. Understanding the process of A/B testing, platform algorithms, and the policies of various platforms may be better suited to a marketing agency or independent ads manager. It can be costly depending on the platform and market size. Platforms like Google (and their subsidiaries like YouTube) often require tens of thousands of dollars in upfront investments just to get through the testing phase of this strategy. And while one ad may be effective for several months, it does require consistent oversight to upgrade (and test) new ad copy and creative as the market shifts.
Word-of-mouth is as simple as its name. It’s when a current or former client spreads the word about you or your services. The best strategy for word-of-mouth marketing is having a strong referral culture and system to incentivize people to send you referrals and keep those leads coming into your pipeline. By asking for referrals with every successful client you work with, and securing contact information for those leads, you make sure you are bringing in a consistent stream of leads at exponential rates.
Potential clients are receiving a firsthand account of receiving your services, working with you, or working with your company. Their endorsement is usually more powerful than that of a paid advertisement or even coming access your work through earned traffic channels.
Without an airtight system for capturing word of mouth business, and a process for following up and turning those warm leads into sales calls, many of your word-of-mouth referrals may go dormant before you have had a chance to connect with them. This method also requires consistency and follow up with current clients to keep referring you business consistently.
5. Affiliate Marketing
This is where you establish affiliate relationships with other coaching or consulting business owners or people willing to position you and your services in front of their traffic sources. So that could be positioning you in front of their email list, on their social media platform, or making direct referrals in exchange for a nominal fee. You may do the same for them through affiliate partnerships.
Often for affiliate marketing to be successful, you need to heavily vet your affiliate partners and create systems and processes, to make it easy for them to refer you and for you to track the referrals. You want to keep a record of who they bring to you and will benefit from a system of ongoing tracking and reporting on leads that convert to sales. There are several technology platforms that can aid in setting up this type of infrastructure, even right down to automating the affiliate payments via direct deposit.
Like word-of-mouth, potential clients gain real insight from clients using your services. Successful affiliate marketers can often save thousands on ad spend but using the earned traffic of their affiliates on their owned platforms. This eliminates the need for reliance on social media or and y 3rd party advertising platforms to grow your audience base. Affiliation can look like shared email lists, featured speaking events, or summits where each party is granting exposure to each others’ audiences in the hopes of mutual profitability and exposure. The other big benefit of affiliate marketing is you set your rates (referral fees) so there is great control over the costs associated with this strategy.
Affiliate marketing is fully dependent on the elbow grease of your affiliate network. The marketing output is determined by their efforts and willingness to expound on your product. If your affiliates aren’t supporting you with follow up communications that showcase you and your offers, you’re as good as sunk with this strategy. Also, finding the right tch to support this process can be. . .a process.
6. Outbound Marketing
Also known as cold outreach, outbound marketing could be cold calling or cold emailing, where you’re directly enquiring to new (cold) prospects in your market. This is a direct ask to see if they might be interested in your service, and then invite them to engage with you through the rest of your sales process or funnel. This means building out an outbound sales team composed of setters, closers, and salespeople. Sales managers help manage the flow of leads into the business, speak to people over the phone or videoconference to diagnose their needs, and then craft the proposals/make the offers that eventually lead to new revenue.
Outbound traffic is also a space where you will likely want to outsource to a consultant or agency that can manage all the manual aspect of this strategy. There are several tools that you can use to automate the initial inquiry phase of this process with outbound emails or messaging, but you will need people who know your products and services to foster those relationships and ultimately present your offers.
You have nothing to lose when cold calling. You can only gain. A “no” only costs you the time of the email or phone call. If you batch your emails using an email service provider or a template, you can save time. (Think thousands of prospects daily or weekly).
Cold calling and pitching can feel daunting without proper planning or practice.
Check out Pitch Better Than A PSA to get your pitch down to 3 sentences or 30 seconds. If you start cold emailing people indiscriminately and without proper knowledge of privacy laws and spamming regulations, you are likely to destroy your brand and the integrity of your business domain if you don’t have a tech partner who understands how to avoid these pitfalls. With cold calling, following regulations like the DO-NOT-CALL list are also important to not jeopardize your business reputation.
Finding your marketing style and strategy can seem daunting so try out a few and see what feels organize and most in line with your personal and professional values and mission. Like many businesses you are likely to start with one and change your strategy as you build. But remember, marketing is key to your sustainable model, and you only need one strategy to support your business long term. Pick one, master it and watch your coaching or consulting business grow.