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The Diversified (Marketing) Portfolio

The Diversified (Marketing) Portfolio

I’ve been telling people forever (well, since June 4, 1992, but I’m using metaphor here) that being in independent consulting is actually being in the marketing business. There are many highly competent consultants who are starving because they can’t market; many mediocre consultants who are prospering because they can market; and a few extraordinary success who are both superb consultants and superb marketers.

Are you listening?

One of the essentials of effective marketing is to diversify your targets. That’s why “specialize of die” is such an insult to my intelligence. Why would you deliberately limit your potential buyers when you’re in a profession in which processes are trans-industrial, trans-cultural, and trans-hierarchical? I’ve always thought the specialists were those who felt that they couldn’t do very much and thought they’d be better off in tiny little microscopic corners they could completely control. (And of course, there are the “experts” who give this advice but have never consulted successfully themselves.)

If you don’t want a technological innovation, or a huge competitor, or a single geography’s economy, or a particular buyer’s departure to yank the rug out from under the living room of your life, then you’d better diversify your target markets and buyers. You control that. You can do it.

In a technologic age this is easier than ever. If you’re not at least exploring global work (in person or remote) you’re not being very aggressive as a marketer. (Look for my book, Global Consulting: How to Make Seven Figures Cross Borders, in the fall from Wiley.)

Here are some admixtures to ponder:

  • Move the processes you’re already proficient in to other markets (e.g., decision making is a process independent of the content of the decision).
  • Ask clients for referrals outside of their business, especially among friends and business acquaintances.
  • Embed your intellectual property into products that can be purchased by a wide range of people on a corporate or individual basis.
  • Make sure you are a force nationally and across close borders (e.g., Canada to the US—which is easy, don’t listen to those who claim the requirements are too tough) and end the prelapsarian mentality that you charge more for clients to whom you must travel.
  • Try to enter clients from the upper strata, so that you can work at executive level and cascade down as needed. It’s almost impossible to enter at bottom levels and be taken seriously in the upper atmosphere.
  • Focus on economic areas that are “recession proof” to some degree: pets, children, health care, recreation, and so on.
  • Never turn down business in good times. I’ve heard from too many consultants anxious to know how to turn down new business gracefully because they are “booked” for the next several months. If being independent doesn’t allow you to free up time to accept new clients and store them in the bank vault, then you’re working for a worse boss than you did in the corporate grind years ago.

To consult, you must acquire clients. To acquire clients you must successfully market. To successfully market you must adopt the correct mental framework. And to do that, begin reading again at the top

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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