Copywriters…throw down your ballpoints.
Direct marketers…prepare to change hats.
At least for a while.
An important signal just flashed here at headquarters about a larger and potentially far more lucrative opportunity.
And unlike the online world where it often seems like a handful of Internet marketers chase the same dollar from a hyper-respondent (while their followers scrap for leftovers), this is a largely offline world with fewer players and far bigger stakes.
Yes, I’m talking about consulting to the vast universe of small businesses. But not in the proposal-submitting, conventional sense most know of.
A trusted source just forwarded some inside info about a small business consultant who’s pulling in upwards of $50,000 a month with a combination of old school space advertising and advanced take-away selling.
And from what my source has shared…she’s just getting warmed up. That’s because…
There couldn’t be a better time than NOW to jump in the consulting game
- With business capital evaporating faster than a dry river bed…
- With $150 per barrel oil around the corner…and the unimaginable seismic jolts it holds in store for the economy…
- With banks bracing for certain and widespread loan defaults from now busted real estate developers… (Some think this could lead to a panic that’ll make the £1 billion run on the British bank, Northern Rock, last September look like an ATM temporarily out of cash.)
- And with consumers guarding their wallets tighter than they have in a long while…
Many small businesses are finding themselves in the deep end without a paddle.
That’s where savvy direct marketers and copywriters — with just an inkling of business building smarts — can save the day.
What’s more, you don’t need anything resembling a “Big Four” track record to hang out your consulting shingle as early as tomorrow. Especially if you do it right.
Take it from a guy who launched his first consultancy in Post 9/11, Downtown Manhattan
You’d have to be a little crazy to start a consulting practice in the chaos of Downtown New York in the spring of 2002, as I did.
Guilty as charged.
I was both green and insanely optimistic about the power of direct response marketing to rescue struggling business owners, holding on by a thread.
I was also incredibly lucky.
That’s because I was able to witness the most hopeless business environment anyone is ever likely to see. So, whether an economic calamity materializes this year — or sometime in the next decade — no business problem could compare with what I’ve seen in the southern tip of Manhattan in 2002.
How bad was it in the gritty and surreal aftermath of 9/11?
One of my first clients was a restaurant owner on Washington Street whose business was in the long shadow of the World Trade Center for many years. The occupants of the Trade Center were the lifeblood of his business, accounting for a full 70% of it.
What do you do when you wake up one morning and 70% of your customers have vanished?
He and I evaluated everything from weird publicity stunts…to joint venturing…to hijacking Midtown tour buses.
Now, I wish I could report Lawrence’s direct response prowess singlehandedly rescued this hapless restaurant from receivership. But that wouldn’t be 100% accurate. The restaurant is still in business today largely thanks to the owner’s sizable capital which carried him through that tumultuous, make-or-break year in 2002. The City of New York’s aggressive marketing campaign deserves acknowledgment as well.
I will take credit though for driving a flood of business via a copy-dense referral rewards program which did more than keep the lights on for a few months.
However, looking back, if I knew then what I now know, my whole approach to consulting and client acquisition would be based on a far stronger axis.
Pull Marketing Verses Push Marketing
How did I get those initial consulting clients?
My system was old-school, two-step advertising.
With the help of the Manhattan Yellow Pages, I sent a post-card mailing to a few hundred downtown restaurants with a message something like this:
Dear Restaurant Owner, Looking to fill empty tables on Monday-Wednesday nights? Simple marketing system may be your solution. No money out of pocket. Call 212-555-1212. (24-Hour Recorded Message)
I spent just about everything I had on this mailing, so it had to work. And therein lies the problem. I was squarely on the ‘push axis.” If at any moment, a business owner even detects a whiff of “I need the money,” the consultant’s leverage is gone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt the blood drain from my face when this subtle yet sudden shift happened during a meeting.
But I could’ve never gotten better training then fielding those inquiries which paralyzed my meager voice mail system and then trekking the acrid smelling streets of Lower-Manhattan to meet with business owners.
Moreover, every consultant needs to experience the futility of push marketing (and getting his nose bloodied) before he can truly master its stronger counterpart, “pull marketing.”
I’ve just seen an ad written by a master of pull marketing. However, my source only agreed to share it (and some background info) on the condition that I not republish the ad, nor reveal any of the personal details.
Here’s what I can tell you about the ad.
It doesn’t appear to be an ad at all!
Even on close examination, it looks like a full-page, newspaper editorial.
The ad immediately calls out to small business owners and seizes upon their pain. Then, the ad proceeds to analyze a key problem almost all small business owners face and tells them exactly how to solve it.
There’s no guess work. No missing piece of the puzzle. It gives the solution in full and glorious detail.
And, do you know what?
The consultant is still inundated with calls from business owners…sometimes begging her to come to their location and solve that very problem…and a bunch of others.
Though bizarre, it’s as sure as the law of gravity’s pull.
That’s just the way most business owners are.
They don’t want to be told how to do it, they want someone else to take the responsibility and do it for them. No different than if your cleaning lady offered to demonstrate how she uses a pumice stone and solvents to get that magnificent shine in the bowl. At the end of the day, she’s still the one cleaning it.
This ingenious consultant is fully aware of this psychological nuance and many more.
And the capper is, this is just one ad in a series that addresses a half-dozen or so painful business problems.
Three Step Formula for PULLING Consulting Clients
This lady seems to have it down to a three step formula.
1) She harnesses the power of space as the ideal, credible advertising medium and comes off as a thought leader. Forget direct mail…forget the Internet…at least initially. Since small business owners are constantly being chased via direct mail, space is the natural way to pull them. Many of them still aren’t even online in any meaningful way. As my uncle Michael says, “I only know what I read in the papers.” This certainly applies to small business owners.
2) She identifies and connects with the pain they’re feeling. And not just as a Clintonesque utterance, she really speaks their language. She knows the comfortable ones have only a fraction of the motivation to take action now verses the ones fighting to stay afloat.
3) She utilizes take away selling. Any prospect who wants to connect with her has to go through a lengthy, written qualifying application. This is the key. Whether it’s in dating or in business, we all want what we can’t have and she puts a new spin on the term, “hard to get.”
The Artistry Is In the Marketing
Despite what many think, the technical functions of small business consulting are the easy part. After all, there are a myriad of ways to drum up business fast.
- Past customer reactivation
- Loyalty programs or referral rewards
- Systematically communicating with customers
- Creating joint ventures or endorsed mailings
- Client database management and segmentation. Especially 80/20 marketing.
- Improved lead generation and conversion
- Press releases
- Self-liquidating offers
- Creating recurring revenue opportunities
Most owners are so engaged working in the business, they’d be lucky to know even half of these methods for working on the business. The real artistry is in the marketing…and making business owners covet a relationship with you. So, with this in mind, I offer:
9 Conventional Rules To Break…for Success As a Small Business Consultant
Conventional Rule #1: Be responsive and easy to reach
Unconventional Rule #1: Don’t let prospects get to you easily. Make them qualify first and chase you instead. Remember, take away selling is at the heart of this approach.
Conventional Rule #2: Give them a taste of what you can do for them and hold back the key piece of how to do it.
Unconventional Rule #2: Lay it all out for them and withhold nothing. The truth is, you could put ten small business owners in a room, do a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation on how to reactivate past customers…and six of those ten would still want a consultant to do it for them.
Conventional Rule #3: (Corollary to Rule #2) Offer prospects a free consulting session so they can experience, in person, all the wonderful things you can do for their business.
Unconventional Rule #3: Never provide free consulting time. Give them a boatload of free, actionable info in print or online but never in person. The value of any service, or advice in the case of a consultant, diminishes rapidly after it’s given. Money is one of the best screening devices there is, so use it to your advantage in client acquisition.
Conventional Rule #4: You need Fortune 500 or “Big Four” experience.
Unconventional Rule #4: A rookie with no C.V. could be an effective consultant merely by studying Gary Halbert’s letters for a few weeks.
Conventional Rule #5: Send a proposal.
Unconventional Rule #5: Never send a proposal. See Unconventional Rule #1.
Conventional Rule #6: Be a specialist, there’s more money in it.
Unconventional Rule #6: Be a generalist. There’s just as much money and even more clients in it. Besides, the mechanics of most service type businesses are basically the same.
Conventional Rule #7: Pay for quoted advertising rates
Unconventional Rule #7: The price of advertising is soft, especially in a downturn. Distressed ad space can often be had for up to 85% off quoted rates. Never pay the quoted rate for ad space.
Conventional Rule #8: Hold on to clients for as long as possible by being indispensable to them.
Unconventional Rule #8: Think of clients in terms of: “there’s another train waiting in the station.” Do your absolute best for them but never think or act dependently.
Conventional Rule #9: Charge well for your time.
Unconventional Rule #9: Charge for the result instead. In many cases, you can realistically double (or more) the revenue of a business in under a year. Billable hours make absolutely no sense when geometric growth is a possibility.
No rule, conventional or otherwise, is set in stone. And for a consultant just starting out, there’s no better training than interacting with small business owners face-to-face. Once you get this experience under your belt though, you can get your consulting car on the fast track by following these unconventional rules.
I think 2008 and 2009 could go down as the years of the small business consultant. It’s not only a wide open opportunity to earn a lot of revenue but it’s immeasurably more gratifying helping businesses in your community stay afloat in a stormy sea then the push button aura of Internet marketing. What’s more, you don’t have to forsake your virtual vending machines to jump in the consulting game.