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Marketing Matters: The self-inflicted boom/bust cycle of consulting

The cycle is endemic in our business. You’ve all seen it. Your backlog is light, so you turn your attention to that great marketing plan you created and what happens? You start to win work and good things happen. The world is looking pretty bright again. But then, you get busy and that great marketing that got you there starts to slide from the top of your list to “maybe tomorrow”. You are “too busy to market”. Then, all too soon, you look up from your desk and see that you are running out of work and the future looks scary. And the cycle repeats… Again…

How do you break the Boom/Bust cycle when you are so busy?

  • Narrow your focus: Look longer and tighter. When you are busy, you can be more selective. Revisit that “top 10 list” and update the client marketing plan for your “Platinum” clients. Check in with your on-call or roster contract clients.
  • Schedule and budget your business development tasks just like your billable tasks. Budget the time you have available for business development carefully and schedule the activities, client lunches, conference preparation and attendance, etc. Schedule at least one client lunch, happy hour or coffee meeting each week.
  • Tighten up your Go/No-go criteria. When you have a strong workload, you can be even more selective about what you choose to pursue. Say “no” to anything re-active.
  • Market “On the job”. Every client meeting or contact is a marketing call. You don’t have to be obnoxious. You just need to let your clients know you care. After your business part of the meeting is concluded, just check in. ”What else do you have going on?” “How are things going for your agency?” “How is next year looking?” “What other problems are you facing?” “Are you going to the conference next month?” “Would you be interested in submitting a paper together on the solution we came up with for your project?”
  • Put your principals to work. When was the last time you asked one of your firm principals to visit your client? When was the last PIC check in?

One lesson I learned the hard way: “You always come in second because you don’t treat me like I matter. I only see you when we have a project on the street.” – Actual client quote


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S.R.Walker and Associates, Inc is a professional services consulting firm providing strategic planning, marketing and management consulting, training and coaching.

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S.R.Walker and Associates, Inc is a professional services consulting firm providing strategic planning, marketing and management consulting, training and coaching.
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