How to Start a Consultancy Business

It is a great idea for a business start up in these economically challenging times to sell your own knowledge and expertise as a consultant. Independent consulting is one of the fastest growing and most profitable business models around. More and more people are enjoying the independence and extra money it brings as well as the change in the quality of life through being in control of what you do and with whom you work.

People who earn their living through what they know or ‘knowledge professionals’ are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the corporate or employed environment they commonly occupy and find freelance or contract consultancy to be a rewarding change or additional career option. It is possible to continue working on your knowledge and expertise without all the bureaucracy of company or organizational employment and the unpleasantness of climbing the company’s greasy pole of ‘advancement’. Also, those who prefer not to operate full-time find they can grow in their skills, knowledge and ability while employed and can work from their home and in their own time.

The consulting business has grown exponentially for almost three decades now as individuals have become an indispensable part of the economy. As businesses work to change in ever-new commercial environments technologies it is very difficult for them to keep pace so those with specialist knowledge in particular areas of business are finding they are in increasing demand. organizations are relying on consultants.

So, what is a Consultant?
A consultant is someone who offers help to someone or a business trying to solve a problem. Consultants work in a specific field of knowledge and provide expert knowledge to help solve problems. This will be a field that you are most familiar with.

In theory almost anyone can be a consultant – as long as you have what a client wants. This usually means skill and knowledge to solve a problem. It is not necessary to be the world’s leading expert in a particular field. Nor do you need to have been in the same line of business yourself, nor any other kind.

Among other things you will need to be able to ‘sell yourself’, and have a very good appreciation and understanding of how to solve the problem that needs to be solved. This is normally good knowledge combined with experience and good communication skills.

Take a look at what you are knowledgeable about. Look at what particular ‘problems’ other people – particularly employers you’ve had – what problems have they employed you to deal with? You may have worked for years in a particular area of knowledge and you may have special education training in this. So if you’ve worked in recruitment, or in managing events, or in training other people or have knowledge about a very specific aspect of business process or have a particular talent with financial or legal issues, then you certainly will have the kinds of knowledge that would be ‘bought in’ by clients. But there are lots of other areas of knowledge too that require consultants such as gardening and horticulture, education, farming, health and safety, marketing. In fact, it is possible to be a consultant in anything so long as you have the knowledge that a client wants and can solve their problem.

Some consultants require qualifications in their field to be seen as sufficiently skilled by certain trades and industries. For example, Engineers, computer programmers, fund raisers and sports professionals (among many others) are often required to have certain degrees and diplomas recognized by their professions as guaranteeing the necessary minimum standard of skill and expertise.

Select something which you know about and something which you like. Can you communicate the benefits of your skills to a lay person? Can you write about what you know in a way that is easy for a person to understand? Can you explain how your knowledge and skill could solve a problem. These are all essential talents you will need to have in addition to the basic knowledge of the area in which you are offering expertise.

Steps

Here are some steps that you’ll need to take to set up your consultancy

Define your market- Before you do anything else. Who is it you are selling your consultancy and knowledge to and what do they want? Everything else rests on this. There is no point in doing anything until you can answer these questions. Where are the people you will be selling to and how do you know what it is they want. My point is this: however clever or knowledgeable you are about something is no guarantee that someone will pay you for it. So find out what they want first (related to your area of expertise of course) then go from there. This goes whether you are setting up as a sole trader or with others to create accompany. A mistake that many make is that they feel they are good at something and that the world owes them a living. Lots of businesses of all kinds go down the tubes for this reason. They invent or create a product and then look for someone to buy it. No! Look for something that people want then go away and create it!

Plan- Once you have answered the above question, prepare your business plan. A business plan will help you work through your vision and strategy for keeping the business working. What is the rationale that your business can succeed? Provide evidence! What exactly are your products and services (you may have a main one but develop other ‘back end products too) What is it that you want to achieve by when. How much do you want to make be when. Be realistic and bold. What is your evidence that this figure can be reached. How are you going to market? What is your financial plan? Do you need to borrow? How will you convince lenders? There are lots more things that should should be in a plan and each of these needs to be unpacked and detailed. Brainstorm these, then start putting them to a time-line.

Make a space to work- Where are you going to work from? Many sole traders start from home. This is a good idea as it keeps overheads down. But if you do this make sure you inform the insurers of your house as turning your home into a workplace without telling them will render your insurance null and void. Choose a space in your home that is comfortable and warm. Obviously you’ll need phone access, internet access, a place for your computer, files and books (consultants always have lots of books).

You may want to read some more articles at my website.

What about marketing?

If you don’t have clients or customers then you don’t have a business. Usually, it pays to ensure that you have some before you leave your paid employment. The next thing to do is to inform them that you are ready and available for work.

Your marketing should narrow in on you being the expert that people need to solve their problems. A good way to do this is publish a few articles on the internet with links to your site (you must have a site!) which answers a question related to your field (you could go to Answers.Yahoo.com and look for a question to answer. Show your practical value to your potential customers. People need to get the idea that you are an expert, the expert. There are tons of ways you can market yourself and get your name out there. Here are 7 things you need to be thinking about:

1. Networking. Going to events where your target market congregates is one of the most effective. You’ll need business cards if you go to these. Also be prepared to speak to a wide range of people with a wide range of potential issues they may be looking for answers to. Start with the people you already know – your former colleagues and bosses, your friends and existing industry contacts. If there are name badges make sure you have the right information on yours. Talk to as many people as you can and collect business cards. Online networks are also important. These are known as forums. Join the ones that form you target market. But don’t abuse these through blatant marketing or you’ll just get banned. Use these to build relationships

2. Ask for Referrals. If you get work and it’s successful ask your client for a referral or two. Normally people will be happy to recommend you. Ask for a quote you can put on your website. Even if the person to whom you are referred doesn’t have any work for you at the present time ask if they too could refer you to other potential clients.

3. Public presentations. Consultants are usually good at communicating. You need to be able to talk about your area of expertise to all sorts of people. Speaking at events offers a great opportunity to get your message out there. This can terrify some. But fear not. Practice with a friend what you want to say. Use visual aids to detract attention from yourself. Keep what you want to say short and to the point and ask the audience questions frequently to maintain attention and interest and interaction. Volunteer to offer them free information. Contact you chamber of commerce, organizations and forums in your locality. See what possibilities there are at local colleges, universities and libraries.

4. Adds and Articles. Try to get a short article in a publication or trade journal that your target market reads. This is good for your reputation and gets your message out there among potential purchasers. Make it interesting and engaging – not just an in-your-face advert. Approach a journalist or editor to write something for you. They are usually happy to have new information to provide. Put together a short e-book and put it on your website to sell.

5. Direct Mail. You can distribute direct mail as sales letters, ad mailings, or brochures. The thing is to create a document that attracts the attention or your recipient, engages their interest, provokes their curiosity ultimately compels them to take action. It is absolutely imperative that you emphasise the benefits that your client will receive as a result of buying your services. Concentrate less on everything else.

6. Cold Calling. Yes, I know – it sounds a pain and few people like it but don’t neglect it. Practice cold techniques. Learn the first names of the people you want to speak to so that it sounds to the gatekeepers – of which there will be plenty – that you know them. Understand that the person you assume is the decision maker may not be. It could be the person above or below them or even along from them! Make your aim of a call to get an appointment. Keep it short, keep it clear and do it early in the morning – sometimes the person you want to speak to will be in before the secretary and may well answer the phone instead.

7. Your website. It is true that much of your business will be generated from face to face relationships. Some think that this means you don’t really need a website. Think again! Your website is your presence on the web. A place for all those who don’t know a person who can solve their problem personally – so they look online. It’s a place where all those internet articles you are going to write can be stored so that people can see at a glance your expertise. It is a place where you offer back-end products and services, related business products and so on in addition to your consultancy service. Your site has the potential to send your income through the roof. Apart from having your contact details on there you absolutely must have lots of great copy (Yes, ‘salescopy’), and for goodness sake have an opt-in section so that you can collect all the email addresses of people who are interested in what you do.

Six Reasons to Take a Consultant Course

Consulting is a hot entrepreneurship area as people seek more opportunity, work-life balance and control over their work lives. And the people heading into consulting are as diverse as the consulting field itself. Baby boomers, young parents, recent college grads, people looking to pay down debt and others looking to diversify their work experience are just some of the people who choose consulting. And that diversity means many people could benefit from a consultant course, since they’re new to this field of entrepreneurship. If you’re looking at consulting, you may be excited but a bit unsure of the opportunities before you. Ideally, you’d want to have a mentor to guide you through the process. But many ideal mentors charge high coaching fees and others are protective of the process they went through to get into consulting. And, while your local community probably offers courses for people starting businesses, you’re unlikely to find a lot of help in a room full of people starting widget shops or manufacturing businesses. Consulting is a different game. That’s why it may make sense to choose a consultant course or consulting book to help you start and run a consulting business. Six reasons to take a consultant course You may choose a consulting course because you want to:

Tap into the knowledge of a consulting expert without having to pay hundreds of dollars per hour for coaching
Get advice specific to the field of consulting, rather than more general advice about entrepreneurship and business start up
Meet other consultants, share your stories and start building your network – through online discussion forums or in-person classroom interactions. These people can help act as sounding boards, provide referrals or just give you a sense of belonging as your start your independent path.
Build your confidence. By working through the process of starting a consulting business, you can gain confidence about your prospects and your plan for action.
Learn from someone else’s mistakes. A consultant course will look at some of the pitfalls you may face. By learning from the errors of others, you can save precious time, money and energy.
Test your ideas. A consultant course provides a safe environment to think about and plan your consulting business. It’s a great opportunity to work through your ideas before you need to go into the “real” world with them.

Wondering if starting a consulting business is for you? Look online for consulting courses, articles, resources, tips and guides.

How To Market Your Consulting Business Using Social Media

Introduction

In one of my earlier articles, I mentioned the importance of social media when marketing your consulting business. I thought it may be worthwhile sharing some of my own experiences in this regard.

Website

Barring your own personal interaction with your clients, this is your ultimate weapon for winning mandates. Your clients will go to your website to see your offering and learn about you. Everything you do on social media should have the ultimate goal of getting people to visit it – because of this, it is crucial that your website:

is professional and portrays your products and services clearly and succinctly
has contact details where clients can reach you, preferably both a telephone and email address
is linked from your social media tools and also displays links back to them

Which social media tool to use?

LinkedIn

For any professional services business this must be your priority. LinkedIn allows you to set out your CV in detail, plus you can create a page specifically for your business. What better way to portray your expertise in your field and, at the same time, promote your business?

Think of LinkedIn as your most formal marketing effort. People are on LinkedIn primarily for business related matters, so you need to tailor your approach accordingly.

Blogging

Blogging is an easy way to advertise your expertise and knowledge. Keep in mind the following:

You can be quite relaxed and personal with your blogs
As a general rule, don’t write long blogs. People want to be engaged, but in short, meaningful bursts
Use your blogs as a teaser to show people how clever you are – give them just enough to want more; hopefully that will drive them to your website where all your services are laid out
Don’t use blogging as a selling tool, per se. People will be put off hard-sell on your blog

Publishing articles, like this one

Use Ezine and industry-specific forums to publish formal articles that showcase your expertise. Share information that will be useful and don’t be afraid that you are giving this away for free – it will be appreciated and will be another way to get people engaged with you. If your articles show that you know what you are talking about, people will be more likely to engage with you.

An important point to bear in mind, however, is that articles are more formal than blogs. Think of them more as a professional reference point rather than an informal teaser.

Twitter

If LinkedIn is formal, Twitter is casual. This is the opportunity to show your personal side and you are expected to engage in a social fashion. That doesn’t mean you can’t link your posts, blogs and articles into your tweets, you must! I think this is the least-understood aspect of Twitter and how powerful it can be as a business marketing tool.

Facebook Page

You can create a page for your business in Facebook. Yes, it will be linked to your profile, but you can use it exclusively for your business marketing. The reach of Facebook and the easy way of creating an advert makes the case for Facebook marketing compelling. Because of all the data that Facebook collects on people, Facebook adverts can also be highly-tailored to your target audience.

Google+

Google+ is powerful simply because it is part of the biggest search engine on the planet. That means it can be used to drive your SEO efforts.

Joining Circles and participating in Hangouts (or starting your own) will help you connect with a targeted audience.

However, Google+ does require some effort. If you don’t put any in, you will likely be staring at a blank screen wondering what all the fuss is about.

Podcasts, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Vimeo and You Tube

To the extent that images, audio and video can be used to market your business, these are also great tools to use. Creating an instructive podcast or video can be used as a personal interaction with your audience – blogging without writing!

Images and photos are perhaps more suited to a product-driven business, but creative ways can be used to market a services business too.

Conclusion

I am still experimenting with all of the above, plus a few more that I have come across (Tumblr is my latest foray). I am giving each of them some attention, although I am sure that I will gravitate to the 4 or 5 that make the most sense for my particular business and audience.

How to Reach the Target Market for Your Consulting Business

Here are 5 steps you can take in reaching your target market as a consultant:

1. Identify your area of expertise.

Before you can know anything about your potential clients, you need to understand your own strengths fully. Make a list of all the knowledge areas you feel confident in sharing and teaching to other people. It will be a partial list, because there are always some things that you do not realize you know well until you are put in a position of having to do them. However, a list will help you define your strongest areas for consulting.

2. Identify your target audience.

Next, figure out who needs your services. If you are a playground consultant, your brainstorming session might produce options like schools, parks, and day care facilities. Someone consulting on computers would have an even longer list, but if you have carefully narrowed down your area of expertise within the computer field, you will have an easier time finding your target market.

3. Reach out to members of your target audience by networking with business associates.

You may be able to connect with members of your target market through business or social contacts you have already made. The way to find out is to stay in touch with as many different friends and relatives as possible. Also, mention to them your new consulting business and the kinds of jobs you want to do. The more people you have seeking out your target businesses, the easier they will be to find.

4. Reach out to your target audience through professional or industry organizations.

Many business people do consulting within a certain profession or industry. Most of these groups have organizations to represent them, certify their members, and provide education, networking, and support for people in the profession or industry. If you are tied to one group in particular, join their organization. Take their classes and become certified if possible. Go on organizational forums and get acquainted with the people in the industry. Not only can you make contacts to help refer you to jobs, you may also find someone in the industry that needs your services within their own business.

5. Do an Internet marketing campaign.

An Internet campaign encompasses a vast variety of methods for getting the name and services of your consulting business into the public eye. You can make a professional website, do informative articles for directories that link back to your website, write press releases, have a social media marketing campaign, or write a blog. Internet marketing aimed at your consulting business’s target market will bring new customers into your business fast if it is handled correctly.

What Is the Value of Attending Home Based Business Forums?

This model is based on an understanding of the various requirements of your clients and the home based business forums can give you tips. In the first instance you will be looking for ideas. It is through studying the work that has been accomplished by your colleagues that you may gain some inspiration as to the things that might work for you. The next thing is to assess feasibility.

Many entrepreneurs go out on a limb with very high expectations that are bound to fail. For example you might decide that you wish to sell organic fruit when in reality you live in a locality which is primarily comfortable with supermarket shopping. The perishable items will also create stock control issues which may eventually close you down. Consultation can help you to avoid these problems.

The management of you home based business aspirations
Failure often arises when you have not had exposure to the real working environment. You can get an opportunity to learn through the mistakes that have been committed by your colleagues. If someone has lost a substantial amount of money, they may be in a position to provide you with tips on how you can protect your enterprise. This is valuable information.

The home based business forums prevent you from taking a damaging and insular approach to your entrepreneurship. For example you may think about selling books without considering the fact that there is a public library within your locality which is more than capable of matching up any items which you have in mind. These things have to be planned well in advance.

Finances are very challenging for people who have never been in this position before. You have to look at your costs of production and then find ways of ensuring that your revenues can cover all the incidentals. Budgeting manuals can become useless if you do not have practical experience of running a home based business. Your colleagues will be very useful in this aspect.

Avoiding the pitfalls of business bureaucracy
Short cuts are rarely beneficial in the long run but you also have to consider the limitations that extended bureaucracy can create. The lack of licensing in this sector does not necessarily mean that you will not encounter any official regulation. From taxes to safety, you may be held accountable for anything that is associated with your product line.

Where do you meet the community? A simple Google search will open up the world of various opportunities. You should link up with public blogs. The home based business forums are designed by people who have an interest in the industry and they will change the way that you see your role as an entrepreneur working within the sector.

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Getting Your Small Business Marketing Consultant Business Rolling

You have the skills and the mindset to start your marketing business and your next step is getting your first clients.

Almost every small business marketing consultant had a friend, colleague or someone in the immediate circle as their first customer. So, the easiest way to get your cash flow is by selling your services to an existing network of family and friends.

But but before too long you will have to push your business to a wider audience if you want to secure a steady recurring income from consulting.

Marketing is not a one-time activity that you can forget about once your business starts making money. Even if you enjoy ample profits with the recurring fees of your existing clients, there are no guarantees how long they will continue to need your services. Part of your time should be reserved for client hunting using a variety of techniques such as the following:

Develop a prospect database

Starting with what you already have, gather all your contacts into one file and build your database using linkages.

If you’re using an email service provider like Yahoo mail, check for features that automatically pulls email addresses from your social networks and puts them into your email contact list.

This saves you the time and effort of having to encode names and email addresses and you are assured that the contact information you have are all current.

Automate email collection

By now you should have at least one website for advertising your services. Use your site to collect email addresses automatically from visitors by adding an opt-in form that requests for their contact information.

List building experts recommend making an offer that your visitors can’t refuse like giving away free items for which they will have to first provide their email address.

Another way would be to provide useful content in your website and add a subscription option inviting your visitors to sign up for email notifications of future articles.

Participate in forum discussions

People who may need your services are usually found in related forums where they pose questions and get the opinion of others. Position yourself in these forums and make sure that you make relevant comments whenever you can.

Marketing in these online communities is subtle by attaching a signature file to all your comments. Your signature file should contain your business name, a brief description of what you do, your URL and email address. Marketing for a small business marketing consultant involves a variety of methods and should not be confined to just one or two techniques.

Why Use a Change Management Consultant?

Why use a change management consultant? This is a very good question because unless you are very clear about exactly what sort of help you need I would just simply say don’t!

Key factors

There are a number of factors that will have a bearing on how you approach using a change management consultant – or in determining whether you even should do so.

~ Your objective – the deliverable you are seeking. [See comment below re 3 fundamental motivations]. What do really want? An answer or solution that (a) you can implement or (b) someone else can implement for you? A solution and the knowledge and means to be able to replicate it yourself in future?

~ Your company’s size. The smaller you are the more you need to maximise the leverage of your budget. The difficulty you have is that you need the knowledge and expertise but you can’t generally afford to pay someone else to do it.

The larger you are the greater the temptation and tendency to take the easy way out and pass the problem on to external consultants – rather undertaking the diagnosis yourself which is part of what senior management are paid to do and training your own people and/or where necessary hiring interim external support.

~ Your budget – this is usually closely related to the size of your organisation. Thus the larger you the easier it is to “throw money” at the problem with external consultants but avoid taking the difficult steps to resolve the real issue. The smaller you are the greater the tendency to be reluctant to spend any money at all and to just “muddle through”.

~ Your situation – what stage you are at with your change initiative.

– “We’ve done the strategic review, so… how do we do this and make it work…?”

– “We know what we’re doing and we know what the issues are… we just need some extra flexible resource to help get it delivered on time…”

– “We’re up and running, and – we’re up to our necks in alligators…”

~ Your knowledge base – do you know anything about change management and change leadership? Where would you be positioned on a change management maturity model? Do you know what you don’t know?

~ Your company culture re using consultants – this will have a considerable influence on your attitude to and propensity to use any form of external assistance. A “positive” attitude may make it a more acceptable option but increase the likelihood of it becoming the “default setting”. A “negative” attitude may preclude the possibility and for the “wrong” reasons.

3 reasons for seeking any sort of external assistance

(1) Development – via some form of knowledge transfer, education or training

(2) Diagnosis – problem identification, definition and recommended solution

(3) Delivery – implementing a solution to a business need to realise a business benefit

Consultancy – including change management consultants – is only one source of provision for each of these reasons for seeking outside assistance. Other options in addition to or instead of using a change management consultant are:

– Information sources via the internet
– Training courses and building in house capability
– Non-executive directorships
– Business mentoring
– Peer group input and support via various business forums
– Interim management – an excellent option for medium and larger companies with over 500 employees
– Contract resource – similar to interim management but situation specific rather than functional specific as per interim management

Recommendations

If your requirement includes “development” – via some form of knowledge transfer, education or training – then for the small to medium sized enterprise [up to 500 employees] internet sources, training courses and peer group support is the best option. For larger enterprises an interim or contract resource or a smaller bespoke change management consultancy is the recommended route.

A requirement that includes “diagnosis” – problem identification, definition and recommended solution – is best met via a non-executive or some form of business mentoring via trade or business or government sponsored agencies for smaller enterprises. The recommendation for medium and larger enterprises with over 500 employees is for an interim or contract resource or a smaller bespoke change management consultancy.

A requirement for “delivery” – implementing a solution to a business need to realise a business benefit – for a smaller enterprise is best met via a non-executive or some form of business mentoring via trade or business or government sponsored agency. The recommended option for larger enterprises is via an interim or contract resource. I would not recommend using a change management consultant resource unless it had a proven record of change initiative delivery as well as diagnosis.

Small Business Marketing – Become a Social Media Consultant to Build a Consulting Business Online

Helping small service businesses to establish themselves online with social media can become a lucrative job for you. Once you understand what needs to be done, you can even have other people help you to leverage what you know and save you more time.

Most small businesses do not have much of an online presence. Even if they have a website, it usually does not attract more business for them. The idea is to help their prospective customers find them on the internet, and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are the fastest and easiest to do this.

When you are starting to consult with a small business, find out right away what type of internet presence they currently have. You can Google them and print out the results. This will show them where they are starting from. Then add them to Twitter, and add a profile that tells as much about them as possible. You must find out if their business is local, national, or globally. This will make a difference in the keywords you use when writing articles, blog posts, or forum comments.

All of this will tie back in with a blog you will set up for them. I think of a blog as your home on the internet, so spend some time and set it up nicely for the small business you will be marketing for. Choose domain names that contain the right keywords so that more people are likely to find them when searching on Google or elsewhere.

The most important thing is to be consistent with your marketing efforts. Make a schedule and stick to it so that the business you are working for will have the best possible experience with you and your work.

Four Steps, Four Days to Marketing Yourself As a Consultant

Today’s economy has turned a lot of valuable employees into consultants. You have oodles of specific knowledge, you know there are companies that can use it, and you want to launch your own consulting business. Trouble is, you are an engineer, an operations manager, an financial analyst, a technical writer… not a marketer.

By now you’ve figured out that marketing yourself as a consultant requires specific action – it’s definitely not a case of, “If you build it, they will come.” Never fear, I have some ideas to help you establish your reputation as an expert, get your name out there, and begin building your consulting business by the end of the week!

Day #1 – Your Marketing Plan

You don’t have to spend weeks putting together your business or marketing plan, and you don’t have to pay someone to do it for you. The real value of putting together a solid plan is the way it makes you think through different scenarios, the competition, and the product you will be offering. A really great plan will also keep you on track as you build your business and it should be considered a working document – edit and change it as frequently as necessary.

Answer each of the following questions in writing and please don’t take more than 15 minutes per.

Who is your ideal client? Consider size of company, industry, for profit or not. This is your absolute ideal, not a listing of any type of company that might be able to use your services. Describe who you want to work for. Focused marketing will pay off far greater than a shotgun approach.

What work do you want to do? Similar to the first question, describe your ideal work. If you would like, you can create a separate description for secondary work.

How do you want to work? Telecommute, onsite, or a combination? Do you want to travel?

Why does your ideal client want you? Describe your core competencies and how you are different from the average consultant.

Now you need to flip it over – What type of client business do you not want to work for? What work do you not want to do? How do you not want to work?

Day #2 – Your Resume

You do need to put some time in to presenting your experience and core competencies in a couple of different ways. First, start with your standard resume. There is much material available on creating a great resume so I’ll not spend time on that topic. Once your resume is complete, create the following three complimentary items:

One Sheet
Online Bio
Elevator Speech

A One Sheet is marketing collateral about your consulting business, designed to pique the interest of the reader. Where your resume is a professional, legal document that describes in detail where you have been, your One Sheet summarizes where you are going. Use present tense, bullets, lots of white space. Your One Sheet should be able to be read or scanned in a very short amount of time and provide a brief overview of your talents.

Next, continue to distill your marketing message down to a 30-second statement that speaks to your value proposition. Your elevator speech is not your job title. When someone asks you what you do and you answer, “I am a consultant,” you’ve just missed an opportunity to market yourself to an interested party. Your elevator speech should tell a story about who you are and what drives you.

I am on a mission to assist microbusiness owners in using the Internet to grow their business, interact with customers and clients, and level the playing field against much larger competition. The term “small business” is a misnomer — there is a vast difference in resources between a small-business with as many as 500 employees, and the entrepreneur who is going it alone. I have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that face these solopreneurs and I help them use Web 2.0 technologies to reach huge audiences with nothing but a great product, a laptop, and a pile of creativity.

Finally, create an awesome online bio to be used primarily on LinkedIn and your blog.

Judi Young is a writer and entrepreneur on a mission to assist small and micro businesses worldwide in joining the online conversation. Follow her blog…, where you can also link to her on Facebook and Twitter.

Day # 3 – Social Networking

Social etiquette

How successful would you be at a live business networking event if you came in like a politician 10 minutes late to a campaign stop — in a mad hurry to shake every hand and pass out brochures and free pens, spieling off your top three campaign promises, not interested in chatting with and getting to know people, only in talking about yourself, your services, your consulting business. Believe it or not, there are people right now treating social networking as a campaign stop. It’s the biggest mistake you can make.

Instead, treat your online socializing and networking connections as you treat real live people at networking events:

Listen 80%, Talk 20%
Always be polite and respectful
Offer and provide assistance, advice, information
Provide your online business card (web or blog address) for more information

If you connect with someone who likes and respects you, and has a need for your services, they will seek you out.

Facebook

You may already have a personal Facebook page. It is acceptable, even encouraged, to provide your professional contacts a glimpse into your personal life-to a degree. If you use Facebook regularly to keep up with friends and family, post pictures, and make political statements, you may want to consider whether your Facebook activity puts you in the best possible light with your clients. Maintaining a Facebook page is not critical to your success as a consultant, so you may wish to continue using Facebook as your personal site and rely on LinkedIn to socialize professionally. Tip: Farmville, MafiaWars, and other Facebook applications are generally considered to be in bad form in a professional environment.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most important site for a consultant to be active on. How did we connect with past colleagues, current business contacts, and other professionals prior to LinkedIn? Once you have your resume and marketing plan completed, sign up for a LinkedIn personal account (free) and start connecting. The initial LinkedIn process will walk you through connecting to colleagues already in their database. You cannot have too many connections on LinkedIn, so reach out to everyone you have worked with no matter how long ago. Next, connect to everyone you currently do business with-your real estate agent, your insurance agent, your lawyer, baker, and your children’s teacher.

Now comes the tough part: You must get recommendations in order to build Social Proof. Ask for 20 recommendations via LinkedIn today. Right now. LinkedIn makes it very easy. Just locate the Recommendations selection under Profile and select as many as 200 of your contacts. You can use the standard LinkedIn text in your request or customize it with your own words. LinkedIn sends out an individual message to each of the contacts you specified with your request for a recommendation. Now return the favor. Without being prompted, write recommendations for people you’ve worked with. View a few recommendations first and simply follow the format.

LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to begin to establish yourself as an expert in your field and to provide assistance to your new connections worldwide. Search out and join all groups that are interesting. You can find groups based on your industry, hobbies, geographic location, alma mater (don’t forget high school), and so on. For the purposes of networking for your consulting business, select groups with more than 1,000 members. LinkedIn limits the number of groups to which you can belong to 50, and some groups require approval by a group manager so there may be a bit of a wait before you can join.

Once you join groups that are interesting to you, spend a bit of time perusing active discussions for the group before you dive in and begin answering questions.

Finally, status updates-it is important for you to begin posting your status at least three times per day. You can reference a good article you read online (use /bit.ly to shorten URLs), tell everyone what you are working on, or talk about what you had for breakfast. The important thing is that you provide some insight to your day, show that you are being productive, and stay connected.

Twitter

Unless you want to consult in social media, it is not necessary that you become a twitterer. Tweeting regularly could help you up your social cred and increase contacts, however it is something you can undertake on day five and beyond.

Day #4 – Article Marketing and Your Blog

LinkedIn and Article Marketing are the one-two punch of your marketing strategy. You will begin writing industry-specific articles that establish you as a thought-leader and a subject-matter expert and you will publish them to your blog. You will also blast them out to Article Marketing sites and to Digg.

Article Marketing simply means publishing your original article to the Internet via sites that are dedicated to distributing such articles. Effective Article Marketing increases your overall exposure and establishes you as an expert in your field.

Your blog primarily exists as a landing place to hold your articles and allow your community to connect with you. Yahoo, Google, and Posterous are very quick and easy blogs to set up. I use and love WordPress, but will admit that there was a learning curve in understanding the interface, setting up widgets and so on. I recommend you set up a very easy blog to begin and roll that in to a more advanced platform down the road.

Writing and publishing articles for mass consumption is a bit daunting, so I’ve come up with this quick exercise to help. Find a kitchen timer and set it for 2 hours.

1. Create a free account on EzineArticles.
2. Create a free account on Digg.
3. Write an industry-specific article, in under 90-minutes.

Unless you regularly write for your industry, you might have a problem getting started. I personally stared off in to space for two days trying to think of a topic. Just pick something, anything, to get you started. Your second article will be much better, and the third better than that. How about the top 5 things I need to know about your industry? Or top 5 things to consider when hiring a consultant?

4. Publish your article on EzineArticles and Digg.

Whew. You did it. Ok, so I rushed you and this first one probably won’t get picked up, but the publishing process should no longer be scary. Pretty soon you will be jotting down article ideas on gum wrappers while stuck in traffic.

There are many other Article Marketing distribution sites that you can use; a quick Google search will produce many hits. Try businessknowhow and buzzle, and then find more on your own.

Each time you write a new article, spend a few minutes searching discussion forums for appropriate conversations. Quote your article as an answer to a question and be sure to provide a link to your blog.

Day #5 and Ongoing- Use Your Resources

Just as you will be giving away some of your key knowledge in order to establish credibility, so are others. There is much free, valuable information on the Internet. Check out my blog to find links to sites aimed at small and micro business owners and more tips.

Business Consulting – 5 Advanced Methods to Grow Your Consulting Business

Are you offering business consulting services? Would you like to make more money from it? Of course you would! So, follow these simple methods and reach this particular goal in no time:

1. Outplay your competitors. This is the best thing that you can do to win the business of your prospects. Make some time to do thorough research to really get to know your competitors and the things that they are doing when designing their consulting services. It would also help if you can research their marketing strategies. Knowing everything that these people are doing is crucial so you can choose the elements and strategies that you are going to use to make sure that you can outplay them in all aspects.

2. Treat your customers as royalties. Buyers simply love it when you treat them special. So, go out of your way to make sure that these people will feel like royalties. Take them out to lunch, offer extra services, and be responsive to all their needs and demands. It would also help if you can offer them with personalized consulting services that will meet their unique needs and demands. This is the key to generate sea of referrals. When you strive to make your customers happy, they will surely be delighted to recommend you to their friends, family members, or colleagues who might need your products and services.

3. Write and distribute press releases. This is a great way to get the word out about your consulting services without resorting to blatant ads. Create press releases for your company’s accomplishments or milestones and have them distribute on PR sites and offline publications. This can help you make some serious noise online and will help you capture the attention of your target market.

4. Launch free seminars. Design a seminar about business management and offer it for free to all your potential clients. The idea here is to showcase your capabilities and the type of service you provide to help your prospects gauge if you are indeed what they need in growing their business. Load your seminars with good-to know information to easily earn the trust of your audience.

5. Develop a highly targeted marketing plan. Choose the marketing tools that will allow you to easily connect with only those people who are most likely to buy from you. If you are targeting online users, you can go ahead and use PPC ads, search engine marketing, blogging, and forum posting. You can also resort to telemarketing to widen your reach in no time.