Beyond Referrals: How to Build a Predictable Client Pipeline

When you first start your consulting and coaching business, you are likely to get a lot of referrals to potential clients. But referrals will only take you so far, especially if you want to scale up your business. Therefore, you need to create marketing routines that consistently generate leads and future clients into your pipeline.

Marketing has one job – to get qualified leads to know who you are and be interested in having a conversation with you. But when it comes to marketing as a consultant, you need to add one other thing: You need to establish your credibility. You are not selling widgets for low prices. You are selling your know-how in exchange for significant fees.

Therefore, create your overall marketing strategy that sets the context for you to be able to make a powerful promise and then deliver on that promise. Select tactics that give you the opportunity to make create a relationship to the right people that you can most help.

  1. Identify Your Ideal Client Archetypes

To attract the right people into your sales funnel, you have to know who they are. You do not serve companies, you serve individuals within companies so therefore, do not overlook or rush through your first initial marketing exercises. Discern who you serve and describe them from a demographic standpoint (what title, industry, company size they work in, etc.) and a psychographic standpoint (pain points and challenges that are relevant to your consulting.) 

  1. Become a Master Problem Solver

Articulate your value proposition and products and services in such a way that demonstrates to your ideal clients that you are the one to solve their problems and transform their pain points into catalysts for growth. Become a detective and learn what you ideal client needs most from you. From there make sure all of your copy connects the dots between their needs, your consulting solution and the transformation they receive by virtue of working with you.

  1. Establish a Credible Web Presence

You need more than an online brochure….you need a web presence. Invest in your website to ensure that it has an amazing design and powerful content (manifest in multiple formats) to establish your credibility, draw in right fit clients AND warm up potential clients.

  1. Make List Building a Part of Your Daily Routine

Too many consultants and coaches overlook the value of their network and how having a quality, responsive network is the essential to long-term success. It’s not about the number of people on your lists – it's the number of people who fit your ideal client archetype and who are excited to hear from you. To grow your list you need great content that draws in people leads that you can offer in exchange for an email address. Once they are on your list you can engage them with offers and additional value in a more direct way. 

  1. Engage your Network Regularly

And speaking of emailing your network, you need to regularly cultivate your ongoing relationship with those people you have in your network. You can’t just sell to them without offering them regular value. Send them a periodic update filled with some best practices and tips as well as what you are currently offering.

  1. Up-sell Existing Clients

One of the fastest ways to expand your book of work is to proactively advocate for additional work for your existing clients. Extend your existing contract to include further implementation or hyper-care support. Use your insight about the business to suggest partnering on other business objectives. 

  1. Leverage LinkedIn as a Powerful Virtual Networking Tool

LinkedIn is a literal goldmine for finding your next clients. According to LinkedIn expert Josh Turner, 76% of executives are on LinkedIn and 40% check in on this platform daily. You can engage with your future clients in groups and in comments on posts. You can demonstrate your credibility with your own content sharing and posting (original and curated.) And the best part, there’s search features that allow you to precisely find your ideal clients and connect with them.

  1. Write a Book

Demonstrate your expertise and the value that it can create in an easy to read book. Books (both self-published and commercially published) establish credibility and provide a low-cost way for your future clients to engage with you. In addition to selling your books, you can use them as leaving pieces, as ways to entice people to sign up to your list and as additional value during the sales process.

  1. Public Speaking

Engaging an audience of potential buyers is a sure-fire way of generating both awareness and interest in your consulting. Speaking engagements demonstrate your thought leadership, provide a plethora of networking opportunities and are a source for new business.

  1. Webinars

Offering free webinars on a content that would be of interest to your ideal clients is a way for them to experience your value first hand. You can provide a time-framed discount for consulting services at the conclusion of the webinar or simply a free strategy session.

A Word about Networking & Referrals

I know that you already know the importance of networking and asking for referrals but I wanted to give you a few tips to enhance your effectiveness.

When it comes to networking:

  • Choose events that your ideal client will be attending (vs. your peers.)
  • When you are at the event, practice using a more conversational and branded response to the question “So, what do you do?” Don’t answer with “I’m a consultant.” Find a way to communicate what you do by explaining the situation that your help is needed, what you do to help and the value it creates.
  • Focus on adding on-the-spot value by asking good questions and focusing more on the people you are meeting vs. establishing your credentials.

 When it comes to referrals:

  • Make it a habit to ask for the referrals at the end of every client engagement.
  • When you ask for referrals, don’t be vague and ask for introductions to “someone who can use my services.” Be specific. Say, “I’m looking for [insert ideal client archetype] who has [insert pain point, challenge, need] and wants [insert the benefit your consulting creates.]

For Reflection:

  • Are you strategic or scattered in your marketing approach? 
  • If you're more on the scattered side - how is your inconsistency in your tactics affecting the consistency and quality of your results? 
  • If you are strategic in your approach - have you been able to identify where your marketing system is working for you and where there are leaks?
  • Do you want to maximize your marketing time and results? If so, what is one thing you can do differently that would make your marketing experience feel more authentic and in flow for you?

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