As a follow up to my April 4th, 2012 HAPPEN Burlington presentation entitled Consulting: Is It For Me?, I thought I’d share some of the best business generation and self-promotion opportunities available to self-employed consultants. Most of the following tips are free methods of increasing your visibility.
- Word of mouth. Once you’ve hung out your shingle, let everyone know about your new business and what you offer. This marketing tool is free, and can rapidly spread news of your consultancy and offering to potential clients.
- Referrals. Referral marketing differs from word of mouth in that it is the systematic cultivation of business through a small network of supporters who trust you and what you’re offering. When supporters recommend you to their network, an amount of that trust is transferred, thus facilitating your engagement with the potential client. Now all you have to do is demonstrate your skill and value to the potential client to secure the business.
- Business groups. Every city or town has a board of trade or chamber of commerce. Join it! These associations exist to support local business, and one way to do that is to connect businesses with each other. As a result, your local board/chamber provides excellent opportunities to connect with company representatives and owners. Voilà, ready-made potential clients.
- Industry associations. If your target market comprises members of a specific profession or industry, consider looking up industry associations. Examples include the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNA). Find out if you can join the association as an associate member so that you can stay abreast of issues that concern your target market, and to be advised of upcoming events. Even if you do not attend an industry event, knowing where and when it will be held permits you to be there and meet and mingle with attendees before the event starts, during breaks, or after the event’s conclusion.
- Scott’s Directories and similar business listings. Business listing resources can be purchased or, often, accessed through your local library. These directories provide detailed listings of businesses by location, revenue and employee size and NAICS code (industry sector) code. They often also include executives’ names, making it easy for you to target a marketing campaign at your best potential contact.
- Local events. One of the best opportunities for meeting potential clients I recently came across was the Mississauga Mayor’s Luncheon, which is held annually in the Fall. Business owners in the hundreds interested in hearing Hazel McCallion’s vision for the coming decades attended the event. Whether you pay to attend the event or not, show up an hour before its start and mingle with these industry leaders. Similar events take place in cities and towns across Canada.
Andrea Zanetti, MBA CHRP CCP CBP GRP
Human Resources Consultants Connection