Marketing Tactics for Independent Consultants: Becoming a Thought Leader

Rows of lightbulbs with one lit up - Marketing for Consulting Businesses: Becoming a Thought Leader

In this five-part series, we’re looking at marketing tactics that can help boost your consulting business’ visibility and better sell your skills to the organizations that need them right now.

With how radically the pandemic has changed the way people live and work, organizations everywhere are working diligently to adapt and adjust accordingly. This brings with it a rapidly growing demand for specialized knowledge and skill sets that address these emerging needs. By positioning your consulting business as a vital resource and thought leader during this time, you gain a competitive advantage and the opportunity to contribute to innovations that will have a lasting impact.

Previously in this series, we addressed the most fundamental aspect of your independent consulting business: your brand itself. Now, in part two, we’re going to build that out a bit by exploring various steps you can take to establish—or reinforce—your brand’s thought leadership.

How to become known as a thought leader (especially in emerging fields)

One of the most effective ways to get your name out there is by creating online content that offers immediate value. In doing so, you are able to demonstrate your expertise, attract potential clients, and keep existing clients engaged. Right now it’s particularly critical to show how past strategic successes can translate to solutions for current challenges—and those on the horizon. Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Offer your perspective—and have purpose

    Blogs and videos dominate content marketing strategies for two reasons: they’re easy to post and easy to consume. But beware of publishing content just to publish content. The goal is to post consistently—but not constantly—about current business challenges while offering solutions that are rooted in your consultancy’s area of expertise.

    Start by identifying several niche knowledge areas that you can speak to with authority. Everything you post should tie back to one or more of these. A simple, effective strategy is to identify a specific concern, share your personal experience, and then recommend actions that executives can take immediately.

    Consistently posting high-quality content on your consulting business’ site also helps drive organic traffic while improving your search ranking. Hubspot recommends posting a couple of times a week if you’re looking to boost brand awareness, and up to four times a week if you’re gunning for greater traffic. Guest blogging on related, well respected sites can help extend your reach even further.

  2. Create visual, shareable content

    People are highly visual creatures, which is why videos, infographics, quick-hit lists of tips and tricks, and data visualization are so popular—and readily shared. By making your content shareable, you can effectively expand your circle of influence and strengthen your position as a thought leader.

    Hubspot’s 2020 State of Marketing report found that video is now the top form of content marketing media, with blogs and e-books tied for second place. More importantly, video is preferred by the C-suite. According to Social Media Week, 59 percent of executives choose video over text when given the choice. Perhaps this is why video campaigns on LinkedIn—the top social channel for business-related content—have an 82 percent view rate.

    Fortunately, modern video production has a fairly low barrier to entry. All you need is a smartphone to produce candid, expert content like Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck’s “Money Monday” series. Unedited videos like these trade glossy polish for the raw appeal of authenticity. If you’re not comfortable on camera, you can still produce high-value videos by repurposing past webinar recordings or using slideshow software to illustrate key points from a recent blog post.

  3. Embrace speaking engagements

    There’s no better way to increase your visibility and showcase your skills than to get on stage and speak directly to your target audience. Whether you’re standing at a podium or seated on a panel, speaking engagements offer a unique opportunity to establish your industry expertise and build trust with potential clients. Although live events have largely been put on hold in light of the current need for social distancing, they will one day resume—and in the meantime there has been a huge growth in the number of virtual conferences and events at which you can demonstrate your expertise.

    As with other content marketing channels, you’ll create a stronger, more personal connection by demonstrating your strategic thinking rather than selling your services. In the Demand Gen Report’s 2019 Content Preferences Survey, 96% of senior-level respondents indicated that B2B content quality could be improved by “curbing the sales speak.”

    Take advantage of the question-and-answer sessions that often follow, too, as this is a chance to flex your communication skills while gaining insight into your audience’s most pressing matters.

  4. Trade white papers for webinars

    Whereas social media favors succinct sound bites, white papers and webinars allow for deeper analysis backed by data and research. As such, they are valuable resources for executives who want to better understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. This makes them particularly effective lead generation tools and trust-builders.

    White papers were the go-to format for decades, but the visual appeal of webinars has recently given them an edge in terms of engagement. Demand Gen Report’s survey found that, despite 73 percent of its respondents stating they have less time to spend on research, 63 percent are willing to spend 20-60 minutes watching a webinar. When it came to white papers, the majority only allocated 5-20 minutes.

    What’s more, webinars continue to increase in popularity as executives—many with newfound schedule flexibility while working from home—carve out time to consume content that helps them grapple with changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Webinar platform On24 found that the number of events hosted on its platform jumped by more than 330% in March 2020, with the number of attendees doubling year-over-year. These trends make the webinar format an excellent choice for any consultant seeking to become a thought leader in their field.

Once you’ve set up your website, listed your services, and name-checked past projects, it’s tempting to assume everything is on autopilot. But if nothing is driving people to your site, those who need to see it never will. Through strategic content marketing, you can sell yourself as a thought leader before you sell your services. By reaching time-starved executives with valuable information, you demonstrate the expertise your consulting business offers and compel them to click through to your site.

Next in our series on how to market your consulting business, we’ll explore tactics to build your network.

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About the Author

Emily Slayton

Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself, she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth.

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