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6 Growth Hacks for Great Consultants. Do you have what it takes?

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January 22, 2021
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6 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

The best management consultants know that being busy every day is not necessarily a sign of business growth. In fact, it might be a sign of declining business!

Growth hacking – taking deliberate steps to grow your business – is a critical consultant skill that often demands that you slow down for a while to evaluate your market, your skills, your price, and your business model.

Here is a list of growth hacks followed by top management consultants and some tips about how you might apply them in your own business.

Growth Hack #1: Marketing

It’s been repeated so many times that it might sound trite, but the truth is that marketing is the number one growth hack for great consultants. It is also the hack that is most easily ignored.

Top consultants are genuinely busy. They will be giving as much time as possible to current projects and clients, meeting deadlines, coming up with creative solutions, and going the extra mile. And therein lies the rub – all of this leaves little time to be looking forward to new clients and projects.

What, then, are the most effective ways for consultants to market themselves? According to a recent survey, print advertising ranked lowest. Only business cards remain in vogue. Cold calling, another traditional method, has also fallen entirely out of favor – most consultants will probably be relieved to hear this! The most effective methods seem to be referrals and networking events – human connection is the best way to win clients.

Growth Hack #2: Have a Professional Digital Profile

A professional online profile is a must. This includes the photograph that you use. Make sure that it is a high-quality headshot, centered, and shows a smiling face. The first few lines of your resume are the most important, as potential clients are often just skimming. Give the resume a title that accurately describes both the services you offer and your level of expertise. A good tip is to use infographics to represent what you do visually, especially on social media. Numerous online business toolkits will help.

Rather than merely listing items in your portfolio, use examples to show how each solved a client’s problem. Include samples of work, testimonials, case studies – anything that demonstrates the quality of your work and sets you apart from others.

Your portfolio is better if you focus on a niche and specialist skills rather than offer everyone everything. This might seem counter-intuitive, and you might want to apply for as many jobs as possible. However, clients are more likely to consider you if you can show that you have solved similar problems multiple times in the past.

“We have to know the true importance of human connection in a world full of algorithms, hashtags and followers”

Growth Hack #3: Register with an Online Consulting Platform

Being a freelance consultant and being part of the gig economy means that you need a digital presence. Registering yourself on digital platforms is the most effective way to do this and can take the place of face-to-face networking. For example, LinkedIn is specifically geared to business and allows you to target and link with relevant professional audiences and decision-makers. You are also visible to potential clients looking for your skill sets.

Freelance consulting platforms, specifically dedicated to creating links between consultants and clients, are also beneficial. Some bigger ones, such as Upwork and Fiverr, report posting millions of jobs per year and having turnovers upwards of $1 billion. Increasingly, large enterprises are moving to hire freelancers from platforms like this. They have access to a large talent pool of remote workers and freelancers with broad geographic reach.

A drawback for consultants can be that you when you compete with so many others, some of whom are prepared to work for very low rates, you spend an inordinate amount of time writing proposals.

Smaller, more niche platforms, such as Consultport, may be the answer. Not only do they create the links, but they also pre-screen both clients and consultants and match them for projects. Your profile and past successes are profiled on their professionally run websites, and they will even manage the contracting and payment side of your business.

Growth Hack #4: Learn to Write Good Proposals

The primary lesson for writing good proposals is to focus on the client. The proposal should be about how you can solve the client’s problem and provide value. Too many proposals use templates or are just cut and pasted from elsewhere.

The best management consultants take the time to analyze the client’s brief carefully, ask questions for clarity, and show shortly and concisely how their skills and previous experience match the project goals.

Respond quickly if the client comes back to you with questions or wants to trial some of your skills. Be careful here not to agree to too much without some guarantees either of payment or copyright.

Growth Hack #5: Build Relationships with Clients

Remember where we started? One of the best ways to grow your business is by referral. And the best way to ensure this is to deliver the best quality work to current clients. Even if this seems like a once-off project, try to connect with the client. Find out who they are and what they believe is important. Share some information about yourself. Do you remember the adage, “People buy from other people”? Perhaps the updated version of this is, “In a world of algorithms, hashtags and followers, know the true importance of human connection.”

Whether you are working in a face-to-face environment or remotely from your client, you need to be agreeable, helpful, and accessible. Communication and trust are critical. If you are not sure of something or your project is running late, be the first to let the client know.

Your goal should be to extend the one-off project to another – repeat business is such a vital growth hack.

The beauty of online consulting platforms is that you can so easily ask for referrals – and these are then immediately displayed for all to see. This is especially helpful for those who find it difficult to promote themselves. However, it also leverages a fundamental psychological principle – third-party endorsement. People are much more likely to believe even a stranger rather than you about what you can do. A typical example is that you will probably believe the nurse who says to you, “You are so lucky to have Dr. X treating you. He really is the best in his field!” If the doctor says the same about himself, you are likely to think he is just boastful.

Growth Hack #6: Personal Growth and Flexibility

Top management consultants never stop learning. Part comes from exposure to a range of clients and business environments. Part of it is deliberate. Keeping up with technology has become critical. For example, no matter how many years of experience you have in procurement and supply chain consulting, you will be overtaken by those who are introducing blockchain, IoT, robotics and Big Data applications to their consulting advice. Staying on top of your field and being prepared to move to new areas if necessary are non-negotiable growth hacks for the best management consultants.

One of the key consultant skills is seeing the bigger picture and the small things that can be improved. Consultants bring a fresh view and new insights to boost the client’s business, but they can’t do this with out-of-date knowledge and approaches.

In summary

So there you have it – my take on the six growth hacks of the best management consultants. The other part of the topic – Do you have what it takes? – is up to you.

Most of these ideas are not new - they always have been necessary consultant skills. Perhaps the move to online consulting platforms has just brought them more into focus?

Giving deliberate attention to these simple growth hacks may transform your business and propel you into the ranks of top management consultants.