Hey, colleagues! As you may or may not know, on July 14, 2017, I (Fran Simon, that’s me) hosted a webinar for consultants: Marketing Basics for Consultants Serving Early Education. As you can see and hear in the recording of the webinar, many of the participants asked great questions, but we did not have time to answer them. Here are the questions and answers as promised!
Q. What questions would I ask myself to articulate my culture?
There is no single right set of answers to this question. I had to think deeply about myself and how I came to be a consultant, and what I stand for to answer this question. It’s like asking someone how to determine how to breathe. But, here’s what I think…Please note that some of the questions I came up with overlap with the discovery process for your mission and vision as described in the webinar.
- What do I stand for?
- What are my guiding principles?
- What are my key values?
- What behaviors, activities, and ideas are unacceptable to me?
- What is the purpose of my work?
- How do I treat people? How do I want to be treated?
- How do I see work-life balance at this point in my career and what do I expect in the future?
- What contribution do I want to make in early childhood, our country, and the world?
- Why did I decide to do this work?
- Am I open to change? How will I approach personal and professional change?
(It is important to address change because every consultant’s role is to introduce clients to new ideas and processes that will ultimately lead to change. If you are resistant to change, being a consultant may not be right for you.)
- How can I be best prepared to help clients with change?
- What types of opportunities will I accept and more importantly, what types of opportunities will I not accept?
- How will partnerships and relationship factor into my work?
- Have I ever done something professionally that I regret? How will I ensure I never do that again?
- How will I evaluate my own work? Solicit feedback?
- How will I interact with clients, partners, employees (if you hire them)?
- What messages do I want to convey in meetings and conferences?
Q, Can you talk about how personality and culture differ and work together?
Personality is the expression of culture: The behavior and actions you take reveal your culture to the world. It’s difficult to control how people perceive you, but you can manage how you behave so that your behavior is consistent with your culture. Every professional action you take (in person and in writing) is a manifestation of your culture.
Q. Which Seth Godin book do you recommend to start with?
You really must select which of the books appeals to your specific interests. I personally gravitated to Tribes. I also was inspired by Linchpin. Both books were inspirational because of my interest in marketing and branding. Purple Cow’s focus on “being remarkable” was, well, remarkable. All three of these books relate to our discussion in the webinar about professional branding and thought leadership. Permission Marketing was the first SG book I read, and it really set the stage for my interest in Inbound Marketing.
I recommend you take a look at Seth’s site, check him out on social media, and subscribe to his blog. Search the blog, because he’s been blogging for a long time, and it includes tons of content that is easy to consume.
Q. What about pricing? How can I price my work?
First, I think it is important to have a model that you use consistently with clients. You should not have to figure out the pricing for every client unless the engagement is very different than your ordinary work. If you have carefully defined your process and your target clients, you should have a very good idea of the time involved in the work.
However, you should re-frame your thinking about how you plan your pricing if you think solely about the number of hours it will take to do the job. Instead of focusing on being paid for your time, frame it as getting paid to solve problems. It is important to define the problem for the client and explain your fees based on the value of solving their problems. Both you and your client need to see the engagement in terms of outcome, not time.
Pricing is just extremely variable by geography, specialty, the consultant’s level of experience, the type of work, etc. In fact, the type of organizations with which you work is probably the most important factor to consider. We are putting together a retreat for consultants in December, 2017. Get on this list if you want to be notified when we have more information.
Q. Are there good, simple places to create free websites that do not have lots of advertisements?
So, here’s the cold, hard truth: NOTHING IS EVER REALLY FREE! Note: The first thing you need is a domain name. Domain name are not free. They can be inexpensive, until you add the privacy features and other bells and whistles. They must be renewed in annual subscriptions. The sites mentioned in the list I’ve included below are “free” with restrictions.
While a lot of people will tell you websites are easy to create, I promise you will spend a lot of time creating one, and when you are done with your first iteration, it will may very well end up looking like a craft project. I suggest you look at a lot of other sites, especially other consultants’ sites to get a feel for what looks good and what appeals to you.
Here’s a list of WordPress Themes (more about that in a moment) and here’s a list of consulting companies that won an award for their websites (scroll down to see the list.) Both links show examples of some beautiful homepage designs for consultants.
Look for inspiration. Or if you have a website, compare your homepage it to those you see on this page. Take a look at a couple of leading early childhood consultants’ sites:
A huge percentage of websites for individuals and companies of all sizes ranging to some of the largest companies, are built on WordPress. I am a big advocate of WordPress, and two out of three of my sites are on WordPress.
Because WordPress is easy to use and can be free*, a lot of people strike out to do it themselves. The results of homemade sites typically look homemade, even though it takes a lot of time to build them. Despite the apparent affordability and ease of building your own website, the amount of time you spend doing it and the result will be frustrating and disappointing. Save yourself the time and find someone to do it for you.
(Can be free and hosted on WordPress or affordable and hosted on another provider)
Learn about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
In the meantime, please watch this webinar about websites for consultants, presented by my colleague, Lindsey Englehardt. (Lindsey is one of the developers I know who specialize in WordPress. She is building my new site consulting site, which will launch at the end of August.)You can also download two handouts from her session:
If WordPress is not for you, here’s the list of a few free website builders:
Q. How about where to go to start a blog?
Q. How do we find email lists to subscribe to?
I recommended that consultants join a lot of email lists in the early childhood sector. Joining lists will not only help you stay abreast of developments in the field and provide you with content to share on social media, but it also will help you get ideas about how you will style your email set your own personal tone. I recommend you go to the websites of the following organization to join their lists. This is not a comprehensive list of the lists in early education, by far. Look around! You will find more!
- Non-profit organizations you follow or to which you belong. Here are some of the popular early childhood email lists:
- Consultants you admire.
- Companies whose products you like or from which you buy.
Typically, there is a form to fill out on the homepage. Most of the time it is at the top or right side of the page, but sometimes, it’s at the bottom.
Q. How would you suggest we learn about giving a webinar?
I’m not sure if you are asking about the technology of “giving a webinar” or the skill of presenting an engaging webinar.
There is a lot of information online about how to give great webinars! I really like the approaches offered by Roger Courville and Cynthia Clay. They focus on how to present webinars, but there is a lot more to webinars than just the presentation. You must have a webinar service provider, spend time setting up the webinar, promote the webinar (which takes a lot of time and skill), and then know how to work the technology in addition to preparing the content and delivering. I would be happy to spend time talking about all that is involved or, better yet, host your webinar! Just contact me so we can set up a time to talk.
Q. Once I start my list, do I keep sending people stuff even if they don’t respond? I don’t want to be annoying. If I have a newsletter, I need to ask people to subscribe, right?
Good question! Dig in…
If you use a commercial email marketing system like Constant Contact, MailChimp, (there are hundreds… research this) subscribers are in total control of what they receive and do not receive from you. Yes, you must invite people to subscribe, or according to the Can SPAM regulations in the US, you are breaking the law, and more importantly, you are annoying the very people with whom you want to connect! If you are just getting started, and if you don’t have a website or another way to draw people into your email orbit, you can invite people you know to subscribe in an initial email.
Once subscribed to a commercial system, subscribers can unsubscribe or change their email preferences at any time. (All of the commercial systems offer this option to subscribers.) You can even provide options about what kind of content they receive.
If you are one the first step of the baby steps I outlined in the webinar, and are still using one of the common email clients like Outlook, Gmail, or Yahoo, please be careful! Do not continue to send email to people without their expressed consent. Also, be sure to blind copy (BCC) the recipients so you do not expose the email addresses of the recipients. Doing so would be a major invasion of their privacy. Again, this is not a concern if you use a commercial email marketing system because they are designed to send mass emails without exposing the private information of the recipients.
If you intend to use email as a marketing strategy to promote your consulting practice, I strongly recommend you use one of the email systems designed especially for email marketing. Most have tiered pricing plans that range from free to affordable, depending on how much email you send.
Q. Do you have suggestions for packaging training courses? Digital or Face to face. I’m going to a conference and I will have a table. I want to be able to sell something but I provide services and training.
Cool! I am so happy you will have a table. Exhibit marketing was not listed on the chart of strategies I discussed during the webinar because so few consultants invest in that type of marketing. You go!
You’ve really asked a two-part question. 1. How to package your training, and 2. How to sell the package at a conference.
To answer the first part of the question, I would need to know a lot more about your work and your business model. I’d be happy to help you if you contact me at [email protected].
So, typically people who visit your table will not make a purchase like training on the spot. They might buy books or other products, but training is a more complex purchase. Your objectives for exhibit marketing should be:
- Establish a relationship with prospective clients, best done through authentic conversation, followed by a flyer or brochure.
- Collect contact information about prospective clients so you can follow up with them.
- Invite them to subscribe to your email list and capture that subscription on the spot.
In order to attract people to your table, they need to have a snapshot of what you are all about. Most conferences give you a tiny sign that looks like everyone else’s sign, and it says your name or your organization name and the table number. I recommend you invest in a sign that has your name or your company name, a tagline that pinpoints what you do, and some imagery.
Ideally the sign should be clearly readable from a distance. One trick I suggest to get people into your area and feel comfortable talking with you is to move the table to the side of your area so you are not standing behind it. That may sound strange, but tables are a barrier between you and the potential client/customer. Set up your area to invite people in. If you can get or bring two high stools (one for you and one for a client) that would be ideal. I suggest high stools so when you sit your eyes are at eye level with people walking by your area.
Just a couple of other tips on exhibit marketing:
- Hopefully you are speaking at the conference as well as exhibiting. If so, be sure to find a way to send participants who participate in your session to your table. Offer a handout/article/practical item related to your presentation or to your work that is only accessible if the come to the booth.
- A lot of exhibitors offer free “junk” to get people to come to their tables. Please don’t do that! Offer something free that is useful and related to your specialty. It’s a waste of money to offer a fidget spinner, tote bag, slinky or whatever, because you will attract EVERYBODY, and you don’t want to talk to everybody. You want to talk to prospective clients who are interested in what you offer as a consultant.
- Be sure to promote your presentation (if speaking) and your table before the conference using email, social media and if you have one, your website. While the goal is to get new clients, spending time with current and former clients is an important way to extend your relationship and get referrals.
- Finally, for all of the other consultants reading this who have not yet used exhibit marketing, I strongly recommend only investing in this strategy
Exhibit marketing can be much more elaborate than what I have suggested herein. It’s a big investment of time and energy. If you are just beginning your exhibit marketing journey, I suggest keeping it simple and making yourself as visible and approachable as possible.