Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Consulting assignment life cycle 5: finding consulting clients – 2

Posted in consulting, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 10, 2012

This is my fifth installment on consulting and the consulting assignment life cycle (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225-8 for parts 1-4.) My goal in this series is to more or less systematically cover a range of issues that go into planning for and developing an ongoing, effective consulting practice, whether full time as a career in itself, or part time or short term. This is my second posting as a part of that larger discussion, to focus specifically on finding clients and building a clientele (see Part 4: finding consulting clients – 1 and at the end of that I noted that I would continue from it by discussing some issues that are not as commonly covered. That is my goal for this posting. And I begin by picking up on a point that I began discussing in Part 4: business-oriented social networking strategy.

• An effective business-oriented social networking strategy is always goals oriented. Effective business social networking should be open to new possibilities and the unexpected, but it should also be carried out as an approach for realizing specific business objectives.

The two most common such objectives are:

• Marketing, and sharing word on what you do professionally, and how effectively you do it and for what types of client, and
• Networking outreach to actually find and connect with specific potential clients.

And I continue from there by flatly stating that most business professionals do this wrong and on both counts and regardless of their professional objectives for business social networking per se.

• Develop a social networking profile on business-oriented sites such as LinkedIn that would effectively work for you as online brochures as to your professional capabilities and experience.
• A perusal of LinkedIn profiles reviewed at random and as a random sample of the whole LinkedIn community shows many if not most to be woefully incomplete, and all too often essentially entirely devoid of any meaningful detail or content.
• As a hands-on and reality-check exercise, look at your own profile there, and ask yourself a simple question. “If I were a business manager looking for someone with the types of skills and experience that I have, and I was looking for potential contacts to reach out to as possible candidates, would I even briefly consider the person represented by this profile?” Most people, if answering honestly would have to say “there is so little here, if I was that manager I doubt I would ever even find a profile like mine let alone select it for inclusion on a potential candidates list.”

I have a well-crafted and maintained LinkedIn profile. I manage my profile visibility settings and have recommendations showing from LinkedIn contacts I have worked with. I have an app on my profile linking to this blog to tie them together and I manage a number of other details there with care. I also have a Facebook profile, which I freely admit is a real mess. Facebook now includes over 800 million member profiles including individual and organization pages, and marketing campaign and other types of contact point content. If I were starting a consulting practice now or maintaining one for long-term high levels of active practice, rather than tapering off on this I would more actively pursue professional social networking opportunities through this site too.

• That would mean cultivating my Facebook page’s wall and really managing what shows on it and it would mean actively keeping it updated, and for my more day to day professional activities, conferences attended and participated at and so on.
• At least as importantly that would mean more closely managing who I friend and what they post to my wall – including for that site a lot of spam that seems to go out indiscriminately.
• I have managed Facebook presences for nonprofit organizations and businesses, and have in fact just started working with a new client on that, as a part of my overall work I will be providing them with. But for my own practice as a consultant and as a business person, I have not managed my own Facebook page this carefully. So this is a case of “do as I say and not as I do.” Facebook was not, for a long time, an effective place to do business social networking, but it has become an increasingly important site for inclusion in that type of social networking effort.

Profiles are an important first step, and getting them right can be an essential component of any effort to build viral marketing and word of mouth exposure to what you do and to your budding consulting practice. But this can only be a first step.

• Join select online groups – and then participate in them.
• If you join a group but never say anything in its online forums or other shared activities, no one will know you are there and you will gain that much less from your being a member. So enter into online conversations, and as you learn the rules of conversational conduct for that specific online group or forum, begin your own conversational threads too. And make sure your comments and questions are well though through, informative and interesting, and well written – free of typos and spelling errors. For marketing and outreach purposes, what you share through these groups represents you and as very telling marketing material that can be viewed positively or negatively depending on how much care and effort you put in.

Mix face to face and online outreach and always be prepared either way. I always, for example, carry at least a few business cards with me – even on vacation. I have links to my LinkedIn profile and to this blog on my card as well as including my email address and other basic contact information. Be prepared, and for both face to face and online opportunities, and that means giving the people you would seek out, opportunity to find you too.

Find where the people you would like to reach go online, and for networking leads and as clients. And actively go there and participate there too. This still means LinkedIn and business oriented sites like that, but it also includes more social, social networking sites such as Facebook. And you might find your marketing targets prefer other sites too, and even ones that do not hold interest for the larger public in general. Reach out, connect and market your business there, where your target audiences go to connect and network.

I have already noted in Part 4 of this series the importance of open networking and for anyone who seeks to use social networking to find and cultivate new business opportunities, and I simply repeat that point here. This is very important, even if many business professionals and even consultants are reluctant to business social network more openly. Try it.

I have been covering a lot of ground in this and the preceding posting on finding and connecting to clients and I will continue and round out this topic area, at least for now in this series with a third in this grouping. There, my goal will be to more systematically organize and develop an approach to client cultivation, and with any eye to the consulting cycle, and bringing in repeat business and referrals – and I will in fact label that posting as being on the consulting assignment as a systematic process. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. And given the nature of this posting I also recommend reviewing postings from my directory on Social Networking and Business. I particularly suggest reviewing the orienting material at the top of that directory page and my four postings on jumpstarting your social networking.

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