A typical consultant has quite a predictable life [^1]. There is a customer that has a problem, and believes that the problem will go away after is dealt with once. Sometimes, it might be as simple as establishing a company QA department, reviewing the impact of a recent legislation on the company, or something as complex as adapting the company to the digital age.
The common trait of all those problems is that they are mostly in the uncharted space. Each of them is quite unique, and while some knowledge can be reused, with each iteration something new is uncovered.
Blue Rectangle - a place for a typical problem suitable for consulting. Orange one - problem solution in this space should be a subject to different types of agreement, as it looks like a standard part of providing value to customer customers.
If you look at the map above, you will notice that
solving a problem is not a single user need. The nature of every contract is such that there must some mutual trust in place, and belief that both parties will do everything what is reasonably possible to achieve a positive output. That trust is not something that is established during problem solving, but before it.
Customer journey can be represented by a diagram below:
The customer needs to get aware of the problem and of the consultant first, then he needs to be absolutely convinced that he can trust the consultant, and finally, the contract may happen. Naturally, the perspective of the consultant is a bit different. The user journey (funnel) of the customer consultant looks like this:
And if that journey is represented in a form of a map, we get:
Note flows. To solve a problem for a customer, you need to build a reputation, and for that you have to invest your own resources. After the first customer pays you, you may reuse that payment to get more customers. The important bit is that money flows f.e. to conferences in the reverse direction - you need to go to conferences to establish reputation, but it is not something the customer pays you for.
The most important aspect in this scenario, for me, is how much effort should be put into initiatives that do not bring money, such as f.e. tweeting, writing blog posts or speaking at conferences. That the value of those activities diminishes very fast. Tweeting now and then may be useful for increasing your (consultant) reach and awareness amongst potential customers, but tweeting too much may detract you from other goals. Your customer funnel may take f.e. this shape:
If you are a consultant, your day has only 24 hours. Focusing too much on one aspect means others are neglected, and the overall efficiency, the flow of money from contract is smaller.
Such analysis allows you to track value of your individual activities, at least theoretically. Doing less (or more) of a given activity has a measurable financial impact, and if you measure your time spent on the activity, you may be able to say exactly what value you are creating by f.e. being on Faceboook.
Said all of that, what I would like to attempt is to break down the funnel in better detail. My thoughts, currently, are that:
- Social media are only for building awareness and familiarity. By being on social media, and by delivering valuable content, your exposure will be growing. BUT. You cannot flood your customers, because if they will think you are too familiar, they will mute/ignore you. There is only a limited presence you can manifest.
- Conferences are useful in that sense that you have exclusive access to the lead attention, especially if they are already familiar with you. Which basically means that you should show a case study, and give your attendees something they could talk about in their environment (which builds familiarity and trust).
- Controversial topics build familiarity but not trust, especially if expressed opinions are far from being commonly accepted.
- The more intimate is the event, the easier it is to build trust with the customer, and the easier it is to figure out which skills might be expected in the future.
How do you deal with sharing your day amongst different activities? What are your thoughts on this subject?
[^1]: The life of a consultant is predictable in that sense that it is a series of unpredictable contracts.