Consultants, there’s a payoff here for you, in how to get more of the clients you want from your website, but please let me tell a quick story first.
It all started innocently enough.
You can skip most of the discussion, because it goes like this (paraphrasing, not quoting…):
1. John: How do people find business consultants to hire?
2. Rand: They don’t use Google, they rely on personal recommendations.
3. Dan: People use search engines to find business consultants a lot.
4. Rand: A personal recommendation is a better lead than ranking #1 for [seo company].
5. Dan: Duh. But websites could qualify leads better.
And that’s what this post is really about.
Here’s the thing… I get a *lot* of personal referrals from friends and acquaintances and fans and clients and students and whatever.
About 1 in 10, we can actually turn into a client. 10% – that’s pretty darn good. The other 9 are, generally speaking, not qualified to become clients.
Of course, I feel obligated to actually talk to all 10, because to do otherwise would violate the implied social contract that comes with a referral.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) ask your friends to qualify your prospects for you. Most of them will do a terrible job at it, and most of them will just stop sending you referrals.
As a consultant, you should welcome and even encourage referrals.
Just as you should welcome page one rankings for relevant search terms in your chosen field.
If your consulting website says “we don’t care how you got here, just call us on the phone right now,” you are asking for lots of low quality leads, time wasters, and… well… tire-kickers.
If your consulting website says “we can do X for any business that Y, even if Z,” and invites the prospect who fits those criteria to…
- provide you with some information,
- schedule a time to speak with you,
- and pay you for some sort of initial assessment*
- give you minimal contact information for a free report, book**, etc.
- which doesn’t take any of your time to deliver,
- and gets them onto a mailing list where you can keep talking
If you’re doing both of those things, I’d say you’re doing pretty well in qualifying the leads you get.
In the absence of referrals, the majority of your long term clients will come from those who went through the “wide end” of the funnel – by giving you an email address first.
The “pay for an initial assessment” part of the funnel is for those who do come in with a recommendation, and for those who have learned from receiving your emails that you are the sort of company they want to hire.
They will learn that if you regularly provide useful information, and always include a call to action – a reminder that you are ready to begin working with them – in every email message.
You can do a lot of things to get more referrals – mostly by doing awesome things on the Internet, in social channels, on your web site, everywhere you can make a good impression on the right people.
I’m not writing this to argue with Rand, even though that’s always fun, but because Twitter just isn’t big enough to hold the ideas that were lying underneath the surface of that conversation.
* Examples – modify to suit what you do – a site review, an Adwords account review, a mobile readiness review, a process audit, a social media performance report… something.
Anything. Get paid for it. Make it refundable against the first month’s fees, or entirely refundable, but GET PAID TO DO WORK.
** Consulting is one of those fields where “thought leadershipping” – writing a book, whatever – is unambiguously good for your business, and can pay off with a direct response to your marketing.