A balanced practice needs 2 kinds of marketing

I hope you enjoyed last week’s conversation about what to do with our inevitable downtime. To keep from getting discouraged, we should look at downtime as an opportunity to build a closer relationship with our best clients, ask for referrals, and create new or extended services that are within our realm of expertise.

On to this week. We’re consultants. As such, our practices should have a profitable mix of 1-to-1 and 1-to-many clients (I wrote about this in an earlier post). But such a client mix implies two distinct audiences. So how do you market to two audiences? Differently, of course!

And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!

Writing this blog is one of my favorite things that I do each week. And it’s important for me to check in with you regarding what you would like to see me write about.
So, what’s the one thing that, if you were more effective at, would move the dial on your practice furthest, fastest this year? Email me and I’ll try to help … my inbox is always open!

A quick recap

There are two ways to deliver our professional services: 1-to-1 and 1-to-many. (Note: In my previous newsletter I said there was also a “1-to-masses” basket of work. For the sake of brevity I am collapsing this into 1-to-many.)

Most of us operate in the 1-to-1 world. We sell bespoke expert services to one client at a time due to the high level of personal attention that each one of them requires.

Then there is the 1-to-many world. We use our intellectual property to create valuable courses, toolkits, etc. that hundreds of users in our respective practice niches want to buy.

Why bother with 1-to-many

I think we build credibility, respect, and trust in the 1-to-1 world. Technically, it keeps us in the game. And there is tremendous satisfaction in building those personal client relationships and helping them solve their unique problems.

Unfortunately, we end up trading our hours for client dollars, which doesn’t scale if we’re a solo. And honestly, sometimes I find all the attention those 1-to-1 clients need to be personally draining. Do you find that to be the case, too? (Please don’t let it just be me.)

However, the credibility, respect, and trust we build in the 1-to-1 world can be radically leveraged in the 1-to-many world. And the ability to produce one book, course, or toolkit that can be sold many times, and help many people, is exhilarating!

Jim Hitchner is the shining example of practicing in the 1-to-many world in our industry. He sells newsletters, webinars, and toolkits and his clients are appraisers (many of them). If we want to talk leverage, there is no better potential than this world. Which is why we all should bother with this work.

And that requires different marketing

How you market to buyers of each basket of work will be different. Here’s how.

1-to-1 Marketing:

  • Is high-touch and often low-tech.
  • Uses tactics that put us in direct contact with those prospects, clients, and referral sources, such as sending personal notes, making phone calls, or meeting in person.
  • Can be low cost, but requires a significant amount of our personal time per contact.

1-to-Many Marketing:

  • Is low-touch and often high-tech.
  • Uses tactics that are impersonal or indirect, such as public speaking to large groups, website pages, email blasts, webinars, or social media status updates.
  • Can be high cost, but requires a small amount of our personal time per contact.

So what

47% of the appraisers I’ve surveyed say they only spend 1-2 hours a week on marketing. That’s not enough for 1-to-1 marketing.

73% of appraisers say they are not using social media to grow their sphere of awareness and influence. That’s not gonna open the door to 1-to-many marketing.

In real life

As you can see, the marketing choices we have depends on what we’re selling. And which marketing choice is “better” depends on our goals.

I think a balanced practice needs both 1-to-1 and 1-to-many clients; thus, a balanced practice needs both kinds of marketing. You may not be there yet, but you will want to be. Sooner rather than later … especially as the forces of practice specialization, competitor globalization, and fee commoditization grind through our industry.

Let me know how I can help.





Action Items:

If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.

If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.

If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.

What do you do when you have nothing to do?

I hope you found last week’s conversation about capturing value (justifying a higher price) by focusing more on the client solution than your written report to be useful. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t saying our report isn’t important, but it’s not what the client is paying for.

On to this week. You’re humming along nicely. All cylinders are firing. You’re freaking busy! And then you’re not. The gushing pipeline is now only dripping. What do you do with that lull … that downtime? Panic? Or use the opportunity to systematically find more work?

And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!

Audience participation question: I get most of my new work from social networking, LinkedIn in particular. What would you want to know more about using social media to expand your practice? Email me and I’ll try to help … my inbox is always open!

No matter how busy we are, we all run into downtime sometime.

Initially, that downtime may be a welcome relief. So take a vacation. Or better yet, a sabbatical. I can’t tell you how many times in my years of practice that I wished the downtime would go away so I could be busy making money … and then I got so busy I wished I had taken the time off!

But if downtime lasts too long, we imagine the phone will never ring again. So when we get to that point, we might start considering some tasks that will make us feel productive and bring work in the door. What might those tasks be?

#1 – Sell to existing clients

Before we start looking for new work from new clients, mine our existing clients first. David Maister (best known for The Trusted Advisor) says: “Invest heavily in your existing clients by demonstrating an interest in their affairs. Don’t invest anything at all in winning new clients until you’re sure you’ve captured all the best opportunities in your existing client base!”

This can be a challenge if our practices are geared towards one-and-done services, like tax compliance valuations. But we can certainly go back to the client and say, while I was doing this valuation I noticed several things we could do to improve the value of the business over time. This is the strategy I’m using to gain transition planning clients.

Side note: One regret I have was not specializing in ESOPs early in my career. Frankly, the potential liability scared me off, but I should have seen the even better potential of recurring work to a handful of clients that I would have gotten to know and serve better over time.

#2 – Ask what existing clients need

This is the flip side of the first point. Rather than finding out what services we offer that existing clients might need (buy), we find out what services existing clients need that we might offer (sell). We uncover this information by asking our clients … call them … survey them. Whatever it takes. Remember, you’re in down time so you have the time to do this.

David Maister again: “Too many professionals demonstrate no interest in the client, beyond the details of the current matter. They’ve never discussed the client’s strategic plan, they’ve never sat in on a client’s internal meeting, they don’t read the client’s trade rags—and then they expect the client to give them more business.”

Side note: When Michael Gregory started his private practice he foisted the services he offered onto clients; he called it “supply-push.” Then he started listening to what his clients wanted and began offering those services that were well within his wheelhouse; he calls this “demand-pull.”

#3 – Identify our ideal clients

While we’re figuring out which services we’re selling/offering to which clients, we might also want to know which clients are the best. And by best, I mean some combination of which clients generate the highest fees, have intellectually challenging projects, and are fun to work with. Use that information to create our ideal client profile.

Side note: I have a tool that can help develop this information. It’s called the “File Autopsy,” which I mentioned in an earlier newsletter. If you didn’t download the tool then, here’s an opportunity to read about it and get it now.

#4 – Go where our ideal clients are

Once you know your ideal client, starting finding out as much as you can about them – both as a group and as individual prospects. Social media, in general, and LinkedIn, in particular, have made this easier than ever. By actively working the platform where your ideal clients hang out, you can research potential prospects in no time.

Side note: Don’t fall in love with one social media platform. Fall in love with your clients and go with the platform that lets you reach them. That said, I still think LinkedIn is the place to start, but don’t overlook what appraisers like Melissa Gragg have done with YouTube

#5 -Ask for referrals

Research shows that referrals are the most important source of new work in the professional services industry. Yet few professionals ask for them. So make sure your current clients know that you want referrals. Create a tagline on your invoices or email trailer saying so. Or God forbid, you know, like actually call your best clients and ask them if they know of anyone like them who they might be willing to refer to you. (You don’t get what you don’t ask for.)

Side note: If you really have your act together, provide your clients with a short script of talking points they can use in recommending you. Ask if you can send something to them. This is one of the tactics that Derek Coburn writes about in Networking Is Not Working.

#6 – Track it

Peter Drucker said what gets measured, gets managed. So whether you use a notebook, a spreadsheet, or a full-on CRM package track your list of prospects, clients, and referral sources. It’s the key to an efficient, effective, and repeatable business-building effort.

Side note: Take heart. The phone will ring again. We will get more work. And we will wish we would have relaxed more when we had the opportunity.

What have you done in your downtime?





Action Items:

If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.

If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.

If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.