I was speaking with someone recently who has been a marketing consultant for a few years but has seen their advisory work drop off recently.
When you lose most of your clients, you definitely begin to panic.
After all, it’s not a quick and easy process to get advisory clients. You need to be marketing yourself continually to keep opportunities available for when you need them.
So what do you do when your advisory work dries up?
To me, this is an opportunity to do a few things.
1. Go back to your core skills
Being a marketing advisor or fractional CMO requires knowledge of a wide range of marketing strategies and tactics.
Most marketing consultants (all) are somewhat T-Shaped. We are deep experts in one or two areas and have a wide range of knowledge on the rest.
When the opportunities are not around, it might be time to go back to the things you do best and cut the rest, focusing the what you offer so that you are clear about where you add the most value.
This will help reframe you as the ideal candidate for someone who needs exactly what you offer.
2. Start doing implementation work
If I lost all my clients tomorrow and noticed I was having difficulty getting new ones, I’d probably go back to making websites and build back up from there.
It’s a lot easier to sell implementation than it is to sell advisory work. Rebuild from your core skills, do the implementation work people need, then layer in advisory options in your proposals until people start to buy them again.
For me, I went from doing freelancing, to running an agency, to a “fractional CMO” role with a project management piece, to eventually pure advisory work.
Getting back into implementation work can be the quickest way to get your business going again.
Keep offering advisory work as well until people start buying it again.
3. Use your implementation skills as a sub-contractor
The most important thing you can do if you’re not earning enough money is to find some kind of work.
You have a responsibility to yourself and your family to keep getting paid—otherwise you’ll find yourself in a job quicker than you can say “CLIENT”.
When I was just starting out on my own, I did a lot of sub-contractor work for other agencies. Design agencies, IT companies, digital marketing agencies all needed things like web development and content marketing to fill their gaps. I had those skills and more.
Sub-contracting is not a place you want to live forever. But if you have no other choice, one or two agency relationships can bring a bunch of client work if you stick to the things you do best.
4. Consider broadening your positioning
Another thing you can do, which is not what I would normally recommend, is go back to a more generalist positioning.
If you’re doing implementation work, and you focus on your narrow area of specialty (i.e. design or SEO), you’re bound to run into people who need a talented individual at that thing.
This is called horizontal positioning. It means you’re not focused as much on who you serve but what you offer. Keep it broad and/or mention several industries of expertise.
This isn’t a long term strategy, but sometimes you need to broaden yourself to make yourself more appealing to your general network, then build a tighter positioning on the side again.
But definitely build that tighter positioning on the side ASAP so you can get back to running a proper advisory business,
5. Ramp up content marketing efforts
I’ve succeeded primarily through content marketing.
It’s why I blog daily and will continue to put out as much content as I can. If things aren’t working, try ramping up your blog and social media presence.
Broaden your surface area.
You may also want to start a podcast and invite your ideal target market onto it as a guest. I know a few people doing this and they seem to rave about how effective it is.
It helps to have a niche, though.
6. Talk to people
The next and final step I’d recommend is to simply talk to people in your network and let them know you’re looking to take on X type of implementation work or even do sub-contracting if they wanted to mark up your time.
If you have relationships, this can go a long way towards getting money in the door to let you build your advisory practice back up in a niche where you can be effective.
I’d also talk to people in your ideal target market. See what they are working on, add value for free if you can, and be first to come to mind when work becomes available.
If your consulting work dries up and isn’t showing signs of improvement, go back a few steps in the ladder and build things back up the way you did the first time. Try some of the ideas I mentioned, too.
Usually, if you’re not selling advisory work, it means there is an awareness, positioning, or trust problem.
Go back to the basics, do whatever work you can to stay in the game, and rebuild your business again from scratch, tightening your focus as you go.
P.S. If you’re a marketing professional and need help with your consulting or freelance business, definitely join Mindshare, a private podcast and community with resources that will help you do great work for better clients.