As I am just starting up, some of my blog readers may be interested in the behind the scenes of how and why I am taking certain actions. For potential clients, you may be interested in taking an inside look at my thought process. This is my intro post for you.
Getting started means finding initial clients quickly, delivering them value, then learning from those experiences to deliver increasing value faster with each new client engagement. Where to begin…
The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.Mark Zuckerberg, Oct 2011
First things first… Clients
Increasing value to clients is great, but first I need clients. I took this step without first having clients. Maybe that is the norm but I do like to minimize risk when possible. Still, I had the confidence that my experience and skillset are in demand enough, that this was not an insurmountable risk. I decided on taking a dual track approach to this challenge since there are more than a few hours in each day and I have two hands. The first track is to reach out to existing contacts and let them know I am available — immediate network selling. The second track, is to develop a marketing vehicle for building a sustainable business. The two tracks are unquestionably linked.
Immediate Network Selling
Reaching out to your existing professional network is a great way to get started. For me, I took the approach of first brainstorming a list of people I should be reaching out to and then separating them into two groups. The first group I could contact with a very raw idea of what I could offer and the second group requires me to have a more well thought out offering.
Close professional contacts are allowing me to test the waters and iterate on my services offering while letting them know that I am available for work. I have kicked this process off in earnest and am trying to reach out to a few people a week. I do not expect to get immediate opportunities from everyone but I do want to make sure they know I am out there and get whatever valuable feedback they can give me.
The second group of contacts, are just as real but I have not maintained a close relationship or ever had the opportunity to develop one until now. While, for many, I hope my reputation proceeds me, it is not enough. Before communicating to this group I need to develop, a least, a full v1.0 of my consulting business. This means minimally setting up a website and LinkedIn company page. These tasks spawn the need to do everything from naming my company, buying a domain, setting up professional email, and defining the focus of my service offerings. I know that many consultants start out with nothing but an update to their personal LinkedIn profile but I know that doing these activities helps me to focus my service and raise the level of professionalism that is already part of the brand that proceeds me. I refuse to do anything that undermines my personal brand for short term gain — because it is that brand I plan to leverage into a significant consulting practice.
As I continue to develop and nurture my network, it is clear to me that I can be of help to others in a variety of ways, such as discussing industry insights, a professional practice topic, feedback on something they are working on, or simply putting them in touch with another contact. Further, it is clear that I will encounter consulting opportunities that are not a good fit for me, but may be great for someone else in my network. Facilitating these connections can only help me over time by demonstrating the value I can provide and my commitment to making the most productive use of everybody’s time and money.
Marketing and Building a Business
While I may find myself lucky enough to build a thriving consulting business through the depth of professional connections that I already have through smart cultivation — I dare not rest on this possibility. Even with some early traction, I must build the foundation of the product consulting business I want to have 5 or 10 years from now. I do not know what this is exactly but I am quite certain that I must build a more widely recognized brand and, for me, that means that I will focus on what I do well now but making sure potential clients become aware of me.
Inbound marketing to the rescue. Here is where things get fun. I know a lot about inbound marketing and have worked on the edge of the skillsets required to make it function for many years. Yet it is not something I have the most hands on experience with, so you won’t find it listed as one of my core service offerings. Product Stride will be my test bed for inbound marketing skills and professional development. This blog is to be a part of that inbound marketing effort. While I have been published in magazines and journals, written white papers, and too many pieces of collateral for one lifetime — I have never had direct responsibility in a business for content marketing. For the record, my plan now, is to start by blogging directly on Product Stride blog then eventually push out content to LinkedIn and Medium, with some shares on Twitter as well. Over time I may even push content out via webinars and emails, but this decision still needs to be made. In 3 months, we can check if my expectations have been met.
Content marketing is nothing without good content. My plan right now is to develop three primary types of content over the longer term. The intent of the content is to provide something of value that helps build my brand and the ability of potential clients to find me when they need me. The three types of content and their intended purpose are:
- Product Stride Consulting — Insights in my business, how I am building it, and why I do what I do. The goal here is to share with others building similar practices, learn and practice content marketing, and help potential clients see how I think.
- Product Marketing & Product Management Practice — Share industry best practices on a wide range of topics that could be directly beneficial to enterprise software companies. With luck, I can provide the market with some real value that leads to deeper relationships and opportunities down the road.
- Practical Market Intelligence — Rather than discuss practice areas in abstract I intend to perform analysis of RegTech and FinTech markets, products, and news events providing immediate value to market participants.
Beyond content marketing, another big network and brand development practice I will be leveraging is industry events. There are two dimensions to consider for these events. The first dimension is type of event — (a) Domain specific events in the RegTech/FinTech industry or (b) Professional events in Product Marketing and Product Management industry. The second dimension is level of participation, which for me is either (a) attend or (b) participate, e.g. by leading a talk or participating on panel discussions. I am a huge believer in doing all of the above but, I will need to prioritize. In a future post, I will share my thought process and early plans for conferences. I will be sure to carve out some space on the Product Stride website to list future events I will be attending as well.
Now Focus and Get Rolling
Just writing about all of this makes me wonder where I will have the time, when I am actively working with clients as well. I will share another post on the scope of services I am offering and how I chose them, but the key, I see, to developing a management consulting business is to not be sucked into staff augmentation, e.g. filling in for a CPO the company does not plan to hire, that drags on indefinitely. Over time, I will see how challenging this can be but for now my goal is to keep projects time-limited and/or scope-limited to ensure I have time for other clients and building runway for the future of my business. This will ensure I can provide a high level of service to all my clients into the future.