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Becoming a Successful Marketing Consultant: The Art of Branding Yourself

March 30th, 2011

branding-yourself-marketing-consultant.jpgAre you tired of working long hours for an ungrateful management team, fed up with being held to the fire by unreasonable deadlines, or have had enough of dealing with the pressures of trying to reach the company’s quarterly numbers?

If you are like most marketing professionals, you are handling an increasingly larger workload, have fewer resources at your disposal, and are constantly looking over your shoulder for the hammer to drop if you don’t hit your targets for each quarter.

As today’s business world continues to look at ways to cut costs and marketing budgets continue to get slashed, many of the most successful marketing professionals are looking to brand a whole new product — themselves.

Marketing consultants are very much in demand. As companies continue the outsourcing trend, the marketing function is an area that is often first on the list. By outsourcing marketing, organizations can save a significant amount of money in staffing and benefits to better achieve their company’s cost-saving mission. On the other hand, their cost-saving initiatives can be very lucrative for the independent marketing consultant who fills this newly created void.

The biggest issue most marketing professionals have in trying to transition to the world of a consultant is understanding the brand. During their careers, these professionals had brands handed to them, with markets set, research on pricing done, messaging already created; however, in the world of consulting, they become the product and often do not truly understand how to differentiate, and ultimately, market themselves to potential clients.

The following are five basic questions that every marketing professional must answer before making the leap as a consultant.

1. What are my strengths? This may seem like a no-brainer, but often individuals new to the consulting business automatically assume that they can be full-service marketing professionals. In corporate marketing, however, most professionals have specialties. For instance, your daily job may have been research analysis or brand management or corporate communications. As a consultant, you have to be very clear with your potential clients as to what marketing functions you will be able to handle for them up front. Do not be afraid to market yourself as a specialist in one or two areas.

2. What is my field or industry? This one also should be very obvious, but again, many marketing consultants try to be all things to all people. Your easiest transition would be to focus on the industry or field where the majority of your experience lies, especially in the beginning. If you came from the construction industry, do not try to consult for the medical field. Once you get yourself set and positioned as an expert in one industry, you will be able to transition into ancillary fields very easily. For instance, once you establish yourself as an expert for the construction industry, you could branch out into the real estate market or home improvement field.

3. What am I worth? This is perhaps the toughest question a marketing consultant has to answer. When you are first starting out, the urge to charge the bare minimum in order to get the job is very tempting. Don’t do it though. If your price is too low, clients will automatically look at you as inexperienced or possibly below their standards. As a new consultant, you also don’t want to overprice yourself either. It is best to do some research in your geographical area prior to starting your consulting practice. Once you have a range of what others charge, look at the field you are specializing in and set your price accordingly. Obviously if you are focusing on non-profit organizations your pricing will be different than if you were to focus on pharmaceutical companies.

4. Who are my potential clients? This is slightly different from selecting your field or industry. This takes that answer and narrows it down even farther. Look at your universe and then begin ranking each of the clients in that list according to various parameters you will set. Your “A-list” potential clients would be ones where you have a personal contact, they are in geographical proximity to you, and their companies are growing or downsizing. Other parameters could include recent mergers, personnel changes, re-branding efforts or relocation of a company. How you rank each of the clients is your decision, but prior to making the move, you must truly understand how many “A-list” clients you have on your list.

5. Can I work for myself? This is the most important of all the questions. You need to have a certain level of risk tolerance before you seriously dive into the consulting business as a full-time career. You are not guaranteed to get clients, and once you have them, you are not guaranteed to keep them. Also, you have to stay self-motivated and self-directed. It is very easy to slow down “mentally” once you leave the fast-paced life of a corporate marketing professional. However, the world of consulting still requires you to be driven. Your clients are relying on you and there will be days you need to work around the clock to meet one of their deadlines. The reward, however, of working for yourself is often more than enough to help keep that drive alive.

If you have successfully answered these five questions, you have the basis of your marketing plan. Remember, once you make the move to become a marketing consultant, you are the keeper of the most important brand in your life — you.

This article on becoming a successful marketing consultant was supplied by Bill Schankel from Constant Content.

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