"Why is my data consultancy struggling to attract clients?"
That's the most common question I get asked on a breakthrough call.
Because that is the question, you ask yourself in the dead of night.
When you're lying there, pondering:
"Why is it so ******* difficult to find clients when far less experienced consultants in the 'big firms' get all the work?".
And then, for added torture, you throw in a dose of personal guilt about the situation you've put your family in.
The rising debt and negative emotions you've brought into the home.
"Screw it. I'll look for a job in the morning..."
Do you relate to that situation?
I know I do, most consultants experience it at some point in their career.
So firstly, park that emotional strain you've been piling on because your situation is not unique, it's just part of the journey.
Leave the emotional baggage at the side of the road, it doesn't serve you.
You're taking the circumstance (a lack of clients) and using it as a lever to open up a whole can of negative thoughts about your abilities as a wife, husband, partner, father and entrepreneur.
Those thoughts, however well-intentioned, can quickly turn to feelings of anxiety, shame, jealousy and even humiliation at the situation you've created.
And once those feelings take hold, they start to shape your actions, and that's the final insult to our biological make-up.
Because just when things start to get really tough, when we desperately need to close that sales meeting, or write that great article, or deliver that killer presentation - our emotions get the better of us.
You take on the role of 'desperate salesperson of the month', practically begging for work and getting downright moody when clients ask for 'more time to consider our options'.
You start to drop the ball with the quality of your content, opting for 'quantity vs quality' in a bid to attract more eyeballs.
Etiquette goes out of the window as you perform the equivalent of virtual cold calling by DM'ing anyone on LinkedIn who looks like a 'client profile' and asking if they need 'any help with their data'.
Or, you drop back into the permanent market and put your 'datapreneur dream' on hold.
But before you jack it in or become a fully signed up member of the species 'Grumpus Desperatus', stop to consider one thing:
Everything you are experiencing is a result of the business you've designed.
It's not due to those 'other' consultants who (seemingly) have their acts together.
It's not due to prospective clients and their alarmingly slow procurement process.
It's not due to 'Bloody Brexit' or the fluctuation in currency.
It is 100% due to the systems in your business.
And that's not to say you don't have systems, it's just that, on reflection, they're:
Incomplete and missing major components (sales and marketing?)
Ineffective and stuck in an '80s model (events and cold calling?)
Here are some of the systems I work with clients to build and the ones I have found most impactful for acquiring leads:
Firstly, you've not spent enough time clearly articulating the PURPOSE of your business.
What do you want to get out of the business?
Do you want to create a big business or a small business?
How will it support your desired lifestyle?
Get this wrong, and you'll be in constant tension with the needs of your business life and your personal life.
And if you're in a partnership, you'd better hope that you've been honest and open about your collective purpose because there's nothing worse than seeing partners pulling in completely different directions, like some macabre tug-of-war masquerading as your 'market-leading Data Management and Analytics consultancy'.
Next, you've not considered your PROPOSITION.
Who do you serve?
What problem do you solve?
What's the outcome you deliver?
Now go three levels deeper - you're starting to get closer to the specialism and focus you need to attract a steady flow of leads because it's the depth that is lacking from most proposition discovery.
What's the PLATFORM you need to grow this business?
How will all the different elements link together?
What's the playbook for running your platform, day-to-day?
Hint: Most people put too much attention on the wrong platform elements, spending weeks deliberating on the colour of their font and website design aesthetic whilst their limited reserves slowly deplete.
What are the elements of your delivery PROCESS?
How does each component align to business need?
How do you communicate that value to clients?
What makes it unique compared to the rest of the market?
Your process is the key enabler for your consultancy, but far less critical for attracting clients than you realise so stop tinkering with your delivery process and focus on the process of acquiring clients because you can't feed your kids an '8-Stage Data Transformation Matrix'.
What does your PRESENCE consist of?
What kind of authority are you or want to be?
What do you and your business stand for?
How often will you show up and what messages will you share in content?
How is your content marketing strategy aligned to each channel of your platform?
Finally, how will you manage your PIPELINE of content and sales? (Because they are intricately linked).
How will you consistently gather ideas for content, so you know that they'll resonate with your audience?
How will you translate content engagement with lead generation?
What does your 'sales funnel' look like and how does it scale?
What do you pitch in meetings, events and those dreaded elevators?
Do you want better results in your data business? Then get better systems.
You can't preach better data management to your prospects by day, and then skip your own system work by night.
Put down the remote, switch off Game of Thrones and get to work.
Practice what you preach and start taking steps to build a real business, with a clearly executed set of systems for your Purpose, Proposition, Platform, Presence and Pipeline.
If you can build better systems for clients, why aren't you applying the same principles to your business?
Find all this systems-talk overwhelming? I get it.
Let's unpack the process by learning how I've helped put all this together for other data professionals in your situation.
Just book a breakthrough call - slots are limited (so book early), but they're free.
We'll walk through each system in detail, exploring the gaps in your own approach, and put a strategy together to help you start attracting clients.
Sound like a plan? Then book a call.
Dylan's coaching has been invaluable to the growth and success of my business.
Nicola Askham, The Data Governance Coach