Consultancy.uk reports a total value of $250 billion in consulting services across the globe. Small and medium enterprises are uniquely suited to receiving digital consulting service because:
- They aren’t far too small (solopreneurs and micro firms). This means
largerbudget and larger impact per big decision, plus the lack of strategic know-how in every single area. Consulting is also “cheaper” than hiring.
- They aren’t large corporations that happen to have the source to hire larger teams (or agencies) to handle different business activities.
That’s not to say that consultants can’t assist individuals (influencers, entrepreneurs) or large companies. But before diving into the value proposition of a mutual relationship, let’s see what digital consulting really is.
What are Digital Consultants and What Do They Do?
Digital consultants are established experts in their respective fields like web development, sales, advertising, marketing, and design. They fill the gap between a business plan and its implementation.
A highly-skilled digital consultant takes charge of a business’ global digital strategy, which incorporates many areas including:
- Brand identity unification
- Design for internal products and public digital terrain
- Determining appropriate development platform for web solution.
- eCommerce membership consultation and identification of membership solutions for various monetizing techniques.
- Short- term and long-term strategy building.
- Review and improvement of current inbound marketing campaign processes.
- Recommending services, tools, and solutions for internal process automation and increase of efficiency.
- Offering guidance and support for PR and networking activities.
- Supporting in- house activities implementation and optimization of current processes.
What Do Digital Consultants Bring to Businesses?
A digital consultant can bring significant solutions to your business, including:
1. A Strategic Business Plan
A business plan includes the following:
- Main product/service offering
- Current state of the business (sales, staff, successful revenue opportunities)
- Major bottlenecks for the business (automating processes, seasonal drops in sales, lack of exposure, competition)
- Market research (which category is the business in, what are the main competitors, what are the major problems solved)
- Customer personas review (who is the ideal customer, what is her profile, where does she spend her time)
- Marketing/Brand image (what message does a business try to convey, is it consistent, is it a good fit in terms of a client’s perception)
2. Review of Business Processes
A. Business Marketing
Marketing the business itself may take different approaches depending on whether we’re selling a product or a service.
Essentially, we need to dissect a business and is usually in one of the three phases:
- Actively (or even desperately) looking for sales opportunities and growing the annual revenue
- Overwhelmed with work and unable to handle all incoming orders
- Dealing “just fine” and looking to optimize and grow steadily
In my experience, the first two cases are more common (primarily sales/lead generation is the main concern for 60–70% of the businesses that contact me), although I get a fair share of consulting inquiries from the other two categories.
In terms of sales, we focus on a product/service review and whether it’s something that customers would buy in the first place. The usual concerns include:
- Unique Selling Proposition- be it a unique feature or a product that doesn’t exist and solve problems
- Competitive Price
- Verticals that would utilize the offering better and serve as brand ambassadors as well.
If the workload is steady (if not exceeding expectations), I go over the current process from handling an incoming request to delivering the end result. Often times, there are problems that could be optimized or automated, and delivered in a more optimal manner.
Hiring is often a problem, which means that the SMEs should compete with large corporations and funded startups providing outstanding packages and hiring great potential employees. Partnering up and offloading to third parties can also work in the short run.
E. Growth Scaling
For stalled businesses that want to grow, we go over the business plan, the product offering, the delivery process, and the current team. There are usually issues with at least 2 of the above. The plan may be incoherent with the current business offering, which may not be optimal for the customer needs. The staff may be more productive or better motivated in order to promote the company and build a reputable brand, and work closely with management in terms of innovation and more creative (guerilla approaches) for growing the number of leads in a consistent manner.
3. Support in Working Through Varying Market Segments
A. Understanding Existing Market Segments
There are two important dynamics that a digital consultant can help you work through with regards to market segments:
- Market Segments that Developed Too Early- A good example would be tablets – first introduced in the late 1980s, going through multiple iterations by companies like AT&T, Compaq, Acorn Computers, Palm, Fujitsu, Intel, and Microsoft. iPads have completely turned the tablet world around with their inception in 2010 despite being based on all innovations over the previous 25 years or so.
- New Market Segments That Are Highly Challenging- New market segments can be nearly impossible without a mind-boggling amount of funding and a well-known brand on the market. Except for minor market segments and businesses with limited potential.
B. Disrupting an Existing Industry
Disrupting an existing industry still requires a lot of effort (in terms of cash and time) but skips the education element. Prospects are already using alternative tools. The market value is somewhat predictable, it’s easy to measure what sells and what – not.
This is time consuming, tedious, incredibly risky and insanely expensive. More often than not it’s doomed to fail unless you get close enough to the disruption approach so that it may start making any sense.
C. Identifying Complementary Solutions
Complementing an existing solution is the safest and often the cheapest in the short run, but nevertheless dependent on the core solution. Working within an established market of consumers who are already paying for the core product is an easier sell for an add-on, extension, or a service bringing additional value to the main offering.
But the market is limited – and so is the growth potential. Also, any fluctuations in the popularity and success of the existing solution may very well sink the business.
However, there’s a way to compare your new product to the existing solutions out there. You can analyze the target audiences of your competitors and build some buyer personas. Those can be advertised and marketed to offline and online given a competitive new product that is worth the hassle to switch.
It’s also worked for other giants in the space (like Google) and has potential both in a short run, and in the long haul.
4. A Working Business Framework
Practical business frameworks have enabled entrepreneurs to succeed given:
- The right business idea
- A product-market fit
- Adequate pricing structure
- Narrowing their audience
- Defining the right buyer persona
- Building their brand around this equation
If you identify a problem, build a solution and price it properly (by meeting your ideal customer), it’s a matter of the right pitch to sell it.
Really – it’s that simple.
The problem is that most entrepreneurs don’t innovate enough, run mediocre products or don’t solve a pressing problem for their customer base. Yes, you will rarely start a new category – but key selling points should be in place.
Digital Consulting Is About ROI
A couple months ago, a Quoran asked whether they could charge $5,000 a year to small, even micro businesses for their product. This is perfectly possible if the product (or service, solution) will yield a decent ROI to the business.
I rarely spend more than $5,000 a year on software solutions or any services that don’t directly contribute to the needs of my customers. But if I receive a pitch that convinced me that $10K, $20K, $50K will generate a multiplier of that investment within a year, I won’t think twice.
- Ideas are useless without the right implementation.
- Great products are worthless without solving the right problem.
- Problems are irrelevant if they don’t lose (or earn) a lot of money at the end of the day.
Solve the right types of problems and meet your ideal customers. Some won’t convert right away, but once you close your first customer (and do it properly), the next 10, 50, 100 are a piece of cake, and the rest will be taken care of within the next months/years.
Clients are not as different as you may think when working with enterprises. At the end of the day, it is always about achieving results and communicating with the decision-maker on the other side of the table.
Different approaches are suitable for different clients – from advertisement through partner outreach, direct cold emailing/calling, connecting with influencers, sponsorships, presence at international events or trade shows, etc.
I use tools such as Moz and SEMrush for online research (domain authority, ranked keywords, advertising efforts) or BuzzSumo in order to identify top-ranked content and websites linking to it (opportunities for you as well), and influencers that you may connect with and ask for product reviews, referral programs and other genuine ideas for growing your exposure, traffic, and customer base.
As a rule of thumb, analyzing the target market and building the right buyer personas is a must. Researching the marketing and sales efforts of competitors is the next step, which may reveal plenty of uncovered sources.
Can digital consultants grow a business steadily? Yes, but only when working with the right target market. Maximizing opportunities and scaling growth require a unique set of advantages and a head start which ends up to be a success story.