As a leading social media speaker and consultant, I often get asked about how to start a social media consulting business and develop initial clients. I am happy to mentor a new generation of social media-savvy business consultants, and I plan to be blogging about this more in the future, as I believe the subject can aid not only social media consultants, but also educate any consultant, entrepreneur, or small business owner on how to better utilize social media to launch and develop new business. Social media truly levels the playing field for any business owner or entrepreneur.
Starting any new business is a risk, and while I find many people might have the expertise in any given field, they might not have the sales skills nor even the social media marketing skills to develop a social media consulting business and build up a company. Yes, I have met social media consultants who they themselves are not good social media marketing practitioners. I will not comment on what types of social media consulting projects these individuals might be appropriate for, as every professional brings a unique skill set and plethora of experiences to the table, but I will say that going forward if you cannot display your own social media marketing expertise with your own brand, it will be very difficult to establish the credibility that is necessary to develop business. This is because, although I have done social media consulting on customer service-related projects in the past, the majority of inquiries I get are related to social media marketing consulting.
Assuming that you are qualified for the job and are committing enough time and resources to make your social media consulting business a success, here are the 6 most important steps in how to start social media consulting:
This is a no brainer. Without credibility, no one will hire you. How to establish credibility as a social media consultant is a whole separate conversation, but you need to think hard and imagine, if you were on the other side of the table, why they would trust you with their business. Assuming you don’t have any previous experience consulting with clients, a given here is that you have your own robust social media presence and at least can showcase your own online brand to gain some credibility with potential clients. Writing your own ebooks are another way of establishing credibility through showcasing your knowledge.
Combined with credibility, you need to show the experience that you have which equates to why you can make money off of others. If you don’t have any social media experience you can’t expect to get any business. Start with your own brand, and then lend a helping hand by offering pro bono work to others in your family and/or network that you can assist and build a track record from. There are also a lot of non-profit organizations who would appreciate your social media contributions.
3) Online Branding
Social media marketing is all about getting found online, so you obviously need to have proper online branding that permeates your own website as well as your social media properties so that there is a sense of trust in your company. If you recommend clients should be on Snapchat, yet you don’t have an account there yet, your online branding is incomplete!
4) Contribute Your Own Content
Anybody can go onto Twitter and ReTweet everyone else’s content. But what is your opinion on utilizing social media for business? If you aren’t contributing your own unique and insightful content, why would someone who finds you in social media want to visit your website and find out more about you? How would they be confident that you can apply your expertise to their particular situation? This content can be displayed as a blog post, an ebook, or a regular newsletter you send out to prospective clients.
5) Make Connections, Both Online AND Offline
People buy from people they know as well as recommendations from trusted friends via word-of-mouth. While social media is relatively new, the same old rules of business apply. You need to work hard to engage with others on social media channels to build out the reach of your network, but don’t forget to take those relationships offline and expand upon them. Chances are your first deals are going to come locally, so I would concentrate on local networking before being too ambitious and thinking nationally or even globally.
6) Learn from Your Customer
Pretty soon, assuming that you have followed the above steps, you will undoubtedly meet someone who might be interested in your services. Well, what exactly are your services? It’s time not to spy on the sites of other social media strategy consultants for ideas, but to take a tally of what you have done pro bono for those in your network. It’s also time to learn from your customer and understand their pain and needs and provide solutions that solves their problems. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s time to pick up a copy of the classic book Solution Selling for an education that most sales professionals go through early in their career.
My background is in business-to-business (B2B) sales and business development, so developing business is natural for me, but I realize that many consultants are not experienced sales people themselves. I have personally been able to successfully develop business through a combination of the above things, and I believe it can be a successful formula for you as well. I am also not trying to make my answer seem “zen-like” or abstract, but I do believe that it requires a lot of hard work of combining the above, not to mention creativity with some additional luck regarding the timing of conversations and opportunities. There are a lot more specific things that I can point out, but I will leave them for future blog posts and webinars on the subject.
Would love your feedback on if there is anything else that other experienced and successful social media consultants can add to help everyone out in how to start a social media consulting business. On the other hand, if you are an aspiring social media consultant, does this give you more confidence to pursue your passion?