Word of Mouth Isn't Enough
Thousands of consultants have learned that developing the best consultancy in the field doesn't guarantee success. It takes more. It takes referrals from friends, various media, and other trusted resources. It takes hard work, lots of money, and some time. You can't profitably depend on your first client to tell ten others and then each of them to tell ten more. You can't afford to wait for profitable clients. You must be an aggressive promoter of your business.
How Long Does It Take?
What about word-of-mouth referrals? Won't quality service ultimately be rewarded by drawing clients? The short answer is: Yes. In the meantime, your knowledge is getting older waiting to be put to use and your business is paying rent, utilities, and salaries. You must pay these ongoing expenses until clients find you. So the more accurate answer is: Not in time.
You must be able to control, as much as possible, what is being said about your consulting business. That means you should be the speaker in business promotion. That doesn't happen with typical word-of-mouth advertising. You're not in control.
How long does it take to build word-of-mouth advertising? There are many factors in spreading the word about your consulting business. Even with advertising, many businesses find that clients will discover their enterprise two and even three or more years after opening day. What can help is determining who the authorities are in your field and making sure they know about your new venture. You also can use proven techniques in this chapter for promoting your business. You can't afford to wait on word-of-mouth advertising to find you more clients.
What Will They Hear?
The other inherent problem with word-of-mouth promotion is that you don't always know what is being said about your business. You are not controlling the conversation. You might have a dynamic and unforgettable mission statement, but few are going to quote it. They will pass along their perceptions, which may be accurate but limited. Or the perceptions may be inaccurate and misrepresent your business entirely. You can't afford to rely exclusively on other people's words.
Will They Hear It Over the Din?
We are bombarded by hundreds and sometimes thousands of consumer messages every day: use this brand, buy from that service, operators are standing by. How can your word-of-mouth referral compete with all these carefully worded messages? Not very well.
Because there are so many messages, most clients simply turn off their internal message receivers, zoning out during commercials and passing over pages of ads in magazines and newspapers without even seeing them. So what chance does word-of-mouth advertising have? Unless passed along by a trusted authority, it has the lifespan of a snowball in the Sahara.
The Value of Word of Mouth
So, what is word-of-mouth advertising good for? It can, at little or no cost, supplement your primary promotional efforts. If it is offered by a respected authority, it can initiate or support a positive awareness of your consulting service in a client's mind.
However, word-of-mouth promotion cannot supplant smart business advertising and publicity. Your consulting business cannot succeed if it must wait idly for clients to discover it. Advertising is a tool that you need to learn to use to grow a successful business.