A market is simply the group of prospects who would most benefit from certain services. For a street vendor, the market is anyone nearby who may have a need for what is sold: hot dogs, flowers, knock-off watches. The market for your consulting service is made up of those who could potentially benefit from your service — a very broad definition that will apply to you and to your competitors. Defining your consulting service's market means determining the characteristics of those who would most benefit from your unique combination of knowledge, skills, and resources.
To understand how you will market your consulting service, you must first understand what a consulting service is. Let's review: Consulting is a problem-solving business based on knowledge and relationships. Period. Without these elements, you don't have a business. Because there are dozens of types of consultants — and hundreds of potential markets — we will use broad examples. But you'll quickly get the idea and be able to apply it to your specialty.
For example, how would you define the market for a consultant who can only work evenings and weekends, but cannot have clients meet at her home? That's who you are to your prospects. A prospect for this service is someone who is currently working and cannot take time off work to come to an office. The fact that you do not have a regular office can be turned into a marketing advantage: you offer the convenience of meeting clients at their homes for the consultation. By defining your unique benefits, you can best define your prospects or market.
Let's say that the best opportunity for you and your skills is to specialize in consulting people on defensive driving techniques. In this example, who are your prospects? Your prospects are those who have had tickets or driving accidents. So how do you find prospects? First, you go where they go. You can typically purchase a list from the state department of motor vehicles or other resources. You limit the list to the geographic area you want to serve. Then you write to or call these people, offering your services.
Obviously, if you are a tax consultant, the way you approach your prospects will be somewhat different — yet the principles will be the same. You will first determine whether there is sufficient opportunity for you to build your business and whether potential competitors are already adequately serving this market. Then you will focus your attention and your marketing on those who can best use your services.
Who are your prospects? They are the people who have been influenced by your advertising as well as those recommended to you by satisfied clients. They are former clients, newcomers to the area or field, clients who need immediate help, and your competitors' dissatisfied clients. They are people who have never before required help or advice as well as those who frequently use the services of a consultant or advisor.
Some start-up consulting services begin their businesses by serving clients who cannot be served by their current or former employer. By working with them, you reduce the amount of marketing you must do to develop clients. Most start-up consulting services then pay a marketing fee or a finder's fee to these sources. It's another reason to maintain a good relationship with all of your past and current employers.
Marketing is a science. It's not a perfect science where the answer to a question is always the same. It's a science based on data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Data is easy to get and build into information. From this information comes knowledge and, eventually, wisdom. Wisdom is what makes your business profitable. Marketing builds your business.
The purpose of marketing is to get more clients. That's it. If you're new to business, the purpose is to get your first clients. If you've established a substantial business, the purpose is to keep the clients you have.
There are dozens of ways you can market your services to prospects and clients. They include the many forms of advertising, as well as literature, direct mail, and telephone marketing.