"How to attract clients and deals when your services are more “fuzzy”, such as (technical) management consulting?"
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I got a great question from the list:
How to attract clients and deals when your services are more “fuzzy”, such as (technical) management consulting?
Background: I help large organizations as interim technical manager for failed/troubled projects related with cloud / IT infrastructure.
The challenge: I’m struggling to find enough clients that are able to understand my value, need my services and are willing to pay my rate.
I understand that it’s all about earning visibility and building trust with the prospects, and I see how an email list / blog could help me achieve that (as you talk about in your podcast). The problem is that in my particular case, I just don’t know what to write about.
Beyond that, I can’t find any blog or comparable marketing material of anyone else doing what I do. Everyone I know seems to be relying on either their network or freelance recruitment agencies. And the people I found through the LinkedIn Sales Navigator seems to have the same problem.
How would you approach this? Thank you for your response and keep up the good work!
(My answer here is long-ish. There's a TL;DR at the end.)
This is a great specialization. It just happens to be one that's fussy about how you do your marketing. You're seeing that now.
Yours is a horizontal specialization. One of the common challenges here is that prospective clients don't emit signals of need.
I'm guessing the last failed IT project that did emit a signal of need was the healthcare.gov project, and they only signaled need because it was government money and public disclosure is required. I'm partially kidding, but you get the idea.
People at businesses unencumbered by these disclosure requirements would sooner run naked through Times Square than talk openly about their failed IT projects. Cloud operations is what all the cool kids are doing, and they can't get it together.
Your prospects have to discover you by reputation instead of you finding them via LinkedIn or whatever. You already know this.
Everyone I know seems to be relying on either their network or freelance recruitment agencies
Copper is a good medium for conducting electricity. Glass is not. This is an analogy for word of mouth and the spread of a reputation. :)
You're seeing that others who do something similar to you have found the most "conductive material" for word of mouth/reputational spread, and that is their professinoal network or recruiters.
Recommendation 1: Invest in your network more than you are now, starting ASAP. Recommendation 2 will provide some raw material for doing that. If you can invest in your network by becoming a critical asset to them in a way that's aligned with your specialized focus, that's ideal. That might look like knowing more about rescuing failed cloud/IT infrastructure projects than almost anyone else and sharing that knowledge in useful concise ways (briefings might be a good content format to think in terms of here). Also do what you can to expand/grow your professional network.
Beyond that, I can’t find any blog or comparable marketing material of anyone else doing what I do.
Good! Really good, in fact!
Ordinarily I'd see this "whitespace" as a warning sign. The absence of comparable blogs might mean that nobody cares.
But something like 50% of IT projects fail in some way, and have been for a long time. That seems to be an ironclad law of IT. Cloud migration projects aren't going to be exempt from that law.
The projections I've seen about the migration of workloads to the cloud indicate a long, healthy pipeline of demand for this kind of change. The demand isn't going away anytime soon.
That's why I don't think the absence of comparable blogs means nobody cares. It more likely means the people who know what they're doing are getting plenty of work rescuing projects and don't need to do any marketing beyond light investment in their network and pinging recruiters when their current project is close to winding up.
This resembles the Objective-C boom. For a while, work was falling off the trees, and at very attractive rates for the supply side of the market.
That boom didn't last forever. The best time to start building an asset that sustains you past the natural life of the boom is now.
I just don’t know what to write about.
Recommendation 2: I might be over-simplifying, but you'd write about what you do for clients, right?
I mean you wouldn't name clients or give away protected information, but you'd write about the needing-a-rescue situation they find themselves in, why they got there, and how they can fix it.
Again, your goal would be to know more about rescuing failed cloud/IT infrastructure projects than almost anyone else, and then to share that knowledge in the most useful way possible.
That might mean being extremely concise. I can't imagine folks facing a failed IT project are in a relaxed state, consuming blog articles in a leisurely speculative way. They're "Terminator T-800's" with their heads-up displays tuned for 1 target: a solution to the pain they're in.
Knowing more about this topic than anyone else might also mean doing some research. The research could be as simple as collecting and organizing information that's already out there but poorly organized. Or it might be more extensive, like interviewing folks.
As you do this writing, you are likely to face imposter syndrome. "But I don't know everything there is to know about failed cloud/IT projects!"
Beware this false signal; we all face it. Nobody judges your expertise as harshly as you will. :) If you want to have a marketing asset that attracts good clients, you'll have to get over these false objections to doing the work of serving your prospects by publishing. Please don't let imposter syndrome stop you.
There's no reserved seat at the table in the league of self-made experts with your name on it, but the world needs your self-made expertise!
If you go this route, you might model what you're doing after Stephen Quenzli's work at https://nodramadevops.com. You might not publish as frequently (or you might publish more frequently!) and your focus would be somewhat different, but the thoughtful opinionated tone you see Stephen using works very well with the kind of audience you need to reach.
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TL;DR, recipe version:
- Write a weekly briefing on some specific aspect of recovering from a failed cloud IT project. Make it prescriptive.
- Each week, email it to your professional network (just BCC 'em all in your normal email client), with a reminder they can easily stop receiving these by hitting reply and asking.
- If you can't maintain a weekly cadence, publish more frequently (you heard me right) with less formality/structure in the writing.
- Also mirror these pieces to a blog. Name the blog something catchy if possible (ex: "The Cloud Migration Failure Files"). If you publish more frequently than weekly, you might mirror to your blog but only email the briefings if people specifically opt in to receive them, so #3 above would be modified if you publish more than weekly.
- Make it possible for folks to sign up to receive the blog posts via email. Keep this part simple by using Mailchimp with a RSS-to-email automation rule or something like Feedblitz.
Hope his helps!