As a consultant to small business, you will need to offer a range of services to your clients. The extent and scope of those services will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as:
• The nature of the business
• The knowledge and understanding of the business owner
Therefore, it is essential to realize that you cannot provide all of those services yourself. While it may be tempting to go down that path in your initial flush of enthusiasm, it is not the smart approach to growing your business. As your business grows, the demands on your time and energy will become an intolerable burden, and you will fail to deliver the best client service; then, any growth will soon scale down, eventually leading to the death of your business.
The Best Way Forward
The age-old advice of “work smart” needs to be your watchword.
Therefore, the key thing to realize is the importance of outsourcing many of the services that you will be called upon to provide. Obviously, you will need to make a judgment call, depending on your existing knowledge and skills. For example, you may be skilled at writing and be passionate about producing exciting and riveting copy. Therefore, any need for articles or e-mails for Auto-responders will be tasks that you personally undertake. Alternatively you may not be knowledgeable or skilled in the areas of Web design or Search Engine optimization, and it is therefore wise to get those tasks done by others with the necessary talents.
The bottom line really becomes, ‘outsource as much as you possibly can.’
In order to handle outsourcing successfully, you will need to build up a long-term relationship with people who understand your requirements, which will of course be determined by client requirements. You will also need to negotiate good rates for ongoing and regular work. You will need to make enquiries through forums and fellow consultants to make some initial contacts if you don’t already have them.
The core of your business is all about giving your offline business client a strong Web presence. Unless website design is your long established skill, you should definitely outsource this work. While it is possible to provide complex and flashy websites for clients, this is not where you should be headed. There are countless examples of great looking websites, complete with all of the bells and whistles, that don’t provide their owners with any significant business growth.
Therefore, focus on providing a basic website that is optimized for the Search Engines.
For more specifics on developing a website for your local business client, be sure to read the section of this report on “Putting The Offline Customer Online.”
An excellent way to get started as a consultant is to lease websites to your clients. Get your designer to build a three-page website – about, services, & contact – and optimize it for the Search Engines. For example, Bob’s Air Conditioning Service may well have a site with the address of BobsAir.com, and with the appropriate description and meta tags, it is not difficult to get a high spot on Google. Lease the site to Bob on a monthly basis. The passive residual income from this process is important for the initial growth of your business.
As time goes by, or even initially in some cases, the client may wish to have his/her own site built. Therefore, you can negotiate a price per page dependent upon who is writing the copy. This may vary from a basic site, as described above, up to a six-page site.
It is essential that you educate the client about the process of building a business through a strong Web presence. You will need to stress that it will take time. Even when a high ranking is achieved on the Search Engines, the traffic may take a while to come. When the traffic comes, does it result in increased business? If it doesn’t then what needs to be done to change that? And this leads us on to an important component of the business owner’s success story.
Develop a Marketing Plan
The business owner needs a written plan that outlines how the online business will be promoted. This doesn’t have to be a long-winded, glossy document as so many marketing plans are, but a straightforward, outlined, step-by-step document, perhaps only one or two pages in length.
The marketing plan needs to be centered on the efficient and effective use of e-mail in promoting the business. Many of your clients, even if they don’t have a website, will probably have an e-mail account, used for communicating with existing customers and suppliers. However, they will probably have little knowledge of the potential power of e-mail when used correctly to promote their businesses.
For example, their basic website will contain an email subscription form where they can capture the email addresses of visitors. Once they start building a list, they will need resources to help them promote their business to that list. This will introduce the role of Auto-responders and the need for a series of promotional messages that turn subscribers into customers.
It is obvious that the small business owner is not going to have the time to design a marketing plan and write Autoresponder messages that promote a particular service or product. Therefore, the consultant steps into this role, either directly or through outsourcing the required tasks.
Another example is the production of a regular newsletter that is delivered through e-mail. Newsletters are a very effective way of advertising the business. They can be used to present special promotions, announce new products or services, or simply to present the features and benefits of existing products and services.
It is also crucial for the business owner to develop a “brand” so that potential customers identify with that when looking to purchase a particular product or service. A brand is not just a business logo or slogan, although that is certainly a part of it. A brand is best thought of as the total picture that emerges of the business in the perception of the customers, and this not only includes logos and slogans, but also includes all of the messages that are issued by the business and the interaction of the business and its employees with existing and prospective customers.
Your role, as the consultant, is to develop that marketing plan and to oversee its implementation, regardless of how much of the work is outsourced and how much direct involvement you have. Charging a fee for the marketing plan and its implementation will sometimes mean that you run into objections from clients, particularly at the beginning. You can readily point out that their existing budget for advertising in Yellow Pages or local newspapers and radio stations, or even TV in the case of larger businesses, can be more efficiently and effectively spent in developing their business online. The dominant era of the Yellow Pages is fading fast. This is evidenced by the fact that recent statistics from eMarketer.com indicate that 86% of Internet users are online shoppers, and storefront sales (influenced by online research) are three times e-commerce sales. The implications for small business are very clear, and your job as a consultant is to assist them in taking advantage of that phenomenon.
Profit with Video Marketing
Video marketing warrants a section of its own in this e-book. It is really part of the development of a marketing plan, but it is such a powerful medium that it deserves special consideration.
Early Internet marketing, Web 1.0, involved the marketing of services and products primarily through static, text-based Web pages. The advent of Web 2.0 was a revolution, allowing personal interaction with the publisher and the content. Then video marketing entered into the equation, enabling the personality of the presenter to blend in with the content and exerting a greater influence on buying decisions.
There is no doubt that videos have a high perceived value for Internet users, and the Internet marketing arena abounds with sites that open up with video presentations. Therefore, consultants can advise small business owners about the value of using video on their websites.
The great majority of small- or medium-sized business owners will have little knowledge of this area and will rely on you for quality advice. There are a number of features of video marketing that can be conveyed to the business owner.
1. People are more influenced by what they “see” rather than by what they “read or “hear.”
2. Videos can be downloaded and viewed at leisure, which increases the chances of an eventual customer.
3. Video has excellent cost effectiveness in comparison to TV or other forms of advertising.
This is a must for outsourcing, but a well-crafted video on the business owner’s Web page is a great marketing tool.