Building practice around new technologies or skill sets can be a daunting task for the IT consulting companies. Consulting firms face many challenges in marketing their expertise despite having subject matter experts on their bench. We use an integrated methodology to market the technical skills of consultants & consulting firms. The following framework can be used as a guide to managing the marketing effort.
All efforts, whether in sales, marketing or management should start with a set of basic questions. For IT consulting firms these can be:
- What are the core skills/technologies that we want to market?
- How do we market our skills as subject matter experts in Big Data/BI/IoT/SharePoint/Net Suite?
- Which niche market should we target?
- How do we show-up in customer’s search process when they have a set of problems related to Big Data/BI etc.?
As you start answering these questions, you will come across the need to have some sort of market research that feeds data into your answers.
Be prepared to ask questions; the answers to these questions will ultimately lead you to develop an integrated marketing plan for your practice area. There are two parts to the market research; the process and the desired outcome. The desired outcome should be to come-up with a laser-focused customer persona giving you details such as the target customer’s:
- Likely professional titles
- Size of the company
The process is also as important as the desired outcome, since the latter is not possible without religiously following the former. Use the following template as a quick-guide:
- Define the keyword and key phrase around which you want to build the practice
- Use same keywords & key phrases to research and read top 3 publications around the same
- Identify key opportunities, challenges and adopters of the desired technology/skill set in industries
- Join Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter groups regarding the practice area
- List down the top 20 questions that your target customers are asking on different forums/websites
Finally, your market research should be able to educate you about the size of the market, key players, key problem areas that customers face, and companies in the domain with whom you can partner to increase your marketing reach. Inform your market research process through:
- Linked In Forums
- In-house experts
- Known sites & resources
- Existing internal content
- Existing external content
- Desk research (Google, Twitter, Social forums…)
- Original research
- Commission an expert
Now that your market research has helped you identify a sizable and profitable niche within your target market, it is appropriate to start producing content around this area. Developing potential solutions for targeted industries or functions helps the prospects to see what the proposed solutions and advancements look like. It also helps to think through the complete implementation and technology stack problems. Come up with 10-15 potential solutions for the targeted industries/functions. You’l need continuous help from in-house and out-house experts to make these solutions picture perfect and consumption ready.
Start producing training videos and tutorials around your practice area and answer the previously identified key question. The practice lead or other experts can help capture this knowledge. Develop 3-5 minutes video teasers that deliver answers to the customer issues. These videos can also be re-purposed into presentations and blog posts.
Take help from practice lead into developing bare-bones demo projects around the skills/technology stack around which you want to market your firm. This will increase the visibility into your proposed solutions and help prospects to mature into the buying cycle.
Get published in client’s industry journals or periodicals. This is how you will be able to proposed solutions/improvement to a targeted audience who would be most interested in hearing to your solutions. Opinion articles should also be published at your online properties such as blog, social media feeds, and publishing platforms.
All these efforts should be performed in tight integration with each other to amplify the impact. While answering the customers’ questions, concerns and problems, do consider the stage at which your customers are (awareness, planning, decision, execution) and what are the key use cases of technology use in their respective industry.