How would Branding Consultants brand…consultants?

The posse of marketing experts at BrandingWire are taking on, this month, the challenge of branding and positioning a B2B consulting firm.

Here’s the outline of the situation:

A profile of the ideal client/customer for the consulting firm:

    Revenues: $1 million to $25 million
    Employees: 150 or fewer
    Verticals: High-tech and health care
    Location: North America

The challenges facing these client/customers: consumers and other businesses have so many choices, that high-tech businesses (as well as their other target audience made up of clinics and hospitals) are experiencing stagnant growth, or even losing market share. Many of these clients don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition.

The consulting firm’s challenge: as a small marketing firm, they are losing contracts to lower pricing and to bigger firms. The consultancy after three years has stopped growing and most of its clients buy one project and don’t return for more assistance for several years, if at all. How do they position and brand themselves in order to return to greater marketplace success?

I would approach a situation like this with a number of questions, a sample of which are below:

  1. Why are they in these 2 markets? Is one of them more profitable, and more promising, than the other?
  2. What makes their target clients feel more comfortable with a “big” consulting firm?
  3. Why would a client engage them for only one project? Is there dissatisfaction, or are they simply not presenting themselves as a strategic partner for ongoing work?
  4. What are the main ways a client company could distinguish themselves in the marketplace…and how can the consulting firm specialize in capitalizing on those themes?

I find that, by and large, “big” consulting firms are vulnerable in two areas – high prices to support their massive overhead, and a lack of very specific and deep expertise in certain markets. On the surface, I’d advise this consulting outfit to take a deep look at whether they should be in one market (instead of two), and to re-structure their offerings so that they position themselves as long-term strategic partners. This will require highlighting some “success stories” from the past, and educating their clientele that accomplishing market differentiation is not a function of one-shot projects.

Consultants that become “embedded” with customers as ongoing resources provide the most value, and the most ongoing profit. It may well be worthwhile to shrink the firm temporarily in order to bring focus, and to implement a longer-term strategic approach (including messaging). They can hardly be expected to distinguish their client/customers in the marketplace if they cannot distinguish themselves!

See what the other experts at BrandingWire have to say about this challenge! The BrandingWire posse of pundits includes: Martin Jelsema, Lewis Green, Kevin Dugan, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Patrick Schaber, Gavin Heaton, Becky Carroll, and Olivier Blanchard.

(Finally, I cannot resist adding the very funny poster from despair.com about consulting – an approach that , if followed, will surely lead to market differentiation of some sort!)

consulting-despair-dot-com.jpg

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7 Responses to How would Branding Consultants brand…consultants?

  1. Pingback: How to Brand and Market a B2B Consulting Firm « The BrandingWire blog

  2. Steve:

    You’ve brought to light one of the main problems a small consultant, or any small company, faces: being on the firing line, they don’t see the strategic perspective. Questioning whether they should be serving two quite divergent markets is an obvious place to start, but unless prodded to do so, a company will just assume because they have served both segments thet should continue to do so.

    Good insights.

    Martin

  3. Pingback: BrandingWire: Helping a Consulting Business « Customers Rock!

  4. Kevin Dugan says:

    That graphic is golden. And what I love about your post is that, instead of perscribing action, you ask questions first. Good ones that would lead you down a path of analysis that then makes the plan of action obvious.

  5. Steve,

    The notion of embedding is a strong mental visual. In this scenario, that’s the one factor that is most alarming to me. If you can’t win repeat business, you have a big hole you need to find and fix.

    They used to love you…but something happened. Until you can figure out what the something is….do not pass go.

    Drew

  6. I would also go one step further and inquire what segment of these two markets are profitable for the firm’s clients. That might be a way to pare down the wide range of targets, as Drew put it in his post.

    I do like Becky’s ideas on capturing feedback and building multiple touch points. And Kevin’s suggestion of deciding what the firm should not be goes hand in hand with that.

    Those despair posters are precious!

  7. Hi
    You guys seem to know what youre talking about!
    Can I please submit a situation that you may like to address at some point of time?
    I am a doctor with a post graduate manangement degree and 25 years of experience in top level management.
    Two years ago I started a small consulting business (Healthcare management).I have done reasonably well. I get repeat business.
    Now I cant really figure out how to grow the business. I am losing business to larger firms simply because their teams are bigger, and they have infrastructure-(large office space, employees) though the expertise is not as good. Their prices are higher. I wonder if they get the business because my outfit is percieved as a very small set up with no back up. So what should I do? Raise my overheads by renting office space, employing a couple of people?
    I will be very grateful for any suggestions if anyone can spare some time.
    Thanks!
    Chandra

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