So… why don’t you have more business?

Have you pondered the post title recently?

Why don’t you have more business?

It’s a common failing among IT consultants to accept one of the following excuses:

  • It’s just how it is
  • It’s the economy, stupid
  • It takes time to build up a sustainable business and I’m just not there yet and there’s little, if anything, I can do to speed it up
  • It’s mostly outside of my control when my clients do business with me and by how much. The best I can do is keep them happy and hope they come back for more in the future.
  • The ups and downs in income are just a part of the consultant/contracting lifestyle. Some months are good and others are less than good.
  • My competition beat me to it because they charge less
  • My competition beat me to it because they have more money to advertise

Respectfully, these, and more like ’em, are all utter bullshit.

The sooner you get over them the better.

Most IT consultants are technicians first and only business owners, marketers, and salespeople second…. (at least in their heads..)

So it’s understandable that you may have grown to accept this.

But, as I said, it’s total B.S. Get it out of your head right now.

It is very important to recognize — and accept just as you have the opposite belief up until now — that not having as much business as you’d like is a symptom, not a cause.

Identifying the causes of your not enough business situation will help you end it.

But there is one very important task that we must tackle first before getting to that. It may be uncomfortable, at first. Some folks just can’t handle it… or at least may not realize they need to undertake this shift in thinking, without some coaxing: You must take full responsibility for your situation, both the good and the bad.

No more blaming the competition, clients, economy, etc.

Now you may be wondering how you are supposed to take full responsibility when there really are some things that happen that are completely outside of your control?

The important thing to realize is that while you may not always have control over what happens… you do have control over how you react to it.

So back to the original question posed: why don’t you have more business?

Well, first, it’s probably because you’ve accepted one or more of the above, or similar, excuses.

That’s the bad news but there’s good news:

The ONLY reason you don’t have more business is because you accepted these excuses and thus stopped trying to solve the problem…. because it seemed futile. Why try to solve a problem that has already been deemed to be outside of your control or responsibility? (Makes sense…if only the premise wasn’t faulty).

But we’ve wiped those excuses away hopefully so now we can get onto actual problem solving. (Something IT consultants have a lot of practice with and are plenty good at).

Remember: it is a GOOD thing to realize that more is under our control that previously thought.

….because now we can get to actually solving the real problem.

There are only four strategies to boost your business profits:

  1. Increase the quantity of clients
  2. Reduce your expenses
  3. Increase the revenues from each client
  4. Get paid sooner/more often

These are wonderful levers to have at your disposal (once you know they are there).

What about tactics? How exactly do you implement the above?

Well, while there are many many ways but, thankfully, unless your goal is to teach a marketing A-to-Z course you don’t need to know all of them to be effective at your objective of simply getting more business for yourself. You just need one or more to start making some progress.

Over time, if you want, you can add to the tools at your disposal…

For now, I’m going to hone in on business boosting strategy #3 in particular by suggesting two paths to consider to increase your revenue from each client. As always these are not just theories. They are methods that I’ve either found successful myself or learned from other successful practicing consultants…or both.

The point being that they are real and they are things that you can do. More importantly, they are things that are under your control.

So there are two straightforward ways to increase the revenue you receive from each client:

  1. Get them to spend more with you per engagement (project, signed proposal)
  2. Get them to come back to you more often

To get clients to spend more with me per engagement, I find it useful to ponder and answer the following questions when I’m putting together a proposal for a new engagement:

  • What else might the client want that we haven’t talked about?
  • Is there a way that I can offer them something else that they might be interested in that is a win-win for both of us?
  • How might I tactfully add this option (or multiple options) to our correspondence, proposal, or conversation?

In other words, “what’s next?”

It doesn’t have to be the most original invention around. For example I’ve done pre-payment and priority discounts towards additional projects and a year of e-mail only advice services. Sometimes it may be a above and beyond option for the project under discussion… even if I know it is probably above their perceived budget. I simply include these as options in proposals or in occasional e-mails/mailings to select clients.

Consider if you offer a special e-mail based advisory service for $1995/year to a handful of your clients. If even just one out of ten takes you up on it, that is $1995/year of “found money”. Keep
coming up with interesting offers and you’re bound to find some that are super intriguing to your particular client base. These naturally boost your per client transaction $$$ size and ultimately
your overall book of business.

It doesn’t have to always work out. Feel free to experiment. Play with the amounts…have the option sometimes be a very low cost option relative to the likely value of the engagement/project… and other times have it greatly exceed it. (Hint: When you don’t get interest in something ask your clients why they didn’t take you up on it…and incorporate their feedback into your next invention).

The above highlights one of the nifty aspects of our type of business. Because we don’t make widgets it is far easier for us to invent new products and experiment without having to do things like
retool factories and toss out supplies when no one bites on a new offering. Plus our incremental marketing costs for these add-ons are essentially zero since they’re just tacked onto our other
correspondence with clients.

Okay so that’s a bit about how to get them to spend more…but how do we get them to come back more often?

There are many methods but, in general, they all revolve around two

  • staying top of mind with your inactive clients
  • building up the level of trust in the relationship

This could be done one-on-one but it’s very time consuming and, oddly, I’ve found can sometimes be less effective one-on-one (I think because if you are always hanging around, taking them out to lunch, and picking their brain about their problems it can become somewhat obvious what you’re doing). If you can do one-on-one great… but I’d still suggest augmenting it with the following…

I prefer methods where I can keep in touch and inform my clients without showing up at their door or calling them all the time. Examples include sending out “tips” week/monthly e-mails or mailings (say, postcards), e-zines, newsletters, and, to some extent, blogging. Content should be informative, intended to both present yourself as an obvious expert on the topic and make your client smarter.

I also think it’s important to send out opportunistic personalized useful resources to your clients from time to time. For example, you run across an interesting article on an IT issue faced by small regional banks. One of your clients happens to be a small regional bank, send it on to them with a brief note attached: “Thought you’d find this interesting -Josh”.

It may not seem like it at first… but once you start thinking in this way, with a bit of time, the above strategies and tactics become almost second nature. What I mean is that during the normal course of your day you come across resources of interest, ideas occur to you, and you likely solve a variety of problems. All of these are prospects for sending to clients, writing up, etc.

You invest a lot of your waking hours in your business. You owe it to yourself to think differently about increasing your profits. Even if you are satisfied with your book of business, reconsidering
your marketing strategy and tactics can help you reduce the time spent on them, reduce stress, cut your working hours by working with and on more of your ideal clients and projects, providing you
and your family with greater security regardless of the ups and downs of the economy, and competitive conditions, etc.

Best of luck in your endeavors,


P.S. Interestingly I’ve discovered that it doesn’t literally take “going the extra mile” to get ahead of the competition and to achieve one’s goals. Perhaps an extra 100 feet, yards, or meters (or so) but generally not a mile…