Exploring the Exciting World of Consulting with Faheem Moosa.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Consultants get a bad rap.

They're seen as people who like telling other people what to do, but they don't do the actual work.

But consultants can play a key role in helping companies fill gaps and seize opportunities. The right consultant at the right time can deliver huge ROI.

On the Marketing Spark podcast, I talk with Faheem Moosa, who helps consultants drive higher revenue.

Faheem and I look at the consulting landscape amid volatile economic times, the role of content in marketing and sales, and the keys to launching a successful consulting business.

If you're a consulting, thinking about getting into the business, or looking to hire a consultant, Faheem delivers great insight.

In many ways, consultants get a bad rap. They're seen as people who like to tell people what to do, but they don't actually do the work. Many people look at consulting as a four letter word, but consultants can play valuable roles in helping companies move forward and be successful. They feel gaps, help clients these opportunities and de risk strategic and tactical initiatives. And I would argue that consultants play key roles amid volatile economic times by giving companies financial, strategic and tactical flexibility. You can hire a consultant when needed and then part ways amicably. It's a win win proposition. Today, I'm going to dive into the consulting world with Fai Musa, who helps consulting business owners add a hundred thousand to five hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Wouldn't that be nice in twelve months or less without burning out? What come to marketing Spark? Hey, great to be here, Mark, Thanks for having me. I'd like to start by getting your take on the consulting landscape. Given the economic conditions, is it tough times for consultants or are there opportunities for consultants to fill to fill gaps when every dollar is being counted. Here's how I think about that. I think that as uh as for any business, right whether you're whether you have a consulting business or any other type of business, when times change, you've got to look internally and um figure out what the best approaches for your business to achieve its objectives. So for the for consulting businesses, it's uh, it's the same right Like I would argue that there are opportunities, um if you look for them, but consultants have to take the bull by the horns and look internally and externally understand um, you know how the position to the market, who their customer really is, what they're what the needs are in the marketplace, and the position to them accordingly and to go out and get business. So um, things are changing right now, as you know is just mentioned, and I think that for like as any business would do, consult consult cout consultants also should make sure that they really study the market and move forward accordingly. Before we retarted recording this podcast, one of the things we talked about was the new realities for consultants, and I would argue over the last two years, it's been easy pickings for consultants, especially B two B and B T B sas consultants because the rising tide lifted all ships. Companies that are doing really well, they're raising tons of venture capital. There was money for all kinds of consulting initiatives, and if...

...you had some brand awareness, there is demand that met the need. Now things have changed, and when I talked to consultants, particularly marking consultants, a lot of them are struggling, a lot of them are trying to rethink their packages, trying to re spark, you know, the things that they need to do to get leads in the door. So I'm curious about the approach that consultants need to take in terms of they need to hustle now and they just can't wait for their inbox to start popping up with leads. So what kind of approach strategically and tactile should consultants make to deal with the economic realities. It's interesting because you know, in every hum every type of economic situation, there are businesses that do well in businesses that tend to struggle a little bit. Right now, if you look at I T Consulting, for example, you you give an example of marketing consulting, but I t consulting is is flourishing right now as it was, you know, ever since the pandemic started, even before that. But there are different realities in the market because you know, in every market it's about it's about demanding supply right right now, perhaps in in in the marketing consulting world, things are shifting a little bit in in B two b SaaS uh, let's say, so I believe that as in any business, like I mentioned, consulting, business owners should reevaluate what what their story is and reevaluate what's going on in the marketplace. And you know, if they, if required, challenge assumptions that buyers or and potential clients UM are making currently in the marketplace and align their stories accordingly. So UM I would say that, you know, if consultants are struggling, And first of all, there's always opportunity when there's change, right, economic change, political change, whatever the change is, there's there's always there's always opportunity for experts and advisors when there is change, and even you know not to mention technological change. So the opportunities are out there and it's up to consultants to go out to go out and make a case for themselves and challenge assumptions in the marketplace if they feel that their potential clients are hesitant to hire consultants. Now, then the first question, the first place you wanna h the first question you want to ask is why, And more often than not, that will lead you to the assumptions that buyers make with respect to hiring consultants. And through your stories, through your content, through your salesmanship, through your you know, um messaging, you want to make sure that you challenge those those assumptions. UM. Talk about the the consequences of the status quo, talk about what is possible doing things a different in a...

...different way. UM, talk about the opportunity costs involved and essentially broaden the horizons. Go out and meet as many people as you can, and UM, you know, just distribute that story. Essentially, let's focus on the stories and the messaging that consultants need to embrace these days. Now, if you go back two years, a lot of companies were B two B companies were focused on growth and how to accelerate sales, and suddenly the economic landscape shifted and it was all about cost savings and productivity. We went through two years of a bull market. Everybody was doing well. But now we're at a time when a lot of companies are really scrutinizing their budgets and trying to figure out where they should spend their money, where they should pull back. If you put yourself on the other side of the of the fence and you're a consultant and you're trying to align your verses with how customers feel right now, what are some of the marketing and sales themes or topics that consultant should be embracing. Because what you want is you want to match your services to what customers need right now. So do you have any thoughts in terms of how the for lack of a better word, the editorial approach that consultants are taking needs to shift. Yeah, I think so let's talk tactically, right So, if there is a feeling in the marketplace among buyers that they want to, you know, scrutinize their budgets or they want to not spend right now as they were doing two years two years ago, I think that consultants should um, you know, look at their offerings and and and structure their offerings Differently. I'm always of the opinion that in any consulting engagement, you want to start off with a shorter project, that discovery engagement that is something like an assessment during evaluation or an audit right so, um, when the going is good, if you're lucky, you'll get a one year engagement right right off the bat. But now, when if you feel that your market is circumspect, then I think that consultants must zone in and really focus on getting their foot in the door using very targeted and thoughtful, thoughtfully crafted discovery offerings. You know, perhaps a thirty day engagement that provides some meaningful insight at the end, which you know, bias probably wouldn't have otherwise, or using some proprietary proprietary knowledge and expertise providing some result in a very short period of time. It doesn't even have your thirty days, you know. I know consultants who have discovery engagements that last you know, eight hours, a one day workshop or an evaluation or a two day workshop. And then what that does is that allows the client to understand the value of that individual or that team. It allows the client and to look at their work ethic to...

...understand the quality of their work and of course the results that they've got. And you know that for the consultant will provide where we will provide them with the opportunity to open up a longer term arrangement. So I think that now is the time if you feel that in your market buyers are hesitant to take to to kind of open up the coffers and and get you in for a twelve month contract or consulting engagement, then think about those shorter term engagements as a foot in the door. That's an interesting observation because it's an approach that I've taken on my own business. During the good times, I was selling full blown fractional CMO offerings and the prices for that were very good. I'm sensing that the markets shifting. So what I've done in my business is focused on offering a positioning, messaging and customer targeting package. It lasts four to six weeks. It's gets my foot in the door. It's not a major financial commitment, but it does give people a taste of what I do. So it's sort of like dating before you get married and then talking to a lot of other consultants. They're feeling the same way. Is that the demand for high ticket items has declined and they're they're having to come up with new ways to repackage themselves. And I think that's a that's a very big challenge to find the products that your customers want to sell these days. Yeah, and this comes back to what I've been talking about for a long time. Um, you know, as you know, I coach and train management consultants and other types of business consultants to land new clients and build their businesses. And the what I find is that consultants like any business owner, and they come with a with a technical background, like you're you're you have a technical skill or expertise, and you do that really well. And then you know, you start a consulting business one day because you're attracted to the freedom and time freedom and financial freedom and so on and so forth. But very soon you realize that, you know, there's a whole different aspect of running a business when you start a consulting business. First and foremost, you're running a business, right. A lot of a lot of people think that when they started, when they get into consulting, the work is going to magically appear and they're gonna be so happy doing what they love doing. But then, um, the challenge is, you know, how do you get work to how do you how do you get work to come to you? How do you, like you know, increase the value of your services, how do you find the right to prospects? And more importantly, how do you do all of this while you're delivering consulting engagements. The thing that you know, I'm really big on is that I feel that consultants must learn sales and marketing right. They must learn the nuances that make up these functions, because you know, sales and marketing are functions that drive business growth, right, And when you start a business, you've got to only two functions that you that...

...you kind of play, and one is operations. Because you're delivering engagements that's full the operations of fulfillment and too with sales, right, you meet a customer or client randomly through a referral, you make the sale, and you fulfill So it's always sales and fulfillment, and oftentimes clients gamming concerntus get stuck in in this you know, cycle of sales and fulfillment. So what you want to be doing is introduce marketing as uh you know, as as a skill in your business. Marketing drives growth, and marketing is not just all about promotion. Marketing is about understanding how two know what your buyers want, what their worldview is, how do you craft a thoughtful offering, how do you craft messaging, how do you position yourself in the market, and then how do you go go and uh, you know, acquire customers. All of those things are super important, especially for you know, small consulting businesses or small consulting business owners that often get hired for their own expertise, which makes them kind of you know, do the work and sell the work to get out of these this kind of this kind of predictive predicative predicament where you know, suddenly the economy changes and you know you've got to like shift your business. You need to understand the nuances of marketing so that you can apply those rules and shift your business when external circumstances change. It's interesting that you mentioned the balancing act between selling slash marketing and doing because I think a lot of consultants, particularly knew consultants, struggle with the reality that you've got to do both at the same time. If you're doing the work and you're not selling, then your pipeline goes dry. If you're just selling all the time, then you don't have any time to do the work. I wanted to get your take on the idea of riches are in the niches. If you narrow your focus as a consultant on a specific area, the nat will allow you to really rally behind your sales and marketing. You will give perspective clients a really laser view on what you do and how you can help them. Do you subscribe to that approach to consulting. So I do believe riches are in the niches, but allow some context to it. When you start a consulting business. Um, you know, often people start consulting businesses because they're in a position where they don't have full time employment for whatever reason. Oh, they willfully start a consulting business because they're attracted to the lifestyle and you know the freedoms that that come come with it. When you start a consulting business. Oftentimes, you know, things move so fast that you're not in the in the position to make that conscious choice of Okay, here's the niche that I'm going to target from day one, and here's how I'm going to go out and get business, and so on and so forth. You know, you need to you need to pay the bills. You need to keep...

...the lights on. And consultants typically become consultants, you know, when they've got tremendous experience, right, so they're they're not like you know, twenty year olds anymore. They typically have have families to support, they have expenses. So when you start a consulting business, you've got life as as a reality in front of you. So it's okay not to start with a niche because that's oftentimes that answer comes to you as you go along, as you kind of, you know, get more experience in business. And here's the other thing. You know, the number one way consultants land clients in the early days is through referrals, right right from the day our industry started. When that happens, you tend to get referrals from various places. Sometimes you get referrals for different types of projects. Right, you may be an operations guy. You may get an operations project. Then somebody else wants some financial aspect of what you do, uh, some kind of problem to solve. That way, maybe somebody, you get another project which has project management competent to it. So when you would depend on referrals in the early days, you you get hit with different types of inquiries and needs, and because of the need to get keep cash flow coming in the door. You know, it's okay to take different types of projects in the early days right to understand the market and to keep your business running stay above water during those times. It's okay not to have a niche. Consultants should not beat themselves up and say, Okay, you know, I don't know what I'm doing, and maybe maybe I'm not good at this. I've always heard that you've got to be focused on a niche. Maybe I don't know how to do this, but I would advise people if they're listening consults and listening to this and they're in that space, I would advise them not to beat themselves up. It's okay to take a couple of years to understand the market and understand your own expertise and skills, and understand you know where you like play and also understand where you get the best results, where's your expertise at as an independent consultant or a small form and then once you Once you have that understanding of yourself and your business and the types of results you get and also the types of clients who like to work with, then you can start thinking about putting together, you know, a plan to select a niche. Here's the thing, like to have some kind of a marketing planner to grow your business, you have to kind of niche down right, and you have to understand and you have to like, you know, pick your target customer. You've got to, you know, nail down the value proposition that you love for the customer you love, nailed down how you're different in the marketplace. If you don't know these things, then how you're gonna help build a marketing plan around your business in order to grow your business. If you want to grow your business, then it's really important to kind of nail down that niche. Otherwise you can't have a marketing plan at the same time for five different types of services. Everyone likes referrals. It's great when they appear in your inbox and you're pretty much close the deal before you've been talking to someone. I am interested...

...in your take on the marketing side of consulting, particularly around content and understand in your view, how much content should consultants create and how do they know what kind of content to create? Okay, so the first part of that question how much content they should create? And first of all, I'm a big proponent of of content. Let's just go back from the you can google back, go back to the you know, the beginning of our industry, right like right from the time on industry started like a few decades ago. There are two ways consultants land clients. Number one is referrals, right, and number two is content. And in those days, content was articles in trade publications, speaking engagements that you know, chambers of commerce, writing books and getting published. All of that stuff is content. The higher higher tickets you go in consulting, the more you get into that trusted advisor space. And when you get in that trust's advisor space, the thing that matters is that you know, people need to trust you. You need to have a reputation behind you, and you build a reputation two ways. One is you get great results for your clients, and number two is that you put out content and education that tells the market that you know what you're talking about. Right. So, in terms of when it comes to the question of content. It's always worked in our industry. Um, it works even today. The only difference today is that the channels are different. Like you've got social, you've got content networks like like podcasts and stuff. You've got various other avenues to to create content and distribute content. There's so much more opportunity to create and distribute content today than they were previously. So in terms of the first question, how much content you should create, I mean it depends right Like it depends on you know, the traction that you get. It's always when you start out, you've got to experiment and see put put out content to your network and see what traction comes up. And how much content you create is also a function of your distribution, Like what is the size of your network? You not only have to create content, but you also have to think about how do you grow your network. And when I say network, it's your potential readers and your potential clients, right. Um, So if you have a huge network and it's a it's a captive audience, you know, you can get away with with posting very little content. But if you have a smaller network, then you've got to kind of calibrate your content to to the size of that audience and make sure that that your your content produces enough traction to meet your business objectives. So I believe there's there's there's a context involved when answering that question what type of content to create. This is interesting because you know a lot of people think that just by creating any type of content you are going to land clients. That's not true, right, you know it's not true. Um, just look back a few years...

...ago, right, I just talked about, you know, content opportunities that were that were for the taking to you a few years ago. Books, articles and newspapers, articles in business sections of the of newspapers, articles and trade publications, speaking engagements. I mean, imagine if you you had those opportunities, you know, a few decades ago, and you post content about you know, random content that you would post on your LinkedIn that wouldn't go down well with the audience. When you post content, you've got to make sure that just think of your LinkedIn profile, or think of all your distribution channels as you know, sacred channels where you post your best stuff. Like just think that you're at a key you're delivering a keynote at a conference, would you still post the content that you post just because people have told you that, you know, you've got to post content every day. No, So I believe that the type of content that you post should number one, be educational and p fvite some kind of value to the audience. If you're if you're if your content does not provide value, then just hold off on posting it. I always say this to my clients, like get in take take on the role of an educator as a teacher, because you know, as a consultant you have you have expertise in and a specific domain. When you kind of go out and create content, may just just think of yourself as a teacher. What would you do if you were a teacher, and what would you teach your audience? And at the same time, when you're putting out content, you want to make sure that you create demand in the audience, demand in your market. And the reason you create demand is that a lot of consulting is discretionary. You know, outside of t consulting that you know do these large tech transformations on and migrations, a lot of high ticket consulting is this is discretionary spending. There aren't executives like looking for consultants on a daily basis, there's there's no compelling reason to bring in a consultant. So as a content creator, you want to you want to create those reasons that buyers should have to hire you. And the way you do that is create, first of all, a compelling reason to change. Why should buyers change? What's going on in their world that requires them to change, and as a result of that requirement, they go out and look for an expert to change. And following that, you want to talk about, as I mentioned a little while earlier, you want to talk about you want to demonstrate that you understand their world. You want to really demonstrate and talk about the symptoms that they're going through as as a manager and a leader in the organization. And you want to talk about some of the assumptions that led them to believe certain things that they believe about their industry. And you want to then talk about the consequences of staying where they are not moving forward, what are the dangers and risks involved in that. Then you want to think of talk about what is possible, what could be possible if you do something differently, as we think differently, and then give examples of others in similar positions...

...and similar organizations who have met with significantly better results as a result of thinking differently and doing things differently. And then position yourself and talk about why you're different and why you will like you. You likely can take them to that that outcome, that that you that you talked about. Those are some of the things some of the ways you create demand in the marketplace. You know there's a caveat here you can create all of this content. But as far as my experience goes, content takes time. You've got to be patient with it. You've got to give it at least a quarter or two before you start seeing traction. But once you start seeing traction, it can be really powerful as a lead generation mechanism and as a brand building mechanism. You and I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, clearly possibly too much time on LinkedIn, But I didn't want to get your take on LinkedIn, given the platform has evolved, given the fact that a lot more people have jumped down the content creation bandwagon. My news stream is overflowing with content these days. So the question is whether LinkedIn is still a good place for consultants to operate and I'd also be curious about other platforms that you're using or exploring these days. Yes, so LinkedIn, like any other platform, has evolved though the last couple of years, lots of content creators, like you said, and of course things have changed. I myself have seen a decrease in reach, uh and engagement on LinkedIn, and and that's okay because that is an indication that I should be doing things differently. That pushes me to kind of change and think about different tactics and so on. I never expected LinkedIn to stay the same, So now that it's changing, the platform is changing, I'm really not surprised at all. But at the same time, I still think that if you're if you're in B two B sales or B two B UM, if you're targeting organized as small, medium, size, are large, I still think there's no other platform right now in terms of in terms of social that is akin to LinkedIn, right and also when you use it in tandem with Sales Navigator, which is a premium tool of LinkedIn and which I use a lot. The data that you get and the and the kind of search filters that you get, the utility that you get is I think still unmatched in the industry. I don't. I don't know if a different platform that does what LinkedIn plus Sales Navigator do so. I still think there's a lot of value and being part of LinkedIn. One of the advantages with LinkedIn changing is that if you can figure out how to make it work while other people are struggling, then you're an advantage. So it's still an opportunity for those that are feeling the same way where and you know, feeling the the change that has taken place with LinkedIn, and if you and if they're feeling that there their reaches has come down on the effectiveness of the of the LinkedIn...

...content has come down. It's I think there's still an opportunity because there's still a lot of activity. People are still doing business on LinkedIn. A lot of your content on LinkedIn is video driven, So the obvious question is whether you're using TikTok as another way to get our o I from the videos that you're making every day or on a regular basis. I'm aware of how TikTok is like taking over the imagination of B B two B marketers. I haven't gone there yet. I know that a lot of B two b sas marketers are talking about it. The reason I haven't gone there yet is that I feel that the profile of my target customer, for the for the type of business that that I'm conducting right now, I feel that I still haven't I still haven't kind of reached the stage where I want to move into a platform like TikTok. I am experimenting a lot with YouTube these days, and I also am experimenting a lot with with an online community where I meet with consultants and deliver education a long form piece of educational content every two weeks. So those are the two avenues that I'm experimenting with with these days, and I don't want to experiment with too much. Perhaps TikTok can work for me, but I don't know too much about it, but for just just so that I don't want to kind of, you know, be involved with too many channels at this time. For that reason alone, I haven't experimented with with TikTok as yet. What about yourself. I continue to use LinkedIn. I continue to believe in the power of LinkedIn. Like you, I've seen reach and engagement decline. I'm not sure whether that's the algorithm rewarding different types of users or new users, or whether there's just more competition, or whether people are spending less time on LinkedIn as they did when when they were working from home. I'm also playing with TikTok. Admittedly I'm not playing as well as I should. I'm learning, I'm making videos and seeing what kind of engagement is happening, and I'm increasingly becoming I wouldn't say the word sophisticated, but I'm getting better at TikTok. So those but LinkedIn continues to be my my bread and butter. And I also have a newsletter that I write three times a week, which gives me ground coverage. So those are the places where I play. We've spent a lot of time talking about consultants and how they operate and how they do marketing and sales. But why don't we just to focus a little bit too people who may be exploring to move into consulting. What are some of the key considerations that you shouldn't think that they should be embracing, Like, what are some of the key questions they should be asking themselves before they make the leap from being a full time employee to being a consultant. Yeah, the first thing that they should be asking themselves is what...

...what is their core and what is their expertise? And have they got results for either you know, their employer in the past life or you know in a one off consulting engagement. Have they got real results? Can they get results for clients? Right? It's not just about the expertise, but it's about the ability to give your client a result. So if they can answer confidently that yes, they have ex expertise and they can articulate the outcome and the result they've got for either an employer or a one off consulting client that they that they had, then it's a good It might be a good move for them to get into consulting because at the end of the day, like you wanna, you survive because you get results for your clients, right, and if you can't get results with your clients, then you don't have a business. The other consideration is, as we've talked about a lot already, so I don't want to kind of keep going over it, is the fact that when you start a consulting business, you start a business, so you want to be you want to shift your identity from that of just a technical consultant to that of a business owner. So you want to quickly understand that sales and marketing are both involved. So you want to show up your skills in those areas because things change fast. When you're independent or when you have a small farm, extranal circumstances change fast, and you've got to know how to ship. Perhaps the third consideration that I want to talk about is that you know, in a consulting business, as we've talked a little bit about today, is is the fact that you're selling the you're selling the work and you're doing the work at the same time. Typically in the early days, your clients will hire you for your expertise right your your as a consulting founder, you know your technical expertise. You've got to understand that the reality of the game is that you'll be doing the work and you'll be expected to build a pipeline. You've got to be very careful about how you structure your in terms of you know, setting aside time for client engagement client engagements and setting aside blocking out hours for building your pipeline. The way I do it is do I do a four plus one And I've always done it. I've been done. I've been doing this for a very long time. Monday to Thursday, Thursday's our client engagements and project deliveries, and Friday's I do various types of marketing. I I focus on my business right so Friday's I dedicated. I dedicated to my business where I treat my business as the client and I and I focus on that. So I have my team meetings, and my my operations team, my marketing team. We all get together and we we make a plan for the following week. So you've gotta ge, you gotta have you know, you've got to operate systematically, is what I'm saying. That's the third consideration. I love that approach, love the idea of giving yourself time to work on your business. The other question I would have in terms of somebody jumping into consulting is how they establish a rock solid foundation. What the key pieces they need to develop in the early days. And this...

...could be having a website that looks professional, having mar sales and marketing collateral that looks like you know what you're doing, and creates a great first impression, using and promoting methodologies and templates so that people realize that there's a method to the madness, is that you're not making it up on the fly and you're not doing things simply by the fact that I have the knowledge and you should trust me. So are there some key pieces that consultants new consultants need to put in place to make sure that they move forward with confidence and more important, make prospective clients feel confidence in their ability to deliver. Yes, I'm just gonna go back to you know, the results, right, So the key pieces, you know, look back from the result that your client wants and you know, put together the MEDEO methodologies and frameworks that would help you get those results. Because in the early days, you want to make sure that you build a reputation, and the best way to build a reputation is by getting client results. Understand what outcomes or results each client wants and make sure that they are satisfied that they and they get that outcome. Because as I mentioned, the early days, your business, you know, grows on the basis of referrals, and not just new referrals, but existing clients giving you calling you in for more work. Right, That's that that's really important. So just make sure that and laser focus on on getting those results and making sure that setting the set the expectations up front with the client that look, these are the outcomes that we've uh that we've agreed upon, and here's what they look like, and then go and deliver them. We cover a lot of ground in the last thirty thirty five minutes. Appreciate your insight and advice for people who are doing consulting and as important people who are thinking about jumping into the consulting world. Final question, where can people learn about you and the things that you do? Surprise surprise LinkedIn. Yeah, so that's that's my online hub, as we've talked about today. So I'm happy to connect with any of your listeners. Just let me know that you heard me on Mark's show Marketing Spark, and you know, let's connect. Well, Thanks maheam, and thanks to everyone for listening to another episode of Marketing Spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app, and share via social media. To learn more about how I help bdb sas companies as a fractional CMO strategic advisor and with position and messaging, email Mark and Mark Emmons dot C A, or connect with me on LinkedIn. I'll talk to you soon. Its Chipicent is trying chips.

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