Name: Ian Brodie
Location: Manchester, UK
Describe your business in a few words: I help consultants and coaches get more clients.
Most consultants and coaches are brilliant at what they do – but they don’t feel confident or competent at marketing and selling their services. I work with them to develop a clear strategy and coach them to implement that strategy to attract and win more clients.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m originally from a mining village in the North East of England – so to be honest when growing up the thought of going into business never entered my mind. My thoughts were all about escaping and becoming a famous actor or comedian – or maybe a detective.
At university I studied maths – so again, nothing particularly business oriented. My first job was in new product development in high tech but over time I got more and more interested in business in general. So I ended up doing an MBA at Manchester Business School.
After that I joined a large global consulting firm and whizzed round the world advising large multinationals on strategy, marketing and sales. I did this for about 12 years or so and eventually migrated from doing the consulting work to selling it. After being headhunted and helping to set up the European operations of a US consulting firm, I decided this was something I could do myself.
2. Tell us how you started your business?
It was all triggered primarily by wanting to cut down on travel – and also a need I’d been feeling to have more control and work more in the areas I was interested in. Despite being a director of quite a large firm I still had to “toe the party line” when it came to what we focused on and how we did our marketing.
When I sat down and thought about it I realised that the barriers I’d faced and the personal journey I’d been on was one that many consultants and coaches face themselves. I’d gone from being a technical expert good at my consulting job but without much idea of how to market and sell my services – to one where I was called in to lead big sales campaigns and “troubleshoot” tricky marketing and sales situations.
It hadn’t come at all naturally to me. It took a lot of work on my part and help from some great mentors. So I figured that I could help other consultants and coaches who needed to improve their marketing and sales and accelerate their journey.
Once I was clear on that it was a matter of “taking my own medicine” – making a marketing plan and implementing it just like I’d advise my clients. I paid particular attention to online marketing as I saw it as a great way of overcoming the challenges most consultants face of needing to invest their valuable time in marketing – and so finding it drops off whenever they’re working for clients.
And luckily for me, I was right. The online side of my business has been a huge success – so again, I thought that this was something I could help other coaches and consultants with.
3. How long have you been in business?
Just over3 years.
4. Did you know how you were going to make money with it? How did you do it?
In consulting and coaching, if you can get clients you can make money – there are very few costs involved. So I knew just from the economics that if I could attract and win enough clients I’d be able to make money.
To some degree it went according to plan. I knew that early on referrals and recommendations from ex-clients and people I knew would be the quickest source of new clients. I also spent a lot of time doing presentations and seminars to establish my reputation locally and build a prospect base of people who knew I “knew my stuff”. What I hadn’t expected was how successful the online side would be. Thanks to my blog and doing lots of articles and videos and a regular newsletter my site became very popular and started brining in lots of enquires and clients. A lot of those visitors and subscribers (about 60-70%) were from overseas – so I switched my business model a bit to offer more telephone coaching and online products.
5. What was your inspiration?
It was two things really. When I was consulting for larger firms a lot of clients told me the only reason they were paying the overhead of the big firm was to get access to me and my expertise and suggested I went solo. I also read Alan Weiss’s “Million Dollar Consulting” when I was on holiday in Hong Kong one year. It really opened my eyes to how successful an independent can be and that you don’t need to be part of a large firm.
6. What was your highest moment?
Probably the first time someone actually called me to ask me to help them (rather than me having to reach out and actively sell to them). It was only a small piece of work but it told me my marketing was beginning to work. I’d also have to say it was when one of my coaching clients landed their first big piece of business as a result of the work we’d done together. They were overjoyed, as they’d never believed they’d be able to win such a large piece of work. And it told me that what I was teaching them was working.
7. Were you ever scared? How did you overcome it?
It took a little while to land my first client. I don’t think I was scared – but more beginning to worry if this would really work. I reassured myself by recalling that even though I hadn’t landed that first client yet, I was getting interest and enquiries which I knew would eventually lead to clients.
8. What’s the best part of your job?
I’d have to say it’s the freedom. I work when I want on the things I’m interested in. I love working with my clients and helping them succeed. And I love the writing and creative aspects of my marketing.
9. What is the most important lesson you learned along the way?
There are no silver bullets. Success comes from doing the important little things week-in, week-out. Prospecting, keeping in touch with clients, following up with people you’ve met. Doing great work. Keep doing those and you’ll succeed.
10. What piece of advice do you have for other business owners out there?
I’d probably say “take action”. I’m like lots of people in the advisory professions – I like to think, strategise and plan. But I’m not so good at taking action. I try to polish and perfect my plans and do the utmost preparation. And while it’s important to be well planned and prepared it can sometimes become an excuse for not taking action. Alan Weiss has a saying: “Imperfect action beats perfect conceptualisation” and I’ve definitely found it to be true.
For more articles and ideas from Ian on attracting and winning clients head over to his Get Clients blog