Passive marketing will spread the word so try these strategies suggested by my colleagues who are members of the American Evaluation Association’s Independent Consultants’ Topical Interest Group.
1. Talk about what you love
Don’t be modest—be excited! Incidental conversations can build your reputation. At conferences, Jean Eells always chats about her work and hands out business cards. You can talk generically to clients about your work on other projects. Let your enthusiasm shine and focus on your methodology and cool new techniques. Pretty soon they will want what you have too.
2. Eat lunch
You need to drink coffee and eat lunch anyway so use the time profitably. Schedule regular dates with colleagues, past clients, and contacts with access to organizations you are interested in. It’s a good time to ask for referrals. Mary Murray’s approach is to say, “I am looking for one or two more projects for the coming year and I’m hoping you can help me brainstorm about who to reach out to.” Your colleagues may also need assistance on a current project or have a lead on something new and they can provide you with needed support, as Ram Nayar suggests.
3. Think forward
Jan Upton has built on current projects for years by helping clients identify next their steps. She searches out grant opportunities, sends them to her clients, and looks forward to her next evaluation project. Plan for your own skill development. As Stephen Maack stresses, continual professional development is the key to success, so read widely, sharpen your skills and learn something new.
Subscribe to bidding services and get your name on vendor lists. Register as a recommended evaluator on websites of interest (e.g., school boards, colleges, universities, foundations and research agencies). Don’t forget that your professional organizations have lists too.
5. Strut your stuff
There are so many ways to enhance your brand. Use social media. Have a website and a Facebook page. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to make contacts. Write a blog or newsletter. Offer webinars, YouTube videos, workshops and presentations on your breakthrough thinking. Even while you are working on a final report, word about your great services will be circling the globe, so start now!
Gail Vallance Barrington
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 7, Issue 2. June 2016.
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.