Management visionary Peter Drucker said, “there is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.” To do this, a business must answer three classic questions: What is our business? Who is our client? What does our client consider valuable? (Drucker, 1954, The Practice of Management).

The number one challenge for consultants is creating new clients. Ironically, many marketing consultants feel marketing is too time consuming, expensive or undignified. Even if they try a marketing or business development program, most consultants are frustrated by a lack of results. They even worry if marketing would ever work for them. And no wonder. According to a researcher from the Harvard Business School, the typical sales and marketing hype that works for retailers and manufacturers is not only a waste of time and money for consultants, it actually makes them less attractive to prospective clients.

However, research has proven there is a better way. There is a proven process for marketing with integrity and getting a 400 percent to 2000 percent return on your marketing investment. At our firm, the New Client Marketing Institute, we call it the Educating Expert Model, and the most successful professional service and consulting firms use it to get more clients than they can handle.

To attract new clients, the best approach is to demonstrate your expertise by giving away valuable information through writing and speaking. Research shows small marketing services providers can fill a pipeline with qualified prospects in as little as thirty days by offering advice to prospects on how to overcome their most pressing problems.

What should you do to increase revenues? First, understand that generating leads is an investment and should be measured like any other investment. Next, quit wasting money on ineffective means like brochures, advertising and sponsorships. The best marketing investment you can make is to get help creating informative Websites, hosting persuasive seminars, booking speaking engagements, and getting published as a newsletter columnist and eventually book author.

Rather than creating a brochure, start by writing how-to articles. Those articles turn into speeches and seminars. Eventually, you gather the articles and publish a book through a strategy called print on demand self publishing (we’ve done it in under ninety days and for less than a $1,000 for clients). Does it work? Here are a list of three business best-seller titles that started out self-published (Source: Southwest Airlines Spirit, March 2005):

  1. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson: picked up by William Morrow & Co.
  1. In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters (of McKinsey & Co.): in its first year, sold more than twenty-five thousand copies directly to consumers—then Warner sold ten million more.
  1. Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Weiss Roberts: sold half a million copies before being picked up by Warner.

Even if you believe in the Educating Expert Model, how do you find time to do it and still get client and admin work done? No business ever believes they have too much time on their hands. Nothing worth happening in business ever just happens. The answer is to buy out the time for marketing. You need to be involved, but you should not do this all on your own. Trial and error is too expensive of a learning method. Wouldn’t it be better if someone helped you who knows the tricks and shortcuts? We can show you how to leverage your time and get others to do most of the work for you, even if you are a solo practitioner.

How much should you invest in marketing? That depends on your business goals, but here are some norms. Law firms generally spend about 2 percent of their gross revenues on marketing, and the average expenditure is about $136,000. Marketing costs for accounting firms average about 7 percent to 10 percent of gross revenue (Source: The New York Times, November 15, 2001). The typical architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firm spent a record 5.3 percent of their net service revenue on marketing (Source: ZweigWhite’s 2003 Marketing Survey of A/E/P & Environmental Consulting Firms).

Does the Educating Expert Model work? In the last 15 years we’ve had very good results guiding marketing services providers to increased revenues through more new clients, more fee income per client and more money from past clients. Here are just a few concrete examples:

  1. Through an informational Web site and electronic newsletter we helped create, one marketing consultant added an additional $100,000 in revenue from speaking engagements and sales of information products within two years
  2. In forty-five days one client who is a marketing service provider for the home building industry was able to launch a Web site and education expert campaign that helped him double his business in a year
  3. Using one strategy alone a Web marketing business client was able to double his income and add $100,000 of revenue in one year through just one strategy
  4. By switching over to the model, a marketing services client was able to receive a 2000 percent return on investment from its new marketing campaign that featured how-to advice seminars and articles from senior executives
  5. When one firm gave up cold calling and switched to our model, the quality of their leads dramatically improved and closed deals quickly increased by twenty-five percent
  6. Using these strategies of seminars and getting published, a client has grown in a few years from a regional practice to a national firm
  7. A well established regional firm client reported they were able to accomplish more in 6 months with our methods than they had in three years on their own
  8. An advertising agency used the strategy to double revenues from $4.5 to $9.6 million in five years and earn a spot in the Ad Age 500

Please know this: the universe rewards activity. Start by asking clients about their pains. Gather information on how to solve those worries, frustrations and concerns. Be the expert who educates people on how they compare to their peers and the best ways to overcome their obstacles. The more prospects you inform how to solve their problems in general, the more will hire you for the specifics. In the words of motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “You can get whatever you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want.”

Being a published author is the quickest path to becoming an expert that attracts new clients. So why doesn’t every business have a book?

Thanks to new technologies, today it is not only possible to produce a professional-looking copy of your book for under $1,000, you can also market the book (traditional version and ebook) through reputable sales channels.

A decade ago, there weren’t too many options for consultants and consultants to get into print as a book author. If a traditional publisher wasn’t interested in your manuscript, your only other option was to spend tens of thousands of dollars with a subsidy press or custom printer. And then, without ready distribution, good luck trying to sell the books.

But that has all changed because alternative publishers areable to print both paperback and hardcover books as they’re needed due to the bold new digital publishing technology known as “print-on-demand.” Going digital allows books to be produced in small quantities — even one at a time — almost instantaneously. No longer does publishing require behemoth offset presses, hangar-size warehouses, and fleets of trucks.

These alternative publishers have made a conscious decision to offer their services to everyone, rather than give control to an elite clique of editors and agents, as is often true in traditional publishing. While incoming manuscripts are checked for formatting before a new title goes online, alternative publishers do not edit for style and content. These consultants do not make value judgments about the literary merit of books. The author decides what the public reads, and the public decides if it makes good reading or not. It is a purely market-driven approach, and allows almost anyone to make a new book available to millions of readers, at a small fraction of the cost of traditional publishing methods.

There are challenges, of course. Because print-on-demand books are not typically stocked on bookstore shelves, authors need to do a good job of marketing through publicity, direct mail and the Internet. But if you are a nonfiction author willing to be a self-promoter and whose book targets an identifiable market, then alternative publishing may be right for you.

Print-on-demand has enormous implications for writers, readers, publishers and retailers. Because titles are produced “on demand,” there are never wasted copies (“remaindered” as they used to be dubbed in the old days). Paperbacks and hardcover books are priced competitively, with authors receiving royalties of 30 percent or more. Compare those with traditional publishing industry standards of five to 15 percent, and the appeal becomes a bit clearer still.

What about the writing?  If you can write articles, then you can write a book. And if you can’t, hire a freelance writer to help you do it.