Now, the way to get found is through the internet. There are several different methods that can be used, too, and may businesses will choose a combination of methods so that they are able to reach out to the largest number of people without spending too much money. Even the largest and most prosperous companies have a budget, and they probably do not want to (or cannot) go over that budget in order to get results. With that being the case, these companies have to focus on the most popular ways to reach out to customers. To do that, the company needs to know the market it is targeting with its product or service (Amor, 1999; Beynon-Davies, 2004; Frieden & Roche, 2006; Tcakz & Kapczynski, 2009).
A target market is vital to success, because any business (online or not) has to market to people who want and need what the business is offering (Westfall, 2010). If the business fails to do that, it can have trouble bringing in customers even though the message about what it does is offered to a large number of people. Instead of simply assuming that everyone will be interested in the expansion of the online consulting business, the company must make sure it takes time to consider the wants and needs of other businesses and individuals that are in need of its services. To do that, a marketing study will need to be undertaken. Then, the company will be better able to determine which segments of the population should be considered when it comes to marketing. That results in less time wasted and less money spent, which are both beneficial to the company as a whole.
Another issue when it comes to getting found by customers is where a company should market. Is it necessary to spend a lot of money on marketing, or is it something that can be done for much less? For a consultancy business, it is necessary to make a very professional impression. That does not mean the business cannot use some of the free options, but only that the free choices are not the only options that should be used. When a business has a Twitter account, a Facebook page (business only, not personal) a Google+ profile, a LinkedIn profile, and other free options, that makes the business easier to find. It is also more likely to help the business show up in search results. Naturally, those are important ways for a business to get found by people or other businesses that want and need the services offered. Businesses, though, must go beyond that. They have to consider the image they are presenting as a whole, and that requires more than free sites.
A professional website - ideally with a blog that is frequently updated and professional - is the best way to go. These kinds of sites are not that expensive, and even having one designed for your company will not cost more than most businesses can afford. Get a professional to design a business site, make sure it is keyword optimized for the services or products offered, and then post to the blog at least once per week. That will allow the site to rise in rank in the search engines, providing the business with a much higher chance of being located by those who need and want what it has to offer (Kotler, 2009; Miller, 2002; Westfall, 2010). From that point, the business will need to consider how else to get out the message of what it does so it can be found by more potential customers.
For a consultancy business, advertising in magazines and trade publications, as well as on internet sites that are related to business consultancy or business services, is one of the best ways to garner extra attention and bring in customers that will be looking for the specific services provided by the company. A business today might not want to spend a lot of money on advertisements in trade publications, because they are not international in most cases. However, that same business could advertise on sites that are international and that will have a high likelihood of being of interest to people who need the services it offers. A consultancy business that is nearly 100% online can focus on advertising nearly 100% online, since that is where it will locate the largest majority of its customers. While it is possible that there will be many other good ways in which customers can be brought in or located, there is no guarantee that any method will be effective in bringing customers to a consultancy company or any other kind of company (Gurevych, 2007; Timmers, 2000).
Once a business has been found by its potential customers, it also has to be able to retain those people as actual, paying customers who will be interested in the business (Westfall, 2010). Getting repeat customers is the ultimate goal, of course, but the first step is to locate the customers and get them to show interest in the services offered by the business. Once that has been done, there is a good start toward reaching an agreement to contract with a particular customer. The consultancy business has to offer a good deal in order to be acceptable to a customer, but at the same time the business also needs to offer something on which it can make money. If it does not charge enough it will not succeed, but if it charges too much no one will want to use it and it will end up closing its doors due to a lack of customers (Westfall, 2010; Tkacz & Kapczynski, 2009; Miller, 2002; Kotler, 2009).
There is a delicate balance between charging enough to make money and charging too much for something. Consulting businesses that can find that balance will be much better off than businesses that cannot. But how does one find that balance? There are several ways to locate it. One of the ways is simply to see what the competition is doing with their offerings and pricing (Westfall, 2010). If that information can be found online or through some other honest means, that is a good way of determining what others are charging for consultancy services. Some businesses also send "moles" into companies to try to get inside information, or they send people in to inquire about the services and the costs, just so those people can report back to the other company. Both of these business practices are not recommended, because they can cause problems and they are generally not seen to be morally acceptable among other businesses or among the majority of consumers. It is much better to acquire information honestly and openly, so as to avoid problems (Kotler, 2009).
Another way to determine how much to charge and how best to make money is to consider what the company has to make in order to see a profit (Kotler, 2009; Westfall, 2010). How much money does the company want to make per client, or per hour, or per some agreed-upon unit of measurement? Once that has been determined, the individuals in the company can work out what they will have to charge for services in order to make sure that they are getting enough money for the services they offer. However, if the market will not bear that amount, there can still be problems with getting customers. Ideally, enough research will have been done in order to show the business what it can charge, what others are charging, and what is realistic in terms of the kind of money it can expect to make. Determining all of those things before starting up a business is ideal, and it is also a good idea to determine them before any major business change such as an expansion or new product or service line (Westfall, 2010; Tkacz & Kapczynski, 2009).
The business will need to determine what kind of contract it will require with customers, how much money will be collected and at what points in the consultation, and whether it wants to offer services where a business pays a flat rate per a set period of time (such as every month) for a certain level of consultation. If the business does not want to offer these extended kinds of services, it may find itself losing out to businesses that do offer something more than a single consult or short duration option. Still, there are plenty of options to consider and all companies should be aware of that. Explore all the options for ways to make (and collect) money, and choose the ones that appear to be the best, that work for the company and the customers, and that cost the least to use. Many money-collection methods cost money (such as fees for…