7 Ways to Improve Your Credibility as a Consultant (and Get More Clients!)

Photo by CC user Thinkpublic on Flickr.

Building Clout: From Social Media to Online Doctorates

Consulting can be an extremely satisfying career path for those who desire the freedom of self-employment and possess a passion for helping businesses achieve their goals. Anyone with a little experience and strong knowledge of an industry can do it, but earning clients’ trust can be difficult when you’re first starting out.

Whether you are already consulting or dreaming of breaking free from your current nine-to-five, the approaches below will help you strengthen your credibility and make the best possible first impression:

  1. Make sure your online reputation is being properly managed.

The internet is the first place people go when deciding whether or not to utilize a company’s services, so it important that you have a strong online presence.

The first steps are to:

  • Put together a website with the right information and a design that inspires confidence in your target audience.
  • Cultivate a strong, complete LinkedIn profile and connect with as many of your contacts as possible. Regularly share relevant articles in your feed to remind potential clients that you exist.
  • Clean up other social media accounts. While LinkedIn is by far the most important social media site for consultants and other providers of B2B goods and services, you should also make sure other public profiles are in marketing-worthy shape. Remove any content that could cause potential clients to question your credibility.
  • Identify problems. If you have any negative reviews or content related to your services, it is important to find and handle it. Since different users may produce different search results, search for yourself in all the major search engines on a few different computers. Consult an online reputation management professional to clean up these results if necessary.
  1. Collect testimonials.

Word-of-mouth has long been revered as the highest form of advertising, so you might be surprised to learn that most shoppers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends and family.

Individuals who are scouting for business services love to hear success stories. If you already have clients you’ve worked with successfully, contact them and ask them to provide a testimonial for you. There is also a ‘Request a Recommendation’ function on LinkedIn that will allow you to have testimonials posted right to your profile. You can then take these and add them to your website.

Have a short, unimpressive, or non-existent client list? You can beef up your experience by volunteering your services to help companies and organizations achieve their goals. Reach out to managers and let them know you’re interested in offering your services in exchange for a positive testimonial and case study you can feature on your website if you achieve good results for them. Also, LinkedIn has a directory of open volunteer positions.

You can also reach out to not-for-profit agencies focused on causes that are dear to you. By taking this approach, you’ll be able to make the world a better place while gaining valuable experience. Being able to show you serve your community can make you a more attractive business partner. Plus, the board of directors of such agencies are often comprised of local business people, so this can also be a great way to build connections and social capital.

  1. Advance your education.

Nothing boosts your credibility like adding the letters D and R before your name, but many believe this is not a realistic or cost-effective pursuit. Most people are unaware of the options available that make it surprisingly easy to earn your doctorate degree. Online doctoral programs, for instance, are often affordable and allow you to maintain your current career and work your coursework around your schedule.

To help get your research started, below are ten accredited colleges that allow you to earn your doctoral degree online:

  1. Stay up to date.

What’s the best way to start your work day, every day? Before you check your e-mail, read at least one article on a new tactic or development in your industry. This knowledge will accumulate rapidly.

Whether you’re speaking to a potential client or chatting about business in your daily travels, it is important that you make a solid, expert impression every time. You never know who may need your services or refer you. By staying up-to-date on new developments in your industry, you will impress potential clients with your knowledge and the ease with which you discuss cutting-edge strategies.

  1. Demonstrate your knowledge with great content.

One way to establish yourself as an expert is to demonstrate the knowledge you have. Host seminars and webinars, produce online videos and podcasts, and write articles that educate your target audience about hot topics in your field. Promote this content via e-mail and social media to engage new followers.

Once you’ve built a substantial online following, you can offer some high-worth content in exchange for prospects’ contact information. Compile your best articles into an e-book that can be downloaded for free. Feature this offer prominently on your website. Be sure to keep in touch with these prospects, offering them useful information while slipping in the information they need to know about your services and how to access them.

  1. Reach the top with good SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to efforts intended to improve your website’s ranking for specific keywords in search engines. This practice is especially important for B2B consultants and service providers. Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement Studyfound that a whopping 94% of buyers complete some sort of online research before making a business purchase.

With so many customers researching services on the internet before deciding on a provider, it’s obviously important that your site ranks well for critical keywords and locations. For instance, if you are a crisis public relations consultant in a small city, you want to make sure your site is one of the top sites that is returned when users type things like ‘crisis communications’ and key neighborhoods.

But beyond good search rankings, SEO is important because users assume that the top-ranked websites belong to the most successful and, therefore, the best companies and consultants. This is not necessarily true, but still is a reality that must be considered. If potential customers search for your services and find they are buried beneath several other companies in the search engine rankings, they may doubt your credibility and choose a competitor.

To improve your search engine rankings and ensure you’re following SEO best practices, consult with an expert who can steer you in the right direction. You may even be able to strike a deal with an SEO service provider that will allow you to earn these services by trading some of your own. Partnerships like these can be valuable and often lead to additional referrals.

There are so many ways you can improve your credibility and gain more clients, yet many consultants take a passive approach to building their business. By taking action on some of the tips in this article, you can catapult your career – and your profits – to the next level. Good luck!