8 Ways Consultants Can Thrive During the Downturn

feature016_recession_proof_industriesCan independent PR and Marketing professionals survive the economic downturn? Absolutely. While we all keep hearing about how bad things are, there are still opportunities for marketing and PR pros to grow our businesses, even though many see what we do as the icing on the cake.

Here are 8 ways consultants like me can bring in new clients and hold on to current clients during the downturn.

1.ADD VALUE. Gone are the days of billing your client monthly with no clear, measurable results. Customers these days want to see that the thousands of dollars they pay you each month are giving them million-dollar results. Send them detailed reports that describe more than just your number of billable hours, or build measurement into your scope of work. Offer them fresh ideas and new deliverables outside of your marketing or PR calendar. Consider it a part of your own marketing and retention strategy to give your clients a little more than they pay for.

2. PLANT SEEDS IN FERTILE GROUND. Entrepreneur Magazine has posted its 2009 trends to watch. Among the areas that are expected to experience growth are green/environmentally friendly products and services, health and fitness, web applications, and products or services geared toward baby boomers. So if you’re looking for a new client to pursue, check out businesses in your area that offer these things.

3. KEEP NETWORKING. It’s tempting, especially for start-ups, to forgo the hefty pricetag of many networking events held by professional associations. But in these economic times it’s even MORE important to network, network, network. Who knows, you may be really great with media relations and meet someone who’s an incredible writer. Then they hear of a gig writing and pitching a series of op Eds for a company executive, they remember meeting you, and they pull you into the project. Which brings me to my next tip…

4. FORM COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS. The power of collaboration is amazing. Brian Clark over at Copyblogger wrote a really great post about collaborating that you should check out. But anyway, form partnerships with people who have skills that complement yours so that whenever big projects come up, you can each take a little piece of the business. Form arrangements with other independents and routinely offer a combined list of services when you’re sending out proposals for new business. No one can do it all, but if your network is strong and talented, you can handle any project.

5. DON’T FORGET YOUR OWN PR. Never miss the chance to get your name and your company’s name out there. You might work hard for your clients, but if you want to increase the name recognition of your agency and eventually land more clients, you’ve got to get out in front. So pitch a story about your company (not just your client) to the media.

6. TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. The general public doesn’t always know what we PR and Marketing professionals do on a day to day basis. So join Twitter and post tweets about what you’re doing for your clients. It will remind people of what you do and what you’re good at, so they’ll think of you first if they ever need those skills and services.

7.PUT SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS TO WORK. Update your Facebook page and linked in profile with your blog and/or company Web site url and professional bio. You never know who might see your profile. Your long lost high school calculus tutor might be running a company that could use your services. If s/he sees your company web site on Facebook, s/he might just check you out.

8.GET INVOLVED IN INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS. Position yourself as a leader by speaking at your local PRSA, IABC, AMA or AD Club functions, or sponsor an association event and get your company name and logo on display. If you can’t afford to sponsor an industry association event, work out an exchange for services. You can edit the newsletter or volunteer your time some other way in exchange for sponsorship status.

So what are your tips? What are some ways you’ve been able to keep clients or get new ones during these tough economic times?

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