349: How to Start and Grow a Local Consulting Business: Effective Marketing Ideas

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She always knew she wanted to start her own business, she just didn’t know what kind of business.

Sound familiar?

So, Sylvia Inks asked friends and colleagues what they saw her as an expert in, and what they go to her for advice and help with.

Their answers?

“They said I’m great with finances, and they said I have great research skills,” Sylvia told me.

This helped Sylvia narrow down her focus to financial coaching. From there she started networking, wrote a book, and worked diligently on her presentation and speaking skills. Her business has taken off as a result.

Tune in to hear how Sylvia found her niche, found her first clients, and continues to level up her impact and income. As you listen in, you’ll notice the common theme throughout the call: conversations + action.

How’d You Get Started and Secure Your First Customers?

“I actually started with what I knew best, which was personal finances,” Sylvia told me.

Sylvia started going to networking events in person with the goal of targeting busy professionals making 6-figures a year, but still finding they didn’t have any money left at the end of the month. This is exactly the coaching service she had done with friends over the years.

What actually ended up happening at these networking events was small business owners would approach Sylvia and ask if she could help them better manage their business finances.

They would also need help with their personal finances. But would say that they would use what she’d teach them with their business finances, and apply it to their personal finances. Sylvia said she didn’t realize it at the time, but it was fellow entrepreneurs that were her ideal customers.

How’d You Figure out How Much to Charge?

For one-on-one coaching, “I really just kind of look at how much was I going to be happy with” Sylvia told me.

Sylvia knew she wanted to charge by the session, not per hour. She also knew she didn’t want to always be looking for new clients, so she needed to come up with long-term plans.

So, she put together 3 and 6-month packages, while being flexible if clients asked for specific time frames. Taking into account how much time she was putting into the sessions, Sylvia started out charging what worked out at $125 per hour.

How Sylvia Started Using Speaking Gigs to Connect with People

Sylvia knew that most businesses fail because they didn’t have a solid business plan. So, she took a business planning course to walk her through how to build a business plan for her own business.

She ended up staying in touch with her instructor, and he became a business mentor to her. It was her mentor who actually gave her her first speaking gig. He had a speaker drop out on a speaking event he was running, and with two day’s notice asked Sylvia if she would step in and talk about small business finances.

Sylvia stayed up late and put a presentation together for the 15-20 students. The feedback from her mentor was that her presentation skills needed work. The main points being, she had included too much data and text in her slides, and her images were too small.

By chance, Sylvia was introduced to someone who specialized in helping speakers turn their talks into engaging presentations. She worked with this presentation coach to put together 15, 30, and 60-minute signature talks.

How Sylvia Landed Paid Speaking Gigs

After Sylvia launched her book, Small Business Finance For The Busy Entrepreneur, she approached the same college where she took her business planning course and asked to speak at upcoming seminars.

The director liked that she had a book and was interested in her pitch. Sylvia sent in some bullet points about her talk, and the director got back to her with two paid speaking gigs. She also recommended Sylvia to two more event hosts, and this turned out to be three more paid gigs.

Sylvia said started getting more offers and continued to take free speaking gigs to connect with more potential clients. She said the main benefit of speaking to a group of small business owners about finance is that it builds trust. It makes anyone interested much more likely to sign up for one-on-one coaching after.

What’s Your Signature Presentation Look Like?

“Most people like to hear secrets or the top tools… people like to hear actionable tips,” Sylvia explained about formulating a good presentation.

Sylvia’s signature talk is called “The 7 Secrets to Financial Success for Small Business Owners.” She actually has 9 tips to talk about, but tweaks which tips or how many tips she will share depending on the audience and how long she has.

She doesn’t try to sell to her audience. Instead, she concentrates on providing great value, sharing information, and hitting on pain points. By doing this, people come up to her afterward and inquire about working with her without the need to sell to them.

Some events allow Sylvia to lay some books out at the back of the room or on a table where she’s delivering her talk from. She’s made a lot of book sales this way, and her book is a good lead magnet to open up communication with people about one-on-one coaching.

How Much Work/Revenue Have You Booked Through Speaking Gigs?

Sylvia spent $1k with her presentation coach to put together her signature talk and made back that money within three paid speaking gigs. She’s also made around $900 in book sales and around $7k in client revenue.

She’s not currently seeking new speaking opportunities. Sylvia said she has enough speaking gigs coming in from repeat customers, referrals, and word-of-mouth to keep her busy.

What Other Marketing Tactics Have Worked for You?

Outside of her speaking gigs, Sylvia said there are three main ways people have been finding out about her:

  • Reaching out after reading her book, either finding it on Amazon or having someone recommend it. Her book is being used as a college textbook which has been good for exposure too;
  • Being recommended by a colleague or someone she’s worked with;
  • Referral marketing – Sylvia has formed a partnership with another coach and they refer clients to each other if their skill sets cross over;

Transitioning from 1-To-1 Coaching to 1-To-Many

Sylvia said she realized this year there’s one bottleneck in her business – her time. There are only so many 1-on-1 coaching sessions she can fit into her schedule. She’s also aware that some people may not be able to afford the 1-on-1 coaching or have the time to do it.

For these reasons, she put together an online course. It includes information from her book, along with the things she would work on with someone in a coaching session.

If you’re interested, you can sign up for the course here: SMIFinancialCoaching.com/finances101.

What Are the Biggest Financial Mistakes You Commonly See Small Businesses Making?

Sylvia shared a couple of the common financial mistakes she finds small businesses making, these are:

Not discounting properly – It’s common for businesses to discount products to get their name and products out there. But Sylvia said when she runs through the numbers with the business owners, she frequently finds they are over discounting and either giving their stuff away for free or making a loss.

Not investing in an accounting tool – Sylvia said every small business should invest in accounting software. She often works with businesses that either think they can’t afford accounting software, or are paying for one and not using it properly. She said it’s a necessary expense and recommends Freshbooks to her clients.

Sylvia’s #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation

Build a signature presentation.”



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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

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