Something all new consultants worry about is the competition – it can feel a bit intimidating being a new entrant into the local marketplace where there are already established HR consultants, as well as possibly competing against big national providers. Being part of an established consultancy like face2faceHR can help, but it’s still something newcomers worry about.
But just because someone has been around a bit longer than you doesn’t mean they’re getting everything right – they’re probably not! And through 14 years of doing research about local competition in the different areas we’ve launched consultants (something we do with them before they launch), we see lots of areas of differentiation, and also some key mistakes over and over again.
The biggest one we come across is trying to appeal to everyone under the sun. We see websites that perhaps look great, but when you read the text, the consultant in question is often being deliberately vague with their wording, so as to not exclude client groups, and sometimes even specifically saying they work with all businesses, big and small, and can do anything and everything.
But whilst we can understand the impulse to do that – it feels like excluding potential clients might be the wrong thing to do as you really need whatever work comes your way, especially at the beginning – it’s actually a big mistake.
Put yourself in the position of the potential client. If you were buying a service of some description, you’d want the best person for the task you had. If you needed a plumber, you’d prefer to have a tradesperson specialising in plumbing, rather than a general tradesperson who can do a bit of plumbing, and ideally specialising in exactly the plumbing you need – putting in a domestic bathroom, for example. Of course you would – why pay the same hourly rate for someone who doesn’t spend all their time specialising in exactly what you need? Honing their skills and experience in the same environment, with similar customers.
The same applies to HR consultancy – if you specialise in, say, small businesses (although this applies to whatever you do, your specialism may be something else), you have specific skills and knowledge that appeal to small business owners. Which means your website and other marketing activities may not appeal to anyone and everyone, but will really appeal to those clients you actually want.
Similarly, you may have skills and experience of HR activities that are simply not things you’ll ever need for your potential clients. Don’t emphasise those, however proud you are of them. Instead use the space on your website, and in your social media, when you’re out networking, and in fact every time you say anything about what you do, to emphasise the really relevant things you’ve done.
Talk the language of your potential clients, and don’t worry about trying to appeal to the rest. They probably won’t work with you any way. But if you hone whatever you do and say to talk specifically about and to your perfect client, it’s far more likely to catch their attention. If they see a social media post about performance management, it might pass them by. But if they see one about performance management in micro businesses with xyz specific problem, which they share, that will catch their eye.
You can take it even further, and consider specialising in sectors, or narrowing your focus completely, and it can really work well. But even if you don’t do that, the number one mistake we see is people trying to appeal to everyone – don’t do that and you’re giving yourself a headstart before you even launch.
If you’re an HR professional looking to start your own consultancy and don’t want to make the same mistakes some of your competitors are making right now, do get in touch.