Q: I hope to combine 10 years of college teaching experience in the areas of interpersonal skills and communications with my interest in training to move into the field of image consulting. I am comfortable with my credentials and previous experience but lack direction and information on the best way to market my consulting services nationally. I would appreciate any suggestions and guidance you can offer.
A: Before attempting to market your services nationally, polish your material and presentation on a local level. Just like the comedians who work their way up to the late night shows, people in training and development need to build their “acts” before they break into the big time.
Starting a service business is relatively inexpensive, but you will need to spend money on business cards, letterhead and a website. If you plan to work with individual clients, you’ll probably prefer seeing them in an office rather than in your home. Some executive suites offer office and conference space, Wi-Fi, and mail collection for one overall fee per month. As an image consultant, you must present yourself as someone who understands the importance of looking professional in a business environment and online. Creating this image is a critical part of your marketing plan.
Generally, your resume will suffice in lieu of a brochure at the beginning. Wait to develop your marketing literature until you have a solid idea of the programs and services basic to your business. These often change dramatically in the first year, rendering obsolete your expensive brochures describing untested programs.
Every business should have a website, which has the potential to build your credibility and visibility around the world. Few people have the knowledge of search engine optimization, programming and graphic design to develop a website themselves. Working with a recommended pro will cost money, but so do those Dana Buchman outfits you wear to impress potential clients. They are both investments in building your image.
Also develop a following on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and consider blogging. Update your comments at least once per week. Set up links with other websites or blogs you and your readers will find useful.
To mix with other career communicators and trainers, consider joining the International Association of Business Communicators, Women in Communications, the American Society for Training and Development or your local professional speakers association. Their members may become clients or colleagues who can provide you with business contacts.
Develop several “meaty” speeches to present at monthly meetings of professional organizations. Ask someone to recommend you. Contact your library or Chamber of Commerce for names of groups in your target audience. Send letters to their presidents or program chairs; they are always looking for good speakers. For best results, follow up by phone. Your personal contact undoubtedly will be more effective than a letter alone. Be prepared to speak for free at the beginning, until your reputation commands a fee.
Put together an adult education program that colleges and universities can offer in their continuing education catalogs. Usually they have many excellent seminars taught by real-world consultants who appreciate the increased visibility. Your former college would be an excellent candidate for your first non-credit course in person or online.
Writing a column about image and how to improve it can also build your audience. Using your own blog or making comments on well-known websites and blogs would be good places to start. If you take this approach, write regularly to build your audience. While it may be difficult to get space in a large daily newspaper, weekly papers and tabloids often need good copy.
Once you’re established locally, contact the American Management Association, the American Institute of Banking or the traveling continuing education branches of universities to serve on their part-time consulting faculty. They will advertise your courses and possibly send you around the country to teach.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.