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5 Best Tools to Grow a Consulting Business

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

Consultant with several years of experience in advisory, finance, and marketing for international businesses.

written by

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

Starting or working for a consulting business is quite an obvious choice for those of us without a strong programming background and appreciating the nature of everyday interaction with other people. Advisory is also something we love doing in SoftwareSupp.

If you’re a soft skill person, you probably like spending time with your clients and helping them in their business, problem-solving or sometimes more complicated stuff like selling shares in their venture.

After all, consulting is about knowledge, but most importantly, about the way we communicate our experiences and beliefs to the other person.

Advisory is all about connecting knowledge and relationship but…

Talking, maintaining contact, establishing relationships is pretty much 50% of your work, so it’s not possible to automate it and lucky enough advisory will most probably never be replaced by some AI engine as it will never substitute the relationship and trust which are crucial in the client-advisor relationship.

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions” Peter Drucker, pioneer in management education

There are, however, ways of facilitating the way you manage your relationships, contacts, and communication.

You can increase the effectiveness of your daily consultant’s job using different types of apps which will support you in tasks like organizing your pipeline of potential clients, increase the number of leads you can handle at once, communicate and manage the time you spend on particular projects or monitor opinions about your brand on the internet.

1. Manage your leads in one place using a CRM system

If you run or work for a larger advisory organization, you are probably familiar with advanced tailor-made CRM systems.

Sometimes, they work fine enough, but more often, I hear from the consultants: “We already have a CRM system but we’re not using 80% of its functionality” and most often I hear from employees “Oh no, I have to fill out this CRM information again”.

So what’s the point of spending thousands of dollars on a tailored system which is 80% useless or is just an annoying element in the everyday job?

Simple and truly useful CRM for consulting businesses — Pipedrive

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Pipedrive — simply visualized pipeline of deals/leads

A CRM is supposed to help you and support you in your everyday tasks and not distract you.

And this is exactly what Pipedrive does at its very core nature. The main view of Pipedrive is a structured pipeline of deals, which can be configured depending on your needs (e.g. for sales pipeline: lead-> contact made -> meeting -> negotiations, or for M&A process: long list -> short-list -> teaser -> memorandum -> due diligence -> SPA negotiations).

“Pipedrive CRM is both reasonably priced and one of the easiest CRM services there is to set up and understand.” Rob Marvin, PCMag editor

The most useful things about Pipedrive you will find in your advisory business are:

1. Seeing and managing all your deals in one place in a visual way
2. Integration with your email, enabling you to send emails to clients directly from your CRM
3. Planning activities to be performed for each client
4. Statistics (what % of deals go through particular pipeline stages)
5. A mobile app giving you access to information, history, and notes of each contact or client anywhere you are

Pipedrive is designed to help and not distract, and you will most likely find yourself using it because “you want to” rather then “you have to”.

2. Track time spent on projects and handle hourly customer billing with time tracking app

In advisory or consulting business, there are 3 most common business models:

-Hourly rate
-Monthly retainer
-Success fee

No matter which of the above is the basis for your billing, it’s quite an important thing to know how much time you or your team spend on particular projects.

If your team spends 50% time on the project which provides you with only 10% of monthly revenue, it might be worth to consider how you manage your resources’ allocation or how you bill your clients.

If you charge per hour, you don’t want to run excel spreadsheet for each employee. Instead, use an app to monitor the time spent on projects and issue invoices to your clients directly from the application’s interface.

User-friendly app for monitoring time spent on projects — TimeCamp

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Timecamp — track and manage time spent on projects/clients

TimeCamp is an online time tracking app which lets you report time spent on particular tasks or projects.

You can mark your activities as billable/non-billable which comes in very handy for hourly-rate billing model.

The main difference between TimeCamp and standard time tracking app in your phone is that it’s an integrated solution for all your employees, letting you generate reports for work time per individual, but also for your whole company. This means you can get a detailed but also a general outlook on how effectively you use your resources.

The most useful features of TimeCamp for your advisory business are:

1. Generating reports which project takes the most time for your employees
2. Issuing invoices based on hours you spend on clients
3. Quick time reporting on the go with a mobile application

3. Remind your customers of yourself with email marketing

Most consulting businesses I’ve talked to are not really keen on email marketing. When you interact with your clients, you have to be professional, diligent and adjust to your customers’ needs.

As a result, some consultants perceive email marketing as a little bit too pushy and don’t want to send weekly or monthly newsletters to their clients’ base.

This way of thinking, however, is driven by our misleading perception of email marketing associated with spammy newsletters full of unwanted promotions and silly information. But the way you do email marketing can be completely different.

You can provide your customers or ex-customers valuable information at the same time reminding them about your brand so that when they’re looking for advisory services, they already know who has the best knowledge and can help them in the process.

Why not send all your customers a link to the interesting article with your opinion on this or an information about some new regulation introduced which might impact their business?

“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches — at scale.” David Newman, marketing expert

Drip — an app to manage your email marketing

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Drip — see who likes your emails and can become your client

With Drip, you can design your email campaigns simply by dragging, dropping and customizing particular elements, as if you would do on PowerPoint.

So your newsletters can match the style of your consulting business, no matter whether it’s the colorful one or more serious and professional.

It also lets you store the information about your subscribers, divide them into groups (e.g. by industry) and update the email database automatically from your CRM system (like Pipedrive).

With Drip, you can also automate your email campaigns with the simple visualization of the email sending process, e.g. if the recipient clicks the link included in the email, next week an automatic email is sent with more information about your services.

The most useful features of Drip for your advisory business are:

1. Ability to design your emails depending on the style of your organization
2. Automatic upload of email addresses from your CRM system
3.Tracking who opens/clicks your emails so that you know who might be interested in your services

4. Structure and manage your projects using project management apps

Sometimes the flow of your project is quite simple and there is not too much to worry about, especially if you’re the only person running the project. The problems appear as soon as you start to provide more complex services, manage a few clients at a time or operate in a larger team.

Then, it becomes quite challenging to manage everything at once. There is, however, a lot of room for improving efficiency within your organization with the apps which can help you manage the ongoing projects.

For example, the list of potential investors does not need to be managed by sending the excel spreadsheet back and forth. You can structure it using the project management app and share it with your team, collaborating on the list in real-time.

-> See our video how to manage the list of investors using Monday.com

Monday — a project management app to manage your advisory projects

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Monday.com — manage the project’s flow or the list of investors

Monday.com is quite an interesting app to help you manage your projects and the way it works turns out to be especially useful for consulting businesses.

With Monday.com, you can set different tasks and easily set their status. So e.g. you can do very overall project management for your clients (e.g. for M&A advisory: Teaser -> NDA -> Info Memo -> due diligence -> SPA) but you can also create separate boards for each client going pretty much into project’s details, e.g. managing the list of your potential investors.

The most useful features of Monday.com for your advisory business are:

1.Collaborating on projects/lists with your team members in real time

2.Exporting the data to excel to send visual updates to your clients

3.Customizing the structure of each project depending on its characteristics

5. Monitor the reputation of your brand using brand monitoring app

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” Warren Buffet

Reputation is a key to successful consulting business. One happy customer can do wonders for your future clients’ pipeline but similarly, one unsatisfied customer can ruin your reputation and make sure you don’t get more contracts.

In today’s online world it becomes crucial to monitor your brand’s reputation on the internet and handle any crisis quickly.

This is quite difficult to handle by only typing the name of your brand in Google but it is much easier with brand monitoring apps which can help you receive instant updates about your brand mentions on the internet or in any social media.

Brand24 — a brand monitoring app to monitor what people say about your brand

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Brand24 — know when somebody says good or bad about your brand on the internet

With Brand24, you can observe specific keywords on the internet and get notifications about any new mentions. So for example, the app can notify you about a person recommending your company on Facebook or blog which lets you connect with this person and show your appreciation.

Similarly, when somebody complains about your services, you’ll be able to react quickly, solving any problem. Something really worth to consider in the relation and reputation-driven advisory business.

The most useful features of Brand24 for your consulting business are:

1. Monitoring any mentions about your brand on the internet/social media
2. Analyzing the overall level of popularity of your brand on the internet
3. Seeing and monitoring the activity of your competitors

Focus on what really matters and automate the routine tasks

The way you work with your clients, the quality and relevance of your recommendations is your unique selling proposition. Focus on becoming better and better in what really matters and automate any other repetitive tasks.

Sending automated emails every few days might not the best option but structuring the way you work and communicate with your clients, using the above apps will make you more effective, will likely save your time and money and your clients will love you for your increased focus on what really matters for them.

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written by

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

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