The consultant industry is incredibly competitive. You have to contend with other consultants, marketing agencies, and various organizations. So what can you do to stand out and come across as credible?
Brian Honigman, a marketing consultant based in Philadelphia, recommends gaining experience in a variety of marketing sectors to increase your credibility.
Brian has taught as an adjunct professor at multiple universities and also works with technology companies, media brands, and NGOs to earn them meaningful results with digital marketing, social media, and content marketing.
In this episode, Brian chatted with us about the importance of diversifying your clients, how to follow trends, and why you shouldn’t overload your work schedule.
- Increase your credibility
- Diversify your work
- Don’t stay in your bubble
- Be an innovator
- Find a balance
- Cut through the noise
- Define customer personas
- Don’t burn out
- Be efficient with your time
- Avoid comparison
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10:13 – Increase your credibility
The consultant industry is incredibly competitive. If you want to stand out, you have to get experience that increases your credibility.
“As a consultant, you’re competing for attention amongst numerous other consultants in the market, other agencies, all different kinds of organizations and individuals that can help people with marketing. What can you do to stand out and come across as credible? So, honestly, that was my initial thinking to go into the teaching space. So, the first university that I taught at in a consistent manner, I did a lot of guest lecturing at different universities leading up to this. But that was my initial drive was to, ‘Okay, I want to teach in a university classroom to add that level of credibility.’ So, when I’m having a call with a client, I’m not just, I’m showing versus telling. I’m not just saying I’m great at this skill set. I have different proof points from credible third-party institutions saying that I know my stuff.”
11:12 – Diversify your work
Working with students has a different impact than working with companies. Diversity in your clientele is vital to keep you on your toes.
“I learned quite quickly, beyond my own self-serving interest for my business, that it’s certainly a more gratifying experience to help the individual get from point A to point B than it is to help a company to get from point A to point B. I love being paid. I love seeing success for my clients and achieving their goals within their budget and doing it in a quicker period of time. But it just, quite frankly, doesn’t compare to helping the individual in the classroom figure out that concept for the first time and watching that click in real-time, whether I’m in the classroom setting, in-person, virtually, or I do, like I mentioned, coaching. When you find that breakthrough with an individual, it just helps you feel like your work is a lot more important. So that always feels nice. It helps you sleep more at night, and then another self-serving thing is it’s a nice diversity to my schedule in the sense of I’m not just only working with clients in a consulting capacity. The higher education learning space is a very different sector, a different experience. So I like to diversify what I’m doing with my day. And also, where is the revenue coming from? I’m not relying on any one stream of revenue at a time.”
13:55 – Don’t stay in your bubble
It’s easy to get siloed and feel forced to follow trends. But don’t be afraid to step outside of the marketing bubble and try something new.
“Sometimes as marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in our own little bubble and silo and be like, ‘Okay, everybody’s doing this. So we all have to follow that trend.’ I think going back to teaching that’s something that’s another benefit for me as a marketer is learning from a different generation of folks accessing marketing for the first time or leveling up their marketing capabilities. Teaching a subject matter helps you learn it to the next degree. It helps me get out of the ivory tower of like, ‘Oh, I think I know all this stuff about marketing,’ whereas a student will come to you and say, ‘Well, what about this? That makes no sense,’ or come from an angle you hadn’t thought of. So that’s been quite helpful in my own career, but I think it’s important to be mindful of trends in marketing but not to say, ‘Okay, this works for the three big companies that everyone hears of. Let’s just copy and paste.’ It’s quickly assessing, does that trend actually matter to us? And if so, how do we apply it to our unique customer base? Because who Coca-Cola reaches is really different than who the World Wildlife Fund is trying to reach. And if they both try to do the same exact thing, that’s okay. It just has to be with all their own considerations in mind.”
15:15 – Be an innovator
Trends are great, but they aren’t the end-all-be-all. It’s important to innovate and try new things instead of just following the crowd.
“Trends are great, but think of them as an entryway or a starting point into doing something impactful with marketing. Trends are great because there’s less risk given that, ‘Okay. A couple of other organizations have found success here. They’ve trailblazed for us. We can adopt there and be safe.’ But there’s so much opportunity in marketing, in exploring niches or tactics or channels as that, I hate the word thought leadership at this point, but being an innovator or trying out something new for yourself first as an organization, despite there being a best practices manual or some other big brand that’s already done it first. There’s a lot of findings there. Two, to be thinking about as a marketer, make sure that you get outside of your own little silo. Also though there’s limited time for many small businesses, small to mid-size businesses, to do that level of experimentation. So that’s why many of us fall back on best practices because there’s less room for error.”
27:22 – Find a balance
Following trends helps you gain popularity, but you have to strike a balance between old and new. When it comes to trends, you have to put your own spin on them.
“The way I think of it is kind of what I touched on before is you’ve got to find the nice balance of what are the trends and how can we align to them and apply them to our own unique approach as an organization, whether we sell shoes or are a nonprofit helping fight world hunger, how do we apply XYZ trend? Like, for example, on TikTok, one of the big things there are all the different challenges and trends they have there. And one way to gain visibility is to creatively participate in that trend as it relates to your organization. So that’s a very specific example, but that’s always a great starting point to bring yourself into existing conversations happening on different places online with marketing goals in mind. And then the other area is experimenting with things off the beaten path, trying new channels out for the first time, trying uncommon approaches to existing channels.”
30:03 – Cut through the noise
If you work with different companies in a variety of channels, it helps you stay connected instead of getting siloed by one way of thinking.
“I work in the marketing space primarily in digital marketing, content marketing, and social media. In terms of the clients I work with, media brands, tech companies, and nonprofits. The lessons learned across those different sectors have been so valuable to my clients, to my own work, and it’s so easy as we were talking about before as marketers to get siloed in what’s happening in your industry. We just take the time to look outside of the sector and see, ‘Okay. As a nonprofit, I should be looking at what some brands are doing and see how I can apply it to my own scenario.’ And that’s something that I uniquely bring to a lot of the projects I work on, and it’s been really beneficial in many scenarios. And this is the value almost similarly to an agency brings, they work with all different clients, and it’s couple different sectors, and they know the channel and how to apply that channel or tactic to a lot of different use cases and nuances.”
31:51 – Define customer personas
If you have different customer personas, it’s easier to market to your audience and also helps your team stay on the same page.
“I worked with a big tech company last year that’s pretty good at marketing already. And one thing that they did quite well is very succinctly defined different personas for the customers that they’re going after. And they really built that alignment internally so that they’re not only super aware of the three to four types of personas they’re going after in all their marketing campaigns so they can better personalize their efforts and hopefully get better results by doing so, but they also really did a great job of building internal culture in the marketing team around using the different personas, speaking them, and when we were talking about a campaign, referencing them by name and really bringing it into their day to day work. Because they’re more likely to succeed with it externally if we’re all on the same page internally as a marketing unit. And in working with a nonprofit this year, I’ve really tried my best to instill those lessons there, and surely multiple nonprofits have created different personas for their donors, but I was doing it for the first time as a first exercise and really stressing the external use and internal use so that we’re all talking the same language and focusing on the same priorities, has already been quite beneficial for this particular nonprofit and in executing on this for the first time, thinking of their donor base in a strategic manner in this capacity.”
41:48 – Don’t burn out
Overload leads to burnout, so be careful how much you put on your plate. It’s better to focus on a few things and do them well than stretch yourself too thin.
“There’s been times where I’ve burned myself out working on so many different things, and even when I’m trying to be super strategic with my schedule and whatever, and it still falls apart at times. And even if it’s the most exciting project, if you’re rushing around and you’re spread too thin, then it doesn’t become exciting anymore. It just becomes something you have to get done. And in order for me to show up and be the best person, professional, marketer for anything I’m working on, I need to be energized, fulfilled. I need to have energy, anything at excess, including, anything at excess can quickly become not so fun, it can become a burden, not responsibility, and not this privilege that you’re excited to work on something. So that’s something I’m always really, really focused on. I want to continue to do projects that are exciting. I can make an impact at that organization or for that individual.”
45:47 – Be efficient with your time
Diverse revenue sources create more financial stability. One way to diversify is through teaching online courses, which can be prerecorded and used again.
“The term passive income has been taken over by the most annoying people ever, but basically what are ways that I can package the knowledge that I’m giving in an individual coaching session, in the classroom, in consulting calls, or whatever that I don’t necessarily need to be there every time. Luckily for me, one of the ways to do that is through doing online courses where you can put up all the work up front, create this great product that teaches someone, teaches students on a particular subject matter, and then it’s live. And hopefully, it gets participants and that’s a revenue source. Of course, there’s ongoing updates to make over time, which is important to make sure everything stays fresh, especially in marketing. So it’s not just this shortcut by any means, but self-paced online courses, that’s been a really helpful way of generating revenue that doesn’t require me, Brian Honigman, to be there every time.”
54:59 – Avoid comparison
Don’t believe everything you see on social media. It’s easy to compare our everyday lives with other people’s highlight reels, but those don’t show reality.
“I try to be more authentic on social media sometimes. And then other times I just don’t feel like sharing the process or I don’t have the urge to share the messy part. I just want to show the win. It’s not engaging for me personally to share the buildup, and that’s okay too. But I just think not getting caught up that everyone’s at this higher level and the comparison game. I think in business and in marketing, it takes a lot of time to get even small wins. And it’s important to remember that we’re just seeing the glamor shots of all different points. I feel like my LinkedIn surely at certain points to someone potentially starting off in marketing might be like, ‘Wow, how do I get to this point? Or how I duplicate success?’ This took me, I’m almost at 10 years in my own business. And there’s a lot of work, failures, switches, career switches in the meantime to get to this point. And I’m really proud of myself, of where I’m at, but it took a lot to get here. So I think overnight success isn’t real unless you’re a billionaire.”