Whether you're starting a consultancy business for the first time or you're already an experienced professional, you need to be at the top of your game to win and retain contracts in today’s fast-paced business landscape.
Today, the expectations for consultants to be organized and efficient are incredibly high, so you'll need to stay meticulously prepared and keep in constant communication with your clients.
To grow your business effectively, you'll need to solve problems, reduce errors, and automate as many manual tasks as possible — and to do those things, you'll need the right set of tools.
Today, we'll look at several categories of tools that can help you produce consistent, high-quality work and generate more business for your consulting company.
Here are the 4 categories we'll discuss:
- Tools to manage client relationships
- Project management tools
- Tools to enhance branding and marketing
- Communication and networking tools
Tools to Manage Client Relationships
Successfully managing relationships with your consulting clients is crucial and will play a pivotal role in the success and sustainability of your business. Without solid and lasting relationships, your chances of getting repeat work or lucrative long-term contracts will be significantly reduced.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are designed to help manage and analyze customer interactions and data in order to improve relationships and ultimately generate more revenue. Virtually all the major CRM providers offer the following functions that can be invaluable for a business owner:
- Contact management, including customer details and communication history.
- Lead management to track and manage potential clients and convert them into consulting partners.
- Sales automation, such as follow-up reminders and opportunity tracking.
- Customer service tools to log and manage issues and support requests.
- Marketing automation systems to create marketing campaigns and track their effectiveness.
- Analytics and reporting to gain valuable insights into clients for better decision-making.
Here are some of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) systems:
- Salesforce is one of the most widely used CRMs and offers a range of highly customizable features to meet the specific needs of different businesses.
- The HubSpot CRM solution integrates with the company’s suite of powerful marketing and sales tools. The platform is known for its user-friendly dashboard and easy integration.
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 suite provides CRM tools but also resource planning and other business applications.
- Zoho CRM is reasonably priced, feature-rich, and integrates well with the company's broader suite of email and productivity tools.
- Freshworks business software offers various customer engagement solutions and also includes AI tools to help with sales, marketing, and support.
- Nimble is a CRM known for its simplicity and social features. The platform helps small business owners manage contacts, engage with customers, and track interactions.
When choosing a CRM, it's essential to consider your specific needs as a consultant, as many solutions (like Microsoft Dynamics 365) are geared toward larger retail companies and corporations.
Check user reviews and take advantage of free trials or demos to see which CRM system aligns best with your requirements, and then carefully consider if it suits your budget.
Project Management Tools
Several project management tools can be beneficial for consultants. The choice of platform depends on your specific needs and preferences, and those of your client, who may prefer to integrate you into their existing solution.
With that being said, the following cloud-based project management tools are among the most popular:
All the tools mentioned above offer a similar task management and collaboration experience. Many corporations opt for more elaborate and customizable platforms such as Jira, Microsoft Project, or Asana. Meanwhile, services like Clickup, Basecamp, and Monday.com are ideal for consultants working on smaller projects.
Tools to Enhance Branding and Marketing
It goes without saying that marketing and branding skills are vital for consultants, as without them, it will be extremely difficult to attract new clients outside word-of-mouth recommendations.
Here are a few tools that will make your marketing and branding efforts easier:
Social Media Marketing
Outside the main social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter (X), and Facebook, consultants should definitely try out tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, which allow you to schedule posts, track mentions, and manage multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard.
Driving traffic to your website to capture consulting leads simply isn't enough nowadays. To convert cold or warm leads into future clients, you’ll have to nurture them, which is where email marketing software comes in.
Solutions like Mailchimp and GetResponse let you create pre-designed email templates, segment your audience into different mailing lists, set up automated drip campaigns, and learn more about your leads using reporting and analytics.
Messenger marketing is a relatively new tool that is proving very effective at all stages of the sales funnel, answering various pain points, scheduling follow-up calls, and much more. ChatBots can provide polite and thorough responses at any time of day.
At the same time, the rapid development of AI means that many solutions are incredibly human-like and capable of imitating actual conversions.
Here are some of the best AI tools and message platforms that support Chatbots:
Sure, you could recruit a freelancer on Upwork or Fiverr to help you design a logo, website, and even create content. However, there are plenty of tools available for creative consultants who'd prefer to create a unique brand for themselves:
- Canva is a user-friendly yet powerful graphic design tool with thousands of customizable templates for social media posts, presentations, posters, documents, and other visual content.
- Adobe Spark is an excellent tool for designing graphics, web pages, and even video stories.
- Squarespace might not be the most fully-featured website generator, but the service is very easy to use and offers a wide range of beautiful templates that would be ideal for a consulting business.
One final tip: It’s important to remember that your consulting brand doesn’t just exist online. For example, you can impress clients and attract new leads out in the real world by creating custom t-shirts, stationery, phone cases, luggage, and more using a print-on-demand service.
Communication and Networking Tools
Aside from the tools mentioned in the CRM section, a strong LinkedIn presence is essential for professional networking, connecting with potential clients, and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
We'd also highly recommend Eventbrite for discovering industry events, conferences, and networking opportunities.
Finally, if you want to take your communication and networking skills to the next level, you should definitely try out Mighty Networks — a hosted platform that lets you build an online community on your website.
The service offers features such as media posts, online courses and virtual events, personalized activity feeds, live-streaming, messaging, and even paid mastermind groups.
As a consultant, you need to ensure the quality of your work remains high while effectively managing everything from client communication to project management, marketing, and branding.
With so many plates to keep spinning, knowing and using the right tools is essential for success.
Although using the tools on our list will require plenty of research and a steep learning curve, don't be disheartened. Starting a consulting business is still a fantastic and fulfilling career choice that allows you to remain in control of your employment life.