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The Plight of the Independent Practitioner

Date Published: December 18, 2015
Being an independent analyst/consultant or private practitioner has its perks, doesn’t it? No staff meetings, no production quota (sort of anyway), no having to toe the company line or dealing with research directors who don’t see things your way or getting drafted to pitch in on a project that you know is a Charlie Foxtrot but has to turn out well anyway. Write about what you want, go to the shows and conferences that you want and no need to deal with company politics.
But it’s hard to be the content person as well as everything else your business needs. You can probably outsource the web site to a good developer and QuickBooks is a great tool that your accountant can host for you (nominal fee of course). Editing is available if you are willing to pay a fee and getting your reports looking nice can be done through a template that makes your business look professional. Clients will still hold you to a reasonably high standard but no one expects Forrester level branding.
All good, right?
Marketing and selling yourself is a whole other matter. It is an awkward thing to produce analytical content and then turn around and try and market and sell it to companies. You have to deal with CRM, creating an effective series of email campaigns, following up on leads that come in, developing and sticking to a content strategy that promotes the brand and then there is the account management side of it.
  • When you engage with companies, what are you calling them for today? Are you collecting info or are you looking to buy?
  • That webinar you want to do to get your name out there and expand your practice? Who is getting the registrations you need for the event to be considered a success? Who is going to follow up with all of them?
  • How are you marketing your content? What social media channels are you using?

My experience has been that analysts analyze, write and forecast. They engage with companies and talk to the media. They produce content. When they are not producing content, they are looking at information to broaden their knowledge. They are not sales and marketing types and even with a natural flair for some of the practices, they have to choose between being an analyst or someone in the revenue generation side of things. There ain’t enough hours in the day to be both.

Having an in-house sales and marketing department often isn’t practical for solo practitioners. The cost can be substantial and having to manage it can be the extremely time consuming. Junior level people need a lot of hand holding, senior level people command bigger salaries.

And just how much can you produce to keep everyone busy and the cash flow coming in?

The good news is that there are ways to overcome this.

  • Organization is everything. Without this, you are done and nothing else matters
  • Outsourcing can work if you know what key activities you want to have happening in and around your business. Find someone who has worked in your industry and bring them into your business for a fraction of the cost of hiring your own staff. Make the compensation tied to what they do for your business.
  • Commit to some basic marketing and activities and put them on par with eating, sleeping and coffee.
  • Find people that will accept your content in some form and promote it for you. Editors need content, you need promotion. Fair trade and one of the best ROT (return on time) you can find.
  • Get socially active in a business way. If you can keep your name out there people will come to you or at least follow you somewhere which is a major part of the battle. Don’t just say hey, follow me on Twitter. Get involved with LinkedIn groups, trade groups, industry forums etc,
  • Give away free stuff when you can. Automate your web site so people can access archives and samples, they give a name, company and email, they can read your premium content.

There are a number of other things you can do to make your solo practice succeed.