Size does matter sometimes (for consulting marketing channels)

Apparently, there are 27 people who don’t listen to the 2Bobs podcast.

So I feel compelled to help David and Blair out with my massive reach and mention their podcast here one more time this week.

Most recently, they had a tongue-in-cheek conversation about whether size matters

BLAIR ENNS: David, size matters.

DAVID C. BAKER: Oh, man.

BLAIR: Or does it?

DAVID: I am not going to answer that question.

I’ll just leave you with that teaser so that you go listen and get their download numbers up.

All kidding aside, they walk through some important considerations re: the advantages and disadvantages of increasing your firm’s volume of work, and by extension, headcount.

Things like:

  • How clients perceive your ability to fulfill their objectives
  • The quality of employee you can attract
  • The depth of specialized expertise you can build into your team
  • Whether you can “afford” to continue to do implementation work as you move up the value chain
  • How nimble you can be as the market changes

Now, they’re specifically referring to marketing firms, but the same type of thinking applies to the consulting world.

An interesting example of this from our study:

firm size matters marketing survey

This 50-person firm is acquiring clients through word of mouth, yes.

Which, by the way, tells us almost nothing about what they’re actually doing, as revealed in post-survey interviews…

I.e. “word of mouth” or “referrals” can mean anything from, “we sit on our butts and business appears out of thin air” to, “we host a local industry event that the top buyers come to every year and then relentlessly follow up and then call that word of mouth when we land business.”

But I digress.

This firm has also diversified their lead generation into content marketing, SEO, email marketing: the things one typically thinks about when we say “digital.”

And specifically what caught my eye is that they own some serious targeted organic search space with Google for some highly competitive keywords:

firm size matters marketing seo

Which is really only something that can be accomplished by either:

  1. A concerted effort on the part of a dedicated agency or an internal marketing team (a. la. significant marketing budget).
  2. A hella lot of work over a long period of time on the part of the consultants themselves… something likely to be done to the exclusion of a significant amount of client work and so unlikely to be the case.

Now regardless of how they did it, because those keywords align well with their horizontal specialization, I would venture a guess that they’re reaping significant rewards via inbound leads that don’t require either active pursuit or luck in order to generate.

But, this is not something likely to work without a prerequisite growth milestone having been achieved.

Takeaway: This is one strategy that may be reserved for only those firms that have reached a large enough size in order to dedicate meaningful marketing resources towards the channel. Something that would be inappropriate and detrimental for, say, a 5-person firm to pursue.

There are more approaches like this worth highlighting.

There are others that alternatively work well for a solo founder, but decay in effectiveness over time.

And there are others that scale equivalently from 1 to 1,000.

And this is what I hope our study can help firms sort out.

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