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a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

I'm Stacy Ennis,

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Episode 102 | How to run a profitable, scalable consulting business, with Michael Zipursky (replay)

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

As part of my summer podcast replay series, I’m excited to share this week’s episode with Michael Zipursky, CEO of Consulting Success®, a consulting business that specializes in helping entrepreneurial consultants grow profitable, scalable, and strategic businesses. We talk about Michael’s journey through multiple businesses and how he transitioned from burning the midnight oil to structuring his business in a way that supports a lifestyle of freedom. He shares what a healthy entrepreneurial work-life balance looks like for him and the mindset shifts necessary to achieve it. Hint: the key is to optimize our business and our lifestyle so we can start enjoying more of what we want today and not delaying it for the future.

Michael explains how authorhood impacted his business (Michael has published three books to date), as well as the four pillars of developing a highly profitable, scalable coaching business (the components of his Clarity Coaching program); content marketing; social media; and more.

This is a value-packed episode you don’t want to miss!

Get to know Michael:

Learn more about my Idea-to-Draft Accelerator and Author Mentorship program here.

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Transcripts for Episode 102

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Stacy: Welcome. I am so excited to be here today with Michael Zapursky. We are going to be talking all about business building, running a profitable, scalable consulting business, and also just how do you run a business that not only doesn’t hurt your life, but actually enriches your life? I’m so passionate about this and I’m really excited to have this conversation today. So before I welcome Michael officially, I want to read you his impressive bio. Michael Zapirsky is the CEO of Consulting Success, where they specialize in helping entrepreneurial consultants grow profitable, scalable and strategic consulting businesses. He has advised organizations like Financial Times, Dow Jones, RBC, and helped Panasonic launch new products into global markets. But more importantly, he’s helped over 800 consultants from around the world in over 75 industries add six and seven figures to their annual revenues. Over 43,000 consultants read his weekly consulting newsletter.

Michael, welcome.

Michael: Hey, Stacy, thanks so much for having me.

Stacy: I am really excited about this conversation and as I was thinking about you today and getting to talk with you, I wanted to hear more of your backstory and I was thinking about when I was a kid and what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew I wanted to be an author, but not most. I would say. Most people don’t say I want to be a consultant when I grow up. Right. It’s not necessarily something that as a kid you set as your life path. So I’m so curious to hear how you got onto this path of growing consultants. What led you here?

Michael: Well, I mean, I started off certainly not thinking about that at a young age. I want to be a zoologist. Then I wanted to be a professional baseball player. And I spent from my younger years until about the age of probably 16, sports was my life, like rugby, baseball, basketball, soccer, track and field. I became very competitive at and trained for that and thought I maybe would go to university for that. But shifting kind of the transition between high school and university was when my cousin Sam and I, who’s my co founder at Consulting Success, and we built and sold a few different companies over the years together. But we started our first business together at that time. It was called Fingertip Media. And Sam was really focused on the design and development side. I was more on the marketing communications client side. And so that was like the exposure to business.

My stepfather was also an entrepreneur. He was in the electronics business. And so I would go and help him at his store and just being exposed to all kinds of entrepreneurial challenges and that environment. But I also became very interested in the world of business when I was kind of at that stage of transitioning into university. And so I began reading a lot. And I was reading books on psychology and books on marketing and sales and advertising business development. And I thought maybe I’ll go overseas because even at that time I was very interested in the world. I had spent time growing up in the Middle East. I was growing up then later in Vancouver high school years, surrounded by people from Asia. I just was very fond about learning more about the traditions and the culture.


But around that time so I was very into books and reading. And I started to have conversations with different business owners. And I recognized very quickly that they had deep expertise in their area. As an example, lawyers or retail shop owners, but they didn’t have a lot of experience or around business development or marketing or lead generation or how to get customers in. And so while I didn’t have a lot of practical experience aside from running that first business, I recognized through the conversations that I was having that I had some additional knowledge beyond what they had. And that gave me an opportunity to start making suggestions or offering ideas. And as I actually started to see some of these people apply those ideas and the results that they got, I thought, you know what, we could probably build another business around this where we are really focused on helping entrepreneurs and business owners to generate more leads or to improve their marketing.

And so we ended up building multiple different consulting businesses over the years. And then fast forward to about 13 years ago. We started consulting Success just as a place to share what were learning as consultants, building companies and helping different companies around the world with others. Just hopefully helping them to avoid the common mistakes that were making. Sometimes gut wrenching mistakes that really had us questioning, like, are we cut out for this? But we also had some successes, and so we wanted to share the best of both worlds. And that just kind of took on a life of its own, where people said, hey, I’m really enjoying reading these articles that you guys are publishing. Do you have a course about how to become a successful consultant? And so we created one, and then people went through that and said, I’m getting great results from this.
Is there a way to work more closely with you? Do you have a coaching program? And we said, well, we’ll create one. And so we did. So we’ve really just been open to the feedback that we’ve received from people over the years. And here we are 13 years later, had thousands of people go through our trainings and workshops and as you mentioned, about 800 people coming through our Clarity coaching program. So it’s just been the world that we’ve immersed ourselves in, building our own consulting business and then helping others to build successful consulting businesses of their own.

Stacy: I love so many things about that story. Specifically, I love that books influenced your life trajectory. That makes me so happy and it makes sense, right? You mentioned that you have this interest in other cultures, and I think books are they expose you to so much, and you’re talking about marketing and business, and it just lets you immerse in this industry and this way of thinking. So love that. I also didn’t realize were business twins, because I’ve been in business for 13 years as well. So we started around the same time. And a lot of times, I know for anybody starting out, which is a lot of people listening right now, some are more seasoned in their business journeys, but some are starting out or they haven’t even started their businesses yet. They’re just a dream. It can be easy to look at somebody like you and say, wow, he’s so successful.

He must have just been special. He must have just had the right touch. But the truth is that your success has been over time. And the other thing that I think you do especially well is you have a balanced approach. So it hasn’t been this grow at all costs, especially the cost of my family, my relationships. I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about that philosophy in growing your own business and then also this concept of a long term vision, which I know you adjusted along the way, but it sounds like your vision remained the same, which was to support other consultants, to grow, to learn from your mistakes and wins.

Michael: Yeah, the first business we started was about 23 years ago. So I’ve been kind of in the business building mindset or creating companies for the last 23 years. But the last 13 years, I’ve been working specifically with consultants. And I can tell you that at the beginning of this journey, I certainly did not have the same approach to life that I have now. I remember kind of burning midnight oil, working very long days, working on the weekends. But my life was also different at that time. I didn’t have kids. I wasn’t married. My priorities, I just was focused on growing a business. And I think there is a place for that. There’s something to be said for working hard and working maybe more than you’d like to work. You’re figuring things out. And if you have dependence, you may not be able to do that in the same way, but if you don’t, it’s a great opportunity to just really try things.

But as I quote, unquote, matured and got to a stage in life where my girlfriend became my fiance, then became my wife, and then we had two daughters together, my priorities certainly shifted. And I remember Stacey, one experience specifically. So one of our consulting businesses, I went to Japan to open up a branch office for that company there. It was called Kanke culture. Kanke in Japanese means relationship. So Relationship Culture was the name of it was a branding and kind of marketing design consulting firm. And I remember meeting with one of my friends who was and still is a very successful CEO of a mid sized Japanese company, and he was traveling nonstop. He still travels nonstop, and he works so hard. He’s rarely present with his wife or his kids. And I remember asking him, I was like, why do you do this? Why do you travel so much?

You’re already very successful. Why not just take it easy a little bit more, spend more time with your family? He’s like, no, I’m doing this for my family. And it really made me think. I was like, so you’re doing that for your family, but you’re missing this time when your kids are young. It just seemed like the priorities were not aligned. And so that really made me think about how I view business and why I’m doing what I’m doing. And it really shifted my mindset from building a business that I have to make sacrifices within my lifestyle. So if you think of, like, a triangle, many people will put their business at the top of the triangle, and then they put their lifestyle at the bottom. And so they have to make these sacrifices within their lifestyle to support the business. And my belief is that it should be the other way around, which is that you should get very clear on what does success look like for you?

What is the lifestyle that you want to have, what’s important for you? And that goes at the apex of the triangle, and then below that, you put your business so that way you can structure your business in a way that it’ll support your lifestyle instead of the other way around. And so often I see people who have the best of intentions and they’re trying to grow and they’re thinking, I’m trying to work hard right now to create the freedom that I want and the lifestyle I want in the future. And I think the big opportunity, especially kind of once you got past that initial stage, if you’re just launching, you do need to work a little bit harder maybe than you’d like, or at least the faster that you work. And you can accelerate your progress, right, by kind of trying more stuff or working a little bit harder at those earlier stages.
But once you get past that point, I think there’s something to be said for instead of working so hard to create the future freedom that you want, why not structure your business so that you actually have the freedom that you want inside of the business? And then every moment that you spend inside of your business working, you actually are enjoying the freedom and the lifestyle that you want to have instead of trying to delay that kind of gratification or that lifestyle that you want for the future.

Stacy: Don’t you think that some of the reason that people don’t do that is fear based? I mean, I think we are so ingrained to believe it’s so ingrained in us that we should deplete ourselves and hustle and really like productivity. You’re Canadian, I’m American. But I feel like there’s a lot of alignment in this mindset of productivity is valued above all else. And it doesn’t feel very productive to take an extra day off a week or to take a family holiday or to rest just to simply rest with a book or watching your kids play in the backyard. And I think because it’s so ingrained when we break out of that. And I can speak from personal experience, I still remember and I’ve told this story on this podcast before, but pregnant, I think I was like eight months pregnant. I was going to MC an awards ceremony, but we needed help getting the awards ready because we didn’t have enough people.

And so it was like eleven on a Saturday night and I was sitting on the floor with my huge belly putting these trophies together and I just was sitting there and I’m like, why am I doing this? Why? What’s the point?

Michael: It’s kind of counterintuitive, right? So I think you hit on a really powerful word that pervades kind of into so many people’s minds. You have this idea of productivity, but productivity is actually not something that any of us should strive for because productivity at the highest level simply means that you’re busy doing stuff. But what people miss is that not everything, like not all the different things you’d be working on are equal in terms of their value. So if you’re going to work towards productivity, work towards 80 20 productivity, like where you identify what are the few things that actually have the biggest impact and create the value or help you to make the progress that you want and then get good at those things. But so often people are trying to just be more efficient or get more done. But the truth is, and any entrepreneur will have experienced this, that your list, like your to do list, never ends, right the moment that you cross off.

Yeah, exactly. It’s just ongoing. And so if you try and work really hard to complete your list, all you’ve done is just got to your next list faster. And so I think this is what most people are missing when they’re so focused on their list or being more productive or just getting more done. It’s not about how much you get done. It’s about are you getting the right things done? And you can’t get to that place unless you’ve first identified what are the right things inside of each one of our businesses or careers or even lives and personal relationships. There’s certain things that are going to create significantly more value or will have more value or have more meaning or more fulfillment. And if we get clear on what those things are, then we can figure out how do we just spend more time focused on those specific things.

And that’s what will create then significantly more fulfillment, more value, more progress. But it’s not just about getting more stuff done. It’s about getting more of the right stuff done 100%.

Stacy: And I think normally when people think of productivity, it’s getting more stuff done so I can get more stuff done, but really it should be getting more, better work done in less time so I can actually have space in my life, not fill it with more stuff.

Michael: Right, and also that people are so if you have the mindset that I want to try and get all this stuff done, this big list done, I want to really just kill it right now for the next X number of years so that I can have that future desired state, that freedom that I want. Because that’s what usually most people are working towards, it’s freedom. And they might call it I want to have X amount of money or buy these things. But it still kind of comes back typically to this concept of freedom. And so instead of just putting your head down and trying to grind for whatever period of time you have in mind to get to that point of freedom, why don’t you actually figure out what does freedom look like right now? How can I start to achieve? And maybe you can’t access or start living every part of that freedom kind of that you want, but there’s likely more that you could be doing today.

And so if you can figure out how to craft your business and your lifestyle so that you have a lot more of those elements of freedom in it today, then you can actually enjoy that journey a lot more. And you’ll typically, like, if you ask people about when you get to that stage, let’s say your goal is to make $100,000 a year or a million dollars a year, whatever it is, when people get to that stage, all they do is then raise the bar to that next level. Right. You’re never satisfied.


Stacy: I can attest to that.

Michael: Right? So if that’s the case, if we know that we’re on this never ending quest where we’re always going to raise the bar and raising the bar even when you get to that level that you thought, like, once I get there, I’m good, you’re typically not raising it just because you want more money or just because you want more growth. It’s because you want to challenge yourself, because you don’t feel like you just want to stop. But if you know that you’re on that never ending quest, then why not prioritize to just enjoy the journey, enjoy the process, because you’re going to be doing it forever. Right? Or until you decide that you’re done. And for most entrepreneurs, you’re never done. Right? So I think that’s the opportunity for all of us is to get clear on how can we optimize our businesses and optimize our lifestyles so that we can start enjoying more of what we want today and not delaying it for the future.

Stacy: Yeah. Oh, I love everything, all the things that you just said. And on a practical note, in my business, I’m experimenting with four day work weeks right now, and I firmly believe that constraints are your best friend because you are forced to make decisions about what actually is important and what isn’t. And do I delegate or do I get rid of this? And we’ll see. Like I said, I’m experimenting with a plan to continue indefinitely, but also giving myself that freedom to say, I’m going to try this and see how it goes. Already I’m so enjoying having a day that I can book appointments, like life stuff that used to feel disruptive to my week, but now I actually have a day that I know is open. It’s been really nice. Have you experimented with anything like that before?

Michael: Yeah. For me. Typically, Mondays and Fridays, I don’t book calls. I might do a podcast on a Monday, but in most cases for quite some time now. Fridays, I may come into the office, but I’m not really doing busy work. I’m spending more time thinking, planning, kind of doing strategy stuff, and then likewise on Mondays. So my Mondays and Fridays are very different and my core kind of work days, if you’ll call them that, are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So that’s what most people look and go, okay, oh, you’re doing work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. But for me, Monday and Friday I’m also doing work, but I’m just doing it in a different way. It’s where I’ve created more space for myself. And to your point, if I look at many successful people that I’ve had the opportunity of either working with or working for as consulting for them or in some kind of arrangement, many of them have structured their lifestyles and their businesses so they can take time off.

I remember one of my first clients back in the day that I consulted for, they actually ran a consulting company that had multiple offices in Canada and the US. And the owner of that company, he structured his business that he worked three weeks and then took one week off. So every month he was taking one week off, and he would be in Hawaii, he’d be in Mexico, he’d be know, just in different places. But he took one week off. And I said to, do you like, how do you do? Like, isn’t that bad for your business? You’re not making the progress that you could be making? He’s like, no, when I take that week off, first of all, I look forward to it. So I work harder during the three weeks that I have. But when I take that one week off, I am recharging.

I am being refreshed. So when I come back, I’m hitting the ground running, and I’m so much more capable and effective than I would be if I’m just delaying that holiday. Now, I’m not great at that. I’m certainly, in some ways, I could call myself I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I enjoy what I do. So I do work a fair bit, but I’ve definitely dialed back. So I’ll get into the office, depending on the day, usually closer to 930 10:00 a.m.. And then depending on the day, I might leave at 330 or four. But it’s because I want to spend time with my family. I used to work a lot on weekends. I don’t do that anymore, and I haven’t for quite some time. So I think it’s important for people to recognize that just because you might see what Stacy is doing or what I’m doing, doesn’t mean that’s you need to do right now.

You might be in a different kind of season of your life or business, and so you might approach things a little bit differently. But just know that. And this is what I truly love most about business, which is whatever you want to do, whatever you can imagine, you can likely create if you are committed to it. That’s why I think, Stacey, what you said about testing or trying that four day work week is such a great mindset to have, because if you don’t try it, how will you know? Right? So often people think like, oh, it’d be so nice to do this, but then they never try it. They just kind of think about it, and then they go on. And so allow yourself some flexibility and room to try things and see how they feel for you, see how they work for you. Because you likely can start experiencing the quote unquote success that you want in terms of your lifestyle and how you kind of think about things a lot sooner than you’re probably giving yourself the opportunity for.

Stacy: Yes, I think having that openness to try and also potentially fail and then try something else is so powerful. This has been such a great conversation, and I could continue on the lifestyle front for another hour, but I want to switch gears a bit because you help people grow their businesses. So I would be remiss if I did not ask some questions about that. But I want to start first off with something I’m really curious about. You’ve written three books, and I want to hear about why you wrote those, how those have impacted your business growth and how they integrate into how you run your business today. Because I know your first book, Consulting Success, is the name of your business. And I’m curious to hear about did the coaching program grow out of that? Did the book come after the coaching program? How has that influenced your growth and how to use that in your marketing and your client acquisition?

How does that all play together?

Michael: Yeah, the first book that I wrote and published as part of Consulting Success was actually private, meaning that we only sent it to clients. It was part of a course that we had many years ago. And then later on, we decided we could reach so many more people because people were getting great feedback about the book. Let’s make it accessible to more people. And so that’s where we decide to update it significantly and publish it. So we’ve done that now a few times. But every book that we’ve put out, it comes back to kind of our core values and beliefs, which is about education and about providing value to people. So first and foremost, that’s why I write books. That’s why we have a thousand blog posts on, or we put out YouTube videos, or we have our own Consulting Success podcast. Everything that we do is because we want to lead with giving value.

So rather than just trying to get something, we want to give as much as we can first. And we know that there will because we’ve heard from clients, people who have been reading our emails or reading our books or listening to the podcast or whatever it is for in some cases, years before they ever buy anything. And that’s okay. And some people never will buy anything. But we know that if we give value, we’re going to make the world a better place. We’re going to help people, and some of those people are going to go, you know what? Look what I’ve got here from this $20 book. Imagine what it would be like to work with this company to really help me take my consulting business to the next level. And so the books 100% do connect to business and kind of revenue and growth.

It’s hard to say this person read this book and then became a client just because of it. But we know the same. Like with our podcast, we know that it influences and that it helps people. Really, it helps to build a community. People are learning from our books, they’re learning from our podcast, from our videos, from our articles, the studies we publish, all that kind of stuff. And we just take a long term mindset around everything that we do, which is, again, giving value and knowing that when we do that and we do it consistently over and over again, that it’s going to support the growth of the business.

Stacy: It’s part of your ecosystem. Right? And I think a healthy ecosystem needs a lot of different parts playing together to be healthy. And I think as you think about, I’m sure you’ll probably write future books as well. They’re also hitting different stages, probably of your clients needs in your business. You mentioned that your book Act Now was written kind of during COVID when people needed that information right then. And I love that you’re focused on value because I also find sometimes that new authors, they almost have a scarcity mindset in writing their books. Like they’re afraid they’re going to give too much away or they’re going to share their secrets. But actually I don’t think that’s true in most cases because people that read a book and hopefully that book will contain the value that they need if they need further support, really usually an accountability or a system, that’s what you build separately, right?

So how have you approached that with writing your books?

Michael: In my mind, it’s not possible to give away too much.

Stacy: Agree.

Michael: And I would ask anyone out there who has that concern, look at those that you look up to, like who do you read, who do you feel is a figure that is successful? And most likely they have a book, right? Or mostly they have multiple books. And so there’s a reason that they’re doing it because it allows them to reach more people and they’re giving value. Now, what happens when somebody buys a book? Most people that buy a book will not read the whole book, right? They’re going to start it and at some point maybe they’ll just get even a chapter in or a few pages in. But just getting that book from you is credibility. It shows that you are quote unquote, like an authority and expert. But when people dive into your book, they’re likely going to have that feeling like, wow, I’m getting a lot of value from this person, clearly understands whatever the topic is about.

Michael: And so if that person has a need or wants to learn more, you’re going. To be the first person they turn to because you’ve demonstrated your expertise through that book. So the people that buy your book and try and implement everything in that book by themselves, number one, they may not be the people that actually buy from you because they’re the kind of person that tries to do everything themselves always. And they’re thinking about it more as a cost versus expense in terms of investing in working with you. So they wouldn’t be your clients anyways, most likely. And that’s okay. But some people will try to implement certain things and it won’t work out the way they want. And so they recognize, yeah, I do need this expert’s help, but there’s going to be the majority or a big portion of people that you actually do care about that are your true ideal clients.

And they’re going to have the mindset that, yeah, I’m too busy or I don’t have the time or the resources to try and figure this out myself. This person clearly understands this stuff. I should just turn to them. And so those are the people that your book, in my experience, are going to typically attract most, is that it’s almost like an appetizer at a restaurant. You taste and you go, this is really great, I can’t wait for what’s coming next.

Stacy: Yeah, such great points and really important to also think about that even the people that aren’t necessarily your customer, they may become an evangelist and tell more people if the book is well written and even the chapter, if they only read a chapter, if that is another content. So, so important to keep in mind. I want to talk a little bit about what you’ve outlined ahead of our discussion as some of the four steps to a highly profitable, scalable coaching business. And I know these are components of your Clarity coaching program that you guide consultants through. So can you walk us through those four steps?

Michael: Yeah, the four steps here are they could have applied to a coaching business, but they’re really for consultants and a consulting business. Just to clarify, here’s what happens. Right. Very often people will say, I want to grow my business. I need more leads to grow my business. And so they focus on marketing right away. They think they have a marketing problem. And what we see consistently is that, yes, they might have a marketing problem, but there’s a foundation. There’s kind of these four steps or four pillars that need to be in place in order for you to actually achieve the profitability and scalability and success that you want. So the first one is what we call ideal Client clarity. And so many challenges that people have stem from this. And this is a very hard part for many people to kind of define and make a decision around.

So ideal Client clarity is about who is your true dream ideal client. And this requires you to say, no to a lot of potential people that you might be able or maybe very capable of serving. But they’re not the ideal client. And the mistake that many people make is they go too broad. They say, I can serve this industry and this kind of person, this kind of person. I can work with small businesses. Well, what does that even mean? Right, so narrowing in on exactly who your ideal client is, that true dream client that you want to replicate, that’s going to be the most profitable, the one you can create the greatest results for, the ones you have the most access to. There’s a whole bunch of criteria and factors that we take kind of clients through in terms of the process. But the main thing is being specific.

The more specific you are about who your ideal client is, the more that everything else that you do will resonate with them. So the second kind of pillar is what we call magnetic messaging and it’s developing a message that will get the attention and interest of your ideal clients that when they hear it or read it, see it, they’re going to think like, wow, you’re speaking directly to me. Yes, I’d like to learn more. Right, tell me more about that. And so there’s a formula kind of around that in terms of making sure that in your messaging you speak to who is your ideal client so they feel like you’re talking to them. You address a problem that they’re having and a result that they want. But you also need to define why you right today more than ever before, there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of hype, a lot of false promises.

But ultimately, how can you position yourself with your messaging to begin with? Because that’s how you get the attention interest of your ideal clients. How can you position yourself that you have an advantage? Do you have an edge? Do you have something unique that is different about you, more memorable about you, so that people see you as being different than everybody else out there just calling themselves like a marketing consultant or a management consultant? So again, this comes back to if you are not crystal clear about who your ideal client is, it’s going to be very challenging for you to develop a message that gets the attention interest of your ideal client because it’ll be too broad and therefore it won’t resonate with anybody. And then, so when you have that magnetic message now you can apply it with confidence to your website, you can use it in conversations, you can put on your LinkedIn profile.

And this is where people will start to actually see that they are getting people, reaching out to them because people will see that or hear that and it’s just going to connect with them and resonate with them because it’s so specific and so on. Point. And that’s kind of like these two things are a big quote unquote secret to marketing and lead generation is that you can try all kinds of stuff from a marketing perspective. If you aren’t clear on who your ideal client is and you don’t have a message that’s really focused on them and covers kind of the right aspects of the formula, you’ll likely spin your wheels and not get the results that you want. So that’s pillar number one and number two. Pillar three is what we call strategic offers, or sometimes called optimized strategic offerings. And this really comes down to how do you package position, place value on, and price your services?

Most consultants become consultants when they already have a lot of skills and experience and knowledge. And so it can be a challenge to figure out, well, how do I take all of these years of experience and skills that I have and actually start to build offerings around them? What are going to be the right offerings and how do I want to offer them? So this is where you really want to start thinking about your business model and how do you want to engage with clients? Do you want to work with them one one? Do you want to work with a group? Do you want to work in person? Do you want to work online? Do you want to do focus more on volume, meaning more clients at lower price points or more on value? So higher price point, lower number of clients? Do you want customization?

Do you want productization? There’s a lot of different aspects to think through in terms of really optimizing your business model. But when you go through this process properly, what you end up having is an offering that really resonates with your ideal clients. It’s actually very easy to sell. So a lot of people are uncomfortable when they think about sales. And the reason you’re uncomfortable is because you’re typically trying to promote or push or persuade something that you’re not really that confident internally that people want. But when you understand who your ideal clients are and you’re having deep, meaningful conversations with them, it’s very easy to sell because you just simply offer them what you know they already want. And so then now you start seeing a lot of traction in your business and kind of baked into that is a thought process around the profitability and the scalability and making sure back to our kind of original conversation.

Stacy, that the offering that you are creating or offerings that you’re putting out there, that they actually, again support the lifestyle that you want to have. So you hear often like the consultant road warrior who’s traveling all around the world right away from their family. It doesn’t need to be that way. I mean, you literally can. There you are in Portugal. I’m in Vancouver right now, but I’ve spent a lot of time traveling with my family still running a business. And so this is something that we all have the opportunity to tap into. But we need to be clear on what does that success look like and then make sure that we have those strategic kind offerings and optimized business model in place. And then the fourth pillar and the final one here of the four is what we call the marketing engine. And so this is where you actually start to develop your marketing system to consistently attract ideal clients.

A lot of people start with that. They think, okay, I just need to work on my marketing. But if you don’t have these other three in place before it, you’re going to have a lot of challenges to get the kind of results and response that you want. And it’s really hard to scale a business and you’ll likely end up kind of one day going wow, okay, I’ve attracted maybe some business and some clients, but they’re actually not the kind of business or clients that I want and I’m not working in a way that I want to work. It doesn’t support my lifestyle, it’s not that profitable. And so if you get clear on all these things first, then when you dive into the marketing engine that your marketing can really start making progress and getting traction results quickly because it’s targeted to your specific type of ideal client and it takes into consideration all the other kind of pillars.

But the big thing with a marketing engine is that it’s not about the consulting landscape. So marketing to buyers of consulting services is very different than marketing to consumers. Right? People, the decisions that they’re making here are for thousands of, typically tens, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. And so it’s not just about like, hey, buy this great thing, jump on this webinar and sign up. It doesn’t happen that way. It typically requires having at least one meaningful conversation, if not multiple conversations. You need to build trust. There’s a whole bunch of factors that kind of go into that a buyer considers when they are thinking about moving forward and engaging you or not. But the marketing engine is all about, again, delivering value. It’s about, first of all, getting on the radar of your ideal client and then making sure that you show up in a way where they actually want to hear from you.

So it’s not just about automating and spamming a whole bunch of LinkedIn messages to people. It’s not about just driving people to a page and saying like sign up here and working them through your complex funnel. It really is about being very intentional and getting clear on a small group of dream clients that you want to serve and then crafting a campaign around that so that you are getting in front of these people consistently. They’re getting a lot of value from those interactions and they want to actually have a conversation with you, they view you as a trusted source or kind of a source of truth. And so when they have the need for what you’re offering, you’re the first person they think about. And then you start landing engagements or at least having a lot of conversations and building a robust pipeline based on.

Stacy: That work so much there, and I just want to recap for everyone listening. So he mentioned ideal client, magnetic message, strategic offers, and marketing engine. There’s a couple of things that really connected for me. One is so much of that connects to writing a book. And one of the things specifically that I was thinking about as you were talking, in the world of publishing, we say if you write to everyone, you write to no one. And it’s a similar idea. All of the things that you’re talking about, that clarity of your ideal client, so powerful. The other thing I wanted to point out, and this is I wouldn’t say it’s quite a tangent, but it’s connected to the marketing point you made. Before we started recording, were talking about social media, and you mentioned I’m not really on social media all that much or on Instagram because we’re specifically talking about Instagram.

But you have 43,000 people that get your newsletter every week. And so I think that also shows intentionality in where you’ve put your focus in your marketing, in not letting metrics that other people are valuing dictate your marketing strategy, but actually focusing on the thing that works for your specific business. Can you talk a little bit about that decision to focus on growing your email list and not worrying so much about certain platforms? I mean, Instagram maybe isn’t where as many of your potential clients are hanging out, but I’m curious about that in your marketing strategy for growing your list.

Michael: I Mean, I think a lot of it comes back to our values as a company and being clear on what those are. And so, again, we’ve structured the business and consistently work in the business in a way that it supports the lifestyle for all of us. I’m talking for our team. So I think one of our team members right now, she’s in France right now. We have Naomi, who’s going to Wine country next week. Saba is going to Spain, Portugal. A few other know, sam’s going to Japan at the end of this week. So all of us are clear about what’s important to us, and then we want to try and make sure that we live that inside of the company. So for me, while I see massive value in social media, and I know that if I was a lot more active on social media, our business would probably be even bigger, but I don’t enjoy it.

I sometimes look at social media, but I’m not a Facebook guy, even though we publish stuff to Facebook, and I’m not like an Instagram guy or TikTok guy. I just don’t really enjoy doing that. And I know I could better at it, but I’d rather focus on my strengths and things that I do enjoy and build around that rather than trying to compensate for a weakness. And yes, I know it’s tempting for everybody out there. You’ll see people saying, like, oh, you can just make a killing on TikTok right now, or you could do this stuff on this platform or that platform. There’s always new platforms. There’s always more opportunities than any one person can excel at or master. And my belief is that don’t worry about what other people are doing. It’s good to know what’s out there in terms of opportunities, but find something that resonates with you and then lean into that because you can build a highly successful business.

I know many clients who have high six figure and seven figure consulting businesses who aren’t active on social media at all. I know others who run coaching businesses that are doing a million or $2 million a year, and they don’t run ads. They don’t do things that you think like you hear online that you need to do to be successful. So there’s multiple ways to create success. Find out what works for you. Find somebody maybe that has achieved what you want to achieve. Look at what they’re doing. It’s good to know what’s out there, but ultimately figure out what resonates with you and what you’re going to enjoy. Because you shouldn’t be spending time doing things that you really don’t like. You should find things that you do enjoy that create energy and excitement and fulfillment for you. And then do more of those things so that you’re enjoying again the journey and the process as you’re building your business.

Stacy: Agreed. And that could be social media. Right. For some listeners, they might really enjoy telling their stories on Instagram or creating TikTok videos. That could be something that really fills them up, but for you it doesn’t. And you recognize that you’ve put your energy into something that you do enjoy. So I think for anybody listening that already has a business or is about to start a business or dreaming of starting a business, I think that ability to look, to see what’s working for other people. But then also check in with yourself and allow yourself also to be creative with how you approach your own marketing is such a powerful and freeing thing. So you don’t feel like you have to do all the things you can do, the thing that connects most.

Michael: Yeah, one thing I’d add to that, Stacey, just hopefully it’ll help some people, is regardless of what channel you choose to lean into, and I think it’s important that you do lean into a channel. So books can be a channel, social media can be a channel. Webinars, speaking presentations, writing articles, doing videos all these are different kind of channels or mediums that you can use. And you should pick at least one of them to really lean into, because one of the best ways to demonstrate value, and this is especially true, kind of in the consulting space, but one of the best ways to demonstrate value is through content, right? So if you work with a client, you demonstrate your value because you do great work. If you get a referral, there’s kind of a passing or an exchange of value between the person that’s referring you.

Iyou have a conversation with a prospective buyer, you can demonstrate your value by asking great kind of thoughtful, meaningful questions that get your client or get that buyer to think or see things in a different way. But if you’re not at that point yet where you’re actually engaging in any one of those kind of formats with a prospective client or an existing client, how can you demonstrate value? Well, content, right? Because here you don’t have to sell whatever it is that you talk about it. You put it out there and you can demonstrate your expertise. So you don’t have to sell that content will do the work for you. But the big thing, this is what I was kind of getting at, maybe a bit of a roundabout way, is that when you decide what medium or kind of format you’re going to lean into, be consistent with it, right?

Michael: So I would really encourage people not to say, yeah, I’m going to try TikTok or LinkedIn for a week or two or for a month and just kind of like, sure, you can try it, but ultimately know that to get the results that you probably want, you need to be consistent and long term. So whatever format that’s going to be in, whether it’s putting out a newsletter or being on social media or writing articles or doing videos or having a podcast, every single one of these things, typically you’re not going to see success with the first thing that you put out. It’s going to happen after hours and hours of work and being consistent and people seeing that you’re showing up and you’re showing up consistently, that’s when the magic happens.

Stacy: Yes. I just want to make sure everyone heard that. Create content. Create content over time consistently. It is really the way to add value and grow an audience. Get your brand out there in front of people. Michael, thank you for this great conversation. I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you today, learning from you. I know listeners got so much from this discussion. Tell our listeners where they can learn more about you. I know you have your own podcast and your website and all the places to find you.

Michael: So is home for everything. We have a free Consulting Blueprint, which is a guide of our most popular kind of articles, best practices, resources on growing profitable, scalable and strategic consulting business. You can get that from there. As you mentioned we have the Consulting Success podcast. There’s literally, I think, about a thousand articles on our website and a whole bunch of other free resources studies that we publish based on data that we get from the thousands of or tens of thousands of people that we have in the community. So that’s where I would go, And then feel free to connect on LinkedIn. You can find me Michael Spirsky. There. Just put a little note. Say that you found me on Stacey’s podcast, so I know where you’re coming from and love to connect.

Stacy: Thank you, Michael. It’s been great having you today.

Michael: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation. Stacy.

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