Let me guess. You got into the college consulting business because you want to help students, right? Then the reality of business ownership kicks in. It didn’t scare you away, but you feel pulled in many directions. Without a roadmap for success, you work on what feels right each day.
So what are the secrets of highly successful college consultants? What habits do they embrace? Let’s jump in and find out!
Habit #1: Plan for the future
If you don’t know your business goals, how will you know when you've achieved them?
Some people choose to create a business plan or make projections ten years into the future. I’m a proponent of creating a shorter-term vision of what your business looks like. Start with five years and paint a picture, using words, of what is happening in your business:
- How many clients will you work with?
- Are you the only consultant in your business? Or have you grown a team?
- Who is your target market? What do they like? What do they do? Where will you find them?
- What are your clients (and students) saying about you?
- What does success look like? For yourself and your clients?
Now, based on that five-year vision, what does your business look like in one year? What can you accomplish this year that will get you one step closer to that five-year vision? Using your one-year goal, create smaller monthly goals, and based on the monthly goals, set weekly goals.
Share your five-year vision with close friends or family members. Goals are much more likely to come to life when you write them down and share them!
Habit #2: Work on your business and not just in your business
This habit becomes more difficult as you grow and work with a larger caseload of clients. Do you want to expand your business and hire more consultants? It's important to continue marketing, even after word of mouth marketing kicks in.
Content marketing is one of the most effective marketing strategies for college consultants. Share your content on social media, with community partners, and with your clients.
Create an annual marketing plan. It can be as simple as hosting one webinar, writing one blog post, and recording one podcast each month. Block time at the beginning of each month to plan out the topics and bullet points you'd like to cover. That way when you sit down to create the content, it's not as daunting!
Habit #3: Provide value
Many consultants worry about giving away too much free information. Don’t be afraid! If parents see value in the “free” information you’re providing, they’ll be even more likely to hire you.
How do you provide value? Everywhere! In your marketing materials, on your website, in webinars, on social media. When you’re interacting with prospective clients, look for ways you can meet their needs. In the follow-up email after a consultation, I always provide something of value. It can be as simple as an ACT/SAT score comparison chart, a link to a summer program, or maybe a podcast episode.
Habit #4: Make connection a priority.
A successful client relationship is dependent on making a connection. Here are three ways to build a connection with your students:
1. Be empathetic. Is your student having a bad day? Lend an ear. It’s okay if your meeting agenda gets derailed. Your student will remember you for caring and taking the time to be supportive.
2. Ask curious questions. Start your meeting by asking deeper questions than the typical, “How was your week? Or, “How is school going?” Instead, ask engaging questions that get your students to open up. Try, “What’s one thing that happened this week you’re proud of?” Or, “What’s something that happened this week you wish didn’t?”
3. Send hand-written notes of encouragement. Think of the smaller wins or efforts, not just the big ones like graduation. Did your student work hard to earn an A in AP Calc? Or, ran for class president and lost? The small gesture of encouragement goes a long way in building a connection!
You can even establish connections to prospective clients in your marketing materials. Sounds crazy, right? When I’m writing marketing copy, I envision my prospective client sitting across from me. It helps me imagine speaking to my target client and write to their goals, questions, and fears.
Habit #5: Get involved in professional associations
Volunteering for professional associations, like HECA and IECA, is one of the most valuable experiences of my college consulting career. I learn a ton, and it’s how I met most of the friends I have in the industry. Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder and ask you to volunteer. Find an area of the association you’re interested in and fits your skillset and raise your hand!
Being an independent educational consultant can be lonely, and professional associations are a great way to stay connected and build your network.