For consultants, marketing isn’t as easy as placing a pay-per-click ad online and getting people to buy services from your website. Because consultants offer business services, be they marketing, management or overall business consulting, the buy-in process is a bit longer and more complicated than online product sales. Here are tips to help you get the most from your business services marketing efforts.

The key to marketing as a consultant is relationships. Building relationships with a solid network of people who will either hire you as a consultant or refer business to you is the best way to get new clients.

How to Build Trust

Part of relationship building is trust. You want potential clients to trust you, don’t you? You build trust through your actions, both online and off. Online, you can write articles, participate in forums and answer questions on social media channels. Offline, you can speak at events and offer advice to business contacts. Tie the two together to bridge the online and offline worlds.

Trust is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s the only factor that makes a person choose one consultant over another. Consider this scenario: you want to work with a marketing consultant, and have narrowed it down to two possible candidates. Price, services and reputation are about equal. But one consultant replied to your question on LinkedIn. Upon visiting her blog, you learn a few things about online marketing. You’re beginning to trust this complete stranger, and as a result, she gets a leg up and you give her your business.

You never know where your next potential customer will come from. It may be from a blog post you write, or a link you Tweet. It might be from that conference you spoke at, or the woman at the auto shop who you handed your card to. Be in as many places as possible in order to build your network.

Becoming the Expert

So if online advertising isn’t the best channel for consultants, what is? You’ll get a different answer from different marketing pros, but in my mind, the answer is content. By writing great content on your blog or website, or another high-profile site, you effectively establish yourself as an expert in your industry.

You’ve probably gleaned a lot of information in your years as a consultant. You know common mistakes, what people should do, and what companies have done it right. All this makes great content. It also helps lead people to you. If someone is searching for “how to market as a consultant” and finds my post here, they’ve found a way to connect with me. They may check out my other blog posts, and may even contact me about doing business (that’s how FutureSimple found me). I’m building trust by providing expert advice on blogs. You can too.

Social media is another great expertise-building channel. Sites like Focus and LinkedIn allow users to ask a variety of business related questions. As the one with the answers, it behooves you to answer these questions. Include your signature (name, title, website, email and phone) to show that you’re open to being contacted. Users who answer many questions get more exposure and are highlighted as über users, which can help drive more traffic to your social profile.

Speaking engagements can put your expertise to good use offline. Start by volunteering to speak at your Chamber of Commerce or networking group meetings, then work your way up to industry events. Make yourself available after your presentations to shake a few hands and exchange cards.

As a consultant, you will always be marketing your services. Be consistent in delivering content and advice, and you’ll increase business and referrals.