Four ways how boutiques can carve their niche in consulting

16 February 2022 4 min. read
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The consulting industry has returned to (strong) growth, and increasingly, clients are looking beyond the large consulting firms and seeking more niche alternatives. But how can boutique consultancies stand out from the rest? Dennis Kayser, the chief executive of Forecast, shares four tips.

Companies were already modernising at pace – but then came Covid-19. The worldwide disruption of the past 18 months has urged companies to improvise rapidly and adapt. From supply chain disruption, to unpredictability about how the climate crisis will affect the future of their business, there is more doubt than ever.

Amongst all this upheaval, there is no shortage of potential clients for consulting firms. Businesses are crying out for advice and support in the area of strategy, transactions, sustainability, digital transformation, and much more.

How boutique consulting firms can carve their niche

Boutique management consulting firms are in a great position to capitalise on the growing market opportunities, if they can market themselves effectively. So: how can boutiques position their consulting firm for growth? Four tips:

You don’t need all the answers – but ask the right questions

Something that I believe cannot be emphasised enough is the importance of trust. Whether you’re establishing your reputation as a trusted expert in your field, or building person-to-person confidence on a client level, without thinking about trust, your firm won’t succeed.

It’s key to put yourself in your clients’ shoes, and ask ‘What do they actually need?’ By really listening and asking the right questions, delving into their needs (and not trying to sell an off-the-shelf solution), figuring out the gap between their ‘wants’ and ‘needs’, and being honest and open with them is where clients will see the most value.

Have integrity and say what you really believe to be the truth, not just what you think the client wants to hear. And always stay curious and interested - keep asking questions, as briefs and business needs constantly evolve.

Further reading: Why building trust and brand belief is key for consulting firms.

Happy teams, happy clients

While having a good sense of your company culture affects how you work with clients and external partners, it is also crucial to look inwards and think about how your company’s makeup and processes reinforce culture.

One way of building a strong culture and motivated teams is to give consultants “stretch opportunities”, i.e. letting consultants rotate through different projects. This way, your team can experience different bits of the business, fresh ideas, and new ways of doing things. This will result in improved staff retention and high morale – so, ultimately, happier teams, which leads to better work. It’s a win-win.

Maintain a healthy pipeline and manage it with the right resources

The bigger consulting firms thrive off the strong brands they have cultivated. Being a known name no doubt makes it easier to attract prospects. One of the issues faced by smaller consulting firms is getting their name out there and marketing their services. But by standing out in your niche, you can develop a strong reputation.

Growth comes organically as your reputation in a niche develops. But this approach to growth only works when you take the time to make your expertise in a particular area visible and ensure you have the best resources.

Build long term client relationships

Relationships are at the heart of consulting, and investing in a client relationship from the beginning can foster the trust that will turn that initial contact into a long-standing, valuable partnership.

Think more about the long-term relationship and move away from a transactional mindset. Whether your initial contact with a client is paid, or free of charge, you should be taking the opportunity to showcase your team’s skills – and that is what the basis for lasting trust will be built on.

Being honest and transparent with clients is one of the pivotal ways to build a reputation as a trustworthy, reliable advisor – even if this extends to walking away from business that isn’t the right fit. This can be daunting, but pays off in the long run.