Q. I’m a senior financial consultant with several years of experience servicing corporate clients throughout the greater Bay Area. I’ve been very fortunate to receive the majority of my business through referrals, but over the past year my clients claim to have no budget to use my services and new leads have dried up. My question to you is about marketing my services via traditional methods versus online solutions, what are the pros and cons?

A. Congratulations to you for developing a successful financial consulting business. Do not use this present time to gauge your overall success. This economy is driving people crazy and causing good people to behave badly. The question is, “What is going to be the best solution for you and your business?” I’ve been attending conferences, Webinars and special interest groups for the past year trying to get up to speed on Internet marketing solutions a.k.a. online social media. What does it all mean?

To be honest I’m just as confused as the next person. We are business professionals who specialize in our practices not marketing gurus. The new market is requiring business professionals to be marketing experts. Are you a marketing expert?

The conference that I attended last week was focused on developing an Internet marketing plan for your business. What I received was information about developing an Internet marketing plan for the food, wine and resort industry.

These companies have developed award-winning blogs, videos and contests to attract fans to their Web sites via Facebook, and the lucky winner will receive prizes ranging from an evening of great food and wine to hiking the Inca Trail to a weekend at a wine country B&B.

This is nice, but people like you and I are in the professional services industry, and our clients are corporations. I don’t see this solution complementing what we do. What are we going to do – launch a contest for our clients to compete for our business and the winner will receive a weeks paid vacation in Hawaii? Is this what it's going to take for us to land business in today’s economy?

I recently attended another conference where the speaker in his previous life was a successful mortgage broker and for obvious reasons needed to change careers. He started teaching himself how to market a business via the Internet and wrote a book which is designed for small business owners, commission salespeople and self-employed service professionals like us.

The book offers practical step-by-step instructions on how to leverage the Internet to build a business. He is capitalizing off of this by being a keynote speaker, teaching workshops, book sales and selling online content. Good for him, but are you going to do that? I’ve read the book, and what I can tell you is that committing yourself to marketing your business via the Internet can be a full-time job and the return on your investment, which is your time, is not easy to track.

Are you prepared to spend your day blogging, recording videos of yourself pitching your services, tweeting, developing podcasts and Webinars? Not to mention SEO (search engine optimization) for your Web site, blogs, videos, etc. To be successful with online marketing, SEO must be implemented and maintained on an ongoing basis. If you bill $100 an hour and you spend half your day marketing your business, that means you need to work an additional eight hours to maintain your quota, which means you are working a 12-hour work day.

Experts tell us that in order to earn what we made in 2007-2008 we need to work twice as hard to earn 50 percent of our income. Another pain point is that Internet marketing experts are preaching that you must be an expert in your field. It’s not good enough to be good; you must be an expert to be able to add value. Many consultants are attempting to attract new clients by providing their services by setting up Webinars for free or for a nominal fee. Be aware that this is a very time-consuming activity and can take weeks to prepare for.

Another solution you may consider is hiring an Internet marketing consultant to set up your online presence. The prices range from $150 an hour to a $10,000 flat fee to develop your Web site, set up your blog, record your videos and podcasts, Twitter training and SEO maintenance.

Still, I’m a big fan of traditional marketing, connecting with your clients by phone and in-person and being a solid business adviser. Sending news worthy information to your clients by e-mail or newsletters that are well-organized and contain useful content is a great way to stay in front of your clients on a monthly or quarterly basis. Internet marketing can't replace the value of face-to-face meetings.


Jennifer Laxton is a senior consultant and coach with Executive Search Associates in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com. If you have questions with regards to your situation, send an e-mail to askjen@esa.com.