As an independent consultant or head of a consulting firm, you probably know the importance of staying up to date on trends. After all, your clients depend on you as a reliable source of knowledge in various areas. Or, if you’re navigating how to start a consulting business and want to successfully kick-start your business, you know that relevant trends can help you get there.
However, keeping up with consulting trends isn’t always a walk in the park, and learning about new technologies and techniques can take hours of research—hours that you might not have in your work calendar.
To that end, we’ve put together this list of six consulting trends that you’ll likely see in 2023 and beyond. Keep reading to learn more about these trends and how you can incorporate them into your business in the new year. which trends you may want to follow.
#1 Embrace technology
As in most industries, technology will continue to make a massive impact on the consulting field. In an increasingly online world, technology keeps you on track and performing at your highest possible level.
Keep in mind that your clients may already be using advanced technology in their day-to-day operations. When you show proficiency with these tools and resources, you can inspire confidence in clients by giving them a satisfactory customer experience and demonstrate room for growth in tech-forward prospects and technology novices alike.
Some of the most significant recent advances have been in technologies like:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – One of the primary roles of a consultant is to weigh the odds in a situation and help make decisions. But what if a machine could process the information and make intelligent decisions in a fraction of the time? While we may not be ready to give AI total control over business decisions, AI tools designed to aid consultants are within reach. AI is also showing up in other aspects of consulting; everything from data analysis to information processing is affected.
- Cloud-based services – As more organizations in North America adopt cloud-based software solutions for management consulting firms, it’s in your best interest to understand how and why they work. Cloud technology eliminates the need for bulky hard drives. Instead, everything is stored remotely and is accessible from anywhere via the internet.
- Professional services automation software (PSA) - PSA software can simplify your work as a consultant. Solutions like BigTime or BQE make it easier to track time, manage projects, the bill for completed work, and more.
Not only will you benefit from knowing how to use these technologies, but you may also be able to work as a consultant for the organizations using (or even designing) these solutions. As such, mastering this cutting-edge tech offers numerous advantages.
#2 Build and maintain a digital presence
One category of technology deserves its own section: Digital marketing. While much of the consulting field still relies on word-of-mouth marketing, the truth is that referrals can only propel you so far. In the internet age, potential clients should be able to find your consulting business online—ideally, with as little trouble as possible.
Digital marketing strategies are always changing and evolving, so you’ll want to stay on top of current trends to keep your business current. To make it easy for people to contact and connect with you, you can take various approaches, such as:
- Using social media – Social media profiles are like mini-websites for your business. Although you don’t need to use every social media platform (there’s such a thing as spreading yourself too thin), you can focus on the ones you have and ensure they look appealing to potential clients. A social media platform that has skyrocketed in the past year is TikTok. This platform allows both businesses and consumers to find trends, acting as the perfect marketing tool. You can cater to your customers at the click of a button and post content that resonates with them.
- Having an optimized website - Aside from a Nextdoor Business Page or other third-party profile, you may also want a dedicated website. With your own site, you can dive into search engine optimization (SEO) to attract more organic traffic. Tactics like writing a blog, linking to reputable sources, and using long-tail keywords can all help you find new clients. You can also utilize Google trends to discover relevant keywords and topics that are seeing a spike in search demand related to your industry. This way, you’re able to stay relevant and post valuable content that drives potential customers to your website.
- Taking advantage of community networks - Platforms like Nextdoor are designed to help you meet potential clients in your area. To reach an even more targeted audience, you can leverage Nextdoor Ads.
Ultimately, you can’t afford to be passive. It’s wise to actively take part in building your client base.
#3 Subscription-based consulting
Many services have moved to a subscription model—from streaming platforms to heated seats in cars. Perhaps it’s time for you to try it, too.
While not all industries can use subscription models to their advantage, consultants can. The subscription model works best for goods or services that customers don’t utilize all the time, but may need access to at a moment’s notice. Sound familiar? That’s consulting in a nutshell.
Now that clients are familiar with the subscription-based pricing model, you can try implementing it in your consulting business. For example, you might charge a set recurring fee for eight hours per month of your time. Your clients can then book you for up to eight hours of work each month.
Such a model can be perfect for organizations that have just finished a project with you or small businesses that can’t afford a full-time consultant.
LMR Consulting from Dillon, Colorado offers a slightly different model. Instead of taking it month by month, this hyperlocal marketing consultancy firm offers a yearlong marketing partnership for new and established businesses. It’s a terrific way to guarantee a year’s worth of income from a single project.
Ultimately, offering subscriptions for your services is a win-win. Your clients receive a guaranteed amount of support per month, and you receive a guaranteed income—even if your client doesn’t take advantage of every second they’ve paid for.
#4 Focus on local clients
While it’s tempting to fish for enormous United States-based enterprise-level clients, they may already have contracts with world-renowned consulting firms. But what about the startups, accountants, politicians, or other entrepreneurs in your community? They may not be working with a consultant at all—meaning, there could be an untapped market all around you.
After all, 57% of Americans want to shop with small businesses to keep their money local. Why shouldn’t the same trend toward local spending apply to consulting?
By focusing on the local market, you can maintain a reliable client base while also supporting organizations in your community. With a platform like Nextdoor, it’s easy to reach those around you. Nextdoor lets you connect with businesses and individuals in your neighborhood, so developing new partnerships is a walk in the park. In fact, 88% of Nextdoor neighbors shop and support local businesses.
#5 Expand into global markets
Another trend in consulting swings the pendulum the opposite way. With remote work possibilities on the rise, there’s never been a better time for consultants to expand into the global market.
These days, organizations have realized that talent can come from anywhere. If you can’t find clients in your city, you can look to other counties, states, or even continents—there’s a chance that a business from around the world may need your services.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the shift to a more globalized workforce is a double-edged sword. While you have more potential clients to work with, there are scores of other consultants from around the world who have the same opportunity.
Additionally, if you work for an international organization, you may need to change how you file your taxes at the end of the year. Be sure to do some research before accepting a contract from a corporation in a foreign country.
#6 Have a niche
Thanks to this globalization, it’s easier than ever to find a consulting firm that ticks every box. In many cases, businesses seek out a consultant because they have a specific problem to solve. As such, they’ll look for a consultant or firm that specializes in that particular area.
With that in mind, if you market yourself as a “general consultant,” you may find that you don’t receive as many inquiries as you should.
So, while it may seem counterintuitive to specialize, you may find yourself with more clients after branding yourself as an expert in one subject, not many. Here are some areas you may want to specialize in:
- Technology consulting
- Financial consulting
- Marketing or PR consulting
- Strategy consulting
- Legal consulting
In addition to specializing in a type of consulting, you may also find it beneficial to focus on a certain industry. For instance, if you partner with several automotive companies over the years, you’ll gain the knowledge—and reputation—that comes with years of specialization.
For a more out-of-the-box example, consider Fahey Associates, a boutique consulting agency based in Palo Alto, CA, that specializes in educational consulting. Felicia Fahey and her team have built a consulting business around helping high school and college students succeed.
Stay up to date on consulting trends with Nextdoor
Consulting is a broad field, so it makes sense that the associated trends are equally as broad. However, if you regularly research trends in consulting, you can stay on top of your industry.
Ultimately, a trend is nothing more than an indication of what people want. And how do you discover what your current and potential clients want? By connecting with them.
As a community-centric platform, Nextdoor makes meeting and speaking with those around you easier than ever. Once you claim your free Nextdoor Business Page, you can begin interacting with your neighbors to find out what’s trending in your area. You can also promote special discounts, run ads, and gather recommendations from locals to build your business.
Sign up for free, and start working with businesses in your community.