Today I thought I’d explain my business model and how I make money. The received wisdom in my industry is that business consultants and coaches should deliver their services online, and eschew a one to one model. But I don’t do this. Denyse Whillier, Business Consultant

Every day I see adverts encouraging people to start or take their business online, when this is not the right model for their business, budget or skill-set. That’s why I thought it would be helpful to explain why and how I’ve developed my own business in a way that’s right for me, my budget and my skill-set.

I founded my business nearly 4 years ago, and like many start-ups didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing. Aside from occasionally promoting an article I’ve written or a Facebook Live I’ve recorded, I’ve spent very little on advertising. For me, right now in my business, the return on investment, particularly for Facebook advertising, simply isn’t good enough.

In today’s crowded and noisy world, to stand out and get traction in the online coaching space, I would have to spend a small fortune to build up a sizeable mailing list. Right now in my business, that doesn’t make sense. Instead I’ve focused my marketing spend on one area. Networking and relationship building – specifically through BNI. I’ve doubled down on the channel which delivers the best results for me.

This means that more than 95 percent of my company income is indirect, meaning I never sell through advertising or pitching. My income comes to me because I’ve invested time in building that all important ‘know, like and trust’ in my relationships. Prospective clients come directly to me because they’ve got to know me. Or they’ve been referred by somebody I’ve built a strong relationship with.

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These are my 8 income sources in descending order of importance:

1. Consulting

This is by far my number one revenue stream. Working on a 1:1 basis with SME business owners is my passion, and I believe the most cost effective option when it comes to growing a business. My gift is being able to see how businesses can increase their revenue and up their profits. Which means that every business I work with recoups their investment within the first couple of months of working with me, provided of course they do what we’ve discussed and agreed.

2. Executive Coaching

Providing advice to executives is my fastest-growing and newest revenue stream. During my years as a CEO, I worked with three Executive Coaches myself and reaped the benefits of having a private space to talk through the things that kept me awake at night. I want other executives to experience the huge benefits I did.

3. Instant Business Advice

A lot of people want to “pick my brain” – that is they want my time for free. It wouldn’t be fair to my clients for others to receive free advice when they pay me. However I do want to be accessible to any business who needs my help, especially if they’re not making a lot of money. So I offer Instant Business Advice Sessions where I charge £100 for an hour of my time. This isn’t a service I promote heavily but I do a handful of these sessions a month. It’s a fun intellectual challenge and it helps people out.

4. Advisor To Start-ups

I’ve taken on a few advisory positions to early stage start-ups. In many respects, the work is similar to business consulting in that we’re focused on putting together a robust business plan, product development and brand building. The key difference is this work doesn’t pay for itself in the way that my business consulting services do because the start-up is in ‘development phase’ and not making money yet.

5. Training and Workshops

Training and workshops are time intensive because of the research, planning and preparation involved in creating a bespoke programme. But I enjoy the intellectual challenge and they’re fun. They afford me more time than I might ordinarily have to delve into a topic, and provide the inspiration for new content for this website.

6. Done For You Marketing Services

This is a relatively new service which I’ve mainly offered to my clients. Most of my clients don’t want to get involved with the marketing side of their business. Because I understand their marketing objectives so well, oftentimes it makes sense for my team and I to run their marketing campaigns. For example, we wrote the content for the website of a plumbing business, created a series of articles which we syndicated through email and social media as part of a wider content marketing strategy.

7. Speaking

I love being a keynote speaker because I can make an impact on a large number of people in a short period of time. This isn’t an part of my business model I’ve prioritised, but is definitely an area I want to grow going forward.

8. Affiliate Income Through Amazon

I make a very small income from the sale of books I recommend on this website. This is so negligible, it barely warrants a mention!

And Here's What I Don’t Do …

As I explained at the outset of this article, in my industry, there’s a lot of hype around building an online business - where you deliver your services online on a ‘one to many’ basis instead of ‘one to one.’ Selling digital products is touted as a money spinner and viewed as the holy grail.

I disagree. This model did work well once. But these days, the cost of acquiring leads is high, especially for fledgling businesses, and the conversion rate, even for those who are highly skilled at digital marketing, is shockingly low.

At some point I will add digital products to my mix of services, but right now it makes no sense for me to do so. I love working with people on a one to one basis, and get immense satisfaction seeing them hitting their milestones and growing their business beyond their expectations.

These are three sources of income I have no interest in:

1. Referral Fees

I regularly refer business owners to suppliers who I think are a good fit. But what I won’t do is take a referral fee. This is because I encourage people to get a minimum of three quotes when selecting a supplier, and using this information to make the right decision for their business.

2. Affiliate Marketing

I very rarely participate participate in affiliate marketing programmes because I hate bugging my readers with a lot of salesy-stuff. On the very rare occasion I promote an online product, it’s because I’ve used it and received excellent value from it.

3. Sponsored Content

I’ve never taken money for companies to post content on my blog and I never will. I take the view that if I turn my content into an advert, it’s the beginning of the end of your trust. I won’t publish sponsored content because I don’t want to break your trust. It’s that simple.

My aim in writing this article is to encourage you to play to your strengths and have a business model that’s right for your business, your marketing budget and your skillset. One model doesn’t fit all, not even in the same industry.

Question: Are you surprised about my business model? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share in the comments box below.

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