AI tools and the future of online consulting strategies

The other day, my girlfriend and I locked ourselves out of our apartment. How did that happen? From my point of view: She didn’t check if there was a key on the interior lock, when she shut the door. From her point of view: I left a key on the interior lock. 

200 euros poorer – after paying a locksmith to get us back in – and one relationship crisis later – fighting over who was culpable of our ordeal – we decided to get some quick relationship consulting online. I asked ChatGPT who was on the right end of our disagreement.

The answer…? It’s not important. The real question: What does our online advice seeking behavior tell us about the future of consulting? Will consultants have to make a definitive shift to the online realm to compete with AI? And how? Let’s dive in.

In this article:

An online consultant recording her work

What is meant with online consulting strategies?

Online consulting strategies, also known as digitizing your consulting to virtual consulting or e-consulting, refers to the practice of providing expert advice, guidance, and solutions to clients remotely, primarily through digital platforms and communication channels.

The transition from traditional to online consulting

Even leaving the recent emergence of generative artificial intelligence aside, digital cloud technology in general has changed the way we seek service. We expect service providers to show up online. The pandemic served as a gigantic proof-of-concept (POC) for translating everything we know in the offline world to the online world. An experiment that, all things considered, was quite successful. And what’s more, the entire world population actively took part, especially knowledge workers (though not exclusively). 

Many consultancy services don’t even involve any physical delivery, which makes a transition to online consulting only more logical. A business owner who’s hiring new workers can order custom smartphones, laptop computers and a printer tonight, and literally have it all delivered in the office tomorrow. Why wouldn’t she expect the same for, say, HR advice on how to successfully onboard these new hires? 

The transition from traditional to online consulting is a natural evolution of consultancy.

The advantages of online consulting activities

So then what exactly are the evolutionary advantages that make this shift sustainable? The attractiveness for clients is self-evident. But what’s in it for the consultant? Why should he or she operate digitally? To name a few reasons:

  • Scalability: Operating online reduces overhead costs from physical office spaces, utilities, and commuting. A chance to redirect savings towards expanding your services. 

  • Broader reach: Online consulting breaks down geographical barriers. In 2023, a consultant from for instance Austria can be expected to reap success in the UK. Pointerpro is located in Belgium, but that hasn’t withheld us from calling on the services of an SEO marketing agency from the USA.

  • Data and record-keeping: Online consulting allows for better information and knowledge retention. For instance, with a tool like Gong (AI-powered, by the way): You get to record videocalls with clients and use data-driven insights to improve the quality of interactions and follow-up, but also to help you make more strategic decisions for your firm.
A recorded video call analyzed and transcribed by Gong

The impact of AI on online consulting strategies

So that’s for the potential of online capabilities in general. Now what are the effects of “online capabilities on steroids”, otherwise known as: generative AI? There are two sides to that coin. One side represents the advantages of  adopting different AI tools for consultants, like the just mentioned Gong platform. 

The other side of the coin comes with a question mark: Is generative AI a competitor for consultants? For a potential consultancy client in search of advice, genAI offers a few considerable perks. To name only four of them:

  • Super-fast data analysis: Generative AI can process vast amounts of data rapidly, extracting patterns and insights that human consultants might miss.

     

  • Continuous availability: Generative AI operates 24/7. It doesn’t need breaks. Clients can access AI advice at any moment, regardless of their timezone.

     

  • Rapid adaptation to trends: AI quickly updates and adapts itself to changing trends and data. Something that’s especially useful for clients in dynamic industries.

     

  • High volume and consistent quality: Whatever its client base size, AI can handle requests without sacrificing the quality of advice or service. 

So the question becomes: How do you remain relevant as a consultant, when AI has so much to offer to businesses you’re trying to attract as clients? 

How to compete with AI as an advice consultant

1. Don’t fight it. Use it.

Rather than viewing AI as a rival, embrace it as a tool to augment your consulting capabilities. 

The quality of AI output remains directly proportional to the quality of prompts. And if there’s one thing consultants are great at, it’s asking the right questions. 

You can let AI do some of the dirty work for you. By giving the right prompts, you’ll use AI insights to support your expertise when delivering advice to clients. It will delve deeper into data than any person ever could and it will allow you to offer more comprehensive recommendations.

Example of how consultants can use AI: assessment building

In a previous article, I took readers to the process of building a quantitative maturity model, which is the basis to build an effective online assessment. For the sake of the experiment, I pretended to be an expert consultant in email marketing who wanted to designate prospects’ maturity levels. I used ChatGPT to come up with relevant questions for my assessment.

Of course, I didn’t blindly copy the questions the AI tool came up with. In fact I didn’t only ask it to generate questions. I interrogated the tool from different angles to figure out what the common denominators are for specialists to measure the quality of email marketing. Once AI gives you a good understanding of the key domains to look into – based on the collective knowledge – you are free to develop the specific emphasis of your assessment. In other words, AI helps you to conform to average expectations and find a way to stand out. 

Assessment questions and answer options created by ChatGPT

Some other examples of how consultants can use AI

Of course, generative AI is undergoing a phase where tech innovators are coming up with a myriad ways to integrate AI capabilities in the tools they offer. In many cases, these applications can be valuable for consultants (depending on their industry). Just a few examples worth exploring, if you ask us:

  • Tableau is a tool that excels at data visualization and exploration. It has recently released Tableau GPT on its software platform to democratize data analysis.

     

  • SEMrush a well-known digital marketing tool to conduct things like SEO keyword research and website performance. It now offers an AI writing assistant app, to generate optimized online content: Both text and visuals. Marketing consultants could use it to develop content for clients, but of course any consultant that wants to develop its own online presence could rely on a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs, too.

     

  • Trint is well-known AI transcription software that will convert video and audio (including live) into text and quickly translate it into other languages. Very useful for any consultant conducting interviews.

2. Exploit inherent human advantages

Believe it or not, but compared to humans, AI also has its very own limitations. Be aware of them and develop your advantages:

  • Capitalize on your emotional intelligence:
    Even though AI can process vast amounts of data, it generally won’t be able to incorporate emotional nuances that you pick up on as a human consultant. Use such things in your own analyses and advice.

     

  • Invest in social bonding:
    Human beings are social animals. Evolutionary speaking, collaboration is a huge part of what brought us to the top of the foodchain. The instinct for human collaboration is deeply engrained. Continue to invest effort in human communication (which is still surprisingly predominantly a
    non-verbal matter), ethics and the human touch of your services to build trust.

     

  • Foster creativity:
    Artificial intelligence per definition stays inside of the metaphorical box. Granted, that box keeps growing larger as it feeds on more information. But where AI relies on algorithms, you can choose to follow your imagination – outside of the box. Clients that consult AI have to settle for collective knowledge and therefore generic ideas. If they want something that’s per definition “special”, they’ll need you.

     

  • Transmit skills:
    The employees of a consultancy client are human beings, just like you. These people are happy to delegate tedious and repetitive tasks to AI. That increases day-to-day productivity but it also results in these people using their brains less and less. As a consultant, you get to offer your clients the best of both worlds. You can relieve team members from tasks but also be a mentor and use mentorship programs to actually help them develop skills.

How to start an online consulting business (competitive with AI)

Even though you have inherent advantages over AI, its mere existence will continue to result in potential clients increasingly seeking advice and services online. So that’s where they need to be able to find you too. 

We’ve already discussed the advantages of operating digitally as a consultant. Evolving to what could be called ”an online consulting business” requires a few key steps:

Step 1: Specialize your consulting services

As AI goes wide, you go deep. Consider a hypermarket that offers a wide range of products, from groceries to household items and electronics. Very convenient for many customers. But where do these customers go when they need something really specific: tailored home furnishings, organic vegetables that were locally cultivated or high-end electronics for a new hobby? They go to a specialty store.

The same logic applies to consulting. Sure, a typical company could use an AI translation tool to translate its texts. But when it concerns legal documents that cover a very touchy topic, they won’t hesitate to consult with an agency that’s specialized in legal translations. 

Develop your consulting business in that sense. Identify niche markets or industries where specialized expertise is crucial, and position yourself as an authority in those domains. It will differentiate you from AI (and just more generic human service providers) and attract clients seeking tailored solutions.

Lastly, define concrete service offerings based on your specialization. These packages will allow you to easily communicate online about what you do as a consultant. You may even be able to translate some of them into services that you actually deliver online. We’ll discuss that in step 3.

Step 2: Maximize your consultancy’s online presence

As our CEO mentions in the video below, professional relationships are less and less established without a preceding online touchpoint.

That’s why you have to establish robust online presence as a modern consultant. A few crucial things to put on your to-do list, if you aren’t on it already:

  • Create an informative and user-friendly website:
    At the very least that means one on which your service offerings are clearly listed and explained, and that provides contact information so a person get in touch with you.
    Even more ideal is that you create specific, search engine optimized (SEO) landing pages that address different problems your services can help potential clients with – including a practical contact form.
  • Optimize your social media profiles:
    You want to make sure you’re present on the social media channels that are relevant to your target audience. It’s good to have an up-to-date company profile, but don’t neglect your personal profile as a consultancy owner. We’d recommend you post at least twice per week on both, and that you engage with what’s being said in your network just as regularly (if possible, daily). Create and maintain a detailed social media report regularly to track your performance, monitor trends, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Share valuable content that showcases your expertise:
    Make the things you put on your website and share on social media valuable for your audience. As discussed in the video above, you already have the expertise from your day-to-day service delivery. Sharing useful bits and pieces online will establish a good reputation. If you can share feedback from happy clients of yours, don’t hesitate. It’s always very powerful for anyone considering your services. Luk Smeyers, founder of Belgian advice firm The Visible Authority, does a great job at this.
  • Engage with your audience:
    The previous three bullet points establish online presence. To stand out and provoke interaction with your audience, it’s important to show up with some extra engaging content every once in a while: webinars, podcasts and genuinely written blog articles will foster a sense of connection and build credibility.

PS. If you’re curious to see how well or not you’re doing when it comes to online presence, give the assessment below we made a try:

Step 3: Start (selling and) delivering consulting services online

If you do the things above, you’ll reach a point where your online presence becomes well established. Let’s say you’ve become a household name in your network’s LinkedIn feed and/or your name shows up consistently behind specific online search queries. That indicates you’re more than ready  to truly sell and deliver your services online.

Fundamental tools for online consulting

You might need to invest in a few digital tools to make that happen. Here are the most fundamental ones:

  • A video conferencing platform: Remember, the advantage you hold over AI is the human touch. Having a robust way to communicate face-to-face online enables you to really interact with your client while both of you enjoy the convenience of doing it remotely.
  • Online collaboration tools: For many types of consulting, you might work on text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or other materials. Furthermore, using Google Slides or other presentation platforms, you can use riverside.fm to create audio-visual copies and pre-recorded materials. These tools allow you to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously with clients: you can securely share and store files, edit documents, track document changes, restore previous versions, or ask and provide feedback in documents.
    • Examples: Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365 (now with Microsoft Copilot‘s AI integration to help create, read and summarize content), ClickUp
  • Project management software: Working with a client remotely requires you to be very clear-cut to avoid misunderstandings about timelines that need to be met, tasks that need to be completed and obstacles that need to be overcome. Project management software allows everyone to have the exact same view on things.
    • Examples: Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Scoro
  • Online assessment and feedback tools: To gather quantitative insights from and about your client, platforms to distribute questionnaires and visualize results are essential. On one hand for yourself, to better understand and serve your client. But you can also go further and provide each respondent with personalized feedback and advice, based on the data. A tools like ours allows you to automate this process entirely.
    • Examples: SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Typeform, Pointerpro
  • Online payment and invoicing tools: Online meeting, collaboratiing and assessing are client-facing activities, very practical for both yourself and the client. You shouldn’t want it any other way for your back end activities. And there is a lot that you can optimize digitally there: Systems for time and expense tracking, handling payments, sending and creating invoices, managing financial transactions and collecting outstanding payments… They’re all worth looking into and can allow you to close a 100% online consulting loop.
    • Examples: Clockify, Clicktime, PayPal, Stripe, QuickBooks, Upflow

3 examples of online consulting services to start with

In this article, we’ve covered quite some ground about the “why” and the “how” of online consulting to stay ahead of AI (and to simply respond to evolving expectations of clients, who soon enough will all be digital natives). 

While you let that sink in, I’d like to leave you with 3 examples of “what” your consulting services online could be.

1. Online coaching:

If you’ve acquired years of practical experience in a specific field, you should be bold enough to consider yourself an expert. When you think of it, at the very least, there must be a narrow domain in which you truly have some useful guidance to give to others. What more efficient way to do it than through online coaching?

For your inspiration: Service providers like CoachReady embrace the capability offered by videoconferencing to the fullest. They offer remote executive coaching and allow anyone interested to schedule a free 30 min take-in call via their website.

The website homepage of CoachReady
The website contact page of CoachReady

Whoever you are, if you’re good at something, you should consider at least offering online discovery calls. Even if your online coaching doesn’t have an enormous impact on your revenue directly, it’s a great way to attract clients and get them over the threshold.  

E.g. 

A creative copywriter can offer online coaching about storytelling. 
An experienced manager can give online coaching on leadership. 
A fitness expert can give sessions about goal setting and nutrition.

The list can endlessly go on and on.

2. Online diagnostic assessments:

The greatest fear of anyone in charge of procurement at a company is hiring a consultancy to bring about improvements, only to figure out after a significant period of working together that the firm hasn’t been dealing with the right problems. 

That’s why having a diagnostic service offering as a consultant  is a great way to reassure potential clients upfront. There are several ways to manage it: 

  • You can propose the diagnostic analysis for free as a lead generation mechanism. 
  • You can charge for it but promise to deduct the price of the diagnostic service if your firm is hired for the scope of a larger project.
  • You can simply charge for the diagnostic analysis, especially if you can pair it with very actionable advice.

Now, most companies will consider more than one potential consultant. One crucial factor then becomes speed-to-business-value: getting a comprehensive and efficient diagnosis done before any of your competitors. 

If you’re able to translate your methodology of diagnosis into an interactive online assessment for the potential client to fill out at his or her convenience, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition. 

I’ve covered online assessments as part of the fundamental online consulting tool list. So instead of repeating myself, let me refer you to an example of a Pointerpro client that uses her online assessment as the starting point of a consulting trajectory in organizations.

The introduction screen of a human capital scan assessment by Better Minds At Work
A personalized feedback report based on a human capital scan assessment

3. Online certification and learning paths:

Coaching and assessments aren’t only distinct online consulting services to consider. Together they can also be a fundamental constituent of learning and development (L&D) for your clients. 

I already mentioned that the human ability to transmit skills is an inherent advantage you have over AI. Generative AI unburdens your clients’ workers from tasks but in the process, these workers might forget to further develop their own competencies. As a human consultant, you can take on certain tasks but upskill others in the process. And why not facilitate that by offering an online learning path and attaching your own certification to it? 

For instance, you could organize online coaching sessions (or produce some video’s) to teach skills and use online assessments to certify participants, leading them to a higher competency level. And since you’re creating the convenience of having this happen remotely, the number of participants is practically unlimited

One such service is offered to cybersecurity professionals in large companies by Cybrary. It offers a catalog of learning resources, organized in learning paths toward specific certifications.

The website homepage of Cybrary

Another company that offers learning paths (using Pointerpro-built assessments as part of it) is KnowledgeWorkx. Among other things, they even offer individuals the chance to sign up and to acquire their KnowledgeWorkx certification in professional coaching.   

The website homepage of KnowledgeWorkx

At Pointerpro we’ve seen this business model of one consultancy firm certifying external consultants or coaches become more and more prevalent and successful over the years. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve added the optional Distribution Portal feature to our assessment building platform. Consultancy firms can expand their reach by giving certified coaches access to the firm’s assessments and letting them distribute these assessments to their network.

Closing

Lots of information in this article, hopefully useful and at the very least thought-provoking. 

In case you’ve been playing with the idea of investing in consulting services online, with the use of online assessments, don’t hesitate to browse further on our website or even schedule a discovery call with us. We’re more than happy to share inspiration and ideas with you.

The other day, my girlfriend and I locked ourselves out of our apartment. How did that happen? From my point of view: She didn’t check if there was a key on the interior lock, when she shut the door. From her point of view: I left a key on the interior lock. 

200 euros poorer – after paying a locksmith to get us back in – and one relationship crisis later – fighting over who was culpable of our ordeal – we decided to get some quick relationship consulting online. I asked ChatGPT who was on the right end of our disagreement.

The answer…? It’s not important. The real question: What does our online advice seeking behavior tell us about the future of consulting? Will consultants have to make a definitive shift to the online realm to compete with AI? And how? Let’s dive in.

In this article:

An online consultant recording her work

What is meant with online consulting strategies?

Online consulting strategies, also known as digitizing your consulting to virtual consulting or e-consulting, refers to the practice of providing expert advice, guidance, and solutions to clients remotely, primarily through digital platforms and communication channels.

The transition from traditional to online consulting

Even leaving the recent emergence of generative artificial intelligence aside, digital cloud technology in general has changed the way we seek service. We expect service providers to show up online. The pandemic served as a gigantic proof-of-concept (POC) for translating everything we know in the offline world to the online world. An experiment that, all things considered, was quite successful. And what’s more, the entire world population actively took part, especially knowledge workers (though not exclusively). 

Many consultancy services don’t even involve any physical delivery, which makes a transition to online consulting only more logical. A business owner who’s hiring new workers can order custom smartphones, laptop computers and a printer tonight, and literally have it all delivered in the office tomorrow. Why wouldn’t she expect the same for, say, HR advice on how to successfully onboard these new hires? 

The transition from traditional to online consulting is a natural evolution of consultancy.

The advantages of online consulting activities

So then what exactly are the evolutionary advantages that make this shift sustainable? The attractiveness for clients is self-evident. But what’s in it for the consultant? Why should he or she operate digitally? To name a few reasons:

  • Scalability: Operating online reduces overhead costs from physical office spaces, utilities, and commuting. A chance to redirect savings towards expanding your services. 

  • Broader reach: Online consulting breaks down geographical barriers. In 2023, a consultant from for instance Austria can be expected to reap success in the UK. Pointerpro is located in Belgium, but that hasn’t withheld us from calling on the services of an SEO marketing agency from the USA.

  • Data and record-keeping: Online consulting allows for better information and knowledge retention. For instance, with a tool like Gong (AI-powered, by the way): You get to record videocalls with clients and use data-driven insights to improve the quality of interactions and follow-up, but also to help you make more strategic decisions for your firm.
A recorded video call analyzed and transcribed by Gong

The impact of AI on online consulting strategies

So that’s for the potential of online capabilities in general. Now what are the effects of “online capabilities on steroids”, otherwise known as: generative AI? There are two sides to that coin. One side represents the advantages of  adopting different AI tools for consultants, like the just mentioned Gong platform. 

The other side of the coin comes with a question mark: Is generative AI a competitor for consultants? For a potential consultancy client in search of advice, genAI offers a few considerable perks. To name only four of them:

  • Super-fast data analysis: Generative AI can process vast amounts of data rapidly, extracting patterns and insights that human consultants might miss.

     

  • Continuous availability: Generative AI operates 24/7. It doesn’t need breaks. Clients can access AI advice at any moment, regardless of their timezone.

     

  • Rapid adaptation to trends: AI quickly updates and adapts itself to changing trends and data. Something that’s especially useful for clients in dynamic industries.

     

  • High volume and consistent quality: Whatever its client base size, AI can handle requests without sacrificing the quality of advice or service. 

So the question becomes: How do you remain relevant as a consultant, when AI has so much to offer to businesses you’re trying to attract as clients? 

How to compete with AI as an advice consultant

1. Don’t fight it. Use it.

Rather than viewing AI as a rival, embrace it as a tool to augment your consulting capabilities. 

The quality of AI output remains directly proportional to the quality of prompts. And if there’s one thing consultants are great at, it’s asking the right questions. 

You can let AI do some of the dirty work for you. By giving the right prompts, you’ll use AI insights to support your expertise when delivering advice to clients. It will delve deeper into data than any person ever could and it will allow you to offer more comprehensive recommendations.

Example of how consultants can use AI: assessment building

In a previous article, I took readers to the process of building a quantitative maturity model, which is the basis to build an effective online assessment. For the sake of the experiment, I pretended to be an expert consultant in email marketing who wanted to designate prospects’ maturity levels. I used ChatGPT to come up with relevant questions for my assessment.

Of course, I didn’t blindly copy the questions the AI tool came up with. In fact I didn’t only ask it to generate questions. I interrogated the tool from different angles to figure out what the common denominators are for specialists to measure the quality of email marketing. Once AI gives you a good understanding of the key domains to look into – based on the collective knowledge – you are free to develop the specific emphasis of your assessment. In other words, AI helps you to conform to average expectations and find a way to stand out. 

Assessment questions and answer options created by ChatGPT

Some other examples of how consultants can use AI

Of course, generative AI is undergoing a phase where tech innovators are coming up with a myriad ways to integrate AI capabilities in the tools they offer. In many cases, these applications can be valuable for consultants (depending on their industry). Just a few examples worth exploring, if you ask us:

  • Tableau is a tool that excels at data visualization and exploration. It has recently released Tableau GPT on its software platform to democratize data analysis.

     

  • SEMrush a well-known digital marketing tool to conduct things like SEO keyword research and website performance. It now offers an AI writing assistant app, to generate optimized online content: Both text and visuals. Marketing consultants could use it to develop content for clients, but of course any consultant that wants to develop its own online presence could rely on a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs, too.

     

  • Trint is well-known AI transcription software that will convert video and audio (including live) into text and quickly translate it into other languages. Very useful for any consultant conducting interviews.

2. Exploit inherent human advantages

Believe it or not, but compared to humans, AI also has its very own limitations. Be aware of them and develop your advantages:

  • Capitalize on your emotional intelligence:
    Even though AI can process vast amounts of data, it generally won’t be able to incorporate emotional nuances that you pick up on as a human consultant. Use such things in your own analyses and advice.

     

  • Invest in social bonding:
    Human beings are social animals. Evolutionary speaking, collaboration is a huge part of what brought us to the top of the foodchain. The instinct for human collaboration is deeply engrained. Continue to invest effort in human communication (which is still surprisingly predominantly a
    non-verbal matter), ethics and the human touch of your services to build trust.

     

  • Foster creativity:
    Artificial intelligence per definition stays inside of the metaphorical box. Granted, that box keeps growing larger as it feeds on more information. But where AI relies on algorithms, you can choose to follow your imagination – outside of the box. Clients that consult AI have to settle for collective knowledge and therefore generic ideas. If they want something that’s per definition “special”, they’ll need you.

     

  • Transmit skills:
    The employees of a consultancy client are human beings, just like you. These people are happy to delegate tedious and repetitive tasks to AI. That increases day-to-day productivity but it also results in these people using their brains less and less. As a consultant, you get to offer your clients the best of both worlds. You can relieve team members from tasks but also be a mentor and use mentorship programs to actually help them develop skills.

How to start an online consulting business (competitive with AI)

Even though you have inherent advantages over AI, its mere existence will continue to result in potential clients increasingly seeking advice and services online. So that’s where they need to be able to find you too. 

We’ve already discussed the advantages of operating digitally as a consultant. Evolving to what could be called ”an online consulting business” requires a few key steps:

Step 1: Specialize your consulting services

As AI goes wide, you go deep. Consider a hypermarket that offers a wide range of products, from groceries to household items and electronics. Very convenient for many customers. But where do these customers go when they need something really specific: tailored home furnishings, organic vegetables that were locally cultivated or high-end electronics for a new hobby? They go to a specialty store.

The same logic applies to consulting. Sure, a typical company could use an AI translation tool to translate its texts. But when it concerns legal documents that cover a very touchy topic, they won’t hesitate to consult with an agency that’s specialized in legal translations. 

Develop your consulting business in that sense. Identify niche markets or industries where specialized expertise is crucial, and position yourself as an authority in those domains. It will differentiate you from AI (and just more generic human service providers) and attract clients seeking tailored solutions.

Lastly, define concrete service offerings based on your specialization. These packages will allow you to easily communicate online about what you do as a consultant. You may even be able to translate some of them into services that you actually deliver online. We’ll discuss that in step 3.

Step 2: Maximize your consultancy’s online presence

As our CEO mentions in the video below, professional relationships are less and less established without a preceding online touchpoint.

That’s why you have to establish robust online presence as a modern consultant. A few crucial things to put on your to-do list, if you aren’t on it already:

  • Create an informative and user-friendly website:
    At the very least that means one on which your service offerings are clearly listed and explained, and that provides contact information so a person get in touch with you.
    Even more ideal is that you create specific, search engine optimized (SEO) landing pages that address different problems your services can help potential clients with – including a practical contact form.
  • Optimize your social media profiles:
    You want to make sure you’re present on the social media channels that are relevant to your target audience. It’s good to have an up-to-date company profile, but don’t neglect your personal profile as a consultancy owner. We’d recommend you post at least twice per week on both, and that you engage with what’s being said in your network just as regularly (if possible, daily). Create and maintain a detailed social media report regularly to track your performance, monitor trends, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Share valuable content that showcases your expertise:
    Make the things you put on your website and share on social media valuable for your audience. As discussed in the video above, you already have the expertise from your day-to-day service delivery. Sharing useful bits and pieces online will establish a good reputation. If you can share feedback from happy clients of yours, don’t hesitate. It’s always very powerful for anyone considering your services. Luk Smeyers, founder of Belgian advice firm The Visible Authority, does a great job at this.
  • Engage with your audience:
    The previous three bullet points establish online presence. To stand out and provoke interaction with your audience, it’s important to show up with some extra engaging content every once in a while: webinars, podcasts and genuinely written blog articles will foster a sense of connection and build credibility.

PS. If you’re curious to see how well or not you’re doing when it comes to online presence, give the assessment below we made a try:

Step 3: Start (selling and) delivering consulting services online

If you do the things above, you’ll reach a point where your online presence becomes well established. Let’s say you’ve become a household name in your network’s LinkedIn feed and/or your name shows up consistently behind specific online search queries. That indicates you’re more than ready  to truly sell and deliver your services online.

Fundamental tools for online consulting

You might need to invest in a few digital tools to make that happen. Here are the most fundamental ones:

  • A video conferencing platform: Remember, the advantage you hold over AI is the human touch. Having a robust way to communicate face-to-face online enables you to really interact with your client while both of you enjoy the convenience of doing it remotely.
  • Online collaboration tools: For many types of consulting, you might work on text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or other materials. Furthermore, using Google Slides or other presentation platforms, you can use riverside.fm to create audio-visual copies and pre-recorded materials. These tools allow you to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously with clients: you can securely share and store files, edit documents, track document changes, restore previous versions, or ask and provide feedback in documents.
    • Examples: Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365 (now with Microsoft Copilot‘s AI integration to help create, read and summarize content), ClickUp
  • Project management software: Working with a client remotely requires you to be very clear-cut to avoid misunderstandings about timelines that need to be met, tasks that need to be completed and obstacles that need to be overcome. Project management software allows everyone to have the exact same view on things.
    • Examples: Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Scoro
  • Online assessment and feedback tools: To gather quantitative insights from and about your client, platforms to distribute questionnaires and visualize results are essential. On one hand for yourself, to better understand and serve your client. But you can also go further and provide each respondent with personalized feedback and advice, based on the data. A tools like ours allows you to automate this process entirely.
    • Examples: SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Typeform, Pointerpro
  • Online payment and invoicing tools: Online meeting, collaboratiing and assessing are client-facing activities, very practical for both yourself and the client. You shouldn’t want it any other way for your back end activities. And there is a lot that you can optimize digitally there: Systems for time and expense tracking, handling payments, sending and creating invoices, managing financial transactions and collecting outstanding payments… They’re all worth looking into and can allow you to close a 100% online consulting loop.
    • Examples: Clockify, Clicktime, PayPal, Stripe, QuickBooks, Upflow

3 examples of online consulting services to start with

In this article, we’ve covered quite some ground about the “why” and the “how” of online consulting to stay ahead of AI (and to simply respond to evolving expectations of clients, who soon enough will all be digital natives). 

While you let that sink in, I’d like to leave you with 3 examples of “what” your consulting services online could be.

1. Online coaching:

If you’ve acquired years of practical experience in a specific field, you should be bold enough to consider yourself an expert. When you think of it, at the very least, there must be a narrow domain in which you truly have some useful guidance to give to others. What more efficient way to do it than through online coaching?

For your inspiration: Service providers like CoachReady embrace the capability offered by videoconferencing to the fullest. They offer remote executive coaching and allow anyone interested to schedule a free 30 min take-in call via their website.

The website homepage of CoachReady
The website contact page of CoachReady

Whoever you are, if you’re good at something, you should consider at least offering online discovery calls. Even if your online coaching doesn’t have an enormous impact on your revenue directly, it’s a great way to attract clients and get them over the threshold.  

E.g. 

A creative copywriter can offer online coaching about storytelling. 
An experienced manager can give online coaching on leadership. 
A fitness expert can give sessions about goal setting and nutrition.

The list can endlessly go on and on.

2. Online diagnostic assessments:

The greatest fear of anyone in charge of procurement at a company is hiring a consultancy to bring about improvements, only to figure out after a significant period of working together that the firm hasn’t been dealing with the right problems. 

That’s why having a diagnostic service offering as a consultant  is a great way to reassure potential clients upfront. There are several ways to manage it: 

  • You can propose the diagnostic analysis for free as a lead generation mechanism. 
  • You can charge for it but promise to deduct the price of the diagnostic service if your firm is hired for the scope of a larger project.
  • You can simply charge for the diagnostic analysis, especially if you can pair it with very actionable advice.

Now, most companies will consider more than one potential consultant. One crucial factor then becomes speed-to-business-value: getting a comprehensive and efficient diagnosis done before any of your competitors. 

If you’re able to translate your methodology of diagnosis into an interactive online assessment for the potential client to fill out at his or her convenience, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition. 

I’ve covered online assessments as part of the fundamental online consulting tool list. So instead of repeating myself, let me refer you to an example of a Pointerpro client that uses her online assessment as the starting point of a consulting trajectory in organizations.

The introduction screen of a human capital scan assessment by Better Minds At Work
A personalized feedback report based on a human capital scan assessment

3. Online certification and learning paths:

Coaching and assessments aren’t only distinct online consulting services to consider. Together they can also be a fundamental constituent of learning and development (L&D) for your clients. 

I already mentioned that the human ability to transmit skills is an inherent advantage you have over AI. Generative AI unburdens your clients’ workers from tasks but in the process, these workers might forget to further develop their own competencies. As a human consultant, you can take on certain tasks but upskill others in the process. And why not facilitate that by offering an online learning path and attaching your own certification to it? 

For instance, you could organize online coaching sessions (or produce some video’s) to teach skills and use online assessments to certify participants, leading them to a higher competency level. And since you’re creating the convenience of having this happen remotely, the number of participants is practically unlimited

One such service is offered to cybersecurity professionals in large companies by Cybrary. It offers a catalog of learning resources, organized in learning paths toward specific certifications.

The website homepage of Cybrary

Another company that offers learning paths (using Pointerpro-built assessments as part of it) is KnowledgeWorkx. Among other things, they even offer individuals the chance to sign up and to acquire their KnowledgeWorkx certification in professional coaching.   

The website homepage of KnowledgeWorkx

At Pointerpro we’ve seen this business model of one consultancy firm certifying external consultants or coaches become more and more prevalent and successful over the years. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve added the optional Distribution Portal feature to our assessment building platform. Consultancy firms can expand their reach by giving certified coaches access to the firm’s assessments and letting them distribute these assessments to their network.

Closing

Lots of information in this article, hopefully useful and at the very least thought-provoking. 

In case you’ve been playing with the idea of investing in consulting services online, with the use of online assessments, don’t hesitate to browse further on our website or even schedule a discovery call with us. We’re more than happy to share inspiration and ideas with you.

Create your
own assessment
for free!

Create your
own assessment
for free!

About the author:
Jeroen De Rore

Jeroen De Rore

As Creative Copywriter at Pointerpro, Jeroen thinks and writes about the challenges professional service providers find on their paths. He is a tech optimist with a taste for nostalgia and storytelling.

Recommended reading

Want to know more?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get hand-picked articles directly to your inbox