AI in Consulting: How to Future-Proof Your Consulting BusinessNov 05, 2023
Table of contents
- Who is this guide for
- How is AI changing the consulting industry?
- 5 ways to leverage AI for growing your consulting business
- What are the challenges of integrating AI into your consulting and business owner workflows?
- Get the help you need to adapt to new trends and optimize your consulting business for growth
Who is this guide for
If you’re a consultant looking to make your business operate more efficiently and to uplevel what you offer your clients, this article is for you.
Let’s kick this off with a personal story.
I recently realized my list of daily and weekly tasks had become heavier with administrative and back office-type tasks. It was a red alert for me to stop and rethink the way I’m running my business.
So, I posted a job description for an executive assistant.
As I was reviewing applications, a surprising response to the job came across my desk. The person bluntly said “You can automate at least half of the work you’ve included in this job description. Assuming you do that, you may need a different type of assistant that you’ve posted here.”
I was taken aback. I consider myself a “techie” at heart and I love testing out new software and tools. At first, I blew off his advice, thinking he wasn’t familiar with my business and how high-touch it is.
But, his response continued to nag at me. So, I set up a meeting with him, and we went through the job description line-by-line. He explained which tasks he thought could be automated, and we discussed the pros, cons, and limitations.
I realized he was right. I could automate a lot of the processes I had included in the job description. I had been avoiding these automations for two reasons - (1) I figured the tasks didn’t happen that often, so it wasn’t a big problem to do them manually, and (2) I didn’t realize the breadth of automation options that are available (and growing by the day).
So, I’ve been diving further into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI-powered tools to help independent consultants differentiate themselves in the market.
How is AI changing the consulting industry?
AI is rapidly changing the consulting industry in many ways.
AI is leveling out the playing field for independent consultants, making it easier for them to compete with boutique consultancies and well-known consulting firms. How? Access to data (e.g. through open-source LLMs) and robust analytics are becoming much more widespread, opening the door for solo consultants to provide more complex and sophisticated strategies and solutions to their clients.
AI-powered tools are helping consultants fill in the gaps in their underdeveloped skills, such as marketing and selling their services. Consultants can leverage AI-powered tools to refine and advance their marketing messages in a way that traditionally has only been done by marketing agencies and skilled marketing professionals.
And, finally, AI-powered tools help consultants run their businesses more efficiently so they’re not wasting their time on administrative tasks and allowing them to focus more on core business activities.
5 ways to leverage AI for growing your consulting business
There’s a range of AI-powered and AI-enabled solutions available to independent consultancies.
My recommendation is to search for "AI-powered tools that...". Fill in the blank with what you want to accomplish and you’ll be surprised at how many solutions will pop up in your search.
It seems the saying “there’s an app for that” is taking on a whole new meaning. I just searched “there’s AI for that” and an aggregator website of AI tools popped up.
Caveat: it can be argued that some of these tools referenced in this article aren’t technically AI-driven. I acknowledge that.
The point isn’t whether something is truly AI-driven or not. The point with the list below is that there is a wide range of tools available to help consultants automate running their businesses and improve what they deliver for their clients. I want to make sure you have considered the wide range as you consistently look for ways to run your business more efficiently and effectively.
1. Using AI as your personal assistant
As I shared in my story at the beginning of this article, there are many solutions available to help you automate and streamline your consulting business operations, such as scheduling or drafting responses to your emails.
Calendar tools such as Motion automatically schedule all of your action items around meetings and other business rules, so you make more use of your business owner's time
- Email tools such as Flowrite automatically drafts emails for you so you can skip straight to the step of editing and sending
- Time-racking software such as Timely
2. Implementing AI tools to automate your consulting business's repetitive tasks
As I shared in my story at the beginning of this article, there are many solutions available to help you automate and streamline your consulting business operations.
- Zapier helps you integrate software systems that don’t have embedded integrations. It includes an AI-prompt feature where you write out what you want to accomplish, and it sets up the logic to meet your requirements.
- Monday.com includes robotic process automation (RBA) and process workflows to eliminate repetitive tasks.
3. Leveraging AI tools to uplevel your marketing game
There are numerous AI-powered tools available to you as an independent consultant, to help you fill in the gaps in your marketing and sales capabilities.
For example, you can utilize:
- ChatGPT or Jasper for writing and refining your marketing content. Note: I always advise you to go back through and add in your specific expertise, but these give you a starting point.
- Repurpose automates your content workflow so you’re able to easily spread your marketing content and expertise across platforms.
- Canva and its Magic Studio to create graphics
- Descript for video editing, transcription, clip creation, publishing, and screen recording
4. Leveraging AI tools to improve your client deliverables
You can implement AI-powered tools and genative AI solutions to assist you with client deliverables, ranging from note-taking to complex data analysis.
- Fireflies.ai for notetaking and transcription
- Notion.ai to synthesize research, data, market analyses, and other inputs into polished deliverables
5. Adding AI-related solutions to your consulting offers
Adding AI to your consulting service portfolio will help you stand out in the consulting industry. You can do this by identifying opportunities to help your clients leverage AI solutions in their operations and then focusing on these solutions as part of your consulting brand, your thought leadership, and ultimately as a cornerstone in the solutions you propose to your clients.
- Whitelabel tools like ProAI to provide client solutions such as strategic planning, business planning, and market research
- Leverage tools like IBM Watson, Microsoft Azure AI, and Google Cloud AI to streamline and analyze large datasets, improve decision-making, and provide more powerful recommendations.
What are the challenges of integrating AI into your consulting and business owner workflows?
There are three primary challenges with integrating AI into your consulting business, your consulting offerings, and your business owner workflows.
The learning curve can be overwhelming
Generative AI and AI-powered tools are evolving at breakneck speed. The learning curve can be overwhelming, especially if AI and data, in general, aren’t part of your current expertise. To conquer this overwhelm, build out a learning plan for yourself.
For the learning plan, be clear on why you want to learn about generative AI, artificial intelligence, and AI-powered tools. Then, identify the resources that you can leverage to achieve that objective.
Choosing the best AI tool for your use case can be time-consuming
Researching AI tools is a rabbit hole. There are so many tools out there, and new AI-powered tools are emerging every day. I encourage you to choose a specific AI goal or use case you want to achieve and then dive into solving it before you move on to the next one.
When you’re thinking about priorities, lean toward solving the revenue-generating ideas first (e.g. what AI solutions could you add to your suite of service offerings) and then prioritize time-saving AI tools, especially those for tasks you repeat most often.
The market is shifting rapidly, and it can be challenging to keep up
It can be difficult to keep up with changes in your industry and specialization in “normal” times. Now, with AI in the picture, it’s even more challenging. But, to stay relevant in your field and to be sought after as a consultant, it’s important to carve out time to stay on top of these trends and to innovate.
As a result, I recommend you add AI learning time (for your specific goals) to your weekly and monthly consulting business owner routine.
Get the help you need to adapt to new trends and optimize your consulting business for growth
It’s easy to get mired down in the day-to-day details and overlook new and emerging opportunities in your business.
I help clients with this challenge every day.
And yet, I have a hard time avoiding it myself. As I shared at the beginning of the article, I took a business-as-usual approach to solving an ongoing, ever-present administrative load. My initial instinct was to hire an assistant to help me.
But, the world is changing.
There are new solutions available and new ways of doing business.
And, there are opportunities for you to innovate and jump ahead of the larger consultancies that take years to pivot their direction.
If you are someone who wants to make more money, have a greater impact, and feel more fulfilled in your consulting business, now could be the time to have help achieving these goals.