The Hinge Research Institute’s 2018 High Growth Study: Consulting Firm Edition examined the marketing habits of consulting firms of all sizes to find out how high-growth firms have grown faster than average.

About the Study

The study surveyed 309 consulting firms worldwide, and almost 60 percent provided detailed financial information to be included in the high-growth analysis. The firms in the study represent combined annual revenues of almost $76 billion and employed roughly 350,000 people. About two thirds of the firms surveyed were micro firms making less than $1 million a year and small firms making less than $5 million. But mid- and large-size firms were also well represented in the sample.

Download the 2018 High Growth Study: Consulting Firm Edition

To gather our data, we surveyed company presidents, CEOs and top executives, who supplied financial information, described their marketing strategies and tactics and provided their perspectives on the industry’s future.

Strong but Slowing Growth

Consulting firms posted a median annual growth rate of 9.3 percent in 2017, down from 9.6 percent in 2016 and 11.5 percent in 2015. Compared to other professional services, the consulting industry sits at the higher end of the growth spectrum. For example, while consulting firms grew more quickly than the accounting and legal industries, they lagged technology firms by more than two percentage points.

Meet the High-Growth Firms

While the consulting industry generally outperformed other professional services last year, an elite group of consulting firms posted dramatically higher revenues. We call these high-growth firms. High-growth firm post a gain of 20 percent or more in median annual revenue for three consecutive years. High-growth consulting firms saw a median annual growth rate of 43 percent last year — more than four times that of their average-growth peers.


More than a third of consulting firms (37 percent) fell into the high-growth category, with small and micro firms dominating the group. But almost a third of the high-growth firms were mid- and large-size firms — so sustained growth is possible at consulting businesses of any scale.

The natural question is, how did they do it? We designed the High Growth Study to find out what high-growth firms do differently and why they are able to perform at such a high level.

The High-Growth Perspective

High-growth firms see the competitive landscape differently. While no-growth firms see their top threats as increasing competition, downward price pressures and commoditization, high-growth firms worry more about the need for new skills, automation and unpredictability in the marketplace.

To counter these threats, high-growth firms use a different play book. For example, they are more likely than no-growth firms to invest in making their expertise more visible. They are skilled at face-to-face networking, social media and video. They embrace specialization — serving a specific client role or function, in particular. And they are 82 percent more likely to conduct regular research on their target markets.

High-Growth Marketing

High-growth firms are more invested in marketing, too. For starters, they are more likely to spend more on marketing than no-growth firms. In fact, high-growth firms were 52 percent more likely to invest 15 percent or more of their annual revenue on their marketing budget. More than a third of high-growth firms spend at that level.

High-growth firms do plenty of traditional marketing, such as networking at industry conferences. But they are also far more likely to embrace marketing techniques that show off their in-house expertise. For example, high-growth firms are more likely than their no-growth cousins to provide consultations, assessments and demos.

Download the 2018 High Growth Study: Consulting Firm Edition

They are also far more likely to embrace digital marketing techniques such as creating downloadable, gated content, developing case studies (either written or on video) and to embrace marketing videos and video blogging. The study also showed that high-growth firms are much more likely to see impact from these and other digital techniques.

Why does all this matter? Because we now have hard data to replace the anecdotes and gut feelings that so often drive marketing decisions — data that describe how the best-performing consulting firms invest their marketing dollars. Now, your firm can model its marketing program on the most successful companies in the industry.

Are you ready to dive into the marketing habits of high-growth firms? Then download the executive summary of Hinge’s 2018 consulting research today. It’s free!

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Let Hinge help you create and implement a research-based strategy to increase your firm’s visibility and growth. Hinge’s Visible Firm® Program is the leading marketing program for professional services firms that want to market themselves like industry leaders. Ask about it today!

Elizabeth Harr