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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#10: Are You Practicing Evidence-Based Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 20, 2009
Occasionally I team with other consultants and get to see them in action. Some have rich methodologies and demonstrable results, while others are using methodologies they developed that have no apparent proof that their approach has any validity. Is it unethical to be promoting a consulting approach that has not been proven?

This is a tough question to answer. In healthcare, evidence-based medicine is largely the standard. Here, despite inherent variations in the characteristics of individuals and conditions surrounding treatment, scientific methods are applied to make best case decisions about medical interventions. A "best practice" has been proven to have broad applicability and predictable results. The standard of care does not extend to faith healing, experimental treatments, or other approaches whose results cannot be replicated and validated as arising from a specific approach.

Similarly, businesses are starting to press for evidence-based management. Results-orients, fact-based, proof cases are all terms coming into wider use. Managers are increasingly asking that interventions in strategy, operations or culture come with some evidence that they actually work. Even authors of best selling business books are criticized for researching what "best" companies do and then asserting that if you want to be great, you should be like those companies. This is the classic logic trap of post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") in response to which managers are asking for more proof that advisors prove that their recommendations will have the intended effect. The many stories of consultants advising millions of dollars of change that has no effect are taking their toll.

Alternatively, there is a large gap between evidence-based medicine and management. Since management is not a specific discipline, is practiced differently in various industries and cultures, and is highly influenced by fads, it is harder to prove the cause and effect. Nevertheless, several universities have started programs in evidence-based management and are conducting research.

Tip: It unethical to promote an approach for which you do not have knowledge, much less confidence, that it will deliver the stated results. However, given the newness of evidence-based management, one does not have to produce research results to ethically assert that their approach has merit if they can provide client testimonials of its past successful application. Get your former clients to specify the approach you used and describe the results they got and connect the two. Be as explicit about the steps, rationale and expected results and risks in describing your own methodologies when presenting to prospective clients. Let other consultants critique your approaches and make them as rigorous as possible.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  ethics  intellectual property  process 

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#9: Turning Your Marketing Message Upside Down

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 18, 2009
What are some ways to reach clients when they are so focused on a defensive posture? I know we'll all come out of this eventually, but my positive message of opportunity is not getting through.

Maybe you just need to stop fighting against how your prospects are feeling. They feel what they feel and it's not up to us to tell them they are wrong. We can present facts about our services, our expertise, our satisfied clients and our potential to do great things for them. However, we would do well to recast our message in terms to which they are now tuned.

This is not a trivial exercise. It is not a global search and replace on a word processor to replace "build your market" with "defend your current customers." Consider the now famous film ad for Argentine Presidential candidate Lopez Murphy in which two very different messages are found when reading the same series of phrases forward and backward. Be creative in how you recast the bad news in the market into good news related to your services.

Tip: Instead of starting with your brochure and your elevator speech, start with what is on managers' minds. Look at consumer and business confidence reports, business magazine, Conference Board or trade association press releases. What do they say is the typical executive's greatest concerns? Use those as talking points and describe how, with your help, you can address the very things they fear most. Turn the message upside down.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#8: Is Your Consulting Brand Outdated?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Do I need to realign my consulting practice for the times? I have a strong reputation for top line growth but it seems all people want these days is cost cutting.

A brand is a promise of what you can and will deliver for clients. It takes time and resources to establish a brand and once, established, more time and resources (and performance) to maintain. There will always be reasons, regardless of the size, pedigree or focus area of your practice, to chase after a sizable revenue opportunity. Especially when the economy slows, a call from a past client or prospect asking you to advise them in an area outside your brand is tempting. But the offer is not as attractive as it may seem.

You can compete on specific criteria, usually quality, cost, speed or variety, but not all. If you are known for quality or cost, but not variety, once you start to take on engagements outside your area of specialization, you weaken your brand. Now you are known as someone who will do just about anything (even if you do it well) and start to become a commodity. There are plenty of companies who are still looking for top line growth and, sooner rather than later, there will be a lot more.

Tip: Redouble your efforts to locate growing companies and position yourself for an economic recovery. Respond to offers to do work outside your reputed areas of expertise with the comment, "I appreciate your confidence in my abilities but you are asking for services outside my area of specialization and I think you would be better served by someone who specializes in this area." Even better if you can recommend a few firms who can provide these services. Your brand remains intact and is now even stronger in the eyes of the person who requested services outside your specialty.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  goodwill  marketing  reputation  sales 

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#7: When a Client Asks You to Hire Staff

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Help! My client is asking me to make hiring decisions for her. It is nice that she trusts me but I am uncomfortable taking on this responsibility.

There is nothing wrong with advising a client on some aspects of staffing decisions but final selections are inherently management decisions. A consultant, unless specifically hired to conduct the hiring process, should not be making such decisions. The role of the consultant can be fairly broad in staffing decisions. You can help specify the knowledge, skills and abilities required for a position. You might even set up a process to identify candidates and a process to screen or evaluate their capabilities. You may even be in a position to evaluate the performance of current staff. It is not unusual for clients to ask a trusted advisor to sit in on interviews for key candidates. But, making the final decision on a candidate is inappropriate for a consultant and the client would be abdicating their responsibility as a company executive to ask you to do so.

Tip: This is traditionally a subject of your initial discussion with a client at the outset of an engagement as to your respective roles. It is your prerogative as an advisor to inform your client that you are not comfortable taking on the role of making corporate decisions, even though you appreciate the responsibility inferred by the request.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  recommendations  roles and responsibilities 

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#6: Think of Your Website as a Watering Hole

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 16, 2009
Websites take a lot of time to maintain. For a consulting practice, how important is that my site be more than just describe my services?

What constitutes an effective website has evolved over time. A decade ago, a website that was, as you described, an electronic brochure, was good enough. A set of static pages with your experience, qualifications, approach to consulting and a list of clients might do the trick. As both technology and website user sophistication increased, the standard for what a good consultant's site looked like also increased. People have come to expect knowledge generators like consultants to provide a fresh set of content. Maybe you aren't expected to provide a steady stream of content like large consulting firms, but your services are expected to evolve along with business and management.

Take some of the biggest news stories or trends in your industry. How would a prospective client know that you are on top of these issues? What new services have you developed that are different from those of your competitors? What content are you providing, for free, that is client-oriented? What mechanisms are you creating that continuously engage clients? Would clients in your industry consider your site one of many substitutable information sources or would they think of it as the equivalent of a "watering hole" to which they would regularly return, expecting useful content relevant to their emerging needs?

Tip: Talk to your current clients about what they need as managers to stay ahead of their competition. Managers generally appreciate content in any of three areas, (1) tips on how to improve some process aspect of their operations, (2) trends in the industry, and (3) your opinion or insights about organizations like theirs. The first is what your consulting service is about, and is best provided as a custom service, although case studies of your prior projects are a great way to get the message across that you can solve their problems. The second and third examples are best provided by a regular blog or newsletter expressing your unique insights into the industry. Whatever you do, keep your site fresh to keep up with the industry.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  marketing  prospect  website 

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