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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 

#696: Take Advantage of Letters to the Editor

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011
I do my share of speaking at trade events, have a blog with a fair amount of traffic and am active in my professional association. What are some other ways to get in front of people in my industry?

There are certainly many ways to do this but one that is often overlooked is writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper, business journal or trade publication. While this does not replace other activities to get your name in front of prospective clients and your professional colleagues, it does it in a way that is often more powerful.

When you write a letter to the editor, your response is usually short, pointed, relevant to today's news, and in a place where people are actively seeking information. Think about it. A brochure has information about your services but is rarely in a prospect's hands when they are looking for those services. Conversely, people reading the editorial pages of a business journal are highly interested in information, trends or opinions about their industry. These are likely the most motivated, qualified buyers of professional services because they are active information seekers.

Tip: Take a stab at selecting a few relevant publications, find out the contact information and letter submission protocol (this is usually where people abandon their motivation to write because they have to take time get this information), and commit to write three letters to the editor this week. It is not always easy to get your letters published because so many people write in. However, if your response is well crafted, is the right length, and addresses (or contradicts - always good copy) the topic of the day, your chances go way up. The side benefit of this activity is that you will become more focused on the news and industry trends.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  marketing  professionalism  publicity  reputation  writing 

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#695: A Good Question Beats a Good Answer

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 11, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011
Given that clients look for creative - and fast - answers these days, how much tolerance do they have for diagnostic, exploratory tasks that traditionally kick off most engagements?

Much of our value as consultants is to stimulate ideas and solutions clients are unlikely to reach on their own. How you go about this varies by engagement. However, some ways of managing your engagement create solutions faster than others. Specifically, clients are less tolerant of consultants starting off with reading client documents, gathering data and interviewing staff. They want to engage quickly and use the consultant's insight to ask the right questions, not have the client presume to deliver the answers independently. The best way to do this is to ask penetrating, and provocative, questions:
  • Why would people leave your competitor for your company?
  • What would you have to provide a recently departed customer to get them back?
  • How can we preserve our culture while we grow so rapidly?
  • Who would you pick from among current staff to repalce you?
  • How would you create a new product service if it had to be on the market in six months?
  • How can we build our core values into our brand as seen by our customers?
  • What recent strategic mistake can we reverse?
Note that these questions aren't answered with a yes or no. Instead, they start honest, insightful, and perhaps difficult conversations. Engaging a client in the solution makes you far more valuable than just delivering your own solution.

Tip: Your role does not end with the initial question. The questions above are a fine start but do not provide the unique value you are capable of providing. The series of follow up questions that dig deeper may be the foundation for a new direction for a company. Mutual exploration using your insights and your client's mission and motivation creates unbeatable value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding  facilitation  guidance  learning  your consulting practice 

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#694: Can You Diagnose an Organizational Learning Disability?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Does your consulting practice or your client's organization have learning disabilities?

Just as individuals have disabilities when it comes to perceiving, understanding and applying knowledge, so too do organizations. If we are unable to establish a construct within which to actively seek or passively absorb information around us, it is difficult to acquire new perceptions or develop new habits of behavior. The same applies to applying and benefiting from this new knowledge.

Organizations have the same challenges. If your client's organization, or even your own consulting practice, does not create the conditions for active learning and growth, it will fall behind competitors in being able to deliver constantly improving service and to thrive. There are many constructs for describing how organizations learn but they must be set up to learn, actively learn and structurally apply that knowledge to sustain performance.

Tip: Use a common three-step process to improve your organizational learning. First, investigate the circumstances of your strategy and operations. How well do you understand who you are, where you intend to go, what your capabilities are? Second, evaluate what is working and what is not. Can you identify what activities led to success and failures and why? Third, institutionalize what you have learned. This is the place where many consultants fail - they understand what happened and why but do not do anything about it. Especially for your clients, but also for your own business, take specific actions to make sure your failures are not repeated and that the conditions the led to your successes become part of your practice DNA.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  guidance  your consulting practice 

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#693: What is Your Consulting "Killer App?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
If many of the services a consultant provides (e.g., assessments, process reengineering, market research) are increasingly commoditized, and the pace of change in most industries renders "long experience" less valuable, what is left to the professional consultant to differentiate their services from any other consultant?

Every discipline, business and individual has something that differentiates it from its competitors. It could be the unique value proposition, the proprietary technology or the brand. Given the nature of the profession and the implied value of creative, customized service, the equivalent for a management consultant might be called the "killer app."

The definition of a killer app (applied to computer programs) is a program or element of a program that makes it indispensible to the operation of a larger program or a "must have" product that compels purchase of the platform on which it resides. Bill Gates described Internet Explorer as a killer app in that it was so useful that it would induce people to buy Microsoft products. In the same sense, consider consultants who have a similar service, database or capability that is so powerful that it compels clients to seek them out - despite the fact that most of their services are indistinguishable from those of other consultants. The platform is your suite of consulting services, among which is your killer app.

This is a similar to a strategic competitive advantage but does not have to be as grand in its scope. Since clients are selecting from your suite of (largely intangible) services, they are looking for some (marginally tangible) service they can relate to and appreciate as unique and valuable. In this sense, your whole practice does not have to be superior, just one or two compelling items.

Tip: Find (at least) one service, asset, capability, set of data or infrastructure that you have created, that few others could duplicate, and that you know is an easy sale to clients. This establishes your services as high value, making offering additional (non killer app) services easier and giving you a position of relative strength to negotiate their value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  presentations  product development  prospect 

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#692: Make the Case for Raising Your Rates

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
With downward pressure on prices in general, and consultant rates in particular, how likely is it that I will be able to raise my rates anytime soon?

Although overall economic strength or weakness may mean overall prices "should" increase or decrease, this has little to do with rates clients will pay for your consulting services. In theory, skills in short supply compel people needing them to pay higher prices. In theory. But that is only part of the story.

When the economy changes, the types of services in demand also change. Don't confuse supply with demand. Just because there aren't many other consultants doing what you do doesn't mean that the demand remains high. Sometimes the demand declines along with supply.

Increasing your rates requires you to make the case to prospects and clients that your services will make them and their business more productive. When the economy slows, there are needs for new or different types of services. Your credibility to provide those services is your validation of your greater value.

Tip: Talk to your clients about specifically what has changed in their short term needs. Look at the trade press for points of pain for companies in your area of specialization. For example, for companies with tightened credit or decreased cash flows, how can you recast your services to alleviate these challenges? For example, if your area of specialty is training, often a discretionary expenditure for companies, recast your training to show how your training will increase employees' abilities to sell more products and increase cash flow. Show the direct link between increasing cash flow to increase profitability in the emerging economy and your ability to increase employee productivity through usable skills. Be fully prepared for any argument that your services are worth less because "the economy is slow."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  fees  intellectual property  market research  marketing  proposals  reputation 

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