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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 

#706: Build Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011
I know that my consulting practice should be changing as fast as the businesses of my clients. I just don't have time to create new lines of service. Any ideas how to put a little more innovation into my practice?

Good question, and one many consultants don't ask themselves. Whether you call it staying fresh, ahead of the curve, or innovative, consultants must constantly create new value. Let's talk about how.

Your inspiration for innovation should come first from your clients, and those organizations you wish to serve. They are either in need of new services or are actually asking you for additional services. Be attentive to their needs and discuss possible new services with them. Be aware that your innovation can come from processes, technologies or culture, and it can be about how they do business or about how they are served by you or others.

The second source of innovation is from your colleagues and from consulting conferences. Members of your network are providing services that, with a few adaptations, could add to your own. Find a collection of consultants with diverse practices who discuss trends in consulting and are also looking to innovate. Conferences like Confab are great places to meet with senior consultants with whom you can develop new areas of interest and potentially team.

Tip: However you decide to innovate, do it through a steady process, whether you develop new areas of practice or are tweaking current ones. Take one of your primary services and spend a month improving it. Find a more effective way to describe your service to prospective and current clients (this might give you some ideas about what areas of value might be missing). Work on delivery mechanisms, taking advantage of new analytical technologies, communication approaches, or adult learning research. Ask colleagues for examples of how they provide similar services. Finally, ask your clients how you could improve your service - they will probably appreciate being asked, since so few consultants do so. Work on innovation; don't just wait for it to happen.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  innovation  market research  process  product development  quality  technology 

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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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#678: Keep an Eye on the Future

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Regardless of consulting focus, technological advances influence both how our industries change and how we run our consulting practices. Since I am not a technology person, how can I stay on top of these advances with a modest amount of effort?

Evolving technology is more than just electronic gadgets. It involves materials, communication, manufacturing processes, transportation, energy, medicine and healthcare, analytics, etc. Advances in any one or combinations of these areas will dramatically affect strategy, operations and culture of your clients. Think about how social networking technologies have changed how professionals communicate in just a few years and how cell phones and GPS have spawned entire new industries.

In less than an hour a month, you can keep up with these developing technologies. Several periodicals summarize how technology will change our business and personal lives. Here are three examples - but you may look around and find your own:
  • Industry Week describes, for a business readership, current events and trends in areas as diverse as energy, technology policy, and innovating companies.
  • Popular Science describes, for a lay readership, near-term, consumer-oriented products and processes.
  • Technology Review describes, for a more technical readership, specific technologies and how they could transform industries, including a range of special reports for individual technology groups.
Tip: There are many more sources but these provide a quick overview with just enough technical details and links to more if you are interested. Set up links to these periodicals in your favorites folder and a tickler to check them regularly, at least monthly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  product development  professional development  technology  trends 

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#645: The Rising Value of Consulting Conferences

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 2, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 2, 2011
Having been to a few consulting conferences over the years, I was never a big fan. However, The Consulting Summit and Confab have gotten good reaction lately. Is there any reason to take a few days to go to these and what will I get out of them?

There are different conferences for different people and needs. The Consulting Summit, run by Kennedy Information's Consulting Magazine, is a one-day event focused generally on macro issues of the business and consulting market. The next one is being held in New York City on November 9, 2011. If you manage a larger firm, the people you can network with and the topics covered are appropriate for you. The Summit has been a great place to catch up with leaders of large firms and renew relationships.

Confab, run by IMC USA as its annual conference, is a 2-3 day event focused on client service, marketing and practice management issues. This year's conference will be held in Reno, NV on October 22-24, 2011. If you run a mid-sized or smaller firm and your focus is on new concepts in consulting practice, enhanced marketing and improving point of delivery skills, then Confab is for you. With the changes in client use of consultants, Confab is a great way to jump start new lines of business, to meet other executive level consultants from whom you can learn about new markets and new consulting techniques...

Tip: Some consultants consider conferences are beneath them. However, when markets change like they have in the past two years, don't let pride get in the way of learning why some of your business is about to decline or where some traditional consulting practices are falling out of favor. Consultants who attend conferences are those who can see changes in the marketplace and are always developing new services and meeting people with whom they can develop new business. These are the people you want to spend time with to invigorate your consulting practice

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  learning  market research  networks  planning  practice management  product development  professional development  referrals  trends 

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#627: Start Small When Productizing Your Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Even after moving some of my consulting services to a value-priced basis, I am looking for some passive income. Productizing my services makes sense but I don't have any awesome IP that I can turn into a product.

There are several benefits to productized services for both the consultant and client. Unlike consulting services, which in the eyes of many buyers are intangible, unscripted and hard to value, a product is well branded, consistently delivered, well defined and more easily valued. Especially if you have a tiered offering of products, with several levels of service, productizing your practice can actually strengthen your brand.

This is all well and good for someone with a structured practice, a history delivering more or less the same services, and/or a set of discrete packages of content. This last item is traditionally industry reports, how to templates or packaged research data. These are well and good but increasingly lower value because they are quickly outdated and can be generated by more people (i.e., your specialized expertise is more common than a few years ago).

If you don't have these, however, you can start on the path to productizing your services by introducing minor processes or services for which you don't expect to get a lot of revenue. Take an analytical process or a procedure you have developed and refined over the years. As a good consultant you will have been documenting these processes and reusing them, with adaptation, in each subsequent engagement. These do not have to be grand inventions. They can be an easy solution to an otherwise straightforward but time consuming problem. Take an online application to calculate required consulting fees as an example. Anyone can set this up in a spreadsheet but this application makes it easy to do. It begs the question of what other applications from this provider might be of use (even for a fee) to me.

Tip: Start with an approach, a process of a dozen steps, or a format for organizing and displaying information for your practice. Distribute these for free to current clients and prospects, as for feedback and rigorously evaluate what users like and want you to add. Take this in small steps but get started. You will soon build a tiered set of products, the top end for which you can charge a hefty fee.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  consulting tools  knowledge assets  product development  your consulting practice 

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