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#125: Good Enough Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 4, 2009
I am noticing that clients seem to be looking for the “basic package” instead of the fully loaded model of consulting services. I suspect this is largely due to the economic conditions but wonder if this is a trend.

Casey Stengel once said, "Never make predictions, especially about the future." As described in Clayton Christensen's book The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business, there is always room for disruptive technologies that provide just what the client wants. These are not necessarily the more sophisticated or complex ones. In decision-making strategies, this is called satisficing as compared to maximizing. Give the buyer what they want, not everything they can use. I suspect that the attention-focusing effect of a unprecedented (in most people's lives) economic downturn makes people ask "what do I really need here?" and not be carried away with the latest fad or presumably piling on more services in the hope of reducing risk of being wrong. As a tangent, consider the use of multiple expert witnesses in legal disputes and "defensive medicine" in which it is arguable whether marginal benefit exceeds marginal cost.

It is unclear whether this represents a permanent change in buyer behavior, but we can glean some insight from similar trends in consumer purchasing. A tangible example is in consumer electronics. If you are tuned in to things digital, you will recognize this powerful trend. After pushing technology to heights unimaginable only a few years ago, consumers have spoken loudly that they really just want simple. See The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine. Kindle, Skype, and Flip are all technologies that are fabulous for doing what people want. Are your offering at least some consulting services that are “good enough” or are you pushing only the “solid gold?”

Tip: You may want to have a conversation with prior clients about how they feel today about consulting services. If you have a good relationship with them, they will appreciate the conversation. Ask how they would scope your prior consulting engagement if it were conducted today. Would they retain you at all? Would they break up the engagement into smaller pieces? Would they source it to different consultants? Would they just do it in house or not at all? What are the “good enough” services that you could provide and would they be more attractive to clients?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client relations  client service  consultant role  marketing  product development  trends  your consulting practice 

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Luiz C. Esteves says...
Posted Friday, September 4, 2009
This issue brings almost instantly to my mind recent successful consulting engagement with a Canadian subsidiary of a large American corporation. They candidly let me know "they could have hired one of the big accounting firms, but rather came to my sole practitioner's offer as they did not want to pay for an arm and a leg (all that overhead), but just have the fingers doing the walk". My attention in showing them just my depth of market knowledge coupled to cross-cultural support capabilities all they really needed for reaching strategic decisions.

It is to me further confirmation to IMC Fellow Alan Weiss' timely words in his excellent "Getting Started in Consulting" when he says that "the buyer doesn't care how good we are .. only what is in it for the buyer", meaning that we focus on business outcomes rather than methodologies ... or 'full package'.

All this may be exacerbated by present disruptive times, but this issue is also fresh reminder of a golden rule when consulting to management. And it is, in my opinion, further assurances for those of us in sole practice or small offices that there will always be an edge to our services when compared to the industry heavyweights, just a matter of patient and methodical fact finding and relationship building for very targeted service offer.
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Cox Ferrall CMC FIMC says...
Posted Saturday, November 7, 2009
Sorry to check in so late on this one (I am a very slow reader) but this discussion brings to mind an adage taught by the late, great Bob Kahn CMC, FIMC: We must always aim our services to be "Excellent Enough" to deliver what the client wants - and to still be comfortably within the Code of Ethics.
Cox Ferrall CMC FIMC
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