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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 

#230: Make Sure Your Services Are as Good as They Look

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 29, 2010
Updated: Friday, January 29, 2010
As a solo practitioner, I can't compete with the resources of large firms. They can put together slick proposals and work products and the client is going to assume that glitz equals quality.

I understand your concern but disagree with the premise. First, you would be surprised to know that more than one client has disparaged these glossy, graphics laden reports. In fact, federal government procurements actually prohibit elaborate or expensive proposals. Just as people joke that they know they are paying the overhead that goes with expensive furnishings in high rent building for their lawyers, they also are uncomfortable paying for sizzle without the steak.

Second, your relationship with your client and their trust in you usually carries more weight than your work products. If your client is more wowed by a PowerPoint spectacular than the weight of your conversations, questions, analysis and your change management outcomes, then you might ask yourself whether you have the right client. This does not mean that your work products should be sloppy or unprofessional. Give your clients exactly what they need and don't try to cover any deficits with fluff.

Tip: If you want to feel better about the pretty masking the real, check out this now famous Dove commercial showing what is behind the attractive image.

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  competition  proposals 

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#229: Picking the Right Metric to Show Your Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, January 28, 2010
Every consultant says they can deliver great results for their clients, and most of us claim personalized service. How can a consultant compete if everyone is using the same measures of value?

Two ideas come to mind. First, there may be some value to using the same measures as other consultants, making it easier for your clients to compare the value of your services "apples to apples." If you say you are going to return X% on investment (i.e., your fee), or you can reduce personnel costs by Y%, at least you have something quantitative and in terms by which a client would evaluate other investments. The down side of this is you may be rigorous or conservative in your calculations but your competitors are not bound by your standards. You have no way of knowing whether your plausible 35% ROI will compare to your competitor's 1000% ROI, based on entirely different criteria.

Second, you are always better off casting your value in as few terms as possible and in terms that target your client’s or prospect's point of pain. If sales effectiveness is the problem, you might frame your value as an increased sales close rate. However, look closely at the presumed point of pain to find the right benefit metric. If the presented pain is cycle time, it might be that the real issue that matters to the client is unit cost of produced goods, and cycle time is only one part of the cost calculation. Frame your solution metric in the same terms as the problem, not just the symptom.

Tip: In addition to your chosen metric, I suggest another one that is not always used: Speed to Value. This is defined as how long before your results start to appear. All managers are impatient about results. Some may have waited too long before calling you. Show them that, in addition to delivering on their point of pain, your services will return results within weeks, days or hours.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  customer understanding  proposals  prospect 

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#228: Those Who Can, Do, Those Who Can't . . .

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Some of my consulting colleagues also teach as adjunct faculty at community, graduate or online colleges. Does this make sense for consultants? What is the benefit to me or the students?

Teaching in your discipline can be productive for both you and your students, but only if several conditions are met. These have to do with who you are, why you are teaching, your teaching ability and your students’ needs (there are more criteria, but we'll stick with these four). First, is teaching something you want to do? Being a great teacher and having the desire to do so are different characteristics, and you may have one, both or neither. There are fabulous teachers who chose not to teach (and there are those who shouldn't but do anyway). Second, are you teaching to supplement your income (the pay is usually far less than for consulting), because you enjoy the interchange of ideas, to sharpen your skills or because you are compelled to educate people in your discipline? All of these can be legitimate reasons to teach, but be sure you know why you are doing it.

Third, how good a teacher are you? Having passion and content knowledge are insufficient if you cannot convey that passion and knowledge to your students. Each type of student and curriculum focus differs. My teaching at undergraduate and graduate levels was more effective than teaching in K-12 subjects. Others may be better in a seminar setting than lecture setting, or in apprentice training. Fourth, compared to what you have to offer, what do your students really need? The focus of an operations course in business school can vary from mathematical modeling to cultural interactions. Are you up to delivering the focus in a manner the students need? Finally, just as in management consulting, teaching is a profession with its own body of knowledge and practices. It requires a commitment to the profession, a sense of its unique ethics and culture, and a desire to continuously improve your skills. It is not something to dabble in any more than any other profession.

Tip: The benefit to you is that it compels you to do research and keep up with the discipline. You have to continually refine and build your skills to be able to teach at the highest level. "Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” applies to teachers who don’t bring real world experience to the students. A consultant who is "doing” and "teaching” at the same time benefits both you and your students.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  professional development  teaching/training 

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#227: The Internet is Forever, and So is Your Website

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I have a client who wants us to evaluate the historical effectiveness of their web strategy. The problem is that they don't have any archived copies of their prior websites, nor does their site host retain copies beyond a year. How should I approach this task with no data?

There are two issues here: knowing what the past sites contained and its effectiveness in the past. The first one is easier. Website archives are maintained by The Internet Archive WayBack Machine (a reference to the early 1960's cartoon Peabody about a time-traveling dog who had a "WABAC Machine"). Here you can see, year by year, what the pages of your client's website looked like. If you are feeling brave, also look at your own site and consider how your own web presence has evolved.

The second part is harder. Historians are well aware of the problem of trying to interpret history without misrepresenting it. We all see the past through our own lenses and culture. Our view of what was "effective" five or ten years ago is, or should be, different from what we consider effective today. Certainly technology, as well as expectations of website users, have evolved. What was cutting edge a decade ago may be seen as unsophisticated today. This is where interviews with past users of your client's website may be helpful. Through their collective recollections and suggestions, you may better be able to derive how effective the site was relative to those of competitors.

Tip: Find "best practices" books and guides on web design and web marketing written for each period you will evaluate. Most books on web design are assumed to be worthless once they are a few years out of date. In this case, they are essential as frames to understand how customers and the public might interact with and react to your client's past site.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  interpretation 

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#226: Consultants Telling Their "War Stories"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 25, 2010
Updated: Monday, January 25, 2010
I think I just made a huge mistake. I was shooting the breeze with a long-term client and talking about some of my past client experiences when I think I crossed the line by being critical. She laughed at my story and added one of her own, but I am not sure how to handle this.

This is an occupational hazard of being a consultant. You get comfortable with a client and, sooner or later, the relationship moves from strictly professional toward personal. At that point, you may feel OK with relating stories of your experiences as a consultant. There are three caveats. First is to be careful that the stories are yours to tell. From an ethical standpoint, it is inappropriate to reveal any facts or reference to identifiable clients to whom you have consulted. Even favorable stories are not yours to divulge.

Second, what does this say about your professionalism that you so easily (figuratively) throw a client under the bus? Even though your current client seemingly joined in with the disparaging tone of the conversation at the time, sooner or later she will think, "If this consultant so easily criticizes other clients, what will eventually be said about me and my firm?" Third, our inclination to tell a "personal" story because we feel so comfortable with a client is a glaring indicator that we are losing (or have already lost) our independence and objectivity. Along with out expertise, these are the foundation of our value to clients.

Tip: It is human nature to get personal with someone you like, respect and spend a lot of time with. However, this is a professional relationship. Keep your stories about past clients out of your conversation with current clients. It is OK to relate situations and facts in a nonprescriptive and nonjudgmental way (harder than it sounds) but keep your independence and objectivity as your standards of interaction. I'd even go so far as keeping "war stories" that are disparaging or unflattering out of your conversations with other consultants.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  confidentiality  ethics  professionalism  reputation 

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