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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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#601: How to Know Which Organizations Can Most Benefit From Your Help

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 4, 2011
Updated: Monday, July 4, 2011
Looking back across two decades of consulting clients shows a range in success. Some clients were both committed to change and others were less so, and still others varied in their ability to change. How does a consultant know which prospective clients are worth the effort to support?

This is a factor in consulting most of us never consider. Clients assume that if they are facing a crisis or a lull in performance that a good consultant can improve things. Consultants also assume that if their experience and skills are appropriate, then they should be able to help just about any client. There is a critical logical deficit in this thinking that every consultant should think about before taking on a client.

Not every organization is in a position to take a consultant's advice or, even if they are listening, to implement and sustain such advice. The leadership needs a certain level of awareness to understand what improvements are possible, and the organization needs a certain level of operational performance to implement recommendations. Not all organizations are in this position. Whether leadership is incapable or unwilling to talk about leadership, strategic or cultural issues or the organization functionally is not in a position to implement, there are some clients who will not improve despite your best efforts.

Perhaps more important is your helping establish the social and operational foundation before you suggest sweeping performance improvements. If the client is willing to accept that change may require hard work on personal and social issues and to put in place operational processes that make it possible to even see how your recommendations would apply, then you have a chance of doing good. If your prospect is not even willing to prepare the ground for your change recommendations, then this organization is unlikely to benefit from your talents.

Tip: Consider a "Goldilocks" strategy. Organizations that are too strong (e.g., too flush with cash and on a growth tear) may be unwilling to accommodate improvement recommendations because they fear losing their streak. Organizations that are too weak in leadership, culture or operations may be unaware or unwilling to profit from your help. Your ability to best help is with organizations that are "just right."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  marketing  performance improvement  prospect 

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#600: Make Your Presentations Soar

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 1, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 1, 2011
How can I keep my presentations focused and full of content without resorting to "Death By PowerPoint?"

Because most consultant presentations are more informing than persuading, we are inclined to reveal all we know about the subject by lots of slides with lots of content (diagrams, bullets, build slides). However, if we consider how adults learn and remember, we should resist this temptation and stick to minimal, clean content with a visual appeal. Apple's Steve Jobs has, over 20 years, evolved as a presenter into what a good consultant should emulate.

There is a simple (in theory, hard in practice) formula Jobs uses for his presentations to make them remarkably effective, and you don't need groundbreaking technology to make your presentations memorable:
  1. Plan in the Old-fashioned Way of Black-and-White - create a storyboard - on paper - with concepts before you even start dumping your favorite images, graphs or demonstrations into a PowerPoint deck.
  2. A Twitter Friendly USP - create a memorable and short theme statement for the subject of the talk that you are sure everyone will remember.
  3. Introduce the Common Enemy - central to remembering a story is a contrast between protagonist and antagonist (for Apple is was IBM), so find something notable that the subject of your talk is intended to "defeat."
  4. Focus on Benefits - instead of trying to wow your audience with all the features, which they will forget within seconds of the words coming out of your mouth, make sure they understand how they will personally benefit - they'll come back to learn about features if they are interested.
  5. Use Simple Words - without paying attention, consultants can slip into their jargon, so use the simplest words you can, which will help you boil down your message to one that resonates.
  6. Make Numbers Meaningful - especially for consultants or anyone presenting technical findings or recommendations, cast large numbers in terms that make sense (e.g., the number of widgets sold this year would fill up 30 football stadiums).
  7. Practice a lot - Jobs spends days working and reworking his talks so they are seamless and easygoing when he delivers them, often recognizing many little ways to refine the content, pace or emphasis each run through.
Tip: One final hint is the overwhelming use of graphic images instead of words. Watch some Jobs presentations and you will see how a lot of content is conveyed with only a few word slides. There are books on this topic but a good slideshare presentation gives the basics on how to make your presentations soar.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting skills  presentations  recommendations  speaking 

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#599: Help Your Executive Clients With Social Media

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2011
Our firm is all over social media for our own purposes and we think most of our clients should do the same. However, we get a lot of pushback from older executives who promote it for their companies but consider it personally inappropriate for someone their position. Any thoughts on this issue?

The client's industry, culture and marketing plan will largely determine the extent to which a company as a whole uses social media. However, neither a company's use nor lack of use requires the executive to do the same. Even if a company is not or cannot be highly active in social media, there are benefits to the executive being so. These include the obvious presence among stakeholders (including employees) created by their participation and the consequent creation or strengthening of a personal social media "brand." Also, an executive's participation on social media likely gives them a new and broader insight into the world of their stakeholders and industry than they would otherwise have. For executives, it is this "inbound" knowledge that creates new perspectives and advises their ideas about strategy and tactics. This is probably the unspoken real value of social media for executives. While talking (i.e., blogging, tweeting, posting) has value, listening through social media is critical.

In almost every industry, more consumers, suppliers, vendors and market intermediaries are spending an increasing proportion of their time on social media (an average of 5 hours per month). For an executive to avoid going where his or her stakeholders (and peers) are gives up important knowledge about where his or her company is now and should be going.

Tip: An article in Chief Executive, Should CEOs Use Social Media? describes succinctly other reasons for executives to participate in social media. Research and anecdotal evidence from CEOs themselves make a strong case for why you serve your executive clients well by helping them engage in social media.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  brand management  communication  learning  recommendations  social media  trends  website 

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#598: Listen to Your Gut - Really

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I probably take in too much information about business, management, industry and consulting for my own good. A lot of it seems to be variations on the same themes, and over time, a lot of follows the herd, with each new fad attracting the same authors and speakers. Would I be missing anything if I just saved myself a lot of time by cutting back my research?

A product of the Enlightenment, our centuries old assumption that logic, learning and analysis is where we get our best ideas and decisions may be in question. Research on the enteric nervous system associated with the gastrointestinal system sheds new light on nervous system effects coming from other than just the brain. However, it is now understood that this is tied into our emotional system (e.g., "butterflies in our stomach"). This system doesn't help with your decisions about strategy, finance or logistics, but it does contribute to our reactions to others, our comfort with our own decisions or activities, and in other as yet undefined ways.

Lest you think this is a bunch of foolishness or new age thinking. check out the Scientific American coverage of the 1999 book The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine about how stress, emotional reactions, serotonin production and other functions that we always assumed took place entirely in the brain also are (literally) affected by our "gut."

Tip: Following your gut is only as good as your ability to really hear what it has to say. Pay attention and be sure the voice you hear is not an echo of the crowd outside. It does take a while to develop a sense of who you are as an individual and what you stand for as a professional. Certainly pay attention to trends in business and consulting, but once you have a good consulting sense, dial back the input and use the time for thinking instead of input.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  decision making  health  learning 

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#597: Your Business Card Should Match Your Brand

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I rarely use my business card anymore. Is there any value for a consultant to have one anymore?

The business card is not what it once was. Years (decades) ago, the business card was the totality of your identity and contact information, and sometimes a little more information about you. Your name, address and phone number was everything needed to do business with you. For some, especially sole proprietors, it was your tiny corporate brochure. Times change.

The past few years have seen some changes. Many of us work more virtually than before, communicate by email, and often change job titles and employers almost as fast as we can print up new cards. We pass along our contact information as part of our email signature. Considering the sterile, information-only business card of the past, isn't it time to reconsider what a business card can do for you.

Tip: Rethink (outside the box) what your business card can do for you. Because it isn't as necessary fro contact information, use it to convey your brand, your image, your corporate or practice "theme." Consider more graphical or iconic representations or other ways to leave an impression, not just information. Also, think about multiple business cards for different uses - maybe one for contact info, one for specific practice areas.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  sales 

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