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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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#391: Do a Little Work to Get Your Name in Lights

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 13, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010
Although my firm does good work, our services range across a number of markets, making it hard to effectively advertise. Does advertising make sense for a firm like mine? Where would I get the biggest return on advertising?

A century ago, department store owner John Wanamaker said, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

Selecting the right message, method and market for advertising is difficult even for companies with discrete, tangible products. It's no wonder that selling intangible, evolving products and services like consulting are even more difficult. You know to highlight benefits rather than features, to target the qualified buyers, and to make sure you are identified along with the product. However, there are probably five common elements missing in many consultant ads:
  • Appeal to emotion. Consultants seem to think clients are only buying competence. They are not. Having already vetted you, clients assume you are competent and are buying confidence (their own) that you can be trusted to deliver the service effectively and on time. Make sure trust is an element of your ad.
  • Tell a story. People identify more with a story than with a list of attributes or even a list of features. Take the reader along for a ride to share the experience of your services.
  • Make it easy to buy. Many ads tell about a product or service but don't end with a call to action. Let the potential buyer know what you'd like them to do next (e.g., call you, email for a free report, go to a website, attend a seminar).
  • Keep it simple. Consultants can deal in complex ideas and processes - an ad is not the place to explain all this detail. Write the story so a tenth grader can quickly grasp the concepts. And really run it by a tenth grader to confirm that it can be quickly grasped.
  • Track your results. Because it is so hard to do, many advertisers simply don't bother to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts. You should know, before you place an ad, how many impressions it will produce and an estimate of sales. If an ad isn't producing as expected, it's time to try something else.
Tip: Advertising your consulting services may not make sense but, if you do, make sure you design it as thoughtfully and manage the process as carefully as one of you engagements.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  innovation  market research  networks  reputation  sales 

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#390: Leverage the Power of RACI to Clarify Roles

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 10, 2010
Do you know an efficient approach to facilitate a discussion to straighten out badly confused roles and responsibilities within an organization?

A component of organization development is clarifying the roles, responsibilities and authorities of leadership and staff. In many instances, roles are poorly defined or assigned to the wrong people. Consultants have developed techniques to help clients sort these out, one of which is the RACI chart.

RACI (there are variants) stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. These represent the various roles an individual would take relative to key functions. It may be used anytime but is most useful when a organization is undertaking a new initiative or a new team has been formed.

To create a RACI chart, set up a matrix with major functions as the rows and key positions (or named individuals) as column headers. Cells are designated with an R, A C or I, as appropriate, to indicate the role an individual plays. With experience, you will begin to understand what certain patterns mean and recognize how to reallocate staff authorities.

Tip: For a more complete description of how this technique works, see one of many articles and examples of RACI charts. A quick look at how others have implemented RACI reveals that there is great latitude in how you design your approach.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  roles and responsibilities  your consulting practice 

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#389: Strengthen Your Credibility With Video Client Testimonials

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 9, 2010
Updated: Friday, September 10, 2010
Many of us post client testimonials for our services on our websites and in our promotional literature. I also have considered creating a short video of my speaking and facilitating. What else can I do to distinguish my consulting practice?

One answer may be right in front of you. Client testimonials are a great credibility builder. Videos of your services are a quick and compelling way to express your capabilities, stage presence and range of services. What if you combined the two?

Most cell phones and digital cameras have the ability to take short movies. These are not professional quality videos but sufficient to capture 30-60 seconds of client testimonial. Or, invest in a Flip video camera or something similar for under $200 for HD quality video. When the time is right, ask your client if they would be willing to record a short video testimonial on your behalf.

Think this through before you ask. What is the "script" they should follow? Should they talk about you as a consultant? Should they introduce themselves and talk about their need for your services? Do you want the client to describe why they selected you? Whether they would hire you again? The general nature or specifics of what you did for them? Plan this out in advance so you get the results you expect (you may or may not get a second chance).

Tip: Go over the purpose, process and intended use (e.g., post on website) of the video with your client. Let them see others you have done already. Finally, let your client know that they get the right to reject the finished product if they don't like it.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  communication  marketing  reputation  sales 

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#388: Take A Cue From the Board

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm looking for competitive intelligence on a prospect. I have looked at the Leadership Library and recent annual reports, asked competitors about their differentiators, figured out where the executives spend their community time, set up a press clipping and Topix analysis, and asked around. I really want this client. Anything else I can do to get an inside perspective?

Sounds like you are well along in scoping out your prospect. You have covered the factual, news and opinion angles. Good for you. Not enough people do this kind of research on a prospective client before trying to engage them.

Here's one area you may not have thought of: the Board of Directors (or a CEO advisory body). Directors are presumably selected because they bring financial, market, technological, management or other resources to the company. Collectively, they provide the governance to drive a company efficiently and effectively forward.

If we assume this is true for a moment, take a look at Directors individually and as a group. What does each one bring? What areas of expertise and perspective do they have? Have there been any recent shakeups on the Board or any Directors brought in for a specific reason? Finally, do you know any of them well enough to talk with them about what the company needs? There are worse references to have than a company Director.

Conversely, it may be the case that the Board itself is one of several problems the company faces. In this case, your analysis of how well the Board is constituted might provide an additional topic of discussion with the executive to who you are offering your services.

Tip: Use caution when approaching individual Directors and/or discussing your conclusions about the role and performance of the Board with your future client. Recognize that you are not on the inside and are going to be missing a lot of information. However, properly qualified, the executive is likely to be impressed with your thoroughness in looking beyond traditional competitive intelligence sources.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  boards  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  prospect 

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#387: Sharpen Your Practice Focus

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Over the years, my practice has evolved and it seems like I am doing a little bit of everything. I feel like I am drifting and need some method to better target my preferred market. Aside from the stock ideas in every book on marketing, do you have any innovative ideas that can help me sharpen my focus in my practice area and region?

Although I don't know anything about your location or practice area, one suggestion might help you get focused on your market. Treat articles in the business section of your local newspaper and in your industry's journal as opportunities for you to develop mini case studies. Here are two ideas.

First, for each article about a company, industry, event, or trend, write 3-5 sentences on a note card of exactly how you would address the issue and provide your consulting services. Whether you are in marketing, logistics, human resources, communication or leadership, define how you would bring value to the company mentioned or a company affected by this trend. After a few weeks of this, compare your cards to find the common themes. Which services are you most confident and enthusiastic about providing? Which ones didn't you have much to say about? By the way, you now also have several dozen leads for prospecting in your local market.

Second, see if you can find a few colleagues to go through the same exercise. After a month, compare notes on how you would each have addressed these situations. Just like Harvard Business Review cases, where several managers comment on a case, your answers may vary from those of your colleagues. At a minimum, this will require you to defend and refine your approach to client service. At best, you and your colleagues may have just come up with a team approach to take to a company that has the problem you have just collectively "solved."

Tip: You don't have to figure thisout yourself. Include your colleagues in your approach to better understand your practice and market opportunities.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  practice management  your consulting practice 

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