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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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#720: Management Consulting is Like Sex . . .

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 16, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2011
Large consulting firms have developed an institutional brand and formal "approaches" to differentiate themselves. However, as the consulting field for independents becomes more crowded with retired business executives and retired/departed large firm consultants, differentiation is getting a lot harder. If everyone is selling the same strategic planning, process improvement, training, etc. services, what is the best way to make a compelling case to a prospect that your services are truly different and valuable?

It is unclear whether competition is any easier for large firms than it is for independents. Large blocks of consultants are selling the same services that can be described in general terms focusing on process, knowledge management, strategy, marketing, etc. Every large firm sells more or less the same "technology consulting, strategy, leadership, etc. services. Independents sell many of the same services, just at a smaller scale. Management consulting, like most free agent knowledge work, is highly competitive. In differentiating yourself, what is important is not the "title" of your pitch, but the "subtitle."

Look at new business books. Many have a title interesting enough to get you to look closer, but it is the subtitle that creates the emotional hook. To make up an example, consider "Twenty-Second Century Management: Be First in Your Market to Tap Emerging Tools, Technologies and Cultures." The title raises an eyebrow, but the subtitle would probably make you open the book for a closer look.

So it could be for your services. Don't start by describing "what" you do (e.g., planning, training, finance). Go right to the value with a "title" that is an attention grabber. But, and this is important, once you stimulate an interest with your provocative lead (e.g., like the title of this Tip), be prepared to back it up with a compelling reason why your service really is different. Your prospect will remember the hook and be satisfied that you know what you are doing if you tie it all together.

OK, to validate the point and follow up the Tip title, there are a number of one liners that, if you are honest and mature, provide the basis for thoughtful discussion about the management consulting profession, and your particular services. For example, It's all about chemistry (between consultant and client). Nobody wants to admit that they don’t really know what they’re doing (particularly new consultants and new managers). Everyone thinks they are good at it (there is no objective evaluation standard for consultants' work). All remember it as being better than it actually was (witness consultants' claims in their marketing materials). It is not the size of the consulting team but the effectiveness of the consulting process (large vs. boutique vs. independent consulting firms). There are many more but this is a good place to claim victory and move on!

Tip: You won't soon forget the subject of this Tip and are already thinking of your own one-liners to supplement those above. This is just one approach, but with this type of engagement you get a prospect to enthusiastically engage with you. With a bit of wry humor, you have made it possible for your prospect (hopefully now a client) to look forward to a great consulting experience.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client relations  innovation  marketing  proposals  prospect  reputation  sales 

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#699: Does Your Title Really Matter?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Some of my consulting colleagues head up small or solo consulting practices. Between them, they are President, Principal, Managing Partner, Chair, Executive Consultant, CEO, CXX (any number of "creative" titles), or no title at all. Does any of this matter?

To whom?

These titles are important in a large firm to differentiate between various executive, management and staff jobs. It helps outsiders know which roles and responsibilities an individual has. HR departments use these to describe a job to applicants. Inside a firm, it helps define accountabilities, and who gets what size office. Certainly if your business is related to the Internet or marketing, there has been an arms race in creative job titles.

For a solo or boutique firm consultant, this boils down to what your ego needs and what makes your mother proud. It really doesn't make any difference what you call yourself. Clients are hiring you for your expertise, perspective, skills and behaviors, not because you are CEO or President or Grand Poobah.. I've heard more than one client express some disdain in reaction to a consultant whose business card reads "CEO and Chairman" when they are a one-person firm or "Managing Partner" in a ten-person firm.

Tip: Call yourself whatever you like, but know that it is mostly for your own benefit.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  goodwill  professionalism  reputation 

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#696: Take Advantage of Letters to the Editor

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011
I do my share of speaking at trade events, have a blog with a fair amount of traffic and am active in my professional association. What are some other ways to get in front of people in my industry?

There are certainly many ways to do this but one that is often overlooked is writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper, business journal or trade publication. While this does not replace other activities to get your name in front of prospective clients and your professional colleagues, it does it in a way that is often more powerful.

When you write a letter to the editor, your response is usually short, pointed, relevant to today's news, and in a place where people are actively seeking information. Think about it. A brochure has information about your services but is rarely in a prospect's hands when they are looking for those services. Conversely, people reading the editorial pages of a business journal are highly interested in information, trends or opinions about their industry. These are likely the most motivated, qualified buyers of professional services because they are active information seekers.

Tip: Take a stab at selecting a few relevant publications, find out the contact information and letter submission protocol (this is usually where people abandon their motivation to write because they have to take time get this information), and commit to write three letters to the editor this week. It is not always easy to get your letters published because so many people write in. However, if your response is well crafted, is the right length, and addresses (or contradicts - always good copy) the topic of the day, your chances go way up. The side benefit of this activity is that you will become more focused on the news and industry trends.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  marketing  professionalism  publicity  reputation  writing 

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#692: Make the Case for Raising Your Rates

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
With downward pressure on prices in general, and consultant rates in particular, how likely is it that I will be able to raise my rates anytime soon?

Although overall economic strength or weakness may mean overall prices "should" increase or decrease, this has little to do with rates clients will pay for your consulting services. In theory, skills in short supply compel people needing them to pay higher prices. In theory. But that is only part of the story.

When the economy changes, the types of services in demand also change. Don't confuse supply with demand. Just because there aren't many other consultants doing what you do doesn't mean that the demand remains high. Sometimes the demand declines along with supply.

Increasing your rates requires you to make the case to prospects and clients that your services will make them and their business more productive. When the economy slows, there are needs for new or different types of services. Your credibility to provide those services is your validation of your greater value.

Tip: Talk to your clients about specifically what has changed in their short term needs. Look at the trade press for points of pain for companies in your area of specialization. For example, for companies with tightened credit or decreased cash flows, how can you recast your services to alleviate these challenges? For example, if your area of specialty is training, often a discretionary expenditure for companies, recast your training to show how your training will increase employees' abilities to sell more products and increase cash flow. Show the direct link between increasing cash flow to increase profitability in the emerging economy and your ability to increase employee productivity through usable skills. Be fully prepared for any argument that your services are worth less because "the economy is slow."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  fees  intellectual property  market research  marketing  proposals  reputation 

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#676: Be Cautiously Creative with Your Sales Collateral

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Given that consulting prospects have little time to get to differentiate you from your colleagues (and all the laid off executives flooding the consulting market), what are some ways to get people's attention long enough to develop some rapport?

Most professional service providers today have a common challenge when it comes to getting noticed above the crowd. All are presumed to have competent technical skills, a set of marquee clients who provide glowing referrals and some "unique" technical approach that is presumed to stand out on its merits. However, what once served as a sufficiently large marketplace for your combination of these characteristics to differentiate you, it is increasingly hard to see how one consultant is so much different from others. Instead of refining our offering, our target market or both, it is tempting to juice up our collateral as part of our visibility strategy. This can backfire badly if done poorly.

Consider the efforts of professionals who one would presume are tuned in to what works in the area of marketing collateral - designers. look at some examples of creative resumes by young designers. To the untrained eye, many of these look quite creative (the title of the article calls them "billiant") and one would think they would catch the interest of potential clients or employers. Now look at the comments of those viewing these resumes - it is not a pretty picture. The commenters are in the design business to which these resumes are aimed and they are unimpressed. What went wrong? Too much emphasis on being creative and not enough on the basics of communication, value, and clarity.

Tip: Be cautiously creative when presuming that splashy (but still professional) creativity can differentiate you from your peers. Being unconventional to be different is a double edged sword. If you do want to make a point with the format of your collateral, invest in market research with colleagues, clients and marketing professionals to make sure your targets are getting the same message you think you are sending.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  innovation  publicity  sales 

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