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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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#47: How Much Marketing Effort is Enough, and When?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
When the consulting business turns down, we take advantage of the lull in business to crank up our marketing effort. This year we are collecting all the information we can to build a database of prospects and market trends. What else can/should we focus on?

Let's deal with a premise of your statement first, that a robust market database is a productive base on which to build business. True, when we are flush with business, we often spend less time on marketing and sales activities. Thus, it seems logical that, when the press of delivering services abates, we increase our market research and/or sales efforts. There are two issues here. The first is that start and stop marketing is a road to start and stop client opportunities. If you haven't been doing continuous marketing/sales (a little ebb and flow is OK), you will be caught without a full pipeline when the market slows a bit.

The second is that there is a natural limit to the value of an all-out marketing campaign. Information saturation occurs when each additional piece of information has less and less value (economists call this "diminishing returns"). Once you have identified a market trend you think you can exploit by advising clients, each piece of information about the market potential, suppliers or consumers, regulation, competitors or substitutes, etc. has less and less value.

The result is that a massive market research effort in a slow period may be "too much, too soon" (vs. "too little, too late"). Probably more information than is useful for a given prospect and by the time it is most useful, some of it may be getting outdated. As difficult as it is to maintain a steady marketing effort, according to an explicit marketing plan, every consulting firm must do this to maximize its ability to keep its pipeline full - even in slow times.

Tip: Review your marketing plan for this year and next. Are the underlying assumptions still valid? Are you still executing against a plan whose assumptions about the demand for consulting services, the industries or types of clients most in need, or your available time to conduct market or sales activities are no longer valid. It is really easy to let your plan, which may have worked fairly well over the years, take on a life of its own and cause you to commit to more or less of what you need to succeed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  practice management  prospect  sustainability 

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#36: Sources of Insight into What Companies Want

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 27, 2009
With large businesses being so conservative in their consulting investments these days, it looks like small businesses may be my firm's best bet for near term engagements. What consulting services are most in demand these days?

This varies a lot by industry, but there are a few general factors in most small businesses needing consultants these days. Of course, this assumes that the company is aggressive about growing and not retrenching like its larger counterparts. Think about what any business does when time get tough - they get creative. A consultant who can uncover innovation opportunities should do well. But what are the best ways to do this?

You probably already read the annual estimates of business trends in Inc. magazine, the Economist, Fortune and other business periodicals. These are good as general guides but for insight, try to find investment, market research or corporate strategy forecasts. Take an Intuit investigation of small business innovation. This is a great view of how businesses (written for small ones but most insights apply to large ones as well).

Tip: Another place to get the inside scoop is the recently published annual reports of companies in your industry. Each report will have some section titled something like, "Significant Known Events, Trends or Uncertainties Impacting or Expected to Impact Comparisons of Reported or Future Results." Get reports from annualreports.com for several companies and compile the common themes. At a minimum, you will have some good competitive information to run by a prospect. At best, you will know the kinds of consulting services best able to help companies in this industry.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  innovation  market research  planning  proposals 

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#994: Design/Build Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Prospects are sometimes reluctant to start an engagement until they see the full scope of the process but can't see the scope until they start and complete some diagnostics. How can I get past this constraint?

This is always in a manager's mind but probably more so in these risk-averse times. From the manager's perspective, he or she wants to assure that money and staff time are well spent and wants to know the scope, sequence and content of consulting tasks. From the consultant's perspective, we want to conduct some diagnostics first before laying out the full scope of the engagement, even though we have a pretty good idea of how we would proceed. In management, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The building industry figured this out years ago when building slowed down. They developed the design/build concept, where a single firm would do the architectural design work prior to building. Once the project was clear, the buyer could go out and find the best builder. However, the buyer had already established a trust in the design phase and was familiar with the design itself. More often than not, the buyer would select the firm it knew. By offering both services, the project was both more efficient and better for the builder.

Tip: Offer to provide both design and build services for consulting work. Approach a prospect in need and offer to scope out the work using fast track diagnostics and limited interviews. For a low price and risk, you can provide the prospect an objective and independent view of what might be needed in an improvement project. They are under no obligation to use your services but you reserve the right to bid on any request for services they issue. The client receives valuable perspectives from you, gets a chance to know you without any obligation, and you get insight into how best to serve. Sounds like a good plan all around.
© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  sales 

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