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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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#173: A Consultant's Social Media Strategy

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Updated: Friday, November 13, 2009
I am all over social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and several bookmarking sites) but am not getting much in return for the effort. How can I get more traction?

Consider the intent of your social media strategy. It is easy to engage in setting up accounts, participating in forums and referring people to your profiles. Some consultants, however, fail to start with the end in mind, instead feeling that they must have a social media "presence" and will figure out later how it will work. Before you engage in social media in a significant way, consider two issues (these do not include the mechanics of the strategy itself). First, recognize that you are asking people to make an investment in you and your content. Although they do not "pay" in a traditional sense, their interaction with you takes time they could be spending elsewhere. Make sure that you are providing a lot of free, useful and timely content to compensate for their investment. Nobody cares about your business except in ways that benefit them.

Second, recognize that the type of audience you pursue means as much as the volume of attention you attract. Facebook use is rapidly expanding for business, but is it a place your target audience knows and cares about? In which forums do you participate, and are those ones your customers care about? Can you devote significant time to the care and feeding of your social media activities? Are you evaluating your return on investment? How much content do you need to generate, and give away, to justify your target's investment of time to interact with you? Are the types of people you attract compelled to use your services or are they just interested in using your content?

Tip: It is seductive to launch into social media activities because the investment is low (usually free) and largely a do-it-yourself activity. Consider that a gift, but also that the real investment is in the maintenance and operations. Given the total cost of operations for an effective social media strategy, spend more time thinking through how you will generate content and create community around that content. Balance your expectations against the total, and sustained, investment you are making.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  blogs  client development  social media  your consulting practice 

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#171: Growing Your Clients Base: Cultivating vs. Acquiring Leads

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 9, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Which do you think is more important in growing a client base - filling a pipeline at the front end or transforming cold leads to warm ones?

This is an easy question to answer, based on how well most consultants perform at each process. Many consultants do not like to sell or cultivate clients, so this is where they spend less time. We get a stack of business cards, an email from a colleague telling us we "should meet this person," or an inquiry from a person who is not quite looking for consulting services. We often have no formal mechanism to either evaluate or process these leads, so they are often dropped. In this case, these are people already in our prospect bank that we don't even recognize as being there. Also, individuals in our bank that we do recognize are just not worked according to a plan as well as they need to. So, it is not identifying people to put into the bank that is the rate limiting step, but moving them from stage to stage, eventually turning them into clients.

Tip: It may be the use of terminology we use that affects how we decide to process leads. The concept of a "pipeline" involves inserting an object and pushing it, unchanged, through the length of pipe to exit the other end. This is not how prospects become qualified leads and eventually become clients. If we think in terms of farming, where we prepare the ground, plant seeds (many more than we expect to grow into full-size plants), cultivate and water, fertilize and thin, support and watch over, we are better served with a metaphor that more closely represents the actions needed to create healthy clients.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  prospect  your consulting practice 

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#166: Connecting Your Services with Your Client's Self Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 2, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009
What is it about some consultant's services that get them an engagement and others, with almost identical services, never get called back?

Conventional wisdom says that sales efforts work better when they like the offered service, they like and trust you, and the price is right. All well and good, but what do they like about what you are offering? What is it about the specific service or about you that makes them comfortable enough to approve the purchase? Conventional wisdom stops short of a real explanation.

It appears, however, that science is starting to fill in the gaps. Recent research in the field of neuromarketing is giving clues to the specific brain mechanism that causes a person to buy one good over another. Research at Emory University showed that the brain's medial prefrontal cortex is largely involved in making choices. Scanning MRI images of this area of the brain, which also is highly involved in self-identification and our personality, showed high activity when people were offered a choice that aligned with their self-concept. See How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy.

At a high level, this is logical but contains an important nuance. Success in sales is more than being personally likable or having a product that makes intellectual sense. Your prospect needs to believe that your services, or at least the benefits that accrue from using them, fit with their self-image. Give them a scenario that shows them integrating your services into their organization in a way consistent with their values, managerial style and ability to communicate value to their organization. Trying to sell an "innovative" service won't work if it’s use is at odds with the way they see themselves.

Tip: The Scientific American article referred to above shows that even when an "obviously" better product is matched up against a product to which the customer can better identify, the latter product wins. This means you need to really know your prospect's personality, style and preferences before pitching your services. Think sync before sizzle.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client service  customer understanding  market research  marketing  product development  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#161: Give Your Clients a Choice of Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 26, 2009
To reduce operating costs, we have trimmed our consulting offerings to just one high margin service. Should we keep just this one, which seems to be in demand, or build more?

Risk and opportunity are the first things that come to mind. Specifically, the risk of a single product and the lost opportunity of such a limited set of offerings. Let's discuss risk first. Your one offering may be in demand now but the market may change and reduce demand, another competitor might offer the same or a substitute product, or you might lose the people or control of an technologies for information components of your service. Without a robust service offering, you put your company at risk.

A one product company loses opportunity. First of all, you become known for that product rather than your suite of possible services. Eventually, prospects don't think of you offering anything else. Second, by not having a route for people to buy lower cost or more commoditized products, few people will place the trust in you to even try your product. You may like all clients to arrive at the high margin, high value service but, by reducing a choice of what types of your services to use, you are making it hard for them to buy.

Tip: Consider the value of a portfolio of services. First, provide a few low cost or free white papers, tips (like these), or blog of relevant topics. Next offer some modest cost, commodity-based, easy to use, short term services, such as workshops, seminars, assessments or one-day consultations. Then offer a suite of medium-term services, perhaps through partnering with subject matter experts, to broaden the appeal and value of services across a client's enterprise. Finally, offer some high value, high margin, and high touch services at the executive level. This portfolio approach allows a user of consulting services to enter your desired path to high value services at any point, and move up the pipeline to the point where they find value/cost equilibrium. This will lower your risk, increase opportunities and provide valuable market data on what service offerings you need to expand.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  practice management  product development  reputation  sales  sustainability 

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#157: Using National Trends to Identify Consulting Opportunities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As the economy rebounds, where can I find broad targets for my consulting services?

Race car drivers accelerate coming out of a turn instead of waiting for the straightaway. This is also a good model for consultants. What areas of the economy and your market are going to be slow to recover or never recover? Which of your clients will you stand by if it takes longer to get back to their former strength? What trends were you counting on that are picking up strength or were shut off by a changing economy? Now is a great time to be looking at national trends to see where you can begin to cultivate opportunities.

Many major trade organizations publish occasional "state of the industry" summaries. Recognizing that these are promotional to some extent, they still contain good information on current structure, capacity, demand for products, and changes in production practices or consumption of its products. Look at the State of the Carwash Industry as an example. Here is an industry that many management consultants might consider "under the radar" as a prospect but the industry faces some challenges for which you might be able to provide value. Go to the trade associations to which your clients belong and see what they have. Also consider government reports that address more macro trends or longer term trends. These reports, even if they are not in your industry, can provide some deep insights into how the economy is changing and where your opportunities may lie. For example, a report on measurement of productivity in the construction industry highlights a lot of opportunities for consulting work related to assessment, performance measurement, and project evaluation (if that's your area of interest and expertise).

Tip: If the trade association for your industry has no such "State of the Industry" research, and you feel reasonably sure you know a lot about the industry, suggest teaming up with the association's research staff in developing such a report. This is something their members would value and what better way to get known as the "industry expert" than to have the implicit endorsement of a trade association.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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