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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#368: Protecting Your Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I have an idea I want to patent, but I am aware that it is a time-consuming and expensive process. How can I show my idea to a potential buyer while still providing some fundamental protection for my idea until it is formally patented?

A starting point might be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) stating that the audience being presented to will not share (or ultimately use) the information being presented. Unfortunately, some companies will not sign these agreements. Also, many people will tell you that an NDA sounds good but they are very hard to really enforce. Nonetheless, the formality of an NDA will make the point that you are serious about your ideas.

You might also consider a Provisional Patent Application, which is available from the US Patent Office. The PPA was designed to provide a more affordable first U.S. patent filing, enabling you to quickly secure an initial filing date for your idea. A PPA also legally allows you to use the words "patent pending" — a warning to those who might copy your idea that they risk patent infringement.

Once you have filed a PPA, you have 12 months until the deadline arrives for filing a required full patent application. If you choose to file the full patent prior to the end of this 12 month period, the original PPA filing date can be used as the filing date on the full patent application. If, within that 12 month period, you decide that your idea in its current format is not "patent- worthy", you can simply abandon it, ultimately minimizing your up-front investment.

Tip: Filing for a U.S. patent can be complicated. A good place to start in order to gain some clarity is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov). In addition, do not be afraid to seek out professional guidance and advice when required (e.g., a patent lawyer).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  confidentiality  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  product development  recordkeeping 

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#341: Writing Articles for Magazines

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 5, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Whenever I write an article for a popular print magazine in my profession, I get very good feedback from the magazine's editors but don't appear to generate any additional consulting business. How might I more effectively maximize my article's impact?

Since you asked about print magazines, we'll leave off the (probably more productive) area of ezines, blogs, discussion groups, online article distribution, etc. Here are some things to help to generate readership and maximize the potential for the generation of contacts as a result:
  1. Be sure to have the magazine include your e-mail address in your byline or description (you may need to fight for this one, and some publications may not want to allow it).
  2. Make sure that you label yourself as a consultant (or advisor or whatever is appropriate for your prospects) in the author info.
  3. Write articles that reference the fact that you perform consulting work for clients in addition to demonstrating your technical/professional expertise. For example, "In my consulting engagements, I have noticed a general discomfort on the part of my clients when discussing the subject of reorganizations." A subtle mention is all that is required; don't be brazen about it.
  4. Try to include stimulating ideas in your article that promote additional questions on the subject. It is likely that readers will come to you to get answers.
  5. If appropriate and additional material is, in fact, available, add a line such as, "For readers who would like a complete copy of this referenced study please contact Mary at xyz@abc.com"
  6. If there is an accompanying photo, see if you can provide a caption, such as "Mary Jones, OD Consultant".
  7. Write articles for other magazines read by your prospects. Leverage the fact that "Mary, a noted consultant specializing in OD, has articles featured in such noted publications as A, B, and C". This requires some research to see what the publication influence pecking order is.
  8. Acquire a supply of "reprints" (authorized copies of your articles obtained from the publisher) and leverage them in your marketing material or as handouts in presentations. You might even use them in a special mailing to prospects and clients, if appropriate. Think print on demand to minimize waste.
  9. And finally, alert your existing clients to the upcoming article via e-mail and perhaps again when the issue "hits the street".
Tip: Even for print (yes, ther are a lot of people who prefer it to online periodicals) there are many creative ways to leverage your writing to generate inquiries. Take a closer look at some established contributors to your field's periodicals and see how they approach generating further interest.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  intellectual property  marketing  reputation  sales 

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#305: Discontinuing a Product or Service

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 14, 2010
Updated: Friday, May 14, 2010
How do I stop offering a service for which I am very well known? I think I would like to move my practice in a different direction and do not want future clients to have preconceived or limited notion of what types of services I can provide.

First, make sure that your current clients will not be adversely impacted by you discontinuing this service. If it will, you must determine whether it is worth the risk to discontinue the offering.

If this is a profitable endeavor, you might consider offering to sell this "service" to another consultant. It might enable someone just starting out to build up their practice or it could provide an experienced practitioner with an opportunity to supplement their current offerings. Remember, you invested time and effort in building value into this service, and you should always explore any opportunities to benefit from your hard work prior to abandoning it. If you do sell or license this product or service, make sure to provide specific contractual assurances that it will be delivered or provided in the manner that you expect. Also make sure that you build in contractual protection against any perceived responsibilities for how the product or service is delivered once handed over to the purchaser.

Tip: If you decide to simply discontinue the product or service without establishing a continuity plan via sale, the best thing for you to do is to inform the people who have been served by you that for the following reasons, you have decided to discontinue offering this product or service. Be sure to provide them with as much advance notice as possible. Some clients will come and ask for help, others will make other arrangements and, surprisingly, some might actually ask you why it took you so long to make this decision!

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  goodwill  intellectual property  knowledge assets  product development  sales  your consulting practice 

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#298: Who Cares if Your Consultancy Fails?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Clients often ask for bids on specific engagements and then complain that consultants only offer the same services as everyone else. How are we supposed to stand out when we are just responding to what we are asked?

I understand your point but you are also not being fair to clients. Just because they ask for something does not mean you are unable to propose alternative approaches or even alternative outcomes. If we just feed back what we think clients want to hear, we miss our opportunity to use our experience, education and expertise to advance the client's condition. To put it another way, if you went out of business, would anyone care? Are your consulting services so unique, however large or small your market, that they could not be provided by any other consulting firm?

Youngme Moon's new book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd is a reminder that providing the same consulting services as everyone else makes them commodities and makes them valued at the lowest price. Different, scarce, and unusual consulting services - that still get the job done but show some innovation and creativity - will command both attention and higher market value.

Tip: Be constantly innovating in the scope and process by which you provide consulting services. Whether it is focusing on agility, intangible capital, or other "new looks" at management, your uncommon take on your client's future can make it so that people would notice it if your consultancy disappeared.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  client service  innovation  intellectual property  product development  reputation  sustainability  your consulting practice 

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#286: Creating Tips for Your Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 19, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010
These daily tips are really valuable. They keep me thinking about how to improve my consulting skills and grow my business. Should I do something similar for my prospects and clients?

We get asked this question more than you might think. Tips are written to stimulate your creativity, keep you in a zone of continual improvement, and help you remember those good practices you used to use but just let lapse. Why wouldn't your clients get the same kinds of benefits?

Writing tips does take some time and it helps to have a plan of what to write and how to communicate them. Because IMC USA membership covers almost every technical discipline and industry, the tips are not about any one professional perspective. They are for anyone to use, and most apply just as well to professions other than management consulting.

First, be clear about your objectives. Ours is consistent with our mission to promote excellence and ethics in management consulting. Yours might be to educate clients about a specific aspect of their operations. Or it might be to hint at your particular capabilities. However, if these focus on you rather than the reader, they become obvious commercials.

Second, select a format that engages your reader. We selected the "call and response" format because it clarifies the tip's purpose and often reflects questions we get about consulting. Tips need to be short and to the point. If you have a mechanism for feedback, pay attention to reader response to refine your tips. Make sure you conform to CAN-SPAM rules about opt-in and opt-out (assuming your tips are by email). Finally, pick a time frame that works (daily, weekly or other) that meets your need and reader preferences.

Tip: If thought out well, this can be a powerful support for your brand. Over time, your readers will be looking forward to receiving your tips and begin to ask for your advice.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  intellectual property  knowledge assets  marketing  reputation  writing 

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