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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 

#599: Help Your Executive Clients With Social Media

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2011
Our firm is all over social media for our own purposes and we think most of our clients should do the same. However, we get a lot of pushback from older executives who promote it for their companies but consider it personally inappropriate for someone their position. Any thoughts on this issue?

The client's industry, culture and marketing plan will largely determine the extent to which a company as a whole uses social media. However, neither a company's use nor lack of use requires the executive to do the same. Even if a company is not or cannot be highly active in social media, there are benefits to the executive being so. These include the obvious presence among stakeholders (including employees) created by their participation and the consequent creation or strengthening of a personal social media "brand." Also, an executive's participation on social media likely gives them a new and broader insight into the world of their stakeholders and industry than they would otherwise have. For executives, it is this "inbound" knowledge that creates new perspectives and advises their ideas about strategy and tactics. This is probably the unspoken real value of social media for executives. While talking (i.e., blogging, tweeting, posting) has value, listening through social media is critical.

In almost every industry, more consumers, suppliers, vendors and market intermediaries are spending an increasing proportion of their time on social media (an average of 5 hours per month). For an executive to avoid going where his or her stakeholders (and peers) are gives up important knowledge about where his or her company is now and should be going.

Tip: An article in Chief Executive, Should CEOs Use Social Media? describes succinctly other reasons for executives to participate in social media. Research and anecdotal evidence from CEOs themselves make a strong case for why you serve your executive clients well by helping them engage in social media.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  brand management  communication  learning  recommendations  social media  trends  website 

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#598: Listen to Your Gut - Really

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I probably take in too much information about business, management, industry and consulting for my own good. A lot of it seems to be variations on the same themes, and over time, a lot of follows the herd, with each new fad attracting the same authors and speakers. Would I be missing anything if I just saved myself a lot of time by cutting back my research?

A product of the Enlightenment, our centuries old assumption that logic, learning and analysis is where we get our best ideas and decisions may be in question. Research on the enteric nervous system associated with the gastrointestinal system sheds new light on nervous system effects coming from other than just the brain. However, it is now understood that this is tied into our emotional system (e.g., "butterflies in our stomach"). This system doesn't help with your decisions about strategy, finance or logistics, but it does contribute to our reactions to others, our comfort with our own decisions or activities, and in other as yet undefined ways.

Lest you think this is a bunch of foolishness or new age thinking. check out the Scientific American coverage of the 1999 book The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine about how stress, emotional reactions, serotonin production and other functions that we always assumed took place entirely in the brain also are (literally) affected by our "gut."

Tip: Following your gut is only as good as your ability to really hear what it has to say. Pay attention and be sure the voice you hear is not an echo of the crowd outside. It does take a while to develop a sense of who you are as an individual and what you stand for as a professional. Certainly pay attention to trends in business and consulting, but once you have a good consulting sense, dial back the input and use the time for thinking instead of input.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  decision making  health  learning 

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#594: Commit to Act on Your Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 23, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2011
In trying to develop new consulting service offerings, my firm has a process to select the top three potential services and then focus our efforts on developing the best one of them. I would prefer to try a range of approaches, even if they were not as well developed when we took them to market. What approach seems to work best?

It is unclear which approach works best for a given market or firm capability but there is one principle that should help frame the question among your team. Most professionals, especially entrepreneurial consultants, are constantly generating ideas. These may be for a new services, knowledge management approaches, partnerships or alliances, practice management practices, billing practices, geographic markets, etc. The one characteristic we all share in this regard is that there are a lot more ideas generated than we implement.

You asked about moving forward with one well-developed idea vs. many partly-developed ideas. I suggest that the biggest cost in an innovative field like consulting is the many ideas that, while potentially significant for your practice, never get past the paper napkin stage. We either lack the energy, intellect, or will to take them to the next step and see whether they might work. In effect, we kill our own (possibly) best ideas.

Tip: Create a process to capture practice management, marketing or client service ideas and put them through a vetting process to see which ones are worth pursuing. Don't let any idea go to waste. If it is not for your firm now, keep it on file and reconsider later. Above all, demand of yourself what you would suggest of your client: impose some order and give your innovation a fair chance to create new value for you and your clients. Commit to act on each idea until you can safely eliminate it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  creativity  knowledge assets  learning  planning  your consulting practice 

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#593: Get a Fast Start When Consulting to a New Industry

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Every so often I get a client with whose industry I am unfamiliar. I am a process improvement specialist, so this is not a problem, but I would like to get into the industry culture and perspective more than just talking to my client. Suggestions?

Your client and your colleagues who work in that industry are your first choices. Getting the culture of your client's organization is as important as the climate of the industry overall. However, I understand that you want to get a broader, industry wide perspective.

There are two quick resources (among many) you could turn to. One is the relevant trade associations, of which there are often one or more for any given company or industry. Probably the most comprehensive sources is Thompson Gale Publishing's Encyclopedia of Associations, which has over 4,000 pages of descriptions of the more than 100,000 nonprofits in the US (there is an international version as well). Unless you plan to pursue lots of new industries, this annual directory is something you might look over at a library, where you can take advantage of other industry directories to which the research librarians can direct you (university or business school libraries have lots of access to proprietary databases as well, if you can arrange for access to them).

A second source, and one that will give you some deeper insight over a longer period of time, is an industry's periodical (again, many industries have more than one). For example, the petroleum industry has more than 25 publications covering a range of industry segments. A source to help identify available periodicals is BNET, the Business Network. BNET's website lists hundreds of industry publications. Some of these are free and some are subscription based. 

Tip: Since some of these may take a few weeks to begin arriving if you are considering hard copies), you may be able to subscribe to newsfeeds from them. This will provide you with not only the top stories from the print periodical, but also additional up to date news between issues. Feedzilla is a great utility to access feeds or build your own feed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  learning  market research 

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#590: Help Your Clients, and Yourself, Break Out of Silos

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 17, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 17, 2011
My partners have a running argument/discussion about whether our consulting firm is better off developing and refining our service lines or returning to the classic style of consulting where relationship-based personal service defined the profession. Some of us feel we provide better service when we can deliver evidence-based processes to our clients; others feel we should be letting the client lead on the approach. Is there an answer to this debate?

I suspect many professions evolve and generate this kind of debate over whether to move forward or return to former models. Your consulting firm is not the only one in which this discussion is taking place. Consulting has become competitive in its promotion of proprietary, research-based approaches, each firm asserting that it has unique knowledge, data or processes to improve a client's condition. This is fine, as long as the client gets to be a part of the design. Some clients have said that they feel like buying consulting services these days is like buying a house, except that they only get to pick existing houses rather than working with an architect to design their own. I suspect this "design" environment is what you mean when you talk about letting the client lead the approach.

Becoming enamored with our own approach, perspective and accomplishments is an occupational hazard as we become proficient in our professions. This is not limited to consulting. We would all benefit from stepping out of our silos and looking at the world from other perspectives. We shouldn't be relying on the same sources of information, advice or support. This should apply to we consultants as well as our clients. We should regularly check out other partners, different ways of approaching our work, and regularly confirm that we are not stuck doing things the same way when the market is calling for something new. Likewise, our clients should be looking at new ways of improving their business if the only consulting support is to take what the consulting firm offers from its own portfolio of appraoches.

Tip: Look at a short video by John Jay, Executive Creative Director and Partner of the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency, in which he talks about how we get siloed and how this applies to both consultants and our clients. It is worth a few views and some discussion how you will take his advice and help your client do the same.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  guidance  learning  trends  your consulting practice 

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