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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 

#388: Take A Cue From the Board

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm looking for competitive intelligence on a prospect. I have looked at the Leadership Library and recent annual reports, asked competitors about their differentiators, figured out where the executives spend their community time, set up a press clipping and Topix analysis, and asked around. I really want this client. Anything else I can do to get an inside perspective?

Sounds like you are well along in scoping out your prospect. You have covered the factual, news and opinion angles. Good for you. Not enough people do this kind of research on a prospective client before trying to engage them.

Here's one area you may not have thought of: the Board of Directors (or a CEO advisory body). Directors are presumably selected because they bring financial, market, technological, management or other resources to the company. Collectively, they provide the governance to drive a company efficiently and effectively forward.

If we assume this is true for a moment, take a look at Directors individually and as a group. What does each one bring? What areas of expertise and perspective do they have? Have there been any recent shakeups on the Board or any Directors brought in for a specific reason? Finally, do you know any of them well enough to talk with them about what the company needs? There are worse references to have than a company Director.

Conversely, it may be the case that the Board itself is one of several problems the company faces. In this case, your analysis of how well the Board is constituted might provide an additional topic of discussion with the executive to who you are offering your services.

Tip: Use caution when approaching individual Directors and/or discussing your conclusions about the role and performance of the Board with your future client. Recognize that you are not on the inside and are going to be missing a lot of information. However, properly qualified, the executive is likely to be impressed with your thoroughness in looking beyond traditional competitive intelligence sources.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  boards  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  prospect 

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#387: Sharpen Your Practice Focus

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Over the years, my practice has evolved and it seems like I am doing a little bit of everything. I feel like I am drifting and need some method to better target my preferred market. Aside from the stock ideas in every book on marketing, do you have any innovative ideas that can help me sharpen my focus in my practice area and region?

Although I don't know anything about your location or practice area, one suggestion might help you get focused on your market. Treat articles in the business section of your local newspaper and in your industry's journal as opportunities for you to develop mini case studies. Here are two ideas.

First, for each article about a company, industry, event, or trend, write 3-5 sentences on a note card of exactly how you would address the issue and provide your consulting services. Whether you are in marketing, logistics, human resources, communication or leadership, define how you would bring value to the company mentioned or a company affected by this trend. After a few weeks of this, compare your cards to find the common themes. Which services are you most confident and enthusiastic about providing? Which ones didn't you have much to say about? By the way, you now also have several dozen leads for prospecting in your local market.

Second, see if you can find a few colleagues to go through the same exercise. After a month, compare notes on how you would each have addressed these situations. Just like Harvard Business Review cases, where several managers comment on a case, your answers may vary from those of your colleagues. At a minimum, this will require you to defend and refine your approach to client service. At best, you and your colleagues may have just come up with a team approach to take to a company that has the problem you have just collectively "solved."

Tip: You don't have to figure thisout yourself. Include your colleagues in your approach to better understand your practice and market opportunities.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#382 : You Can Now Buy Consulting Services From The Menu

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
It seems that increasingly I am underbid by someone offering fixed rate services at rates that I can't compete with. My consulting service is impeccable and clients seem to keep coming back, but I am afraid my competitors will continue to cut into my business. Any advice?

You are not dreaming about this phenomenon. Services are increasingly being commoditized and sold off schedules. This started in force with the federal government that, along with health care, is the largest consumer of management consulting services. Want a strategic plan? Buy it off the schedule. Need to train your staff in lean manufacturing? Again, pick from a menu of vendors, some much lower priced than others.

Some consulting services are really commoditized. They are becoming undifferentiated in the eyes of the consumer, despite our feelings of how unique they are. This has become especially true of assessments and training. Need to "check out" your people? "Hire a firm to do a DISC, Harrison, MBTI, Prevue or any other one. They're all the same so just get me the cheapest one."

To see an example of this phenomenon, go to GSA Advantage, the government's procurement schedule. Search for "strategic plan" and see if your prices and offerings can compete with the 4,000 companies who will sell you one. (Note that the federal government negotiates rates that are discounted from commercial rates.)

Tip: Create a menu of your services. How would you sell a specific outcome (e.g., marketing plan, performance measurement system, process design, more effective sales force, supply chain security) for a fixed price? Not easy, is it? Put yourself in a client's shoes. Menu pricing makes it easier to see if you are providing something of value and not based on your hourly rate - you may be over or under pricing your services. With that warning in mind, the only way to compete with commoditized services offered by your competitors is through differentiation of your services in the mind of the client - the a la carte items that can't be sold as substitutes of each other.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  market research  marketing  product development  proposals 

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#367: Consider Holding a "Mini Camp" To Promote Your New Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I provide "big" services to my clients. These include strategic plans, process redesigns, market studies, and large scale training services, which often take weeks or months to deliver. Is there something I could provide that is a bit smaller in scope? I'd like to try out a few services, some of which are components of my more comprehensive offerings, but wouldn't want to commit to a big offering unless I knew I could provide a good service that clients would buy.

When you want to try something out, it does not have to be in its full form. How about a white paper instead of a training seminar? A podcast instead of a full lecture? What about daily tips instead of a book?

One idea is to hold a mini camp. In football, mini camps are intended as a short duration session to either check out a player's capabilities and/or begin training. What if you proposed to conduct a strategy or marketing mini camp for a client? This would be a preliminary exercise to gather information, test ideas, generate options, develop staff skills, and document possible approaches. While a full scale session might take several days, what could you accomplish in a few hours?

This would allow you to showcase your expertise, connect with staff and your client, and develop value without committing the organization to a full scale exercise. It is low risk for both you and the organization and produces a more engaged staff and options to move ahead with a full scale exercise.

Tip: These mini camp sessions are for you to provide services in which you are fully qualified, not to do market research at the expense of a client. Spend the time to develop a solid, standalone offering, not just roll out "the first part" of a current service.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  innovation  marketing  product development  your consulting practice 

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#366: Make Sure Your Referrers Know You as Well as You Hope They Do

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 9, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010
I want to make sure that clients have an accurate picture when evaluating whether to hire me. My proposals and presentations are great. Sometimes I have not gotten a job that I thought I was more qualified for than anyone else. What am I missing?

A referral is a testimonial by someone who sees value in what you have to offer. But this doesn't happen without some intervention on your part. Four things must happen to get great referrals. The referrer must (1) recognize specific value in what you have to offer, (2) know that a referral is of value to you, (3) know to whom they should make a referral, and (4) have a reason to make the referral.

First, be clear what you want them to value. They hired you for a reason but you might want referrals in another area. Tell them specifically what skills and behaviors you want them to tell others about.

Second, clients are not mind readers. Your relationship is based on you helping them, not the other way around. Tell them you'd appreciate a referral. Most will be happy to do it if you just asked.

Third, make a list of specific people or types of people you'd like a referral to. Don't make your clients do work to give referrals on your behalf. They can look at a list you've given them and think of people to whom they could make a referral that you didn't even know existed.

Last, make it worth their while. Why would they take time and risk their reputation? Because you can provide a client's colleagues with the same value you provided them. Like a recommendation for a great restaurant, create a desire in your client to make the referral.

Tip: Here's a novel idea: ask people who you think are your top potential referrers what you do, for whom and for what value. This is not a thought experiment - actually ask them. You might be shocked.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  prospect  recommendations  sales 

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