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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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#149: Keeping Up With Your Industry Through News Feeds

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 8, 2009
I have recently discovered news feeds for major industry groups as a way to keep up with news without reading a lot of sources. How can I customize a news feed for my specialized areas of interest?

The specialization of trade press has tremendously increased the volume and detail in news and research data about even the most arcane corners of business. However, this increased detail creates a more difficult job of sifting through sources. Online availability improves access but does not reduce the volume.

This is where news feeds come in. A news feed is an aggregation of news items published by many different online sources, which is then updated constantly. When used with a news reader (many are available for free as standalone applications or can be added to a browser or to email clients like Outlook), news feeds can collect the most up to date news about a specified topic and deliver it to your desktop, saving you considerable time and providing a wider collection of content than you could get by searching manually.

You asked about custom news feeds. There are now a few sources where you can design your own feeds. Although not an endorsement of any one source, News Feed Maker and Feedzilla are good places to start. Both services allow you to specify keywords on which the feed software will work to aggregate news to your needs. You can place these as widgets in a variety of formats on your website or just as news sources for your own use.

Tip: You may find tremendous value in news feeds for daily digests of content you need to stay ahead of your profession, discipline or industry. Create several feeds using keywords related to your current or prospective consulting practice. You will quickly figure out which sets of keywords are producing the highest value news. Once you have fine tuned your feeds, you can begin passing along timely and relevant news to your clients. Given that most news feeds are updated at 15 minute intervals, you may well be the first one to notify a client about an industry trend or event related to a competitor. Keeping a client abreast of breaking news is one service expected of a trusted advisor.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  information management  innovation  learning  market research  marketing 

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#146: Positioning Your Services on Price

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, October 4, 2009
Although there is considerable pricing pressure on consulting services, our firm still has a modest amount of business for our standard services at our regular rates. Should we be developing a low cost version of our services?

In a word, yes. If we as consultants truly believe that we exist to provide services that meet a client's needs, then alternative versions of your services fit this criterion. Providing only a single version, and this applies to more as well as less, comprehensive versions, can limit your market attractiveness. A single offering can only be compared to services of other consultants, which puts the comparison out of your control.

According to both market research and common sense, your bread and butter service offering may well be enhanced by offering a higher and lower priced version. Think of different versions of a software product. Many show charts of features with checkmarks next to those features that come with the "basic," standard," and "premium" packages. Each has a price with it that allows a prospect to evaluate, within your set of offerings, which version best meets their current needs. This way of arraying offers allows you to frame the decision around your own strengths.

Tip: For each of your typical services, configure a limited service or duration version, as well as an enhanced version. Run these by past clients and maybe colleagues to see how well these alternatives resonate, and revise as appropriate. This creates two opportunities. First, you might be surprised that there is some demand for your basic and enhanced packages. If so, you may have limited your services because clients have selected other consultants whose services were more to their price/value liking. Second, considering the design of basic/enhanced versions, especially when such versions just don't work for your services, may give you insights into entirely new types of services to offer, including teaming with other consultants.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  fees  marketing  product development  proposals  sales 

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#144: Would You Know a Perfect Client If One Fell Into Your Lap?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 1, 2009
I know I am supposed to define my "perfect client" and then they will magically appear asking for my help. I just don't buy that the universe unfolds according to my whims. Is this really worth the effort?

It depends on to what extent you think the universe is responsive to you at all. So you don't believe wishing brings good things. However, you would be hard pressed to refute the truth in the adage that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. In such a case, your perfect clients may be all around you but you just don't recognize them. Without the exercise to say what makes them more or less attractive, they all look the same.

What makes a difference to you? The complexity of their problems? The size of the organization? The size of your fees? The level in the company of your client sponsor? The client's geographic proximity to your office? The length of the engagement? The opportunity for follow on work? The people, of either the client or your own team, that you work with? The opportunity to learn something new? These are all candidates for defining a perfect client.

Tip: If you have never done this before, it can be a little daunting. Start with your past clients, arraying them against a list of criteria like those above. Score them from 1 to 5 on each attribute. Weight the attributes (e.g., learning is twice as important as fees) if you like. Score your clients and see if the ranking feels right to you or not. Were the highest ranked clients your “favorites?” Revise the model as needed. Once you feel comfortable, evaluate prospects by this protocol and start looking for clients with attributes that naturally have the greatest weights.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#143: Premature Elaboration

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2009
What is the best (or even a good) way to demonstrate the most value for your services during initial discussions with prospect.

We are often so eager to show how much we know that we don't wait until the client has fully explained where his or her organization is, how it got there and completely understands the issues they face. As soon as some consultants hear a problem they have solved before or recognize, they are quick to show how much they know. Even when you have solved the presumed problem before, you owe the client the opportunity to describe why it an issue for the organization and the nature of the solution for which they are willing to engage you. Hold your conclusions until you have explored the issues together. Remember, it is about addressing the client’s problem, not showing how smart you are.

Tip: The title of this tip says it all. Not that every analogy is appropriate but initial consultant-client conversations can be considered like dating: show exceptional respect, listen more than talk, and think longer term.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  marketing  proposals 

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#137: Use the Rule of One in Selling Your Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I provide a lot of complementary consulting services, which I consider a competitive advantage over colleagues that only provide one or two specific services. How can I best get this message across?

Consultants tend to sell intangible products and services that are sometimes difficult to explain to prospects. This is why we are advised to use the "Rule of One" that copywriters use in creating ad copy. The point of this rule is to write about one thing at a time. Get to the point and make sure the reader (or prospect) understands the main benefit before elaborating all of your many services. If he or she is sufficiently interested they will ask for more details. Don't be guilty of what Mike Bosworth calls "premature elaboration."

Tip: In fact, the rules of copywriting provides a good example of how to sell your consulting services. Think about some compelling ad copy you have seen. It usually focuses on a single strong benefit. Also, it will tell a story about how the buyer could replicate the benefit already afforded to one of your past customers. Finally, make the story such that the prospect can see himself or herself using your services to resolve a difficulty they are having.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales  writing 

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