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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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#86: The Point to Management Stories

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 6, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I try to have a lot of examples, either from my own experience or management journals, to make points to my clients. However, some of these cases or examples from the literature these seem awfully dry. Should I just leave them like they are or creatively edit them to make my point?

I infer you are asking about the ethics of taking a case study or description of a real situation and altering it for your purposes. Let's also assume that these cases do not involve disclosure of proprietary information or trade secrets. Finally, assume that these are not original works of an author presented in, say, a book on management. Given these conditions, if a story is widely known, say reported in various trade journals, it is presumed to be public knowledge. If you want to change the story, I suggest you are obliged to relate that you are changing the "facts" and present the case as a hypothetical. For example, you might tell your client about what could have gone differently if Coca Cola had named their product "Vintage Coke" instead of "New Coke."

The caveat is to not tell a story about a real company or individuals that involves facts, motivations or actions that you have made up. Whether or not you intend to disparage someone, this might be interpreted be the person reading or hearing it as libel or slander, either stick to the facts or create, and disclose as such, a hypothetical example to make your point. In other words, only relate a story that is factual and complete; otherwise use your own story or present a hypothetical.

Tip: Better yet, use short examples for which there is a clear point. Use the work of business authors like Russ Ackoff, who is both a splendid observer of managers and their enterprises, but also of consultants. One good source is Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management, where Russ talks about a range of business situations form a systems, planning and applications viewpoint. Sometimes contrarian, sometimes iconoclastic, often funny, his observations are sure to expand your insights into your clients situation and your possible contribution to a solution.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client relations  communication  ethics  marketing  sales 

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#85: Using Short Videos to Build Your Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 3, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 3, 2009
Brochures are limited in content and doing an in-person seminars about our small consulting firm would reach a limited audience. We have been considering doing a series of videos about our main areas of practice. Do you think these would be effective?

Because consulting is an intangible product, richer communication mechanisms are necessary to more effectively convey a lot of information and create trust. Lower cost technology has made videos easy to produce and is becoming a preferred way of presenting your qualifications as a firm and showcasing your methodology. Consider the presentation you would make to a prospect, write a script and prepare a slide deck or in-person video. Create 5-10 minute videos for each of 3-5 areas of your practice. Just like creating a brochure helps you refine your content, these short videos will provide the discipline to hone both your content as well as your delivery.

Tip: Look at video production packages like Camtasia. This technology will allow you to record PowerPoint presentations with audio narration, transition effects, and zoom and pan. These can be saved as MPEG video, converted to flash or saved for playing on an iPod. These latter make an interesting possibility for instructional videos you can provide your clients or as giveaways to show how you provide services. The vendor also has a free version (called Jing) with limited capabilities.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  innovation  marketing  presentations  proposals  technology 

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#84: Look Out Below: Fending Off Low Priced Competition

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 2, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 2, 2009
The current consulting market and availability of technology has created a surge of low priced consultants. I am sure my services are much higher value than these "competitors" but I don't take them lightly. What should I be doing?

There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, regardless of how good you think you are, the client is the ultimate arbiter of the value of your services. If a low priced competitor has "good enough" services for a lot of managers, then that is the main market in which you work. On the other hand, if there are enough prospects who find your services particularly high value and are willing to pay for them, then you may be in a sufficiently big enough market of your own.

However, don't discount the fact that there is a steady pressure to commoditize consulting services. Organizational assessments used to be a custom job until the advent of well-researched web-based assessments. Personnel assessments are the same. Business plans still require experience and insight but many managers are moving to low priced software that structure the plan, provide financial analysis, and compare the planned enterprise against current market standards. Financial analysis or project management by computer can get a manager most of the way to their objective before a consultant is called in.

Tip: This is a rising quality of competition that you must pay attention to. Pick up a business planning package or assessment service to see how your services compare. Become familiar with these "competitors" so you can be clear about how your services differ. If necessary, you may have to adjust your prices to the "new normal" or find ways to add services that can't be duplicated by software or standardized processes.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  customer understanding  innovation  market research  marketing  sales 

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#83: How to Keep Up With Science and Technology Trends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 1, 2009
With all the specialization of technology and the proliferation of journals for each discipline, I just don't have the time to stay current and be in a position to advise my clients of what trends will affect their business. Popular Science is too basic and Scientific American is too dense. Are there any good summaries?

In a prior tip (#815), we mentioned Technology Review, Popular Science, and Industry Week as publications with trend summaries that help consultants keep up with the range of technological developments that affect every business (and in which every consultant should be conversant). One we didn't mention is a service of Scientific American - their 60-Second Science series of podcasts, articles and blogs. Delivered directly to you, quickly reviewable to identify needs, full access to more detail, and free - sounds like just what the consultant ordered!

As a consultant, you need to be constantly scanning the literature for technology trends so you can stay ahead of your clients. The most helpful sources also have enough content behind them to dig deeper when you need to, something few newspapers and popular magazines have. The Scientific American series, also available as an RSS feed, lets you quickly scan topics to see what is most useful to you and click for summaries, click again for a full article, and click again for references. Whether you are in human resources, strategy, leadership, finance, or other disciplines, not being on top of these developments reduces your value to a fast-moving client.

Check out Scientific American's 60-Second Science website. Whether you subscribe to the RSS feed or just scan the topics once a month, look for a short article you can send to a prospect or client about a technology trend or recent research that will significantly affect their business, such as the well-researched article on how to green your office. And don't overlook content that will help you advance your own effectiveness, such as the article about the impact of exercise on mental capabilities.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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#82: Consulting to Boards

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Many times my recommendations to executive clients are second-guessed by their Boards. Are Boards themselves prospective clients?

The traditional role of the executive is to plan and manage operations and the role of the Board is to govern. That does not mean that some boards are operating or managing Boards, or that they don't sometimes use consultants for advice.

Some areas in which a consultant might advise boards include:
  • Leadership development
  • Board meeting management
  • Board effectiveness evaluation
  • Board recruitment
  • Communicating with key stakeholders (e.g., funders for nonprofit boards, regulators for corporate boards)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Financial or ethical compliance
  • Providing expertise on legal or financial responsibilities
Tip: Look through any of several Board periodicals such as Board Member or Board Source (for nonprofit boards). These magazines publish articles, blogs and forums on current trends and needs of Boards.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing 

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