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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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#81: Use AIDA for Greater Influence in Marketing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 29, 2009
Once I get in front of a prospect, I can make my case pretty well, but how do I make myself stand out in the approach and introduction?

The traditional copywriter's approach of "AIDA" works quite nicely for consultants. If you look at a well written advertising letter, defined as one you read all the way through, you will see how this works. AIDA stands for:
  1. Attention: Provide something that assures that they see you as different from all the other demands on their time. This is the purpose of a great headline in an article and a hint of your value proposition. One example is starting a sentence with "Do you ever . . .?" aimed at a problem you know from your research your prospect faces.
  2. Interest: What is it that will pique the prospect's interest enough to decide to commit a few more minutes really looking at your offer? Is it research data, or maybe the fact that you have just completed a similar project for a competitor? Here is where most consultants lose a prospect by not transitioning from the intellectual to the emotional basis of wanting to see more. Another interest-generating tactic is to stop talking long enough to engage them in the conversation about the issue. Establish your credibility.
  3. Desire: This is where a prospect begins to see him or herself as receiving and benefiting from the results of your services. You job here is to help the prospect imagine themselves in a world where they have already accomplished what you are proposing. Let them know that their competitors are using this kind of approach, or that there is a limited opportunity (if true) to capture the benefit you are offering.
  4. Action: Another place where consultants lose a prospect by not closing the sale. Even if you can help a prospect see him or herself in a desired future state, sometimes other constraints block them from pulling the trigger on an engagement. Now is the time to help them overcome inertia and see themselves taking action to get started. This is where you use statements like, "We can get started with the focus group next Thursday" or "I could review your speech to the District managers and add in our latest research."
Tip: This works as well in your proposal letters of agreement. Even after you have reached agreement on the scope and terms of an engagement, exerting some more influence is always helpful. This agreement is often the only documentation a client retains from the discussion and having a cogent sequence of AIDA to start the letter will remind your new client why they engaged you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#80: Management Consulting Certification as a Competitive Edge

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 26, 2009
After 40 years in consulting, I am seeing some significant changes in the way clients evaluate and select consultants. As large firms shed partners into boutique startups and demand for specialization increases, firm pedigree is losing power in exchange for individual certifications and registrations. Where is the CMC in all this?

For several decades the Certified Management Consultant (CMC®) designated the individual management consultant's skills, experience, client satisfaction, technical competence, consulting skills and behaviors and adherence to a high standard of professional conduct. While it was recognized to a varied degree in the market, it did represent the international standard for management consulting in over 40 countries with large consulting markets. With the increasing need for quality standards has come a closer look at both the technical qualifications of the individual consultant as well as the behaviors and skills in the process of consulting.

The impending specification for certification of management consultants in Europe is moving into its final phases, and ISO 17024 certification of consultants is close behind. Even large consulting firms are looking to find some competitive edge as they emerge from the recession in the US. Suddenly an internationally standard certification of consulting excellence and ethics that enjoys reciprocity in a global market has caught the interest of firms who want to stand out. The CMC is emerging as an increasingly important differentiator and the firm with the majority of its consultants certified is recognized as a collective mark of excellence and market value.

Tip: Consider the client looking to hire a consulting firm. Which would you find more attractive, the firm recommended by a colleague staffed by people you didn't know much about, or the firm who had publicly committed to international standards of excellence and ethics, most of whose consultants had met those certification standards tied to the management consulting competency framework? If the pace of new CMCs China plans to put into the marketplace is any indication, certification will be a key differentiator. Whether a large firm or small, the CMC® provides a competitive edge.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client relations  competition  customer understanding  ethics  marketing  professionalism  prospect  quality  reputation  trends 

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#79: Pro Bono Work

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 25, 2009
Updated: Friday, June 26, 2009
Every consulting marketing guide and author says pro bono work is a great way to build your network and your business. Every hour I spend doing "volunteer" work is one less billable hour. What am I missing?

In a word, lots. Your value as a consultant comes from a combination of skills, experience, and behaviors. Your success as a consulting firm comes from the combination of your network of contacts and an efficient business enterprise. Pro bono work, done well, is a home run in developing all of these bases of consulting success. If you see an hour of unbilled work as a cost rather than an investment, you will miss opportunities you may not be able to get even through billed work.

A pro bono engagement is a different type of service for a different type recipient in a different type of relationships than with paid clients. Your work is donated because you believe in the intrinsic value of an organization, whether it is for a social cause, your community or an affinity group. You and your "client" can get very close and the value of your skills is usually more appreciated than in a work for hire relationships. Pro bono work rounds out your skills, extends your relationships, brings you int a new area where your skills are used, and does fulfill a need for you to lend your skills to build your community.

Tip: Don't wait to be asked to help in your community. There are plenty of hours that you do not bill in which you could donate a few hours a week or month. Pick 2-3 charitable organizations of interest. Contact the chief executive and say you have skills in marketing, planning, leadership development, fundraising, staffing, or whatever you want to contribute. Ask how you might contribute these skills (or, if you are willing to stuff envelopes, you can do so) for the betterment of the organization. When you propose specific, high value skills like these, you will get a grateful reception and enter a whole new world of possibilities.

P.S. IMC chapters often sponsor community service projects, in which a team of members work with a nonprofit board or executive team to build capacity or on a specific project. Contact your chapter president to suggest a project or join a team (another place you can build your consulting network).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  community service  customer understanding  goodwill  marketing  professionalism  publicity 

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#76: Getting a Snapshot of Your Client's Brand

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 22, 2009
Our clients often ask us to get a market snapshot of their perceived brand before starting process or strategy work. Limited time and budgets make a traditional survey approach impossible. How do we get a "quick and dirty" but still valid brand snapshot?

You certainly have a challenge. In most cases, "quick and dirty" and "valid and complete" are incompatible. The reputation of an institution or the expectations of a diverse marketplace and stakeholders are not easily characterized even over longer times. However, we have a suggestion of how to complete your task.

Surveys are generally a good way to get stakeholders opinions about the brand "promise" they expect from a company. However, a lot of people are "surveyed out" and interpretation of these data may be complex. Since you seem to not have the budget for a market research firm or a lengthy survey process, look at the value of a simple survey, where simple equals one question. Define a few key markets and ask them to give you a single word that defines their experience with your client. This is a quick process, minimally intrusive on respondent's time, easy to tabulate and interpret and relatively unambiguous for your client, and easy to replicate on a regular basis.

Tip: Field a simple web survey (paper if needed but electronic is faster, cheaper, and more efficient) that gives the company logo (best because it does not bias the verbal response) or the client company name with a very brief description of its market (e.g., Wilsons Inc., a Brownsville-based tool and die manufacturer). Tabulate words used to describe the market impression of the company brand and display in a tabular or cloud format. See an example of how this works in Brand Tags. For a given logo (many popular brands are represented here), you can see how people described it. Alternatively, you can look at the keywords used to describe a company and see if you can figure out what the company is. Your own One-word impression survey will deliver a fairly clear sense of what your client's brand is and in what areas you might need to work on it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  brand  marketing  survey 

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#74: Being Ready for a Conversation About Your Services With Any Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 18, 2009
I don't have a brochure or hardcopy sales collateral (those are "so 1990") but instead rely on my website for prospects to get a full description of my services. Is this sufficient, especially since my services vary so much, depending on the client?

Just because a sales or marketing strategy is old does not mean it is not effective. Recognizing that a website can provide more dynamic and extensive descriptions than your sales package, consider the purpose of such hardcopy collateral. It serves more than just a source of information, which your website is probably most capable of providing. Having

To a prospect, your brochure or flyer is something tangible (a piece of paper) to represent an intangible service (management consulting). Having a one page (and only one side, at that) focuses attention on a few key benefits or features of your services. You can elaborate, as appropriate, in your discussion but the prospect needs to be clear about what it is you are providing. If you can't get this reduced to a few core principles and benefits, you may not really understand your business value as much as you think. The exercise of "writing a brochure" is not so much in the having as in the creating. Dwight Eisenhower said that “plans are useless but planning is indispensible.”

Tip: At all times, have a one page description of your services. If needed, you can have more than one, but each needs to be complete in itself. Be prepared to use this as a talking guide to review your core services and how these services would be adapted to each client's needs. Your sales presentation will be more refined as a result, with each discussion following a familiar path. After each discussion, adapt and improve your one-pager as needed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  planning  proposals  prospect  sales 

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