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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 

#56: Low Budget, High Effectiveness Visibility

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 25, 2009
What are some moderately priced ways for consultants to increase visibility and connect with customers?

Slow markets are exactly the time to step up your marketing efforts. Customers want more information about what kind of services and skills you have than in the past. A list of past clients, and services offered don't seem to differentiate you enough. Given that list and description of your "approach" to providing services is "what you do," it is critical that you find a way to help customers understand "who you are."

You know the long-standing methods: advertising, membership in networking groups, attending conferences, etc. These don't give a prospect much insight into who you are. You've also heard of high-tech approaches that some praise as the "wave of the future": airline radio, teaching, YouTube videos, CD by mail. What has become increasingly clear, however, is that some of these methods are questionable as to their effectiveness in today's business culture. Much of the problem with these is that they are too fixed in how they present your qualifications.

Tip: Customers look for someone with insight into their emerging problems. Show them how you think, not just what you do. This puts a premium on regular blogging, public speaking, workshops on current topics in the industry, vidlogging (video blogging) giving your ideas about trends in the market, and writing white papers. With these approaches, you can refresh your content and respond quickly to current events. Pick a format that fits with your capabilities and keep up with it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  publicity 

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#50: How Consultants Can Use Twitter

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 15, 2009
This makes no sense to me but I hear people talking about using Twitter for business. Is there anything useful to adding yet another communication I need to keep track of?

Twitter
is a "microblogging" service that lets you send 140 character messages to individuals who are connected to you and to all people who are "following" you. Originally conceived as a way to keep tabs on social activities, it is evolving into an interesting business tool. Twitter users vary considerably in who they are, what they write ("tweet") about and how active they are.

Like many social networking tools being turned into business use, Twitter has a growing following of business users. Who ever thought Facebook or MySpace, the province of students, would ever give rise to into LinkedIn, with more than 600,000 management consultants and 40 million total members? As useful as LinkedIn is (if you are using it effectively and not just assuming your being listed is enough), you are to be forgiven for thinking that Twitter can have little business value.

The trick is to carefully select who you follow. Some of the people I follow are Tony Restell (tonyrestell), the editor of Top-Consultant) who tweets several times a day about new issues in the consulting profession, the Wall Street Journal (wsj) and Fast Company (fastcompany), which let me know about emerging business issues, and an evolving set of people who tweet about R&D and innovation (I will need some time to settle on who I really want to follow).

The other side of the issue is who is following you and how to get more people to follow you. This is not narcissism; it is a solid business strategy to induce people who are interested in your business to hear what you have to say about your research, activities and commentary on current events. One good way to get someone to follow you is to follow them. With a minimum commitment of time, you can communicate with new information sources and current or prospective clients.

Tip: The bottom line is that Twitter is still evolving in how businesses can use it and management consultants should be at the forefront of this trend - if not for themselves, then at least for their clients. Spend a little time looking into how Twitter may be a powerful addition to your business for communication, market research, branding or prospecting. Look at the growing list of articles about business use of Twitter.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  contact information  marketing  technology  trends 

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#49: Conserve Your Sales Resources

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 14, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 14, 2009
How can I stretch my marketing and sales activities and budget?

In most cases, referrals are more powerful routes to to clients than prospecting. A referral carries with it an implicit endorsement from the referrer and gives you an advantage over someone who reaches out to a client without a referral. Given, that, your best strategy is to focus on the mechanisms to cultivate and maintain referral sources. There are a few ways to do this.

First, understand who is likely to be a referral source. Small businesses are busy and may not have time to help you out. New businesses to a market won’t have built their referral networks. Conversely, trade associations or chambers of commerce have broad contact with their industry or profession. Vendors, if you are not competing with them, can be great referral sources.

Second, understand what you need to do to get referrals. We sometimes assume that a referral source is eager to help us based just on our reputation. Although this might be true in some cases, you are better off making sure there is something in a referral to both the referrer and the target. Making a referal requires trust that you are both good and ethical over the long run. This means cultivating referral sources with repeated and consistent good service. Do good work and make sure you let your referral sources know about it.

Tip: Set as a target to get 50-75% of your new clients from referrals. Start with a list of your target clients and work backward to find types of and specific referral sources. Make this a formal, written plan to identify those referral sources for whom you have already or can demonstrate that making a referral will not put them at risk. Finally, develop the tactics that will assure that the referrer benefits from making that referral.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals 

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#47: How Much Marketing Effort is Enough, and When?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
When the consulting business turns down, we take advantage of the lull in business to crank up our marketing effort. This year we are collecting all the information we can to build a database of prospects and market trends. What else can/should we focus on?

Let's deal with a premise of your statement first, that a robust market database is a productive base on which to build business. True, when we are flush with business, we often spend less time on marketing and sales activities. Thus, it seems logical that, when the press of delivering services abates, we increase our market research and/or sales efforts. There are two issues here. The first is that start and stop marketing is a road to start and stop client opportunities. If you haven't been doing continuous marketing/sales (a little ebb and flow is OK), you will be caught without a full pipeline when the market slows a bit.

The second is that there is a natural limit to the value of an all-out marketing campaign. Information saturation occurs when each additional piece of information has less and less value (economists call this "diminishing returns"). Once you have identified a market trend you think you can exploit by advising clients, each piece of information about the market potential, suppliers or consumers, regulation, competitors or substitutes, etc. has less and less value.

The result is that a massive market research effort in a slow period may be "too much, too soon" (vs. "too little, too late"). Probably more information than is useful for a given prospect and by the time it is most useful, some of it may be getting outdated. As difficult as it is to maintain a steady marketing effort, according to an explicit marketing plan, every consulting firm must do this to maximize its ability to keep its pipeline full - even in slow times.

Tip: Review your marketing plan for this year and next. Are the underlying assumptions still valid? Are you still executing against a plan whose assumptions about the demand for consulting services, the industries or types of clients most in need, or your available time to conduct market or sales activities are no longer valid. It is really easy to let your plan, which may have worked fairly well over the years, take on a life of its own and cause you to commit to more or less of what you need to succeed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  practice management  prospect  sustainability 

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#41: The Coming Online Auction for Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 4, 2009
Updated: Monday, May 4, 2009
As more and more services are being sold by schedule, I am wondering if the market for consulting services is going to evolve (or devolve) into a bidding war. What do you hear?

It has been an interesting evolution for selling professional services over the past three decades. Before 1977, when the Bates v. State Bar of Arizona case ended the prohibition on attorney advertising, professional advertising was sold practically only by "person to person." Fast forward to the last decade when the federal government started to purchase services off of a schedule. Then these services extended to professional services, like management consulting. Now, management consulting firms are listed with services to purchase. Need a consultant? Now you can buy Accenture, the Hay Group, Booz Allen or any consultant global to solo off the rack.

This is the great leveler. Although reputation and capabilities still matter, the previously automatic advantage of cachet is quickly disappearing. If clients want a three person engagement team, they may well buy from a small or large firm. What is more interesting is talk of buying professional services at online auctions. It is only a short leap from services schedules to auctions. Hard to believe? No one thought lawyers would advertise thirty years ago, and no one thought consultants would be picked off a shelf ten years ago.

Tip: Listen to Jim Jorasch, head of R&D for the company that launched Priceline for a (short) video on where his company thinks this market will go. And start thinking how your marketing will have to change as the ground shifts again.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  sales  trends 

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