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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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#652: Prospects May Know More About You Than You Know About Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
When meeting with a prospect, how much information should be sent ahead and how much reserved for the meeting? I worry prospects either won't read send-ahead material or may not understand it the way we intend.

Consider the purpose of the meeting with a prospect - to get to know each other and drive toward identification of a mutual beneficial activity. If the meeting is on equal terms (i.e., both of you have something interesting and tangible to gain) then both of you are compelled to investigate the other to have a productive meeting. If you think the prospect is not interested enough to read your send-ahead material, then you have not set up your value well enough. If you believe the prospect might misinterpret the materials, then you have not provided unambiguous, compelling materials. You can fix both of these.

However, you may also be surprised at how much your prospect knows about you even without your send-ahead materials. The Internet makes it possible for a prospect to know a lot about you even before they contact you for an introductory meeting (or, if you initiated the contact, before your first meeting). If you are an independent or small firm consultant or have a public persona (e.g., speaker, author, panelist, expert witness, community contributor), then it is easy for your prospect to assemble a profile of you in less than ten minutes.

Do you know your online brand and information from which your prospect will draw? Like a credit report, there can be lots of incorrect data about you. It may not be malicious, just wrong. I once discovered an online profile of me that an organization to which I was speaking had created - with a lot of interesting facts that weren't even about me, but was still available for all to see. We no longer have full control over our own brand and that prospect you are so eager to see may never ask for send-ahead material because they already decided to not meet with you - all based on your online identity.

Tip: Create a sell sheet or capabilities statement that you post on your own website and ask that others refer/link to it. This gives uniformity and currency to your online identity. It is tempting to be listed in a lot of directories and social networking sites but you are better off just listing what's needed to pique people's interest then get them to your website (even if you need separate landing pages for different referral sources).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  learning  market research  marketing  prospect  reputation 

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#647: The Future of Consulting to Nonprofits is Bright, But Cloudy

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 6, 2011
As part of our desire to contribute more to our communities, we'd like to serve more nonprofit clients. Except for the smallest ones, they seem to be run by sophisticated managers who could use specialized consulting expertise. Is this a good market to get into?

When compared to for profit clients, nonprofits differ only in mission focus and how profits are handled. Other than that, which may have little or nothing to do with how you advise them, nonprofits can be extremely rewarding and consulting services very effective in helping them achieve their mission. Furthermore, as public sector budgets tighten and philanthropic funding sources remain tight, there is a greater need for alignment, transparency, accountability and performance in nonprofits to get as much bang as possible from each buck. For the same budget reasons, demand for traditional nonprofit services, especially in health and human services, is growing. That's the good news.

The cloudy forecast comes from the same factors of tight budgets and new ways nonprofits are beginning to operate. Many smaller ones are merging to share services, cut costs or consolidate clientele. Others are changing the way they raise funds, deliver services and staff their organizations. While this may seem like an opportunity for management consultants, the lack of budget and uncertainty on how best to change how a nonprofit does business will constrain those consulting opportunities.

Tip: The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that 2011 nonprofit job growth is flat and business giving is unlikely to increase. This means your ability to deliver real value (i.e., what nonprofits need, not necessarily what your firm is most qualified to deliver) is in expanding constituent services without any more funding. At the top of the list is your ability to increase revenues from corporations through mutual investments and service delivery projects, not the traditional development function of increased giving. Use the approach of leveraging business and nonprofit missions to mutual advantage and you will find a lot of nonprofits asking for your help.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  innovation  marketing  nonprofit 

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#623: Use Data Maps to Understand Your Social Networks

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I've let the results of my social media campaign get out of control. After building large sets of networks (e.g., Facebook, BranchOut, BeKnown and LinkedIn), it has become a long list of names and contacts and not something manageable. How can I get back some sense of order without trimming the networks?

In hindsight, this was inevitable. Building a network and connecting with interesting people was fun and productive at first. However, when it is possible to have downline network contacts numbering in the millions, it is no longer a human scale, manageable network. Sure, it is still a powerful resource for automated searches but if a network is made up of a lot of people we barely know (or never met in person) then it is hard to use.

Since this is a problem not unique to you, as usual technology comes to the rescue. LinkedIn, recognizing that many people had even second tier contacts numbering tens or hundreds of thousands, came up with a network data visualization tool in LinkedIn Maps. Go to this link, log in and generate your network map. based on how interconnected your contacts are, you can label the different colors and get some insights of how to better use your vast network.

Tip: Data visualization and segmentation for greater understanding can be done with 3x5 cards or a sophisticated tool, but this is a good lesson for us all to remember. With good structure and organization data can be transformed into information. However, without an evolving understanding and structure, too much information (contacts) can also devolve into less useful data almost as easily.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  data visualization  marketing  social media 

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#605: Use Word Clouds in Marketing, Sales and Service

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 8, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 8, 2011
I am looking for new ways to convey my consulting company brand. I am thinking of short videos or other web-enabled methods, but want to make it an edgy, quick, emotional grabber. Any ideas?

Branding is a complicated and highly customized practice and you would benefit from talking to someone with that expertise about your particular situation. However, there are a few things to consider if you want to go with something new and attention-getting.

Consulting is a hard enough concept to explain to people so boiling who you are and what you do down to a short video or other medium is really challenging. Consider using a word cloud, a static (image) representation of the words that describe you. Use an application like Wordle to generate a word cloud of the nouns and adjectives that describe your firm and its services. The display shows the most frequently used words arranged in a single image with the more frequently used words (assumed proportional to their importance) shown in larger fonts. See an example cloud for my consulting qualifications and practice areas. This is a pretty powerful way to, within a few seconds, provide a memorable snapshot of who you are.

Tip: Try this out using all the words from your website or qualifications statement (or those of your client or prospect) to get a quick sense of what they are all about. If what the word cloud says about them is not what you think it should be, consider rewriting the website or rethinking your qualifications statement.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  presentations  website 

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#601: How to Know Which Organizations Can Most Benefit From Your Help

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 4, 2011
Updated: Monday, July 4, 2011
Looking back across two decades of consulting clients shows a range in success. Some clients were both committed to change and others were less so, and still others varied in their ability to change. How does a consultant know which prospective clients are worth the effort to support?

This is a factor in consulting most of us never consider. Clients assume that if they are facing a crisis or a lull in performance that a good consultant can improve things. Consultants also assume that if their experience and skills are appropriate, then they should be able to help just about any client. There is a critical logical deficit in this thinking that every consultant should think about before taking on a client.

Not every organization is in a position to take a consultant's advice or, even if they are listening, to implement and sustain such advice. The leadership needs a certain level of awareness to understand what improvements are possible, and the organization needs a certain level of operational performance to implement recommendations. Not all organizations are in this position. Whether leadership is incapable or unwilling to talk about leadership, strategic or cultural issues or the organization functionally is not in a position to implement, there are some clients who will not improve despite your best efforts.

Perhaps more important is your helping establish the social and operational foundation before you suggest sweeping performance improvements. If the client is willing to accept that change may require hard work on personal and social issues and to put in place operational processes that make it possible to even see how your recommendations would apply, then you have a chance of doing good. If your prospect is not even willing to prepare the ground for your change recommendations, then this organization is unlikely to benefit from your talents.

Tip: Consider a "Goldilocks" strategy. Organizations that are too strong (e.g., too flush with cash and on a growth tear) may be unwilling to accommodate improvement recommendations because they fear losing their streak. Organizations that are too weak in leadership, culture or operations may be unaware or unwilling to profit from your help. Your ability to best help is with organizations that are "just right."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  marketing  performance improvement  prospect 

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