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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 

#597: Your Business Card Should Match Your Brand

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I rarely use my business card anymore. Is there any value for a consultant to have one anymore?

The business card is not what it once was. Years (decades) ago, the business card was the totality of your identity and contact information, and sometimes a little more information about you. Your name, address and phone number was everything needed to do business with you. For some, especially sole proprietors, it was your tiny corporate brochure. Times change.

The past few years have seen some changes. Many of us work more virtually than before, communicate by email, and often change job titles and employers almost as fast as we can print up new cards. We pass along our contact information as part of our email signature. Considering the sterile, information-only business card of the past, isn't it time to reconsider what a business card can do for you.

Tip: Rethink (outside the box) what your business card can do for you. Because it isn't as necessary fro contact information, use it to convey your brand, your image, your corporate or practice "theme." Consider more graphical or iconic representations or other ways to leave an impression, not just information. Also, think about multiple business cards for different uses - maybe one for contact info, one for specific practice areas.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  sales 

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#564: How Valuable Is Your Website?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2011
When I redesigned my website five years ago, it was "state of the art" but now I am not so sure? Are websites still useful for market presence and business generation?

Depends on what your site does and what you expect it to do. It is true that a website designed as recently as five years ago (seems like a century in Internet years) is unlikely to incorporate the tools and capabilities it could, particularly in social media. It is just as likely that your approach to web presence may need an updating if you are even asking the question.

Five years ago, many people used their websites as electronic brochures, essentially static representations of capabilities, experience and perhaps some free resources or paid content. The intent was to provide a more widely accessible and updatable corporate brochure. That worked really well, and we all created sites that did that. Since then, our approach to business presence and much of service delivery has migrated from "one to many" communication to building and active participation in communities. This is a lot harder than the paper to electronic brochure transition because it requires a change in how we think about business, not just a change in format.

Thus, asking whether our website is up to our needs first requires us to ask what our marketing needs are and in what online and social media strategies we are prepared to invest our money and time. And just having a LinkedIn and Twitter profile is not enough. Although perhaps a bit harsh, there is increasingly a divide between those who actively participate in social and online communities (there are thousands of communities in which to participate, unlike the "one big Internet" of a few years ago) and those who stand in a corner waiting to be asked to participate. Finally, in addition to the new tools and applications available, your website (or the space it currently occupies) should be part of your service delivery strategy, not just marketing.

Tip: Technology has changed so much that your marketing and service strategies need to take a hard look at your website's role. In one sense, never having had a website might let you be better able to look at how to build out the online portion of your marketing, practice management and client service strategies. Take a look at Is It Time to Shut Down Your Website?.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  technology  website 

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#563: Get the Recognition You Deserve By Speaking at Conferences

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I know a lot about my industry but am not known as an "expert." In fact, I suspect I know a lot more than most people who are considered the experts. What can I do to increase my exposure and image?

First, there is a big difference between being an expert and being recognized by others as an expert. Many "innovative" business processes attributed to management practitioners are variations on processes that were already developed and widely used in another forum. Good marketing may not always substitute for innovation and expertise, but you will eventually need to create ideas, information and processes in a new way to be recognized as more than just a practitioner.

Second, given that you have something new and valuable to offer, how do you get for yourself the maximum exposure in your industry? One suggestion is to get the implicit endorsement of your industry trade association by speaking about the state of your industry at annual or regional conferences. Associations are always looking for speakers and if you approach them well before the conference solicitation for speakers is issued, you will have an opportunity to frame a topic to your particular expertise.

Identify several trade or professional associations related to your area of expertise. There are several disciplines that could be directly or indirectly related, just as there are primary and secondary industry associations or business groups. With this list (there may be 10-20 on the list), prepare a white paper on trends in your area of expertise/discipline/industry and identify how these will affect each group on your list.

Tip: Find out when each organization has upcoming conferences and contact them to offer your services as speaker. Manage this so you leverage speaking at one conference with others, indicating that you are scheduled to speak to associations A and B, and you think members of trade group C would benefit from the same information. At the same time, offer to author an article (also desired by associations) related to your white paper or to conduct a member survey. If you are allowed to do these, you can add the data and feedback from the association's members to your portfolio of "expert" content.

Based on this investment in your own education as well as visibility, you will create credibility not only to the association but also to its members. You increasingly become and are seen as an expert.

P.S.Contact associations well before they issue a call for speakers so you can make sure your focus is included in the list of aceptable topics.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  presentations  publicity  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#554: Consultants Are a Dime a Dozen - Why Should I Pick You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011
We are a 22-person consulting firm that never had a hard time marketing and selling a range of services. However, sales cycles are longer and hurdles higher to close business. Some of us feel it is just regular competition and others feel the consulting market is changing. Which is it?

A little bit of both but there is another factor that you may not be considering. It may be that your services were unique and high-value a few years ago but the way clients buy consulting services has changed in ways you may not be aware of. I assume that you have upgraded your services and freshened your marketing approach, but you may need to offer a key feature on which consultants never competed before.

If you were waiting for the definitive feature that will place you head and shoulders above your competitors, I regret to say that I don't know what that is for your firm and your market. It will vary with your type of services, your firm's ability to create and sustain this feature, your client's inclinations and industry, and what your competitors are dreaming up for their own strategies. But here are a few candidates.

Consider low margin, high competition markets where products are mostly substitutable. It is not a marginal improvement in price or performance of the product that wins over the buyer because these are always being improved. It is often something else about the buyer's purchase, use or service experience that no one has seen fit to address before. What is it the user or beneficiaries (not the direct purchaser) need that is not being supplied and whose satisfaction could significantly influence the purchaser? Find something that you can provide at low marginal cost that has high marginal value for your clients. There are features or service augmentations that only you can provide, depending on your specific capabilities and firm structure.

Tip: For example, limited lifetime warranty for consulting services - call any time, even 6 months or a year after the engagement ends (clients tend not to abuse this but the good will it generates is incredible). Your firm then becomes known as the "lifetime Warranty" firm, one that stands behind its work. Create a list of ten such ideas and run them by your clients to see which ones resonate.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  innovation  market research  marketing  proposals  sales 

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#548: Selling is Just as Much a Skill as Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2011
My most enjoyable days are when I am heads down in a consulting engagement, working with the client and my colleagues solving a tough problem. But days I have to generate business are among the worst. Help!

First of all, you are not alone. Consultants often say that they like consulting better than selling. However, you need to get clients to be able to help them. And, the selling skill-attitude cycle is a hard one to break.

We like certain things, so we spend more time on them and, in turn, get better at them, further increasing our enjoyment. Things we don't like get less attention in our reading, are the subject of fewer discussions with our colleagues and receive less of our education budget. Assuming you are not going to pay someone to develop business for you, you'll need to tackle this head on.

Selling is a profession just like consulting. There is a body of knowledge, best practices, professional associations, and recognized certification. Just as you would reserve judgment on someone who said they are a consultant without any experience or continuing professional development, you should also question your own skills in sales unless you actively developed and enhanced your selling skills.

Consider developing a personal consulting selling skills education plan. It could include conferences and webinars like those offered through IMC USA, companies that focus on marketing and selling professional services like RainToday or a professional association, like the United Professional Sales Association. Use these resources to better understand why selling (intangible) professional services differ from selling physical products.

Tip: Recognize that you will need selling skills, but also that it is the attitude you bring to sales activities that determines whether you will engage on a lifelong process of improving your selling ability. The attitudes that make a great consultant and a great sales person are different. This is why, as good as you might be at both of these activities, switching between them on a day to day basis creates dissonance for most of us. One way reduce this impact is to consciously recognize that you are leaving consulting mode and moving to selling mode, and vice versa. Another is to switch back and forth less frequently (e.g., plan on certain days for marketing and selling, others for consulting).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  marketing  practice management  professional development  sales  your consulting practice 

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