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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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#423: Get Client Recommendations That Have Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
All my clients are willing to provide references to my future prospects. However, since I don't know what aspects of my work will be important, I'd rather not get a generic recommendation, so am reluctant to ask for a written recommendation.

Since management consulting is based on trust, a recommendation is important. Almost every prospect will contact a reference, whether or not you provide a written recommendation or not. The absence of a written recommendation can only hurt you in comparison to glowing references in your competitors' proposals. Assuming references are appropriate for your type of work and the bidding process, have a few written references on hand.

You make a good point about generic references. They are so common and often written so blandly that they could apply to anyone. Take a look at references for other consultants and select formats address personal, professional and work styles. Consider if you were hiring a consultant (maybe you would for a subcontractor or teaming partner). What would you want to know up front: Are they easy to get along with? Technically competent? Ethical? Committed to consulting as a profession? Able to react to changes in the scope of work? Effective communicator? And so on.

Tip: Providing your client a recommendation to be signed is unethical. However, you can provide a set of attributes or qualities (similar to those referred to in the questions above) to which he or she can address if they are comfortable. Advise your client how you plan to use the reference and ask whether they want to be informed in advance of your using it (e.g., they may not want a competitor to know of your relationship, or want a heads up if someone will call). Inactive clients appreciate being asked and it is a good way for you to update them on your recent work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  referrals  reputation  sales 

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#407: Look at The Consulting Services Procurement Process as an Opportunity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Our firm has been successful in developing relationships with senior managers of client organizations, which has made securing consulting work fairly easy. However, as the average tenure of CEOs continues to decrease rapidly, is this strategy at risk?

The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is down to 3.5 years, with high turnover rates extending down through the management ranks. You should be concerned about over-reliance on senior relationships for steady consulting business.

But there maybe a larger issue in play here - the way we consultants view the procurement process. Whether we are approached directly, are tipped off to a need by an insider, find opportunities through research, respond to an RFP, or turn up possible work through cold (or warm) calling, we really need to pay increasing attention to changes in procurement of consulting services. We have mentioned before in these Daily Tips about decreasing size and increasing specialization of client requests for consulting engagements. They are less interested in brand or size than they are in the specific skills of the few people most suited for the job.

The key is to recognize that clients see consultants a bit differently than they have in the past. Telling clients that you are different because of personalized service, deep experience in the market, or "recognized" expertise largely falls on deaf ears. They want to see a commitment to understand their "here and now" need, not tell them that you have solved their problem many times before. This means spending a lot more time to understand the precise issue they face and not presume you have the perfect consulting process, much less the likely answer, at hand.

Tip: A good coverage of this way of looking at the procurement process is in the Consulting Times, titled "A Match Made in Consulting Heaven?" (pp 12-13) that addresses specifically how consultants need to better embrace the procurement process.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#400: Get Slightly Famous to Bring Business to You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 24, 2010
Updated: Friday, September 24, 2010
Some consultants have a steady stream of business from their fame from books, speaking or research. I don't have anything other than my skills and experience. How can I generate some interest in my business.

Familiarity creates comfort and at least one of the components of trust. We are comfortable with things we recognize, including taking advice from people we know. How likely are you to consider a movie review from a stranger compared to one from someone you know? Celebrity endorsements are effective because the people doing the endorsements are familiar to us, even if we really don't "know" them.

So, if we aren't a celebrity, how do we create the comfort that will make it likely that prospects will welcome our calls? Furthermore, what do we need to do to turn the corner and actually get them to seek us out?

We don't have to be really famous to get attention. In the absence of a full blown media campaign, though, we do need to identify that one thing that allows us to just be "slightly famous"? How do we define that one niche of our work for which we could be known? How do we translate that, without a complex marketing plan, into a presence in our target industry? How can we use cause marketing to differentiate ourselves from others? How do we actually create brand loyalty, not just awareness?

Tip: Using his journalism skills, results of his research and experience creating brands for his solo practitioner clients, Steve Van Yoder has captured the straightforward elements of bringing clients to you in Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. The concepts are relatively simple - not necessarily effortless. Unlike lots of books on creating marketing gravity for your practice, Get Slightly Famous lays out a focused process for better defining your unique value and attracting media, attention and business. As the economy starts to recover, this is the perfect time to get your publicity in gear.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  market research  marketing  referrals  social media 

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#392: Plan on Always Staying One Step Ahead of Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010
I think being an effective consultant means staying a step ahead of my clients. However, I just can't keep up with all the media that cover my client, their customers and trends that affect their business. I am embarrassed every time someone says, "Did you see the article about XYZ?" and I haven't seen it. Any suggestions?

Companies use what is called a "clipping service" to track all media mentions of a client or issue. The name comes from the day (not that long ago) when the service literally "clipped" out newpaper or magazine articles that mentioned the topic of interest.

Today's clipping services are based on the ability to efficiently scour online media databases and they vary in price from free to substantial. As a clipping service subscriber, you would indicate what keywords or phrases you'd like to monitor and what publications you want to include in the search. The service compiles search hits and reports to you (often by email) usually on a daily or weekly basis. The more expensive services are required to search through scholarly jounals and higher priced subscription publications.

To get familiar with clipping services, I suggest you use Google Alert. You can sign up for a search through websites, news, blogs, or other Google areas. Try this out for:
  • Your own company name
  • Your type of consulting practice
  • Names of your clients or prospects
  • Your client's markets or activities
  • Areas of the consulting business or profession
Tip: Once you get a sense of how Google Alert works, you can decide if a broader set of media to search is worth the cost.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  market research  marketing  practice management  professional development  publicity 

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#389: Strengthen Your Credibility With Video Client Testimonials

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 9, 2010
Updated: Friday, September 10, 2010
Many of us post client testimonials for our services on our websites and in our promotional literature. I also have considered creating a short video of my speaking and facilitating. What else can I do to distinguish my consulting practice?

One answer may be right in front of you. Client testimonials are a great credibility builder. Videos of your services are a quick and compelling way to express your capabilities, stage presence and range of services. What if you combined the two?

Most cell phones and digital cameras have the ability to take short movies. These are not professional quality videos but sufficient to capture 30-60 seconds of client testimonial. Or, invest in a Flip video camera or something similar for under $200 for HD quality video. When the time is right, ask your client if they would be willing to record a short video testimonial on your behalf.

Think this through before you ask. What is the "script" they should follow? Should they talk about you as a consultant? Should they introduce themselves and talk about their need for your services? Do you want the client to describe why they selected you? Whether they would hire you again? The general nature or specifics of what you did for them? Plan this out in advance so you get the results you expect (you may or may not get a second chance).

Tip: Go over the purpose, process and intended use (e.g., post on website) of the video with your client. Let them see others you have done already. Finally, let your client know that they get the right to reject the finished product if they don't like it.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  communication  marketing  reputation  sales 

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