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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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#100: Setting Up an Information Network

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 24, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 24, 2009
I'd like to build my network of colleagues, not so much for business referrals but to exchange business and technical information about my field. How is this kind of network building different than traditional network development?

Every kind of network (e.g., social, business, informational, bartering) differs in the criteria for participation, the pathway to develop it and the types of behaviors and skills needed to be a valued participant. Informational networks are among the most difficult in all these criteria. This is because the currency by which transactions occur (information) is the most intangible but, at the same time, the most valuable. The information most valued by the network is often hard to come by, is known by few but valued by many, and frequently has a short shelf life. Imagine how valuable advance information about emerging technologies is, your personal contact with someone who is connected to someone in demand for their research (this is the principle behind LinkedIn), or research you have just completed on a complex problem in business, technology or a particular technical discipline.

Setting up the network usually starts with a core set of people trading a limited set of information, say information about cutting edge research or innovative examples in construction financing. Establish rules for trading this information, confidentiality, types of information you collectively would find valuable, and acceptable levels of contribution (i.e., how much information of what value constitutes a fair value provided as compared to value derived). Finding the right people you trust to contribute quality information and to keep it confidential to just your group is essential. Grow the network organically from a small core of people and content to a network that works for you. Remember, an information network requires commitment and trust, much more than a casual business referral network we are more familiar with.

Tip: See whether you can build and sustain a network by arranging with 3-5 colleagues a deliberate effort to trade in a specific set of information. Plan out the growth of this network over the coming year, adding types of information and planned uses of this information, Discuss how each of you receives value from the network as compared to what you are putting in. Finally, set up rules among you for continued participation and how you might dissolve the network. If this sounds like a partnership, in a way it is and many of the rules, advice and caveats of setting up a partnership apply here.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  knowledge assets  networks 

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#93: Tools to See Your Client’s Network

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 15, 2009
How can I find out how key executives of various companies are connected to each other?

You would think that with so many databases of corporate information, it would be easy to find the connections in an executive network. However, most databases are designed to focus on the company itself and not the networks they are in. Fortunately, there are some software companies who focus on these networks and have developed applications to interconnect these databases.

There are probably many applications and companies who provide this kind of service (please leave suggestions in a comment on the IMC USA website in response to this tip) but one is NNDB. Based on entries of people, companies, and organizations (even bands, movies, and television shows), you can see who is connected (e.g., board members) and who is connected to either the institution or the people. You can prune or expand these visual displays of networks and quickly see where influence lies.

Tip: Use this tool in your networking activities. See what other potential clients are related to a board member or executive of a client. For example, if I am interested in Caterpillar, I can see the company profile and its 24 executives and directors. Selecting James Owens, the CEO, I can see what other relationships he has, and find out he is a Director at IBM and Alcoa. This is a quick way to browse for prospects, get a picture of the executive landscape of a client, or just gather competitive intelligence on your area of practice.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  data visualization  market research  marketing  networks 

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#89: Shifting Your Network into Reverse

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 9, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2009
I know how important networking is for a consultant, both on behalf of individuals and their firms. We do a good job collecting intelligence and leads to keep our pipeline full. How else can we leverage our network?

You seem to have a handle on one aspect of networking - the inbound flow of information, contacts, introductions and referrals. In this way, you use the knowledge, information, and influence of others for your benefit. However, a network, by definition, works in many directions. Have you considered using your networks to pass information and influence in the opposite direction?

What about using members of your network(s) to pass information to your marketing and sales targets? Once you have identified a company, association or agency for which you would like to provide services, see where you can use your network to validate, recommend or support you?

Tip: As a complement to your own "inbound" networking plan, consider preparing collateral for your network members about your services, how to reach you, and testimonials about the value of your services. Let them create demand for your services, in addition to providing you with a supply of referrals.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  communication  networks  presentations  recommendations  reputation  sales 

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#67: Connecting With Other Businesses

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 9, 2009
My consulting network is just fine but I'd like to build out some more relationships with other types of businesses. What are some good ways to locate and cultivate such businesses?

Sometimes we focus so much on close-in relationships with other consultants that we forget that a strong network is built on a base of different businesses unlike our own. This means more than just other professionals like accountants, lawyers and other presumably direct referral sources. Your network can also be of people who can use your services and support as well as providers of services you use, but not obvious network candidates.

Set a goal of developing a dozen new relationships over the next three months (an average of one a week). Look in two places. First, reconnect to people you respect and have worked with in the past who are not consultants. If you thought highly of them before, they are likely to still be in sync with you now. Second, think of people who would benefit from your services but whom you don’t think of as clients. These might include sports club proprietors, auto dealers, commercial real estate brokers, travel agents, and engineers. Each of these might well use your management consulting services but perhaps not in the core area of your practice. Closer relationships with these businesses will give you both insight onto a broader set of businesses as well as an opportunity to provide advice to help them in their businesses.

Tip: Plan an open house or event hosted by yourself or with one or two colleagues. It's OK to present this as a networking event but make it clear that it is not intended as a hard core business development event, just a get to know you event. To make the introductions "sticky," arrange with some other attendees to host the next event a month or two later. It does take some effort to facilitate several of these different networks at one time but you will jump start your network and get better known well outside your traditional networks.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  networks 

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#930: Surround Yourself With the Right People

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 27, 2008
Updated: Sunday, December 14, 2008
I have a pretty good professional and personal networks. They provide a good way to refer work to others and receive referrals as well. How can I move my network up a notch?

First, be clear (this means writing it down) what you think is the goal of your network(s). People use them in different ways and the "next step" could be different for each network objective.

Objectives could include referral targets, useful to you because companies will come to you because you can always find the right consultant (if it isn't you). A network can also provide you leads, assuming you are clear about what type of leads you seek and those in your network are clear about your needs. There is also a network of people who can provide you technical, market or trend information when you don't need expertise, per se, in the form of a consultant. There is a use for a parallel network where you are the source for information, be it for media, government, nonprofit or other "non consulting" entities, for whom your expertise is valuable.

Tip: Given list of your objectives, name five people for each objective that come to mind immediately as the people who could help you or be helped by you. If you can't come up with five, do a little research or ask others in your current networks who they consider their dream team of advisers and contacts they want to be in their networks. These should be people you wouldn't normally consider in your network; they would be more visible, moreinfluential, and more in need of your services or information.

Pick only one off the list and contact them with a few ideas of how you could work together. Spend a few weeks developing this new addition to your network and evaluate your approach to growing your connections. Every few weeks (your pace may vary), pick another person and work them into your network. Based on this success, reevaluate the others on your network and recalibrate how helpful you can be or they can help you.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  networks  referrals 

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