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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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#658: Perfecting Your Brochure

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have never used marketing collateral to publicize my business, instead relying on word of mouth. Yet, most articles talk about having a website and brochures, and doing webinars and podcasts? Is any of this necessary?

First, congratulations on having a consulting practice sustainable by word of mouth. If this circumstance brings you a steady stream of challenging, lucrative and socially productive work, then that's great. If this is not the case, then having these pieces of collateral, per se, may or may not be useful. However, going through the exercise of creating them may well be.

Here's what I mean. Ask most consultants what they do, why they do it, how they do it, and who they do it for and you can expect a 15 minute (if you are lucky) explanation. Very few have a clear, concise and "get-to-the-point" description of who they are. Part of this is due to not finding the words that resonate with a wide audience. Being able to say, "I create secure supply chains for transpacific container shipping companies by combining personnel training, integration with your current information technologies and performance tracking systems" is a lot clearer than "I am a supply chain consultant."

Tip: You may not have a brochure, nor need one, but the process of having to put down on a single sheet of paper who, what, where, and why you do is not as simple as it sounds. Give it a try and do two things. First, map this explanation against your last five engagements. Does your practice description capture what you did for these clients and the value you delivered? Second, pass your practice description by about five clients or colleagues and ask them if they recognize you (possibly uniquely) in your description. If not, go back and rework your "brochure." Even if you never use it as an actual brochure, you will have a clearer way to explain the core value you really provide.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  presentations  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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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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#650: The Follow Up Call

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 9, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 9, 2011
I am building a prospect pipeline with a contact application and have prepared for a series of networking events to attend to kick off my initial contacts. Other than capturing the names and relevant information from people I met and consider potential leads, what else do I need?

You are off to a good start. Capturing leads in a formal way, whether it is on a sheet of paper or in a software contact manager on your smartphone, is essential to managing a prospect pipeline. A box of scraps of paper and business cards as a strategy for getting clients is looking for trouble. Let's not get into how the contacts make it into your list, but the critical next step after first contact: the follow up call.

Following up means doing it before the memory fades (yours and theirs) and doing it in a way that leads to a higher probability of a good business relationship. Once you have identified a person who is marginally qualified, you should follow up to set a time to discuss a mutual business relationship. This is your chance to decide whether and how you commit valuable time to pursue the relationship or you will drop them in the "cool" (as in not worth pursuing right now) contact list.

Tip: The follow up call should be done within 3-5 days, preferably the next business day. You should have a follow up call script that includes a reiteration of the circumstances that brought you together, the premise of why your two businesses might productively work together, your interpretation of pressing needs of the other person (and questions you could ask to verify), an example of work you have done that relates to this need, an offer of a contact or piece of information of value to the other person (goodwill), a possible working relationship you could mutually benefit from, and suggested next steps to move toward that working relationship. Preparation and some forethought, along with not letting the prospect get cold, are the keys to turning a business card stuffed onto your pocket into a live prospect or partner.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  information management  networks  prospect  sales 

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#630: If You Think Your Online Brand Doesn't Matter, Think Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 12, 2011
Updated: Friday, August 12, 2011
We always assume that clients select consultants from a prequalified set of technically competent candidates based on intangibles and personal chemistry. However, because we have increasingly been going online for our own market research and prospecting, it begs the question of whether clients do the same when looking for consultants.

It should not amaze us, but it does, how quickly technology can change business practices. A decade ago, LinkedIn and Facebook did not exist. By 2010, business had embraced both as legitimate research sources for recruiting and, yes, even for researching consultants and consulting firms. Perhaps most interesting is now clients have a way to get a real picture of large firm consultants as individuals. We can't hide behind the firm brand and are exposed to clients who want specific individuals as consultants and are less interested in the company they work for. Consultants may consider this is good or bad but it is uniformly good for clients and they are using it more and more.

Recent surveys of recruiters and businesses give a clear sense of how comfortable businesses are with researching individuals who they want to work for them (as staff or consultants). Most businesses now consider online research on individuals essential to their decisions to hire. When over 80 million individuals are Googled every day, we consultants are surely among them.

Several surveys in 2010 found:
  • 79% of US recruiters and hiring managers screen candidates using online social networking profiles and blogs (Microsoft).
  • 70% of US hiring managers have rejected candidates based on what they found online (Microsoft).
  • 80% of business people believe their online identity is now as important as their offline personal or professional reputation (Intelius).
  • 44% of online adults have searched for information about someone whose services or advice they seek in a professional capacity(Pew Internet study).
Tip: It is more than just the information you provide about yourself that is important. It is also what others say about you that clients and recruiters will see. A flaming response to one of your blog posts, an unflattering picture or a document that might be perceived by someone as a release of proprietary information can damage your reputation without you ever knowing it. Since you do not control everything about your online brand (and once content is on the Internet it is hard to remove) we are well advised to monitor and manage as well as we can our online identities and brand. This article has more information about recent surveys.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  prospect  publicity  reputation 

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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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