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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 

#719: Contribute Your Perspective to Other Industries

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2011
I have started reading trade journals from a variety of industries other than those in which I work, looking for opportunities to write articles related to my consulting services. Do you think readers will learn from my experiences in industries other than theirs?

Assuming your consulting skills deal with issues not specific to your own industry, there's no obvious reason why not. Perhaps more important, however, is what you can learn from industries other than on what you most often focus. There are consultants in those industries who have skills and behaviors you can learn from.

Professional associations like IMC, whose members are experienced consultants from almost every industry and technical discipline, are great sources of professional development. It is amazing what you can learn from someone who advises management in an entirely different industry. Seeking out experts outside your comfort zone is an important part of professional growth.

Tip: You asked about writing for another industry's trade press and I infer you are interested in this as an indirect way access prospects in those industries. Why not start by regular reading of one or more of those industry journals? Look at critical issues in these industries from your own perspective and see how you would apply your services to address them. Treat them like case studies by doing some evaluation, reaching conclusions, and making recommendations. Instead of just writing an article, and if you feel comfortable with your evaluations, short cut the process and contact a person or company that was the subject of the article directly and offer your conclusions and recommendations. Alternatively, strike up a conversation with the author of a journal article and get to know each other. You'll get some valuable feedback and perhaps some solid leads on providing your services to that industry.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  professional development  publicity  social media  writing 

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#696: Take Advantage of Letters to the Editor

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011
I do my share of speaking at trade events, have a blog with a fair amount of traffic and am active in my professional association. What are some other ways to get in front of people in my industry?

There are certainly many ways to do this but one that is often overlooked is writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper, business journal or trade publication. While this does not replace other activities to get your name in front of prospective clients and your professional colleagues, it does it in a way that is often more powerful.

When you write a letter to the editor, your response is usually short, pointed, relevant to today's news, and in a place where people are actively seeking information. Think about it. A brochure has information about your services but is rarely in a prospect's hands when they are looking for those services. Conversely, people reading the editorial pages of a business journal are highly interested in information, trends or opinions about their industry. These are likely the most motivated, qualified buyers of professional services because they are active information seekers.

Tip: Take a stab at selecting a few relevant publications, find out the contact information and letter submission protocol (this is usually where people abandon their motivation to write because they have to take time get this information), and commit to write three letters to the editor this week. It is not always easy to get your letters published because so many people write in. However, if your response is well crafted, is the right length, and addresses (or contradicts - always good copy) the topic of the day, your chances go way up. The side benefit of this activity is that you will become more focused on the news and industry trends.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  marketing  professionalism  publicity  reputation  writing 

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#676: Be Cautiously Creative with Your Sales Collateral

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Given that consulting prospects have little time to get to differentiate you from your colleagues (and all the laid off executives flooding the consulting market), what are some ways to get people's attention long enough to develop some rapport?

Most professional service providers today have a common challenge when it comes to getting noticed above the crowd. All are presumed to have competent technical skills, a set of marquee clients who provide glowing referrals and some "unique" technical approach that is presumed to stand out on its merits. However, what once served as a sufficiently large marketplace for your combination of these characteristics to differentiate you, it is increasingly hard to see how one consultant is so much different from others. Instead of refining our offering, our target market or both, it is tempting to juice up our collateral as part of our visibility strategy. This can backfire badly if done poorly.

Consider the efforts of professionals who one would presume are tuned in to what works in the area of marketing collateral - designers. look at some examples of creative resumes by young designers. To the untrained eye, many of these look quite creative (the title of the article calls them "billiant") and one would think they would catch the interest of potential clients or employers. Now look at the comments of those viewing these resumes - it is not a pretty picture. The commenters are in the design business to which these resumes are aimed and they are unimpressed. What went wrong? Too much emphasis on being creative and not enough on the basics of communication, value, and clarity.

Tip: Be cautiously creative when presuming that splashy (but still professional) creativity can differentiate you from your peers. Being unconventional to be different is a double edged sword. If you do want to make a point with the format of your collateral, invest in market research with colleagues, clients and marketing professionals to make sure your targets are getting the same message you think you are sending.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  innovation  publicity  sales 

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#673: Who Will Respect Consultants if We Don't Respect Ourselves?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The seemingly increasing publicity of ethical and/or criminal activities by consulting firms (e.g., false payments, kickbacks, insider trading, conflict of interest, plagiarism) is unsettling for a profession I have been proud to represent. Is this just more publicity or have the standards of the profession declined?

As with many newly discovered "trends,” it is always hard to tease out what part is actual change, an increase in reporting, or increased sensitivity to the news itself. Take the recently reported increase in domestic violence in a particular ethnic group that was commonly to be rare behavior. It turns out the increase, rising to the same levels as for other ethnic groups, was only due to newly available language-capable case workers. The "crisis" in the community was just a correction in reporting.

It is true that a lot of books have been published about unseemly behavior in management consulting firms. These authors pick on the larger firms because the stories are more spectacular. However, with greater scrutiny of corporate management, stiffer penalties and greater mobility among executives at consulting firms, it is logical to have greater visibility of such activities. As with any professional services firm, the pressures are high to sell more work to current clients, prove the value of that work, and to create opportunities to provide your services in new markets.

What has changed are the business models of consulting. What once was a relationship business in reality has become less of one today. Clients increasingly look for specialized expertise, lower cost and shorter term engagements and, because of greater migration of client executives, have less loyalty toward a particular consulting firm. This creates incredible pressure to step closer to the ethical line than ever before. As Ethics Officer of IMC USA, I hear more allegations of impropriety than in the past. In reality, however, it is a testament to the ethics and professionalism of many consultants that there are as few of these transgressions as there are.

I don't have empirical proof that consultant behavior is worse than it has been in the past, but the conversation about consultants has definitely coarsened over the past few years - both among clients and consultants. It is uncomfortable to hear executives say that they spent millions of dollars for a prestigious firm's services that left them with nothing of value. However, what is really troubling are conversations among consultants that disrespect colleagues, other firms or the profession. Take a series of consulting cartoons by James Sanchez called Big Consulting. While clever and painfully true, they make light of consulting firm compensation, disrespect for associates, questionable client relationships, and of highly unethical practices. Laughing at yourself is healthy, but crosses the line when it poses unethical behavior as funny.

Tip: Management consulting is a respectable profession but only deserves the respect we are willing to give ourselves. Let's use our intelligence and self-respect to promote excellence and ethics in our chosen field and treat our colleagues, our competitors, and particularly, our clients and communities, with the respect they deserve.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  ethics  goodwill  professionalism  publicity  reputation  trends  trust  values 

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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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