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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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#619: Strengthen Your Online Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2011
I guess we need to accept the fact that, even if consultants aren't identified by clients through online search, we are being investigated and vetted online. My firm is ramping up our presence on Twitter and LinkedIn Groups, adding more blogs, videos and written content to our site, and working on increasing our inbound links. My question is how does anyone know whether all this effort is working?

You are right that more vetting is being done online partly because it is easier but also because it is faster. An interesting thing about online market research is that the proliferation of search and analytical tools creates a potentially confusing array of information. The burden, then, is on the consultant to make sure that our online brand is both pervasive and coherent.

You are certainly well along the path to greater online visibility with the activities you suggest. While the effectiveness of your online campaign ultimately has to be measured in the volume and quality of inquiries and clients you get, there are some ways to measure the intermediate impact. The Online Identity Calculator is a useful tool to estimate the level and trend of your online identity campaign. The tool shows not just where you rank in Google, but what Google says about you. You will get an identity assessment in terms of volume, relevance, purity and diversity. This should give you a sense of what refinements to make.

Tip: Another way to see how visible you are is to use Addict-o-matic (gotta love the name). Enter your personal or company name, a phrase that defines your practice or principal industry, and see an array of top stories from social media, web, blogs, news, video and other sources (you have some control over which ones are displayed). This will give you a broad sense of what topics are most related to the areas in which you want to be found and to what extent you have the desired online presence.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  market research  social media  website 

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#610: Simplifying Your Writing to Better Communicate

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 15, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 15, 2011
It is sometimes a little tricky deciding how complex to make my client briefings and analysis reports. Clients generally want precise and explicit language but reports that may be made public or for various audiences are best simpler. Are there any rules or advice about what level of reading difficulty is best?

First, take Albert Einstein's advice to "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." It is hard to go wrong writing as simply as possible, as if you were trying to explain your findings and recommendations to a 10th grader. Some consultants will bristle at this suggestion, claiming that their sophisticated analysis must mirror the complexity of the client's situation or market or strategy and all their communication demands complex language. This defies both logic and experience. Any consultant leaning on complex language probably lacks sufficient understanding of the basic principles and processes about which he or she is speaking.

Second, drifting into consultant-speak is a sure way to lose touch with your audience. You may have a vigorous discussion with your technical counterpart or the CEO using technical language, but it is the customers, staff, and other stakeholders who must eventually accept and act on your recommendations, If you want your findings and recommendations to live past the first reading of you report, put them in plain English.

You can use any of several automated tools to train you to streamline your words. These tools analyze your text for length and complexity of sentences and number of syllables per word. One document readability tool I like lets you enter text and gives Flesh Kincaid and other readability indices. This tool is really useful by telling you which sentences most violate simple language rules. Readability is stated as a grade level (i.e., number of years of education needed to understand the text). For example, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is at grade 13.4 (one year of college) while Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" is at grade 2.9.

Tip: Analyze your website, client reports, engagement letters, press releases and client communication. You will likely be shocked at how many of these communications are at college level. Use these analyses to simplify your writing. I suspect you will lose nothing of the meaning by streamlining the language.

P.S. This tip has a readability score of 11.2. A rewrite could simplify and clarify sentences without reduucing quality.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting terminology  information management  interpretation  presentations  publishing  recommendations  speaking  website 

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#605: Use Word Clouds in Marketing, Sales and Service

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 8, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 8, 2011
I am looking for new ways to convey my consulting company brand. I am thinking of short videos or other web-enabled methods, but want to make it an edgy, quick, emotional grabber. Any ideas?

Branding is a complicated and highly customized practice and you would benefit from talking to someone with that expertise about your particular situation. However, there are a few things to consider if you want to go with something new and attention-getting.

Consulting is a hard enough concept to explain to people so boiling who you are and what you do down to a short video or other medium is really challenging. Consider using a word cloud, a static (image) representation of the words that describe you. Use an application like Wordle to generate a word cloud of the nouns and adjectives that describe your firm and its services. The display shows the most frequently used words arranged in a single image with the more frequently used words (assumed proportional to their importance) shown in larger fonts. See an example cloud for my consulting qualifications and practice areas. This is a pretty powerful way to, within a few seconds, provide a memorable snapshot of who you are.

Tip: Try this out using all the words from your website or qualifications statement (or those of your client or prospect) to get a quick sense of what they are all about. If what the word cloud says about them is not what you think it should be, consider rewriting the website or rethinking your qualifications statement.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  presentations  website 

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#599: Help Your Executive Clients With Social Media

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 30, 2011
Our firm is all over social media for our own purposes and we think most of our clients should do the same. However, we get a lot of pushback from older executives who promote it for their companies but consider it personally inappropriate for someone their position. Any thoughts on this issue?

The client's industry, culture and marketing plan will largely determine the extent to which a company as a whole uses social media. However, neither a company's use nor lack of use requires the executive to do the same. Even if a company is not or cannot be highly active in social media, there are benefits to the executive being so. These include the obvious presence among stakeholders (including employees) created by their participation and the consequent creation or strengthening of a personal social media "brand." Also, an executive's participation on social media likely gives them a new and broader insight into the world of their stakeholders and industry than they would otherwise have. For executives, it is this "inbound" knowledge that creates new perspectives and advises their ideas about strategy and tactics. This is probably the unspoken real value of social media for executives. While talking (i.e., blogging, tweeting, posting) has value, listening through social media is critical.

In almost every industry, more consumers, suppliers, vendors and market intermediaries are spending an increasing proportion of their time on social media (an average of 5 hours per month). For an executive to avoid going where his or her stakeholders (and peers) are gives up important knowledge about where his or her company is now and should be going.

Tip: An article in Chief Executive, Should CEOs Use Social Media? describes succinctly other reasons for executives to participate in social media. Research and anecdotal evidence from CEOs themselves make a strong case for why you serve your executive clients well by helping them engage in social media.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  brand management  communication  learning  recommendations  social media  trends  website 

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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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