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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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#723: Does Anyone Understand What You Are Saying?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
One of the first diagnostic tasks on an engagement is to review work of prior consultants for the client. Although I probably use more jargon than I should, some of these consultant reports are vague, unclear and some entirely almost unintelligible. Is this a problem for all consultants or just those my new clients have previously used?

Every profession has its jargon, concepts and approaches for which its practitioners are obligated to make clear to colleagues as well as users of their services. Do management consultants always do this? No, and there is one good reason for this. Our clients, in part, hire us for our experience in areas with which they are unfamiliar, for our perspective in seeing things in ways they may not, and for our insights into possibilities that they could not imagine. That sets an expectation that we interpret can only be satisfied by the new, the innovative and the complex. Adding to the mystery of this priestly concoction are terms and constructs unfamiliar to the reader. My own experience looking at reports done by some of the most highly regarded strategy firms in the world bear out that even heavily edited and professionally prepared slide decks contain stretches of imagination and presentation that clients assert don't make sense to them.

There are a few areas in which we need to improve. First is jargon, which doesn't sound like jargon anymore because we hear it all the time (e.g., "manage expectations," "boots on the ground," "results oriented"). Second is our use of concepts that sound good but make no sense in our work. These apply to both our application of the concepts we think we are using as part of our methodology and our communication of it to our clients. One good example is, "thinking outside the box." This implies both that you know specifically what the "box" is, and that you intend to frame the diagnosis or design in terms restricted to that "box," thereby precluding possible agility, innovation or disruptive concepts into your work.

Tip: A Forbes article on business jargon fairly well describes this phenomenon. Consultants, who are most susceptible to using it and are often in a unique position to influence it in a client's business conversations, are advised to closely monitor their use of jargon or tired business clichés.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  communication  consulting terminology  customer understanding  presentations  speaking  writing 

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#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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#674: White Papers Have Multiple Avenues of Value for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Is there any value to consulltants in writing "white papers"?

White papers are short written discussions of topics, usually about trends in a subject or (presumably) an authoritative guide of how to do something. Companies use them to describe their position in the market or about how their products or services work. A consultant may write a white paper to describe their consulting services but more often it would focus on developments in their industry or functional discipline. The intent is to show a command of the subject matter, an innovative perspective, or a solution to a difficult problem.

The problem many consultants have is that they think of this as a book report or summary of the literature on a problem in their area of specialty. Many also do not think they have enough information or perspective to write anything groundbreaking. This is OK, because writing white papers has other benefits and can take time to develop a skill in writing them.

Having white papers benefits you in two ways. First, it can focus your thinking about your industry or discipline by forcing you to articulate the key factors that are driving an industry or important current issues in your discipline. This makes sure you are on top of these issues and not just relying on conventional wisdom. You'll have to defend your conclusions and recommendations in the white paper, so they had best be on target. Second, a well written and insightful white paper is an effective marketing piece. Sent to a prospective or current client, a white paper will almost always elicit a comment, thank you, alternative perspective, or inquiry about your services. In any case, you win by engaging a client in a discussion about their business, with your insight as the topic of conversation.

Tip: Pick three topics: one about the primary industry you consult to, another about an emerging issue in the general economy likely to affect this industry, and a third of how your primary technical discipline is undergoing changes (these are illustrative so you can choose others). Commit to writing a white paper on each in the next three months. Develop an outline, ask colleagues for feedback, conduct a short survey or some research, and then draft a 3-5 page version. Have colleagues or clients review the draft. Look for alternative or contrary views on your selected topic. Tighten the writing. Take the best of these three papers and identify colleagues, clients or prospects (or media) you think would appreciate hearing from you and discussing the topic. Based on the resulting exchange, refine the paper and post on your website. You now have a good first white paper - and some perspective on how to make the next ones even better. Having five to ten white papers enhances both your credibility as an expert but also makes sure you are on top of emerging trends in your industry.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intellectual property  professional development  publishing  reputation  writing 

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#666: Poor Grammar Can Kill Your Reputation

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 3, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011
I have a client who rails about consultants with poor grammar. How big a deal is this?

I can't say how prevalent this is with consultants but I suspect these kind of errors in grammar can be a deal breaker when you are trying to impress a client with your command of language and precision and care taken in communication. What does it say about you when you utter sentences such as "He is the one that (who) conducted the focus group," or "There (They're) probably ready for the presentation," or "I think it would be well (good) to approach a new supplier"? Confusing its and it's is unusually common.

Part of the decline of grammar and spelling has been attributed to the increase in IM/texting, where informality is part of the culture and started when each letter transmitted was a challenge. Another reason is the lack of reading, particularly among younger people. Television competes with reading and the proportion of adults who read a work of creative literature in the past year has declined to less than half. One in four adults have not read any books in the past year.

Tip: You don't know what you don't know. To be sure you are not inadvertently committing grammatical errors, get a list of common grammatical mistakes in speaking or writing. Examples include five common mistakes or ten common mistakes in business writing.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  reputation  writing 

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