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Rainmaking in A Thunderstorm

Thursday, May 5, 2011   (2 Comments)
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By Alan Weiss, PhD

I tell people who I mentor that they are now in the marketing business. I don’t call it the "rainmaking business.” The reason is that, while you always have to market yourself, you don’t always have to make your own rain.

That’s because there are people around you making rain, and sometimes a beast of a downpour is created. All you have to do is ensure that you walk into it.

Not Enough Sense to Walk Out Into the Rain

My wife and I were chatting over cocktails with the owner of one of our usual restaurant haunts (we dine out seven nights a week and all the owners and chefs generally make an effort to stop by). I mentioned the fact that a very popular, upscale Providence restaurant was opening a second location in our suburban town.

"We’re not worried about them,” said the owner, "we think it will be a different appeal from our usual crowd.”

"Not afraid?” I said, "You ought to be thankful to them!”

Competition opens markets. There’s a reason that Burger King builds outlets across the street from MacDonald’s: They know for certain that people are showing up there to buy hamburgers. Walk down Van Ness Street in San Francisco (or similar avenues in hundreds of towns) and you’ll find nearly wall-to-wall auto dealers, many selling almost identical vehicles. On Main Street (its actual name—welcome to New England and Norman Rockwell) in our town of 17,000, there are four bridal boutiques, three liquor stores, four florists, and, depending on the day of the week, anywhere from six to eight hair and manicure salons.

Consulting competition fosters the use of consultants. You have to walk into the maelstrom, into the teeming torrent, into the cats and dogs.

In other words, as opposed to the classic maxim, you have to have the sense to walk out into the rain.

Dancing in Others’ Showers

So, how do you inundate yourself in someone else’s thunderstorm? Without being a plagiarist, without being overly derivative, here’s how you can march into the deluge (après le deluge, c’est moi et vous) and market successfully:

1. Contribute articles and columns to wide-read media channels. If your market is banking, and the merits of consulting are being debated in American Banker Magazine, weigh in. (I have columns in three different consulting online sources, including the one you’re reading.)

2. Take bold positions pro or con what’s happening in your areas of expertise. If you’re a coach, what do you think about 360° evaluations (overdone in my view), coaching "university” credentials (unnecessary), or testing instruments (most available for public purchase are invalid)? Are you taking a stand on issues?

3. Are you creating or modifying your intellectual capital to embrace legitimate trends, such as telecommuting, global outsourcing, shared jobs, and board activism? Evolve and migrate what you already do well toward areas that others are illuminating as important for the future of performance.

4. Be seen. I attend the National Speakers Association annual convention every year no matter what the agenda may be because some of the best speakers in the world see each other only once a year and only at this event, and I need to be communing with those colleagues. If your specialty is engineering, or architecture, or organization development, you need to be seen (and, preferably, heard) at the major events in the industry or profession.

5. Reorganize your web site and physical press kit (yes, you need the latter, as well). Make the "thundering” issues of the time visible and integrated into your public materials and commentary. (I’ve never thought blogs were effective marketing vehicles for consultants without strong brands—ironically, they are very effective for those already possessing strong brands—but if you have a blog and it’s not addressing the major issues of the day in your specialty, then it’s even worse than most.)

Rising Tides, etc., etc….

We should never be jealous of others’ honest success in consulting. We shouldn’t bemoan the fact that a terrific consulting opportunity went to someone else. We shouldn’t envy larger firms, with more resources and more capacity.

We should be thankful for any and every device which provides for more emphasis, credibility, and appeal for consulting. Rising tides life all boats. This is not a closed market, where we have to steal someone else’s market share to succeed. It’s more like a Yogi Berra dynamic: "No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

If you want the crops to grow, you’ll need rain. But you don’t care about who created it. Moreover, our crops we carry with us, and it’s simple to find rain and immerse ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to get drenched. It’s the water of life.

Alan Weiss, Ph.D., is a contributing editor to IMC's Connector and has been cited by the New York Post as "one of the most highly respected independent consultants in the country.” He has written 25 books which appear in 7 languages, and he conducts a global mentoring program. You can reach him via his web site: © Alan Weiss 2011 All rights reserved.


Theresa J. Barker says...
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2011
Alan's observations on welcoming competition are astute -- it's a positive sign indicating there is indeed a market for your services or product. I liked the fact that Alan highlights competition as a learning opportunity -- updating your content, increasing your presence in the market sphere, perhaps even researching the competition's approach. Great reminders, Alan! Theresa Barker, Seattle,
Stephen D. Kirkland CMC says...
Posted Saturday, May 7, 2011
Thank you for these good comments. Many of us need to re-think our business development processes. Your insights are very helpful..thanks again. Stephen Kirkland