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Vol. 10 No. 10 - October 2011

James Kouzes

Interview: James Kouzes

Co-author of Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It

"The best leadership begins with listening and not telling; it begins with questions and not answers."

Get our podcast interview with James Kouzes.

Also in This Month's Issue


In the News: Quick Takes

Is Google+ for You?

The Perfect Testimonial

How to Be Ordinary

Trends: Social Media Activity for Consultants

Coming Attractions: Kerry Patterson



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It's pretty much a no-brainer that your existing clients offer you the best opportunity to build your business. They give you the chance for referrals and testimonials, and you can offer them other services.

The troubling reality is that many consultants fail to achieve the benefits that most clients willingly grant to people they like and trust. Maybe you can extend an existing project or sell a new one based on an idea you hatched. But are you getting the most from the relationships you worked so hard to forge?

Sometimes, thinking it's the best way to strengthen a client relationship, we focus so much on delivering what a client expects that we lose sight of the bigger picture. As you work with a client, you have to strike a delicate balance between project delivery and business development. You don't want to be a slimy salesperson trolling for the next project as soon as you walk in the client's door. Nor do you want to ignore the importance of broadening your relationships for long-term success.

You don't need a full-blown marketing plan at the outset for every new client. But think about how you can lay a foundation of relationships from the beginning of your first project together. Be curious about the people you meet, learn about their roles, and figure out what's working well for them and what isn't. Remind yourself to interact with people you might otherwise ignore. Be ready, when the time is right, to offer your ideas or your help--which most people will welcome.

Don't make business development your chief reason for getting to know people. Instead, challenge yourself to be insightful and useful. Usually, people will help those who help them. But, until you understand their concerns, you don't have much to offer. So, in the early days of a project, meet people, get known, and make yourself valuable beyond the issues of your current project.

You don't want to wrap up a project only to find that you haven't invested enough time in building relationships outside of your core supporters. That's how you end up on the outside, looking in at your client's organization.

Enjoy this month's issue, and send me an email if you have comments.

Michael W. McLaughlin, Editor
Author of Winning the Professional Services Sale and Guerrilla Marketing for Consultants
Principal, MindShare Consulting LLC

Stay in touch


In the News: Quick Takes

This may be how your clients feel when you bill them by the hour.

The numbers change daily, but here are some recent social media marketing statistics.

Consulting magazine: 2011 Best Firms to Work For. For the 9th year in a row, Bain & Company tops the list.

Alterra Group offers 10 reasons why substantive marketing content still matters, even in this era of shorter, more-frequently published content.

Have you seen these 14 facts about decision making and will power?

7 tips can make your blog stickier.

New rules for airlines kick in to protect fliers.

How much drama do you (or others) create in the workplace? Check it out with this self-assessment.

You should know at least some of these 18 facts about small businesses In America.

The latest stats show that the number of Americans working from home is growing.

Is Google+ for You?

It's unlikely, but in case you missed it, Google launched a beta version its social network, Google+, earlier this summer. For the past few months, early adopters ran the invitation-only system through its paces. As you'd expect, some people loved it and others shrugged.

Google has now opened the platform to everyone. All you need is a Google profile to be off and running on Google+. You may already have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks, so it's natural to wonder if you need another one for your practice.

At this point, you don't have to decide: Google is currently allowing only individual profiles on Google+. Eventually that will change, but there's no need to do anything for your business presence now.

Still, Google+ intrigues most people who try it. You'll find interesting new ways to manage your contacts, and innovative ways to talk with others (including video chat). Plus, reading and distributing content is fast and easy. If you haven't tried Google+, sign up and take it for test drive. Lots of people are offering tips and tricks to get you rolling. It's simple to use, so you'll pick up the basics quickly.

Even though you can't set up your business on Google+ yet, you can share your content and perspectives with your followers and you can learn from the people who are already there. For that reason alone, Google+ is worth a try, even if you don't stick around for the long-term.

Google+ grew its number of registered users by roughly 30% to approximately 40 million within two days of opening to the public. Even so, the number of people on Google+ remains miniscule compared to Facebook and Twitter. But Google executives are optimistic about the new platform's promise. I suppose you'd be enthusiastic too if you spent more than a half billion dollars developing the system, as some reports suggest.

The jury is still out on whether Google+ is the next Facebook or the latest iteration of the ill-fated Google Buzz. In either case, it's worth your time to take a closer look at Google+.

The Perfect Testimonial
Spread the news

Getting a client testimonial can be a hit or miss proposition: Sometimes, the client gives you the eloquent stamp of approval you want, while other times, it's less than useful.

That's too bad because testimonials are among the most powerful marketing tools you have. When a prospective client reads, watches, or listens to your testimonials, you have an opportunity to get the principle of "social proof" on your side.

How can you get the best possible testimonial from a client? Read the article in The Guerrilla Consultant.

How to Be Ordinary
All the same

I doubt that you intend for clients to view you as an ordinary consultant--someone who just gets the job done. But many clients perceive so little difference between consultants that price becomes the basis of comparison, not competence, value, or ideas.

It's not clients’ fault if they can't tell one consultant from another. That's our problem to solve. If you want to risk being ordinary in clients' minds, here are 10 sure-fire ways to make that happen:

  • Model your marketing strategy on the "best practices" of your competitors.
  • Offer a bland, non-specific value proposition that sounds like a corporate mission statement.
  • Deliver predictable results each time you complete a project.
  • Don't ever take (and stick to) a controversial stand on a contentious client issue. In fact, steer clear of conflict and confrontation altogether.
  • Don't seek the help of others as you build your business. You're a consultant, after all--you don't need help.
  • Avoid becoming a deep subject matter expert on anything.
  • Set your fees based on what you believe your market will bear.
  • Spend extraordinary amounts of time seeking professional recognition from your industry peers.
  • Dress, talk, and act just like your main competitors.
  • Fail to honestly assess your own capabilities and to find new ways to grow your professional competence.

You can take what seems the "safest" path to marketing, selling, and building your client relationships, and that may bring you some business in the near-term. But it won't last. Eventually, you'll be tagged as middle-of-the-pack, ho-hum--ordinary.

Trends: Social Media Activity for Consultants

With all the social media choices, you might wonder where to put your efforts. In their recent Online Marketing Opportunity Report, researchers at Hubspot offer some help with that issue for 33 industries, including consulting.

Using a keyword analysis approach to identify which platforms were generating the most activity, researchers found that LinkedIn was by far the most active platform for consultants. The report includes many other insights, so be sure to download your complimentary copy.

Social Media for Consulting
Coming Attractions: Kerry Patterson
Kerry Patterson

"When conversations matter the most--that is, when conversations move from casual to crucial--we're generally on our worst behavior."

For next month's podcast, I'll talk with Kerry Patterson, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller, Crucial Conversations. Few books have had a bigger impact on how we handle interactions with others when the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.

Now, the second edition of the book is available, and it includes new cases, tools, research, and other resources. Whether it's at work or in personal pursuits, we all face crucial conversations on a regular basis. So I thought you'd enjoy hearing Patterson's latest thoughts about handling the conversations that matter most.

Look for the next issue of Management Consulting News on November 1, 2011.


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