Consultant Marketing Start-up Checklist

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There’s more to it then hanging out your shingle.

A lot more.

I had breakfast with an old friend the other day. He’s about to embark on consulting full time having been a CFO who found software so good he bought the North American rights.  In that situation he had a safety net. He was supported by his previous firm and the software developer. Now, he’s about to step out onto the high wire with no net.

A walk on the high wire

It takes courage, expertise and some luck to go from zero to full engagement in the consulting business. I’ve been privy to this journey for more young men and women than I care to count. Those that made it for the long term put a check in the box next to these things:

Savings to last at least 6 months in the style to which they have grown accustomed.

An initial engagement for their previous company or a client of that company.

Corporate filing in the state they are setting up their business

Defined Product/Service that is desired by identified prospects

A name for the company.A Vision, Mission and Position

A Persona that establishes a brand based on a real value proposition.

Courage to network your way to new business

A door on their office.

Step by step

Savings are the crunch element for folks that are married and/or have family. All the zeal you feel for this new adventure may seem to have been accepted by your spouse and the kids but I guarantee you that going backwards in terms of their socio-economic status is not going to play out well. You need to, as quickly as possible regenerate the “grouch bag funds” so that a set back occur in your business you can stick to it.

Initial Engagement is what keeps just about every successful consultant above water in year one according to our annual Consultant Marketing Survey. It gives you a safety margin where you are providing a service that is familiar but now performed at arm’s length. Often, this connection with a previous employer is extended as it is beneficial to both parties. But because you have control of when the work is done you can engage in the activities necessary to develop your consulting business.

Corporate Filing is essential if you are going to operate legally. It is a good idea to find your corporate attorney now before you open the doors. I recommend looking for a business attorney that operates from a small or home office nearby. I went to an attorney in one of those downtown towers and realized what those paneled offices cost me after few years. My current attorney has a home office but makes house calls! Every person I’ve referred to him tells me he has kept all his high-end litigator capability but shifted his personality from downtown to down home.

The primary options are C-Corporation, S-Corporation or LLC. Your lawyer can help you select which is best for you. The key is that you have a corporate shield to minimize the possibility of any suit filed against you personally.

Defined Product/Service is essential. Some of you may think that is obvious. It is and it isn’t. Some people try to start a consulting business without having the expertise to solve a problem that their prospects have. If you don’t know what your prospects want or need, how can you present yourself? You need to define the problem you can help solve in customer terms. More importantly you need to state the solution in way they can understand it and see as advantageous to them.

That phrase “identified prospects” was not just filler. Never assume that because your old company has a problem that all other companies have the same problem. Never assume that the same solution will work in every company. Never assume that this one problem will last as long as you want to maintain your practice. Before you step out on the wire make sure there is a market for what you have to sell.

A name is where a misstep occurs most often. I made this mistake. We get so full of what we know everyone needs and our different approach that we overlook the obvious:

  • People will identify your name with your practice more than any made-up name. Lawyers know this. So do CPAs. Plus a slew of consultants. You can tell the one’ that have learned this lesson over time by the way they begin to incorporate their name into their logotype.
  • Unless the name you choose is based on something well-known in the industry you are working in the probability of anyone understanding it is between slim and none.
  • If you base your company name on your process or part of it or a numeric outcome you are asking the prospect to make a leap which only you have made in understanding.

Vision, Mission and Position Your Vision is where you want the company to go in the future. Vision statements often include superlatives and competitive viewpoints. Generally it is for those that work for the company.

Mission is not your vision for the future of your company.

Mission is not your goals or objectives.

Mission is not something you are going toward or even something you are trying to become.

Mission is what your company is. It is why your company exists.

A vision statement is for the company and stake holders.

A mission statement is for the company and general public.

A positioning statement is for the targeted general public.

A brand is the sum of perceptions about the company in the general public.

Persona Everything you do has an impact on the people that become your clients. Don’t overlook the basics as you go to market.

Your Persona is a Core of Trust wrapped round by Product, Price and Passage encased in your Name.

Initially, the Core of Trust is you. If you operate solo it will always be. With a partner or multiple partners (an ensemble) you all have to ascribe to the same central beliefs about your business.

Because you can’t fool customers for long.

Customers see your company from the outside in. They rely on how your decisions impact them to make judgements about you

Courage Stepping out on your own is not easy. You are, in all likelihood, going to have to get out of your comfort zone if you want your business to grow and prosper. Every business is built on Networking. Every business. It will be up to you to go wherever prospects gather to get to know them and how you can serve them. You will need to find away to say something that makes you memorable. Weak statements don’t work. You’ll need to understand 30-Second Marketing TM at a minimum. And buckle up Bunkie stepping into the limelight and speaking about your expertise could get you more leads in less time than all the social media campaigns.

A door on your office is needed because if you work from home you’ll find yourself working well into the evening and on weekends. That is not good whether you are single or married with or without children. Learn to close the door and get a life. Isn’t that part of why you decided to do this?

And so it goes.


Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for crafting on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com

Consultant Marketing Well Spent Weekend

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I decided to journey to the Institute of Management Consultants Conference held over last weekend in Dallas, Texas.

The Crucible

At the airport I bought a paper back to read on the flight. The title was “The Crucible” which sucked me in with, in part, this jacket copy:

“…a frantic quest for answers that are connected to mysteries reaching back to the Spanish Inquisition … What they uncover hidden deep in the past will reveal a frightening truth in the present and a future on the brink of annihilation, and force them to confront the ultimate question: What does it mean to have a soul?”

Within the book, James Rollins connects witch hunts to the wonders of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and where it is headed. Little did I know that I was getting an in-depth preview of one of the keynotes!

Late Arrival

I missed the opening keynote delivered by Alan Weiss as I decided not to go to the airport at early dark thirty. I chose a 9:45 departure which got me in town about the time Alan started speaking.  Apparently, he said some of the things I’ve heard before so it wasn’t a great loss for me.

Why did I go?

  1. To renew some old acquaintances and make some new ones.
  2. To learn what’s new
  3. To gather new contacts for my annual Consultant Marketing Survey

Old Acquaintances

That piece of art at the top of this missive came from Mark Haas. Years ago when the IMC web site was in development, I was the Marketing chair in Portland. Mark was volunteering to get the site up and working from his home office near Washington DC. Many a night we would be on the phone, me at Midnight and he at 3:00 AM. The only time we see each other in person is at these gatherings.

Ken Lizotte was speaking at this conference. We tried to figure out how we know each other and gave up after about ten minutes. Ken is the conference chair for next year. We chatted about me speaking next year and he asked me to be his sidekick in putting together the 2020 Conference in Boston. I think I dodged that bullet!

AI, AGI and ASI

AI is, of course, Artificial Intelligence. The Saturday morning keynote was delivered by David Copps, a futurist, technologist and visionary as well as a member of the Aspen Roundtable on AI among other things you might expect. He spoke of where AI is today noting things I’d read about in The Crucible including how AI will morph to AGI or Artificial General Intelligence (like Asimov’s Robots) and then to ASI, Artificial Sentient Intelligence when the AI takes on a life of its own. Mr. Copps made it clear, with specific examples that it is happening a lot faster than you think!

Serendipity is a strange thing.

New Acquaintances

Saturday, after that serendipitous keynote I joined an experiment where conference attendees could suggest topics for a series of breakouts on subjects of interest to them and then see if other also wanted to discuss. I suggested “How is Consultant Marketing Changing?”

Six people signed up and we did a roundtable on the subject. The participants ranged from a start-up to a couple of us with 20+ years of experience. I heard a lot of current and future possibilities but only one current approach I had not heard put so simply before:

“Don’t try to build a huge list. Keep track of folks that provide referrals, no more than 100 if you get that many and touch them at least once a month personally with a phone call or in person meeting. Let them know the kinds of engagements you are currently working on. Send them a monthly newsletter. Do something special just for them at least quarterly. Things like lunch or dinner, tickets to an event or sending them a book or article especially selected for them.”

I will, of course be sending all of the round table members along with a score of others that agreed the Annual Consultant Marketing Survey.

The attention span of a gold fish

Yoram Solomon, another of the keynoters cited Microsoft research that said that the human attention span had dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. The study noted that the attention span of a goldfish was 9 seconds. So if you’ve read this far, you have the attention span of at least a school of goldfish!


Yoram spoke on trust. Here are his 7 Laws of Trust:

  1. Trust is not binary. It is continuous.
  2. Trust is contextual
  3. Trust develops between every two people independently.
  4. Trust is asymmetrical.
  5. Trust is transferable.
  6. Trust is reciprocal.
  7. Trust needs two sides.

Yoram has done the research, that is why he has a PhD. I’ll leave you with this fact from his investigations:

“A trustworthy salesperson
can sell the same product or service for 29.6% higher price.”

And so it goes.
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Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. 

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing and Brand development advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com

Let ’em Buy Consultant Marketing

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The e-mail from someone I’d never met pushed for the sale with the first words.

Fresh Meat

If you’re further up the food chain that e-mail was an open invitation to line up a new client. Cold calling with a hard over sales approach does not work if you are selling consulting, particularly high-end.

On line or in person any time you use direct communication you need to already have a connection or be in the process of activating one. That hard sell e-mail is, for me, a cry for help.

Let ‘em buy

The most successful sales people and consultants I have ever met gave me the same advice:

“You can’t sell anything if they don’t want to buy.”

“Stop closing! The less you close, the more successful you’ll be.”

“People buy when they’re ready not when you tell ‘em to”

“Your job is to stay connected while giving them all the info they need including the purchase agreement when they’re ready.”

“They come to your website looking for information. Give ‘em the content they’re looking for but help them buy into you as well as your approach.

Time and energy

In most cases a prospect must meet three conditions:

  • They have a problem you can solve
  • They can pay for your services
  • They are willing to talk to you

Being upfront about your rates after you’ve heard about their problem will pay you dividends both short and long term. I offer a one-hour meeting at no charge so that we can “See if we are comfortable with each other and I can get a better idea what problem they are confronting.” I usually tell them that if I can’t help I’ll recommend someone that might be of help.

Generally, the higher your fee the more you will be expected to meet at no cost. Some organizations will expect you to provide a proposal at no charge as well. Elite consultants are willing to do that if they can have at least an hour of the senior officer’s time and agreement to candidly discuss the perceived problem and the value of a solution to the company

Going retail

Smaller problems, ones that can be solved in a telephone or Zoom session or two need a slightly different approach. It is more retail oriented. Your offering can be presented in a website that is filled with information that is infused with your viewpoint. Including video of you delivering some of your advice is a positive approach.

You may want to have them pay for a session with an established hourly fee paid in advance. But you must make it as easy as possible for them to set an appointment and pay online. There are apps available that easily integrate with your web site.

If the web site visitor is interested in your services they will find your pricing page. Linking pricing and appointment apps on the same page will pay dividends.

Price Points

The price for the service offered is where consultants often go astray. It is not unusual, even in B2B negotiations for the consultant to be asked for his/her hourly rates. Consider this increasing price/value/meeting scale:

Price              Value                           Meeting description

$200/hr          Instant answers         Meeting via appointment, phone or Zoom

$200-500/hr  Report issued              In person or zoom based on geography

$1000/hr        Strategic Planning     Reports & Timelines agreed to in advance

Fixed Fee      Plan & Implement     Time required to reach solution agreed to.

Fee +Comm   Plan/Implement        Agreed solution plus additional impacts

Variables

Your kind of consulting practice will impact how you approach the market. You may tend to maintain a client relationship for months or years. In those situations, a retainer may be the better option. Or, you may be available at a specific rate just to assist in defining the problems that come up over time. Of course, engagement rates would be set separately. Top notch consultants have all kinds of inventive pricing schemes. The most inventive are lined to long-term client relationships.

And so it goes.


Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and Grand Poobah of www.BrandBrainTrust.com 

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing and Brand development advice that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com
DIY Training: www.ingomu.com

Out of the Box Value

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My daughter and I (she works for the Federal Government) were talking about why the best senior managers regardless of sector are extremely valuable. I was telling her about a 3-minute video I just completed that explains why successful elite consultants set the gold standard. See the video at: https://vimeo.com/356539908

Worth their weight in gold

Managers and consultants are all carefully taught to think, feel and believe that if we can define the problem we can find a solution. The rule of thumb is that solutions reduce costs and increase profits regardless of the kind of resources being considered.

That’s true as far as it goes. It’s a nice comfortable little box.

The best think outside the box

Manager or consultant they demand a sit down with the woman or man in charge, a discovery meeting. They start with an open mind, candidly discuss the visible problem identified by the CEO and ask questions to establish the value of the solution. Elite consultants take it one step further. They add recommendations above and beyond the requested solution to add value to their engagement.

The value-based proposal

Top notch consultants take their time in that discovery meeting. They have the CEO estimate the value of a solution to the visible problem and probe for additional concerns and valuations during the discussion. They get concise agreement on the objectives, how they will be measured as well as quantitative and qualitative impacts of the results. The elite consultant’s intent is to be able to base their fee on the outcome of the engagement in the CEO’s terms.

Their proposal will include three options:

  • Option 1 must satisfy the objectives.
  • Option 2 is more comprehensive (and includes option 1)
  • Option 3 incorporates partnering with the firm to include hands on implementation or overseeing the implementation.

Perception, not a problem

A CEOs job is to keep the company ahead of the curve, see into the future and sense the possible disruptions out there. What if she or he just has a niggling feeling about a potential future problem, or better still an opportunity that is on the horizon? That represents a challenge for most managers not to mention consultants. The CEO wants to get a resolution on the uncertainty. She or he wants to quantify it and then look at the actions required to achieve it or defend from it.

The quantification proposal

Once again you must begin with a discovery meeting. Together, you and the CEO must assess the perceived discontinuity. Two concerns drive the selection of the consultant to handle this kind of engagement:

  1. A successful track record with this client (to include a couple flashes of brilliance and out of the box thinking).
  2. Experience in an industry or a credential in science or engineering that is perceived to have knowledge to bring to this research.

If you are in the room you need to verify which reason brought you there. More importantly, you need to let that reason drive how you build your proposal. Your proposal must identify the objectives, how they will be satisfied and a specific time frame to do so. If you believe that expertise you don’t have is required you must explain how you will find it and how you will engage it. To the degree possible, you must provide a statement of how the information obtained will be evaluated. You may also want to consider how to implement or oversee implementation.

A solution, no problem

Working with elite consultants can prove educational. Recently a client challenged my definition of a Prospect:

“A prospect is someone with a problem you can solve, who has the funds to pay you and is willing to talk to you.”

He said, Every CEO or President or business owner wants more profits, right?” I agreed. He went on, “I’ve stumbled onto something in my consulting over the last few years. It is a solution without a problem. I need a way to describe it and a way to convince CEOs to just have a conversation about it.”

Hidden in plain sight

Yes, for me this idea was outside my comfort zone. For starters the urgency of the problem is not inherent in this situation. You don’t even have a niggling possibility causing concern for the CEO. But, as we strove to build a product description more meaningful and to apply the techniques of 30-Second Marketing TM , I reflected on the testimonials I had videotaped from clients where this process was put in place and realized it was proven thinking outside the box that could only be developed by someone with business acumen and experience that had psychological training.

The Shared Passion Proposal

The key to greater profits, even in a down economy, is hidden in plain sight in every company that has employees. Employees, approached properly can in a relatively short time develop a passion for the business that builds profits long term. The essence of that proposal is, for the moment, a trade secret but I’ve interviewed the men and women that have applied the process in their organizations. Greater dollar profits are the tip of the iceberg in the world of the Millenials.

And so it goes.


Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and Grand Poobah of www.BrandBrainTrust.com 

His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing and Brand development advice that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy.

Consulting: www.JerryFletcher.com
Speaking: www.NetworkingNinja.com
DIY Training: www.ingomu.com