Category: Marketing Professional Services

Pricing: A lesson from Picasso

j0309190A women was strolling along a street in Paris when she spotted Picasso sketching at a sidewalk cafe. The women asked Picasso if he might sketch her, and charge accordingly. Picasso obliged. In just minutes, there she was: an original Picasso.

“And what do I owe you?” she asked.

“Five thousand francs,” he answered.

“But it only took you three minutes,” she politely reminded him.

“No,” Picasso said. “It took me all my life.”

Do you go for the same pricing as others or do you Value price?

As a consultant your pricing strategy should be based on the
value you bring to your client, not your cost (i,e, time and
materials) to deliver the services.

First things first – always establish your value proposition – at the end of this project, what will you deliver and how much is it worth? Then you can establish a price proposal with reasonable progress payments against certain deliverables or milestones.

One last thing based on my own experience as a consultant – don’t be afraid to ask for what you are worth. Most folks out on their own tend to underestimate their value and ask for too little. You aren’t an hourly employee, you are a knowledge worker who brings valuable experience and competence.

Creative Linguistics – A Consultant’s Marketing Tool in the New World Order

Here is an article that I wrote on Fads in my Powerlines newsletter Number 7 way back in December of 1998.

These days it seems that every month some consultant or writer comes up with a new Cure -all for managerial ills, that has its own trendy specific title.

These actions have their origin in the need for specialisation and
establishing an unique identity in the marketplace. It also becomes a necessity when sales of a particular product dwindle. Marketers then know that they have to change the product’s image and appearance.

Often they just change the packaging and reword the statements in the advertisement and product literature. But what does consultants do: They reframe their messages.

Reframing is taking something and putting it into a different context or giving it a different meaning. The content remains the same but the context or meaning changes.( also called Redefining or relabeling). Everything we perceive we perceive in a certain context with a certain meaning – A Frame.

Reframing in another field is one of the principles of Aikido; “Never
fight against energy offered by someone. Utilise it. The paradoxical use of response and energy. Faith Popcorn called it Trendbending – The process of shaping your product or strategy around emerging trends – Example bending “a fast food chain from Good Fast Food to Good Food fast”.

However these new panaceas often deserve stripping of its hype. Often these new fads* seem to be at first glance genuinely new ideas that can improve business processes. However on close examination and stripping of the hype….they are often revealed as merely recycled and reframed fads.( The Webster dictionary defines A Fad as a practice or interest, followed for a short time with exaggerated zeal – or a craze, a particular notion, mania,
rage, fashion, trend or in vogue). a Something that has passed this way before but now it is in a new bottle, package or put in fancy lingo.(Even the magazine Fast Company had a section called The Consultant Debunking Unit).

Check your knowledge of the following;( Answers at the end of this e-mail):

  • Physically challenged
  • Gender Bender
  • Perfume Dynamics
  • Allergy
  • Information Specialist
  • Voice mail
  • Alternatively schooled
  • Ethically disoriented
  • Development needs
  • Overdraft
  • Corporate Culture
  • Downsizing,
  • Career Alternative Enhancement program,
  • Change Management
  • delayering
  • transformation,
  • reengineering
  • Negative deficit
  • price enhancement
  • a period of accelerated negative growth

To me some of these words are nothing other than doublespeak – the art of non communication or language that appears to communicate but fails to do so because the communicator is attempting to obstruct the truth.

Paul Hellman wrote in an article called Words and Things in the AMA journal of 1995 the following statement about the word “World -class”. He writes about reading about a bunch of terrorists being described as world-class in a newspaper.

He asks the question : ” Does it really matter?
Terrorist: Get in the van. We’re taking you hostage.
Hostage: Not so fast. I need to know whom I’m dealing with.
Terrorist: Don’t insult us. We’re an extremely reputable group of fanatics.
Hostage: I’m afraid ” reputable” isn’t good enough. Kidnap me in a few years when you’re world -class.

Now consider the meaning of the quiz words above:                

  • Physically challenged – Disabled
  • Gender Bender – A term popularised by the singer Boy George
  • Perfume Dynamics- Aromatherapy
  • Allergy – Used to be an itch
  • Information specialist -Used to be a gossip
  • Voice mail – used to be an answering machine
  • Alternatively schooled – uneducated
  • Ethically disoriented – dishonest
  • Development needs – Euphemism for problems
  • Overdraft – Postponed bankruptcy
  • The terms Downsizing, Career Alternative Enhancement program, Change Management, delayering, transformation, reengineering – These terms often just mean firing of people.
  • Negative deficit – profit decrease
  • Price enhancement – price increase
  • a period of accelerated negative growth – Recession.

What we often forget is that the meaning in words do not lie in the words we use but in people’s heads. Is it not better to  communicate clearly and accurately? What we have to ask ourselves : ” Are we really reframing the words we are using or are we just using words to obscure”. Perhaps the message to us all is ( in the words of the writer whose name now eludes me): ” Why use a 25c word when a 5c one will do”.

There’s always another option – Use words to obscure and become successful in the same vein. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a new technique, method or process( see reframing above). Give it a real catchy name such as ” Theory Z” or ” Rambo Management”.
  2. Write a book on the subject. Use a lot of visuals, illustrations and
  3. Develop a speech for the “Rubber chicken” circuit. Tailor your general speech to fit local industry problems. Speak at as many engagements as possible. Ensure that you have a team selling your books during the breaks and maybe your tapes as well.
  4. Get yourself a good publicist.
  5. Continue to use words such as above – Relabel, redefine and reframe …..

And soon you will be on your way to becoming quoted in Fortune magazine and you’ll be touted as the next Management Guru – Saver of ills( For a while anyway) .Until another guru replaces you.

You may say : ” It’s just a matter of semantics”. Is it? Bradley Chatfield, Director of Communications, Arizona Hospital had the following to say about this in an interesting e-mail to the Forum that got me thinking:

“When someone brings up semantics, the context to me, seems always to be negative. Look at the following examples, going from past words to “modern” terms for the same thing: shell shock, battle fatigue, post traumatic stress disorder, layoffs, reduction in force, downsizing, rightsizing, crippled, handicapped, physically challenged, differently abled. People can debate whether these evolving terms have increased meaning, improved perceptions,
or the reverse. My view is that larger and multi-syllabic words can only make comprehension suffer”.

Consider how the modern words obscure the meaning:

  • Differently abled could mean left handed
  • Rightsizing could mean losing or gaining weight or it could mean firing of staff.

So no matter how you deal with it – It’s semantics. No matter how you interpret the terms, the simple fact of what really happened remains unchanged( reframing).The danger is that seasoned managers start to regard every new theory with distrust, and will ignore even those with value. AND that is the biggest danger for consultants( On the other hand they also need to make a statement I guess..).

From a PR perspective we also overuse many words such as world-class and premier. Every piece of software, Laundromat or car rental service seems to describe itself as ” premier”. Again are we trying to obscure? Bradley to me sums it up nicely when he wrote : ” Clear, well written language will always overcome noisy superlatives and lazy prose”.

I am not saying it’s wrong. Let’s talk about it. Sorry, Let’s have a
dialogue……… you could also Tweet this message….and that is definitely no longer a fad!

Strategic Marketing and its implications for Professional Service Providers

Many of my readers may not be aware that I facilitate Marketing a Professional Practice workshops.

These workshops are designed to teach professional service providers ranging from architects to doctors to management consultants how to build their reputation and market themselves elegantly in an inter-connected society.

At my last workshop, I was asked for a classical explanation of strategic marketing and its value and why it should be in writing. So, here is my response:

As Lee Iacocca, former chairman of Chrysler says that the discipline of writing things down is the first step toward achieving them.

Strategic Marketing is a conscious and systematic process that involves the following steps:

  • Selecting target market segments using such classification as industry, readiness for consulting, company or division size, function, or issues such as productivity etc.
  • Analysing the specific needs of those market segments;
  • Developing the capabilities to address the target markets’ needs with expertise, relevant programs, and assessment and evaluation tools (that includes determining costs, prices and delivering service options);
  • Designing visibility and credibility strategies to increase name recognition and reputation in the selected marketplaces;
  • Identifying prospects and making presentations to specifically address prospective clients’ unique interests;
  • Providing the highest quality of consultant services on client projects;
  • Managing consultant client relationships to ensure on-going mutually beneficial partnerships.

Develop & Implement Cost-Effective Strategies, Tools & Techniques

The late Howard Shenson, in his book “The Complete guide to Consulting Success” writes that the marketing strategies consultants use have a profound effect on their chances for success.

He advocated the use of low – cost and no –cost strategies for consultants as his research showed that the use of indirect, more public relations like activities are far more effective than direct, hard-sell techniques that so many consultants use.

Tom Lambert echoed this in the book “High-Income Consulting”. Lambert used to conduct, in Europe, the world’s leading seminar on building and sustaining a consultant practice, which was attended by more than 200, 000 attendees worldwide. Lambert said that your overall marketing strategy should be aimed at becoming well known in your field, and that indirect methods of marketing brings clients to you.

He also emphasised that the tactics that you select must be consistent with the reputation and image that you want to create.

Laurence G, Boldt writes in the book “Zen and the art of making a living” that the name of the game in marketing is circulation.

Getting into circulation – and staying in circulation. Getting out and meeting people is circulating. Circulating flyers, making speeches is circulation”.

I liken it to Name Recognition. Whatever technique or tactic you use must be designed to increase your name recognition and to build your reputation. Above all, you need imagination and effort to try and see what works and what don’t work.

For more information and some handy tips regarding marketing consultancy services, read my chapter that I wrote called ‘Consultancy Marketing: Developing the Right Mindset’ in the book The Advice Business – Essential tools and models for Management Consulting by Prof. Charles Formbrun and Mark D.Nevins or attend the next Marketing a Professional Practice workshop in Johannesburg on the 24th June.

Footnote: The Marketing a Professional Practice workshop used to be called Marketing a Consulting Practice. Due to it attracting professionals like architects, lawyers and other professionals I have decided to change the name to be more in line with the target market.

What do Consultants bring to the Table?

What do consultants bring to the table?

This is a question often asked by management & staff.

How can they charge so much? Do they really offer value?

Well let’s consider first of all the Aslan phenomenon which was first mentioned by Dr. Roger von Oech in the ground-breaking book on creativity – ‘A Whack on the side of the head’. Von Oech writes that where all men think alike no one thinks.

This is interesting as it links on to study results by Deloitte that indicates that patterns of decision making can result in reputation risk.

Now you may immediately question this assumption by saying that you are a free thinker – especially in meetings. However, subtly and often subconsciously you are being manipulated by the corporate immune response – the corporate culture.

From the first day with an organization you soon learn what is necessary to fit in, to manage perceptions and expectations and to get on with your manager. This acculturation is part of the immune response.

This is why we frown upon those with novel and new ideas. We call them helicopter pilots, we call them rocket scientists. In fact, at one stage of my career, I was told by the then HR Director to stick to my knitting – which was to be a trainer.

We frown upon whistle blowers (look at the furore of Wikileaks), we frown upon people who do not conform. In fact, armed forces around the world actually operate on that principle – using discipline to ensure execution of military strategy.

j0422803So, what do consultants bring to the table?

1. They bring a different frame of reference. A different set of knowledge, skills and attitude set. They have worked in many industries and that is what they bring to bear upon your problem or issue.

2. They bring an expanded knowledge management capability. They have read the books, white papers and reports that you have not seen nor had time to read. They often belong to networks and institutes and associations that give them access to connections and access to resources you don’t have.

3. They bring 3rd party, objective insight – an ability to ‘see the woods from the trees’. They have seen the signs of war and have dealt with casualties in many trenches. They bring this unique insight to the table.

It’s a similar example of the difference between doctors who work in 1st world countries and those who have worked in both 1st world and impoverished countries where the same level of medical and hospital care do not exist. Their skill sets are vastly different.

Unfortunately this knowledge and ability does not come cheap. You cannot equate a daily rate with the amount of investment & time that it has taken to develop that skill set.

Let me illustrate:

Years ago there was a factory in Northwest America that would for some unknown reason; go into shutdown mode at the most inopportune times.

Eventually a group of consultants was called in and they resolved only part of the problem at a cost of about 40,000 USD. Although the incidences dropped, the problem persisted.

One day at a brainstorm meeting, someone remembered that there was an old- timer who used to work at the plant, and that he had a way to get the system up and running instantly.

So, they decided to bring him back as a consultant. One day he arrived with a small black suitcase. Inside this suitcase, was a small silver aluminium hammer. As the plant went down in shutdown mode, he opened his case, went up to one of the pipes, smacked it with his small aluminium hammer, and the system restarted instantly.

Very happy, his customer asked him to bill them. Which he did, only for the bean counters to return the invoice asking for how the bill of 1043 dollars was made up.

This was the answer they got.

43 dollars for hitting the pipe, a 1000 dollars for knowing where to look.

It’s that ‘look’ that costs so much. And, that is what consultants bring to the table.

I am just sitting here!

Once there was a rabbit sitting in a field and sprucing himself up. He polished his nails, cleaned his whiskers and even put on some deodorant. An eagle, flying overhead, asked the rabbit what the occasion was. The rabbit replied that "tonight I have a date with the Lioness. The lion is out of town, and the Lioness has a crush on me".

A few minutes later, the Lion returned, his flight having been cancelled.

"What are you doing, Mr Rabbit", asked the lion as he passed by looking at the spiffy-looking rabbit.

Answered the rabbit, "N-n-nothing sir. I am just sitting here talking nonsense to myself".

That’s exactly what I am doing right now!

Right now, I am wondering if this is just the sign of the times. What do you do when at the last minute many people cancel to attend a Masterclass, that they wanted to attend, but now can’t due to operational requirements.

I guess operational requirements take preference over learning activities. So, what now?

I guess I will just sit here for a while. Little I can do, the matter is out of my hands.

I will have to reschedule with these delegates. Watch for the new date!

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Face to Face remains a Vital Tool

Despite the rise in virtual meetings, business executives prefer face-to-face meetings, according to the results of a recent Forbes Insights study.

The study, ‘’Business Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face,”” was based on a June survey of 760 business executives. It found that 84% prefer in-person
contact to virtual because face-to-face meetings enable them to build stronger relationships (85%) and provide greater opportunity to “read”
another person (77%).

Nonetheless, teleconferences, videoconferences and Web conferences have grown as 58% of respondents said they were travelling less for business now
than in January 2008.Those that preferred virtual meetings cited the time savings (92%) and the financial savings (88%).

This is further proof that a person’s use of any tools needs to be carefully weighed against advantages and disadvantages.

Mine your Own Database

Did you know that you are sitting on a goldmine?

j0401005Yes, your contact database is a goldmine from an information & sales point of view. I am sure that you have heard the saying that it is 6 times more expensive to get a new client than it is to get a new client.

So here is a technique and a tool that you can use to your own advantage.

The Ladder of Loyalty is an useful technique used to move contacts along a continuum from where they are mere contacts to where they become an advocate of what you stand for.

The idea is to go through your database and determine which of your contacts fall into the following categories:

  • Advocates – These people love what you do and tell everyone
  • Clients – Those people who will naturally call you when they have a need
  • Customers – People who have already used you
  • Prospects – People who can definitely use your services
  • Suspects – These people might be able to use your services

You then develop strategies to move these categories starting with suspects becoming prospects, and so on. You move them up the ladder of loyalty.

Apart from doing this manually, I also found a brilliant piece of software called Xobni the other day. Xobni is the Outlook plug-in that helps you organize your flooded inbox. Xobni’s Outlook add-in saves you time finding email, conversations, contact info & attachments.

Apart from its lightening fast search capabilities and ability to link to other social network sites, it provides Xobni Analytics — its powerful tool for analyzing your own email behaviours over time.

What day of the week are you slowest to respond to email? What time of day do you send the most email? Was this January or last January busier with new email contacts? Who reacted fast to your requests? Who haven’t you contacted lately?

Who are the top 10 people you send emails to? Do you send more emails to your boss than your spouse? Xobni exposes all of this data and more about the people you communicate with — in Outlook, and automatically.

Check it out –

It might be a good exercise to first of all complete the ladder of loyalty exercise, then combine it with Xobni. It may just show you where you are lacking in engaging with your database.

Who knows what sales opportunities it might reveal.

How to Build your Department’s Reputation

Many departments in companies are faced with the proverbial axe, as organizations downsize, outsource or question the added value offered by these departments.

Often departments are guilty of not marketing themselves adequately internally. Often department heads and members assume that all stakeholders know what added value they are offering the organization. In the meantime the perceptions created are not always in synch. There may be doubts about the perceived value they are getting.

Most departments have a need for the following:

Print– To extend their department’ strategic influence throughout the organization;

– To market themselves internally as a Strategic Provider;

– To increase the levels of communication between the Department and its clients and "paying" customers;                                              

It is important to realize that with tighter budgets and a greater emphasis on performance in all areas, that managers should turn to market tactics as a way to ensure their customers – from top management to entry level workers – understand exactly what products, services and added value the department offers.

The following questionnaire has been drawn up to prime your way of thinking. Complete the following questions:

  1. Does your department have a written business plan in place that was completed with the input of all relevant stakeholders?
  2. When last have you conducted market research among your customers internally and externally?
  3. What are you doing to promote your department internally?
  4. Could you improve on this process? Are you using all communication channels and mediums available?
  5. How actively is top management involved in your efforts?
  6. Assume that you have just been called in and told that your department’s functions and services are going to be outsourced. However, the organization is willing to give you one hour in which to come up with a document that will show your worth to the organization. Therefore, ask yourself this question: "Why should your organization not outsource your function."

In this increasingly fast-moving, complex, and competitive world, successful professionals who will be able to leverage their marketing success are those who stay close to their clients, work with them in business partnerships to anticipate needs and develop demand-driven solutions, create distinctive advantages in the marketplace, and use marketing plans to run their departments.

For those who are willing to commit to the discipline required for a strategic-marketing and reputation building approach to their departments, the payoffs will show on the bottom line-and in increased satisfaction for clients and the department’s professionals.

(Training professionals who want a seat at the strategic table may find my posting useful. It is based on 13 years as an independent service professional (consultant) and having been involved long ago in my career in the setting up and management of 4 training departments (including a business school)

Here is my advice:

1. A Department should be managed as if it is a new department which no one knows anything about.

2. Develop a strategic Business and Marketing plan for the Department. Example – If management came to you and told you they are going to outsource your Department, what would you do? A book like JobShift by William Bridges is superb in this regard. Like any business you need a Vision, Mission, etc.

3. Market your department as if it is a new business. Define your products and services, do a FAB Analysis – Features, Advantages and Benefits. Then promote them as if no one knew you existed.

4. Go out internally and market yourself to line managers, SME’s and influencers. Actively involve top management and constantly communicate results to top management and other stakeholders. Unless you are clear on what you will provide, why should I buy from you? Why should I use you even though you are an internal service provider?

5. Conduct regular research to test your usability and whether you are still adding value. Documenting the effectiveness of efforts clearly and ensure that it reaches the right ears. Use oral, written and online media to build your presence and influence.

6. Look for ways to promote your department in the workplace. What added value and assistance can your department offer to others? There is a saying that no one is indispensable, but why not make yourself, that?