Consulting is, in my opinion, one of the most noble professions that exists. Sadly, too many freelancers, subcontractors and outsourced laborers have diluted the meaning of the word “consultant.” For the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the true definition of a consultant is a professional who leverages many years of experience, knowledge, and training, often applying their own unique intellectual property, in order to improve their client’s outcome in a given situation.

So without clients, a consultant is actually just a pundit.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being successful as a consultant, therefore, is attracting clients and winning assignments.

Merilee Kern, writing for the Innovation Enterprise Strategy blog, observed the following:

But, even in a trade that’s rife with profit potential, actually earning that pot of gold can be extraordinarily difficult given there are two-plus million consultants, coaches, trainers, and similar professionals all fighting to find clients, win projects and make a living. Roughly half of these consultants are solo practitioners or in boutique firms—and the sad reality is most boutique consulting firms are perpetually six months away from bankruptcy. Their ‘new business procurement’ engine sputters along resulting in a persistent struggle to grow larger, while solo consultants capture average annual revenue under $70,000 (compared to $250,000 per consultant across the entire industry). To explore this disconnect, I connected with David A. Fields, author of ‘The Executive’s Guide to Consultants,’ and the soon-to-be-released follow-up title, ‘ The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients .’ Himself a multi-million-dollar-earning independent consultant, this ‘expert’s expert’ has some sage advice on how people can realize success in the consulting trade—a profession, he concedes, that can be ‘as problematic as it is profitable.’ Since Fields has coached hundreds of successful consultants and other independent practitioners around the world on how to ‘make it rain,’ I asked him the obvious question: ‘Why do so many struggle in this field?’ Quite unequivocally, he asserted that too many consultants—the majority, in fact—are completely missing the mark with respect to their baseline approach and overarching mindset. To help give independent consultants a clearer path to that coveted yet elusive goal of financial freedom through what ‘could’ be a lifestyle-friendly career, here are six of Fields’ pragmatic, eye-opening tips:

  1. Think Right-Side Up
  2. Maximize Impact
  3. Build Visibility
  4. Connect, Connect, Connect
  5. Become the Obvious Choice
  6. Propose, Negotiate & Close

Make sure to read the full article for detailed explanations of Fields’ tips for closing more business as a consultant.

Whether you are in a formal marketing role, or if you are a consultant or small business owner, the only way to continue to connect with clients/prospects is to make sure that your marketing outreach is as effective as it can be. Since marketing best practices are constantly shifting, that means that we as professionals must continue to invest in learning from the successes and failures of other marketers.

Josh Steimle, CEO of marketing agency MWI, and author of a book called Chief Marketing Officers at Work, has published a list of 10 books he recommends reading in 2017 to improve your marketing game. Here is the list:

  1. “They Ask You Answer” by Marcus Sheridan
  2. “Non-Obvious 2017” by Rohit Bhargava
  3. “SEO for Growth” by John Jantsch and Phil Singleton
  4. “Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer
  5. “Pre-Suasion” by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.
  6. “Get Scrappy” by Nick Westergaard
  7. “What Customers Crave” by Nicholas Webb
  8. “Invisible Influence” by Jonah Berger
  9. “Hacking Marketing” by Scott Brinker
  10. “Digital Sense” by Travis Wright and Chris Snook

Check out Josh’s post at Mashable for descriptions of each book, and why it is relevant to your ongoing professional development.

There are a lot of small businesses that self-identify as consultants. Like quality and beauty, the definition of what a consultant is depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. Most so-called consultants are actually just independent contractors or subcontractors providing outsourced labor. In my opinion, a true consultant is one who improves their client’s situation.

In the same way that few parents actively encourage their children to skip college to pursue joining the building trades, not too many folks pressure their offspring to become management consultants. (more…)

I came across a wonderful quote from Steve Jobs on how great people and teams solve problems. What caught my eye was a tweet from user experience expert Jon Fox linking to a picture with text from Jobs’ quote overlayed on the photo.

The caption for the photo, and the body (if you will) of Fox’s tweet reads: The very definition of #UX Wisdom from #SteveJobs. Let me explain…

UX refers to user experience. According to Wikipedia, “User experience (UX) involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.”

Here is the quote from Steve Levy’s book, Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything:

When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple with all these simple solutions, you don’t really understand the complexity of the problem. And your solutions are way too oversimplified, and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem, and you see it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s sort of the middle, and that’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep on going and find the key, underlying principle of the problem. And come up with a beautiful elegant solution that works.

Source: Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything

What’s the Point?

The reason the tweet—and subsequently, the quote—caught my eye is that I am using a similar concept in the launch of a new brand and a new company offering project management or owner representation services to property owners that are designing and constructing new buildings. The theme of our new campaign: “The very definition of what an owner’s representative should be.”

Stay tuned…


Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010

Image courtesy Wikimedia

Colleague, friend, and leading economist, Alan Nevin, wrote a fascinating article for the San Diego Daily Transcript on the relationship between apartment construction costs and rental rates.

The analysis shows the difference in the costs of developing three different types of apartment projects in San Diego County. The three types are a three-story garden walk-up, a five-story with two decks of above-surface concrete parking (known as podium parking) and a 22-story high-rise.
Each assumes current land costs, construction costs, the price of money and each assumes a 200-unit project with apartment units averaging 850 square feet.

I won’t spoil the results of the analysis, but will say that it certainly shows the long-term investment potential of apartments.

Source: San Diego Daily Transcript

Checking off one item on my bucket list, last week I had the sincere pleasure of seeing Gary Vaynerchuk speak live at PCBC 2014 in San Francisco. As usual, Gary covered a number of topics that are incredibly relevant to businesses everywhere. I want to highlight just a couple of those concepts here.

Gary Vaynerchuk is highly in demand as a speaker at business conferences, even though he regularly challenges the status quo. Plus, how often do you see an explicit content warning for a keynote speaker at a professional conference?

Stop being romantic about your company

In the clip below, from a previous talk, Gary tackles The Innovator’s Dilemma—the idea that once innovative companies lose their edge when they stop innovating. Businesses resting on their laurels, celebrating previous success, are ripe for disruption from others:

Most companies using social media act like a 19 year old dude…

…trying to close on the first transaction:

This is covered in much greater detail in Vaynerchuk’s latest book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Are you marketing in the year we live in?

One of the number one points that Gary makes—really the primary thesis of his talks—is that you have to go where your customers are. Perhaps more to the point, you have to go to where the customers you want to have are. In 2014, that means using social media. It means mobile, first. It means always looking to the horizon to find out what medium your (prospective) clients are heading to next.

The difficulty, of course, is justifying the time and money spent in such pursuits. This is the dreaded ROI of social media issue that so many marketers must unfortunately deal with. Here is a slideshow from Gary on the topic:

What’s the Point?

With his brother AJ, Gary has established an incredibly successful social and digital media marketing agency called VaynerMedia that caters primarily to large enterprise companies. VaynerMedia’s value proposition isn’t so much about the content produced, as much as it is helping brands understand the context within which it exists.

During the brief Q and A following Gary’s talk, one gentleman mentioned probably the number one topic on everyone’s mind. (PCBC is a builder’s convention, so everyone in the room is connected to the real estate/construction industry in some manner.) Here is roughly what he said:

Let’s say I want to connect with the president of Wells Fargo. I don’t think he is sharing what he ate on Twitter or SnapChatting away with his friends. So how am I going to reach him?

To which Gary replied, “what were you planning to do—take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal hoping that he’ll see it?” Then Gary told a story about how he and the VaynerMedia team landed a multi-million dollar contract with an executive that was fairly old, and definitely not a big social media user. However, this executive’s children were active on social media and VaynerMedia targeted content at them with the hope that they would in turn share it with the old man.

The gentlemen in the audience asking the question then said to Gary, “that story was worth the price of admission for this whole conference,” and then walked away.


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Gary Vaynerchuk on stage at PCBC 2014