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.

Patagonia is a company I first learned about through my high school government teacher, who happened to have been a longtime friend of the founder of the company. The two had shared many adventures backpacking and hiking in remote locations over the years, and as my teacher at the time shared, the company’s image as granola-munching and tree-hugging hippies was quite authentic indeed.

Balancing altruistic and humanistic ideals with the need for business profitability is a dance Patagonia has performed well for decades, as Fast Company recently chronicled:

Sustainable business practices, corporate transparency, authentic brand marketing, family-friendly and flexible employee policies—flip through the business pages of any paper or magazine, or conference panel discussions, and you’ll find these are all de rigueur right now among progressive brands and companies looking for ways to connect with and retain both consumers and employees. They’re also all things Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote extensively about more than a decade ago in his 2006 business memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

The small iron works and climbing equipment shop Chouinard founded in 1957 has since expanded into a global brand, reaching more than $750 million in sales, and since current CEO Rose Marcario’s arrival in 2008 as CFO, a compound annual growth rate of 14%, and profits have tripled. Perhaps confounding to some, the company has done this while maintaining a strict commitment to sustainablility in its products and supply chain—whether its using 100% organic cotton and creating neoprene-free surfing wetsuits, to a marketing campaign encouraging people to buy less of its products. Though the company’s core philosophies remain the same, Chouinard has published a 10th anniversary update of his book to “share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decade ahead to achieve our goals.”

Over at Adweek, Jason Snyder has a great piece on who the real target demographic might be for marketing: robots.

Whoever is closest to the consumer controls the conversation. But it’s not you who’s closest—it’s the machines. The good news for marketers is that unlike fickle, demographic-defying consumers, robots are consistent—staying true to their programming. For now anyway. And talking to them requires speaking their language—and increasingly that language is less about understanding 1’s and 0’s and more about simple, normal words.

 

Having worked with some professionally shot drone footage of properties for use in legal disputes, what I like the most about it is the way that it puts things into context so well.

In real estate, location is everything, and nothing compares to a drone for impact in highlighting a property’s location. Digital Journal has an interview with Douglas Thorn about how drove video is changing the real estate sales industry:

“My videos are like mini-movies,” he tells Digital Journal.”I start with an intro that showcases the entire area so that potential buyers can get a complete idea of the community and natural surroundings before zooming into the home and detailing the interior.”

Thorn’s sizzle reel is below:

Back in 2001, several thought-leaders in the software development world got together and tried to reinvent the business processes behind turning code into something useful and marketable. The result is known as the Agile Manifesto and has spurred on a revolution in how software is made, with a pragmatic, market-driven and user-centric approach.

When AirBnB started eating into the profit margins of the established players in the lodging industry, the threat was not taken seriously at first. Savvy and agile investors quickly transformed small apartment buildings and houses into mini-hotels, creating a new class of social media-enabled commercial real estate investment property. Now, municipalities are actively trying to recapture lost tax revenue. (more…)

Mission statements are like press releases—there are established writing conventions that apply. If you don’t nail the format just right, it will stick out like a sore thumb, and all your hard work will be for naught.*

Whether you are CEO or president, in marketing, or were drafted to your company’s official Mission Statement Committee, your best bet is to play it safe. That means using plenty of jargon to impress upon others that your company “gets it.” (more…)

I’m a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and have been following his work for the better part of a decade. If you’re like most people, you might be thinking to yourself, “Who is Gary Vaynerchuk?” The short version: Gary took his family’s liquor store from $3M per year to over $60M per year by leveraging social media to establish himself as a leading expert in his field. (more…)

Seth Godin is one of those people that anyone involved in business should be aware of. He has written more great books on the topics of marketing and customer engagement worth reading than just about anyone else I can think of.

Recently, Godin wrote about, of all things, playing the clarinet. He describes having taken lessons as a kid and eventually giving the instrument up around the end of high school.

While I was most well-known for playing the saxophone, I have played over a dozen instruments, including the clarinet. I literally laughed out loud when Godin wrote the following:

And yet the lessons I was given were all about fingerings and songs and techniques. They were about playing higher or lower or longer notes, or playing more complex rhythms. At no point did someone sit me down and say, “wait, none of this matters if you can’t play a single note that actually sounds good.”

See, the clarinet is one of a few instruments where just making a decent sound is extremely hard. On piano, guitar, even saxophone, producing a basic sound is pretty easy. I knew many clarinet players who practiced the instrument daily for more than 10 years before they make a sound that wasn’t like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

Godin continues:

Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

Ultimately, Godin gave up the clarinet because it wasn’t worth it to him. He moved on to other art forms (like marketing and writing) that he did care enough about to do right.

I gave up the clarinet after a few months. I took that extra half-hour I gained back each day and reapplied it to practicing the saxophone. It made me happier, made me appreciate the sax just that much more, and ultimately made me a much better player.

The world does not need another mediocre clarinet player.

Link: Seth’s Blog


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Image courtesy Andrew Fogg