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Consulting Firm Razzle Dazzle: The Art of Handles

In today’s world of smart-phones, texting, and in-car wifi, the 1970’s CB radio craze hovers somewhere between quaint and weird. Yet, one aspect of that short-lived fad will help your consulting firm win more clients and, importantly, deliver higher perceived value to your current clients.

In the parlance of CB radio fanatics, your handle was your short, memorable on-air nickname. A CB-er would refer to herself with a moniker like “Big Tuna” or “Boombox” or “Sir Burpsalot”.*

The genius of handles for a consulting firm was revealed to me over 20 years ago. I had developed a sophisticated, market ranking methodology for one of my clients, and the approach delivered excellent results.

However, my algorithm would have been a one-time, geeky solution had my boss in the consulting firm not said, “David, this methodology needs a handle.”

We named my approach the “VQ Model” and our clients contracted well into seven figures worth of VQ consulting projects.

Clients loved the VQ Model and perceived the results as robust and valuable. Simply having a name made the model far more sellable and higher value.

Where to Apply Handles

  • Products
  • Offerings
  • Models
  • Concepts
  • Points of differentiation

Has your consulting firm developed a standard process, approach or deliverable? Assign it a handle. For instance, mid-size consulting firms often engage in our “Firm Growth Activator” or our “BD Lab.”

Avoidable Handles Mistakes

  • Over use. You’ve undoubtedly witnessed consulting presentations so loaded with jargon and handles that they are incomprehensible. Don’t construct the consulting firm version of the 1970’s hit song Convoy.
  • Naming run-of-the-mill concepts. Puffing up small ideas with big names marginalizes your consulting firm’s real work and positions you as a snake oil salesperson.
  • Renaming well-named concepts. Calling a quadrant chart a Four Factor Grid makes your consulting firm look out of touch and buffoonish.

Quick Tips for Developing Handles

  • Walk the line between flippant and overthinking. Brainstorm a half-dozen ideas then commit to the one you like best. If a company named “Google” can rule the world, whatever goofy handle your consulting firm dreams up will work fine.
  • Shorter is better, but not mandatory. Shaving your handle down to a word or two is great (e.g. Fishing Line or Context Document); however, tacking on an extra word often makes your consulting firm’s handle more memorable and powerful (e.g. Solo Practice Accelerator).
  • Strive for unusual, distinctive and catchy. Run a few ideas by your consulting clients and you’ll quickly discover when you’ve developed a superb handle.
  • Include a conceptual tie, if possible. Pharmaceutical companies have proven that successful product’s names can be utter nonsense.* However, your consulting firm’s handles for concepts and models benefit from an obvious link.

What handles have you developed for your consulting firm?

  1. Paul Wicks
    June 30, 2021 at 6:19 am Reply

    Hi David, one of the things I do for my clients is set up a central hub where they can manage all their scientific publications – I call it “PubHub”!

    • David A. Fields
      July 22, 2021 at 9:33 am Reply

      Paul, that made me laugh. There are, of course, multiple associations to the handle “PubHub”, which makes it a particularly clever name. Well done!

  2. Adrian Botham
    June 30, 2021 at 7:29 am Reply

    Hi David,
    I have a few for my main productised service offerings and methodologies that I’ve developed. Examples include Aftermarket 360, Servispart Growth Accelerator, 4P’s methodology.
    I got the idea for doing this after following Adam Urbanski and doing one of his courses. He’s great at marketing, and when I asked myself what he did that I especially liked – I concluded that he gave all his courses and methods a punchy name! So I decided to do the same.
    Sometime later, when I had presented at a conference and used some of my new ‘handles’ I bumped into one of the people who had been at the conference and when he said he’d learnt a lot from my presentation, I asked him what he’d learned. He said it was giving names to things to make them stand out. I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but when he said he liked the name, Aftermarket 360, I got it!

    • David A. Fields
      July 22, 2021 at 9:36 am Reply

      Great examples, Adrian. It sounds like you’ve found your groove with handles and experienced their power personally, which makes you a terrific case study and an inspiration for other consultants. Thank you for posting your experience!

  3. Rick
    June 30, 2021 at 7:56 am Reply

    Genius wisdom AND a “Convoy” reference?! Oh you’ve outdone yourself this time Sir Fields. Well done!

    • David A. Fields
      July 22, 2021 at 9:38 am Reply

      That’s so funny, Rick. The fact that you get the “Convoy” reference is just revealing how old we both are. (Shhhh, don’t tell other readers.) I’m glad you posted your reaction, Rick.

  4. Jay Arthur
    July 1, 2021 at 10:01 am Reply

    Like your VQ Model, our product is QI Macros (Quality Improvement Macros).
    I would have named it something better if I had been smarter when I started.
    In our space, Six Sigma is the dominant methodology (a.k.a. Operational Excellence, Performance Improvement, etc.)
    Naming insight – Avoid jargon (i.e., Sigma) that causes anxiety in your clients. Fear of math and statistics is a common phobia. Scary names lead to hesitation. Not good.

    • David A. Fields
      July 22, 2021 at 9:41 am Reply

      Interesting insight, Jay. I hadn’t really considered the “scary words” aspect, but I suspect you’re right. The “Surgical Doom Regulator” probably wouldn’t be a revenue-boosting name for a consulting offering.

      Valuable addition to the topic, Jay!

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