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If a Pro Advertiser Described Your Consulting Firm, Here’s What She’d Say

You can explain your consulting firm’s work to prospects in language that is far more fascinating, exciting and, ultimately, more compelling than your standard, dull descriptions.

Before we dive in, I invite you to glance at the clock and give yourself permission to focus on this for 15 minutes. Reading the article will take only a couple of minutes, then there’s a 10-minute exercise I’d like you to try.

Go ahead and set the 15-minute mental clock for yourself.

Ready?

There’s a funny game you can play with your friends or family (not now), in which you accurately summarize a hit movie’s plot into a one-line description that is boring and/or misses the point.

For instance, the three movies described below are all related to the shipping industry… very loosely.

Movie #1: Disgruntled employees disrupt a business trip.

Movie #2: Worker at next-day freight company delivers package years late.

Movie #3: Cat-lover clears pests off her ship then takes long nap.

Can you guess what each movie is? Give it a try—you’ve probably seen all three.

Based on the description above, would you shell out $12 to see any of those films?

An advertising pro charged with describing those same films would concoct quite different summaries of those same three motion pictures:

Mutiny on the Bounty reenacts the harrowing tale of 18th century sailors who risked everything to escape their cruel, oppressive captain.

Castaway follows the sole survivor of a FedEx plane crash and his increasingly desperate efforts to survive alone on a tiny, remote island.

In Alien, the crew of a spaceship encounters a mysterious spaceship on an undiscovered moon, then fight for their lives against an aggressive and deadly extraterrestrial.

Traits of Compelling Descriptions

  • Convey important details while remaining concise.
  • Employ colorful adjectives and verbs.
  • Highlight the underlying conflict.
  • Emphasize the high stakes at risk.
  • Zero in on the emotional experience.

Consulting firms often eschew those characteristics when describing their work. They communicate their projects in enormously boring, unmemorable ways. Either single-line summaries that are devoid of energy, or overly long case studies packed with too much detail and too little color.

We helped Big Bank grow profit by leading a digital transformation. (Flat, dull, boring.)

We aligned the leadership team at Bikeorama around a common goal and a clear vision. (Vanilla, milquetoast, snoozer.)

You can do better. Add energy, pizzazz and punch when you recount your consulting firm’s work.

There are two important differences between your consulting firm’s project descriptions and movie writeups:

  1. You want your consulting prospects to relate to your work. (Your typical consulting firm client isn’t fighting for their life.)
  2. You give away the ending.

Nevertheless, you can dramatize the situation a bit and tap into the emotional impact.

And remember, the hero is always your client, not your consulting firm.

A quick example to give you the flavor of where we’re headed:

After three years treading water, an ambitious consulting firm founder from Iowa faced a defining decision: continue to struggle against the hidden constraints chaining her firm down, or accept help to find and escape them. She enlisted us, and two years later she’s a millionaire poised to chase a billion-dollar vision.*

Please try this exercise now:

Write down the normal, boring description of a recent consulting project. Then, develop a spicy, exciting, advertising pro’s version. Avoid technical industry jargon, and employ language that plucks at your prospects’ heartstrings.

Two rules for this exercise:

Rule #1: Give yourself 10 minutes.

Rule #2: Share your 10-minute results—good, bad or terrible—in the comments section. There’s no downside. No one is judging you, and MANY people will benefit from your efforts as long as you share them.

Work on it for 10 minutes now, then come back.

Your hyped up project description may feel over-the-top or disingenuous. If so, dial it back one half-step and try it out with your consulting firm’s audience.

When you craft a project description that conveys the emotional struggle and benefits, you will have created an enormously interesting, compelling summary of your consulting firm’s work.

What did you come up with?


6 Comments
  1. Praveen Puri
    July 20, 2022 at 10:08 am Reply

    Before: A manufacturing company had a cumbersome process for managing projects. I advised them on streamlining the process. The result was that project development times were reduced by 35%.

    After: The pressure was building. The leaders of a Chicago-area manufacturer could feel the strain as their developers struggled to keep on schedule, knowing it was only going to get worse. After talking with us, a steely resolve set in: we can improve our project management process! Relief is possible! With ruthless efficiency, they implemented our suggestions, and watched with bated breath. It worked! Their backlog eased, as their efficiency increased 35%.

    • David A. Fields
      July 20, 2022 at 10:13 am Reply

      Instant smile! From the very start, Praveen, I was tickled by your story-like prose. And while the descriptive language might feel odd or uncomfortable for a consulting project, it’s really quite engaging. Well done!

      Also, double bonus kudos to you for taking the time to do this exercise. I know it’s not an easy one, but you’ve shown other readers it’s absolutely possible and the results are fun. Thanks for leading the charge, Praveen!

  2. Graciela Salcedo
    July 20, 2022 at 7:08 pm Reply

    Boring description: Ensured client’s employees embraced the changes brought about by the new XYZ system, after conducting a diagnostic to understand key stakeholder’s mindsets and behaviors towards proposed changes. Designed a change management program along with the coordination of all training and communication efforts related to the new system, resulting in a 95% adoption rate within the first three months.

    Exciting alternative: The new XYZ system was looming on the horizon creating panic and chaos among employees. No one seemed sure this was going to work. We came in and lent them our ears, talked through their apprehensions, showed them the benefits of the new system and appeased their anxieties. Open and honest communication was the key. They quickly embraced the change and now love the XYZ system!

    • David A. Fields
      July 20, 2022 at 7:44 pm Reply

      Bravo, Graciela! You injected humanity, emotion and import into your description of the project and it makes all the difference.

      Thank you so much for putting in the work and for sharing the output of your efforts.

  3. Olga Lopategui
    July 25, 2022 at 6:39 pm Reply

    Boring: We help restaurant chains fix underperforming loyalty programs. We do a thorough program diagnostic, then develop improvement recommendations that the client can execute independently or with our help. As a result, the program ROI is easy to measure and the brand can make the best possible marketing decisions.

    Updated: The CMO was in horrified. 2 years have flown by since the rewards program launch, a million of diners already signed up, yet nobody could clearly tell of those members were just eating up the free food when they had a chance. The CFO was breathing down his neck to cut the SaaS fees and stop wasting money, but he was afraid of customer backlash. Enter OLLO Consult! In a few short weeks, the CMO is confident that the program has had a positive ROI all along, but better yet, with a couple small tweaks the rewards guests start spending more than ever on every visit! Now, every time a marketing campaign is run, the CMO knows if it was a success, and the CFO is happy to pay for a new rewards app!

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2022 at 2:45 pm Reply

      You’re a natural-born story-teller, Olga! You’ve graduated from a completely forgettable, run-of-the-mill project approach to a gripping, memorable tale.

      Great job, and thank you for sharing!!

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