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The Massive Marketing Mistake Consulting Firms Make

There’s a gap between what most clients are looking for from consulting firms and what consultants tend to talk about. Close that gap, win more clients. Fortunately, this one’s an easy fix.

Let’s examine the case of Mimi Manilow at Yummycakes Corp. Mimi’s casting about for a consultant to help her improve customer satisfaction with Yummycake’s rugelach.

Mimi considers three consultants: Tinkerton International—a global consultancy her company has used previously; Mochenbach Consulting—a firm her new COO recommends; and, Charleston Group—Mimi found them through a quick Google search. Mimi checks the three consulting firms’ websites…

We’re experts in food manufacturing. Our process is best-in-class and uses proven approaches to maximize profitable production of delicious goodies.
Tinkerton International

 

Our consultants have more than 9,000 years of experience working in baked goods. Our clients include Hostess, Cinnabon, Dunkin Donuts and the original Betty Crocker—back before she started milling flour, she was a client of ours.
Mochenbach Consulting

 

Our consulting staff is a unique blend of food scientists, jujitsu manufacturing masters and a specially trained dachshund. Tell us a bit more about your challenges and we’ll work together to surpass your goals.
Charleston Group

 

Those statements sound like innumerable consulting firms’ marketing language. You (and Mimi) read it on their websites and hear it from consultants trying to secure projects.

Unfortunately, typical consulting firm marketing that’s crafted to establish credibility is upside down. Remember Right-Side Up thinking: Consulting isn’t about you, it’s about them—the clients.

Mimi’s not impressed. She wants consultants who talk about her problem and, most importantly, instill confidence that they can solve her challenge. Consulting firms consistently bolster their reputation with the wrong supports—that’s the common mistake.

Your wellspring of credibility doesn’t flow from your years of experience, marquee clients or even your unwavering interest in building a relationship. Those are all important. But they miss the most important factor that reassures clients you can deliver the goods:

Proof of worth.

You must be able to articulate the actual value your interventions produce, with evidence; i.e., what your contributions were to your previous clients and how they advanced because of your input.

Your marketing must be loaded with case studies and testimonials oozing tangible results.

If you want to win Mimi’s business, your marketing—whether on your website, sprinkled in your speeches or mentioned during your conversations with her, should sound like Serra Leigh Consulting:

We’re experts in creating tastier treats. When Cricket Crumpets wanted to increase market share, we analyzed the gustatory profile of their dough and their seasonings supply chain. Because of our work, they switched from stale additives to fresh Zanzibarian spices. As a result, they’ve dramatically increased the flavor impact of their products.
Serra Leigh Consulting

 

That statement incorporates some “us” language; however, it primarily reflects a client’s problem and the tangible, valuable results the client received.  Would a claim about market share gains have boosted the power of that case study? You bet. However, even without a quantitative benefit, Serra Leigh’s marketing instills more confidence (and Trust) than the marketing from Tinkerton and the other consulting firms.

Your proof of worth doesn’t have to be quantitative (though it helps). It does have to be tangible and demonstrate how your clients were substantially better positioned when your work was completed.

Does your marketing drip with proof of your worth?

This is your chance to brag. Literally, right now I’m asking you to show off a bit.

What’s an example of a specific, tangible result you’ve created for a client?

Please share a (brief) case study in the comments section.


 

23 Comments
  1. Jaime Campbell, CPA, MBA
    July 26, 2017 at 7:27 am Reply

    A not-for-profit client has the healthiest cash flows in 25 years and is serving a record number of children.

    We converted their accounting system to one capable of providing better, faster information. We then examined the flow of financial information related to grant reimbursement and provided technology, processes, and training and with management’s support instituted a “same day / next day” policy for expense receipts to be submitted by the staff.

    The organization reduced time-to-invoice from 30-90 days to 5-10 days.
    Each invoice contains all of the expenses incurred, not just some of them.
    Each grantor invoice includes substantial documentation and 95% fewer expenses are being denied.

    With the accounting records so well-organized, well-documented, and already in accordance with GAAP, we also negotiated with the auditor a 10% reduction in annual audit fees.

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2017 at 7:44 am Reply

      Fabulous example, Jaime. There are some lines that really pop as proof points in your case study. Reducing time to invoice, 95% fewer expenses denied, and 10% reduction in audit fees all jump out at a prospective client. You could probably highlight them even more by tightening some of the other copy, such as the second paragraph. Overall, I give this case study an A. Nice work!

      • Jaime Campbell, CPA, MBA
        July 26, 2017 at 10:03 am Reply

        Paragraph Two, second draft
        We converted their accounting system from QBO to Xero and integrated Vend and Entryless for faster, better income & expense information. We implemented Asana to complete and speed up the flow of financial information. With management’s support instituted a “same day / next day” policy for expense receipts to be submitted by the staff.

        [For good measure, we converted their Chart of Accounts to the Unified Chart of Accounts for Not-For-Profit Organizations and gave their Board of Directors monthly financial statements that they could understand for the first time in years.]

        • David A. Fields
          July 26, 2017 at 10:47 am

          Jaime, what happens if you take away information instead of adding it? For instance, how does the impact of your case study change if you take out most of what you did and leave in just the results of what you did? I’ll be interested to see what you come up with.

        • Jaime Campbell, CPA, MBA
          July 26, 2017 at 11:07 am

          A not-for-profit client has the healthiest cash flows in 25 years and is serving a record number of children.

          They now get better, faster financial information. The organization reduced time-to-invoice from 30-90 days to 5-10 days. Each invoice contains all of the expenses incurred, not just some of them.
          Each grantor invoice includes substantial documentation and 95% fewer expenses are being denied.

          With the accounting records so well-organized, well-documented, and already in accordance with GAAP, we also negotiated with the auditor a 10% reduction in annual audit fees.

        • David A. Fields
          July 26, 2017 at 11:20 am

          Much more persuasive. Nice work.

  2. Anatoli Naoumov
    July 26, 2017 at 10:32 am Reply

    We help food manufacturers cut energy cost in refrigeration. With our help ABC Bakery has reduced direct energy cost of process cooling plant by 38% as well as improved stability of operation and product quality. They now do not have to add ice while mixing dough. They do not have to buy, ship and store ice as well. Consistent quality allowed them to secure a bigger contract from their key client and expand operation scale.
    (True story, except name)

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2017 at 10:46 am Reply

      Nice work, Anatoli. I hope your client will let you use their name–that makes a big difference.

      These are exactly the types of results clients are looking for–particularly if they are looking for reduction in their own refrigeration costs.

  3. Yasmine Veronica
    July 26, 2017 at 10:56 am Reply

    Hi David ,it’s a pleasant share with reasonable illustrations. Not all of consulting firms but rather few are indulge in these unpleasant slip-ups to pick up customers without considering or giving the confirmation of the work done known as assurance. Yet, there is a cruel reality about marketing itself, which is communicating the idea of pitching services or products to the correct individual it doesn’t make a difference what approach you use you need to form things as indicated by it. What’s more, you must be particular, exact, and dependably remember what you are capable of in order to evade these missteps.

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2017 at 11:03 am Reply

      Yasmine, I think what you’re saying is that no matter what you market, you have to provide precise, concrete proof that’s relevant to the customer. I’d certainly agree with that!

      With regard to whether a lot or a few make the mistake mentioned in this article, the parallel I’d draw is with religious congregations. Every congregation views itself as “warm and welcoming.” Just ask them and that’s one of the first things they’ll say. However, if you ask everyone who visits one time whether they thought the congregation was warm and welcoming, most visitors to most congregations will say, “Not really.” Consultants think they’re marketing well; however, based on my interaction with a lot of clients, few are as good at providing relevant, concrete proof.

      Thanks for being part of the discussion.

  4. Robert Friedman
    July 26, 2017 at 2:31 pm Reply

    After a successful 10 year run, my client ClickMail, an email marketing company, found that their category was suddenly disrupted by new technology and new competitors. The value proposition that had worked in the past stopped working. The sales team was still getting meetings, but not closing deals. Danger Will Robinson!

    The CEO was smart enough to realize that he didn’t need to market more, or sell harder. He said “I made the argument to my management team that the reason we weren’t selling could be tied back to our branding and positioning.” Smart guy.

    I took ClickMail through Brand Vision. We strengthened the value proposition, giving the sales team a new story, and the technology team a tighter focus.

    Results: 30 new clients after the refreshed brand launched, resulting in millions of dollars of incremental revenue from new clients.

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2017 at 2:53 pm Reply

      Outstanding, Robert. For a senior executive at an online marketing company, your results are compelling: 30 new clients and millions of dollars in incremental revenue. I wonder whether some of the language, like “the CEO was smart enough” may be off-putting to some readers because it could suggest they’d be judged by you as either smart enough or pretty dimwitted. What would happen if you took the second paragraph out entirely?

      Great case study. Thanks for contributing, Robert.

  5. David Hane
    July 26, 2017 at 2:47 pm Reply

    We took over and turned around a floundering compliance program for a large healthcare provider. By implementing new physician contracting business processes and workflow via cloud-based software and linking related AP/AR processes, we dramatically reduced the client’s regulatory risk exposure (Stark Law). Subsequently, the CFO was able to eliminate a large cash reserve.

    • David A. Fields
      July 26, 2017 at 2:56 pm Reply

      Cool, David. Sounds very technical and specific to your industry, which is perfect. Are you able to quantify the “large cash reserve” or create some context? Can you name the provider?

      • David Hane
        July 27, 2017 at 2:50 pm Reply

        Our client had established a $10M reserve. At the time, the largest settlement for violating this law that we knew of was $119M. I’ve since read of a $237M judgement that occurred in 2015.

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