Archive for February, 2011

Lead Generator #3 – Blogs

A blog can be an effective way to generate leads, particularly if you enjoy writing and are willing to do so on a regular basis.  A well written blog also enhances your credibility and visibility. But the best reasons for starting is business blog are that you can do so immediately — and even at no cost!

Thanks to services like Blogger and WordPress, you can be on the air within minutes. No need for web designers or Internet hosting when starting out. Sure, as your blog grows, you may want to upscale and have your own URL, but there is no reason that you can not start blogging right now.

Don’t expect immediate results — it takes time to develop a following. While a published magazine article will reach thousands right away, it will much longer to reach that many readers with a new blog. Most successful business bloggers were at it for several years before things really took off. But when they did…

A well written blog, however, often leads to magazine articles (both digital and print) giving you wide exposure. Editors are constantly on the prowl for good content, so your blog is also an on-line portfolio. Don’t be surprised to be invited to contribute to leading magazines. You can even recycle your posts — most editors today no longer insist on original unpublished content.

Here are three examples from right in my own backyard in Arizona:

Escape from Cubicle Nation. Pam Slim started blogging about six years ago. As a new mom and a successful training consultant, she wanted to spend less time on the road, so she decided explore “life coaching.”  It took a while, but her blog led to guest postings and magazine articles. Those eventually led to her best selling book. (Click Here)

StartUp Processionals. Marty Zwilling started blogging about two years ago. As a recent retiree and successful serial entrepreneur, he wanted to share his experience and help others just starting out. In less than two years, his blog led to articles in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, where he now has a regular column. He just published an excellent book for entrepreneurs. (Click Here.)

EMI-GURU. In addition to JumpToConsulting, two months ago I added a blog to my engineering consulting web site. I then explored mirroring the blog on a leading technical magazine. They added it to their blogroll, but just asked if I would consider being a columnist instead, using the same materials. Honored, I said yes.  (Click Here.)

What about blogs versus web-sites? I recommend both for consultants. While a blog is dynamic,  a web site is static. The latter is important for details like your capabilities, biography, etc.  Thanks to static pages, platforms like WordPress even lets you combine the best of both worlds. For a simple web site, this can work quite well.

As your blog or business grows, you’ll eventually want to consult with a web designer. Good news — the content is not lost. You can always import the contents of your old blog into a new one. We’ll explore web sites in a future post.

So where do I start? There are dozens of  books and blogs with advice on blogging. Here are three I have found particularly useful:

ProBlogger – Darren Rowse blogs from Australia to a worldwide following. He started out blogging about photography, but it grew into a blogging mini-empire. He sells an excellent e-book – 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. About $20.

Art of Non Conformity – Chris Gullibeau shares his blogging experiences in another excellent e-book — 279 Days to Overnight Success. FREE.

Geeks on Tour - Jim and Chris Guld tour the country in their RV helping fellow RVers (mostly retirees) understand and use all the neat stuff on the Internet.  Join them for $39/year and have access to their library of simple video tutorials. They will show you how you can begin blogging with Blogger in under an hour.

So, if you are thinking about making the JumpToConsulting, start thinking about how to use a blog as a marketing tool. Setting one up is easy (and can be free), but you need to feed it good content on a regular basis to make it a success.

See you in the blogoshpere!

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Why building a business is like building a house…

My parents built and remodeled several houses. Not to make money, but to build a better life. And, I suspect, because they thoroughly enjoyed doing it. When one  project was done, it was usually time to start another.

Often, my brother and I were pressed into involuntary servitude. We pounded nails. We poured concrete. We tore down a barn. We  put on a roof. We learned how to plumb and wire and plaster. And much more.

Looking back, I now realize what great lessons we learned at a tender age. You see, my brother and I now each have our own small business. THANKS, Mom and Dad!

Thirty+ years ago, my business partner and I started building a consulting firm. We were a couple of young engineers with a dream of going off on our own. Incidentally, my business partner’s father was a carpenter. Hmmm…

It was nine years from the start until the day we “moved in” and became full time consultants. We could have done it in less, but we took our time. We plotted and planned, we marketed and built a customer base, and we stashed away as much money as we could. We pounded a lot of nails.

When “moving day” finally arrived (October 1987), the stock market crashed. That was almost  like having a fire. But we survived, and the business did not burn down. Better yet, we now had our own place to do business — in our own way, too.

Building a business is a lot like building a house. You start with a vision. You draw up some plans. You gather materials. Then the real work begins — you dig the hole, lay the foundation, frame the walls, and much more.

It all takes time. Eventually you get there, but not overnight. There are days when all you do is pound nails or cut wood. But you persist. After the walls go up, you add the roof, and finally the doors and windows. You finish the outside, and seal the place up.

Even then, you are still not ready to move in. Now you have all the inside to do — insulation, wiring, plumbing, painting, trim, and more. You wonder, will it ever end? Is all this effort really worth it?

By the way, this is where many fledgling business owners quit.  Frustrated. Out of energy and/or out of money. Sadly, they walk away with the house only partly built.

But hang in there — you are just about there. With a final bit of persistence, “moving day” finally arrives. And then you wake up one morning, and realize that you really ARE there. You have customers and cash flow. Congratulations — you’ve built a business!

A closing comment. I’m once again building a new place with this blog. A little retirement cabin, perhaps. A place where I can sit on the porch, sip lemonade, and share the lessons I’ve learned. I hope you find them useful.

In the meantime, as long as you’re here — can you hand me that hammer?

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Resource Review – Million Dollar Consulting

For this month’s resource review, I’ve selected Million Dollar Consulting by Dr. Alan Weiss. Having now written 32 books on the subject, Alan Weiss is no doubt a guru on consulting. Anyone considering consulting should read what he has to say.

His materials are based on his own experiences of starting and running an international management and organizational development firm. As the book title implies, he has consistently produced over over $1 million/year in revenues. Although his background is in management consulting, his sound advice applies to all types of consulting.

The book contains an abundance of ideas. The focus is on helping existing consultants take their practice to the next level, but he includes advice for beginners too. Be sure and get the latest version (2009), as he has a added new and pertinent information.

In recent years, he started several mentoring programs, such as his Consulting College and other workshops and seminars. Most appear to be aimed at established consultants, so they may not be of immediate interest to those contemplating a Jump To Consulting. The book, however, is an excellent place to start.

I’ve not met Alan Weiss, but I have read several of his books and have followed his blog for the past year. I just recently subscribed to his weekly Friday Wrap series of podcasts and videocasts. Like a good Dutch Uncle, his style can be blunt. I find his ideas useful and thought provoking.

Million Dollar Consulting by Dr. Alan Weiss.
McGraw Hill, 2009  – ISBN-10:0071622101
www.summitconsulting.com & www.contrarianconsulting.com

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator #2 – White Papers

White papers have become the rage in recent years, and for good reason.        They are an excellent way to showcase your expertise and build credibility. A well crafted white paper can quickly establish you as an expert among experts.

So what is a white paper, anyway? In very simple terms, a magazine article you self-publish. White papers strive to position your company as a solution to problems. They typically demonstrate this through case studies, test results, or position statements.

Unlike magazine articles, however, the visibility part is up to you. Most people today post white papers on their web site. It is popular to use white papers as bait for e-mail addresses, as part of a list building strategy. This can be effective, but the white paper must be worthwhile.

Another use for white papers is for sales collateral. They can be included in sales calls or sales responses to build your credibility. They can also be used as handouts at trade shows or conferences. In that case, however, be sure to get the contact information before you give them away.

White papers are not subject to editorial limitations. You control the content, layout, and length.  Here are some comments on each of these parameters:

Content - The material must be useful to your potential client or customers. This can include case studies, test or survey results, top-ten lists, and the like. Make them information rich – not salesy!

An acid test I’ve always applied to any written piece is, “If I never do business with this person, is the information still useful and of value?” If it is just a sales pitch (we’re better than XYZ and here’s why) it is more likely to offend rather than to convince.

In the technical world, white papers are often called application notes.  These have been around for years, and typically show how to design and use a manufacturer’s products. Follow the examples to get similar results — you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Layout - This is probably one of the biggest advantages over a magazine article. You can coordinate the look and feel of your white paper with the rest of your collateral – letterhead, brochures, and web site. Spend the time and money to make your white paper look professional.

A professional printer can be a big help here. They can advise on technical issues like paper stock, font, graphics, and more.  (Except for the paper, this advice applies to digital versions, too.)  They may even save you money by making your white paper fit a standard format to eliminate printing waste. We’ve worked with a professional printer for years, and consider them “part of the family.”

A professional copywriter can help, too. If you are not comfortable writing, consider hiring a “white paper specialist” .  On the other hand, if you are comfortable, you might even consider writing white papers as a potential service. We’ve done several white papers for our technical clients over the years.

If you do decide to use outside help, pick a topic or two and make a preliminary outline. Do your homework – don’t just hire someone to “write a white paper.”  That is like hiring an architect to “build a house” without any idea what you want in the first place.

Length – It depends, but 6-12 pages is typical. Longer than a newsletter, but shorter than a booklet. Think of an essay or in-depth magazine article, but without the editorial constraints (article length, number of words,  number of figures, ad space, etc.)

As such, you can add as much detail as is needed to make your point. Just don’t overdo it. You are not trying answer every question imaginable. 

Given the right circumstances, white papers are worth the effort. But always remember — the goals are to educate, enlighten, and establish credibility — not to sell. You are trying to begin a conversation, not to close the deal.

Questions or comments?  Please send me a message via the contact page.

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Establish your credibility — fast

An important sales lesson …

As a brand new sales engineer, I was on my way to meet with meet with an important prospect.  Fresh out of training, I was ready to dazzle and amaze them with all sorts of technical details about our new test system.

Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with my airplane seat mate.  Always curious, I asked him what he did  for a living.  He politely explained that he specialized in financial planning for small business owners, focusing on those with a net worth of  1-10 million dollars.  He had been at it for several years, and was achieving some good success.

He then asked about me, and I explained how I was an engineer that had just gone over to the dark side of sales.  As a newbie, I then asked if he had any advice he could share.

He smiled, and replied, “Establish your credibility — fast. That is what I did with you. Without that, you might have just considered me another peddler.

Wow! Based on that advice, I tried a brief experiment in my sales call.  Rather than jumping right into the technical details, I gave a little personal background on myself.  How I had a BSEE degree, was a registered PE (Professional Engineer), and had spent the last 10 years in design positions. And how this reflected my company’s commitment to serve our customers.

It took less than a minute, but you could feel the change in the room.  I was no longer “just another peddler”, but rather a fellow engineer with credibility.  And yes, I eventually made the sale.

How would you establish your credibility?

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Niche Marketing

Niches are a great strategy for small firms – particularly if you are just starting out. For consultants, the old business bromide “Find a need and fill it” could easily be replaced with “Find a niche and serve it.”

So what is a niche, anyway?  It is simply a narrow market segment. As a small business, you need to target your efforts. This is very important, particularly if you are moving from a larger company or firm. Unlike the big guys, you can’t be everything to everybody.

Niches can be defined several ways, such as specialty, industry, geography, or type of customer. In fact, I like using multidimensional niches to further segment the potential markets. The more you subdivide, the better you can focus your marketing efforts. We’ll look at these subdivisions in more detail in future posts.

Multiple niches are OK – just don’t pick too many starting out. Like using a magnifying glass to start a fire, niches let you concentrate your marketing energy on well defined targets. As the old saying goes, “Do a little — do it well — you’ve done a lot.” You can add or broaden the niches as your business develops.

Here is a personal example from my own engineering consulting business, from when my business partner and I went full time in 1987.

  • The specialty niche we chose was EMI (electromagnetic interference) product design and troubleshooting. We had a lot of experience in this area, and we had determined the demand was there.
  • We targeted two industry niches — military (where we had a lot of experience) and computers (the PC market was exploding then.)
  • Our geographical niche was primarily local.
  • Our customer niche was B2B (business to business.)  We did not pursue B2G (business to government) or B2C (business to consumer.)

We focused our initial marketing efforts where these four niches overlapped. We collaborated with a well respected local test laboratory, and we started a local mini-trade show. We became active in our local professional organization, and we wrote articles for the local trade press. This soon established us as local experts in our specialty niche.

The next step was to expand the niches a bit. We did not stray from our specialty niche, but we  broadened our geographical niche by writing articles for national trade magazines. At the same time, we collaborated with a training organization with a national reach. We also added the medical market, as our local area was rich with medical device manufacturers.

We eventually ended up with a portfolio of niches.

  • For the specialty niche, we still focus on EMI design issues, but in addition to electronic products, the scope now ranges from integrated circuits to systems and facilities.  We added training – aimed at preventing problems, rather than just solving them.
  • The industry niches now include computers, medical, military, industrial, vehicles, facilities, telecomm, and more.
  • The geographical niches now include all of  North America, with occasional projects overseas.
  • The customer niche remains B2B, serving high tech companies.

By maintaining a focus on our niches, we were able to concentrate our marketing efforts without going off in too many directions. We did accept business outside these areas, but only if it made sense. All this did not happen right away, but over the years we have been able to add to our experiences and grow our business.

Niches keep you focused, and let you leverage your marketing. You can quickly become the big fish in the little pond. And after conquering one pond, there is nothing to stop you from going after other ponds.

What niches should YOU consider?

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Lead Generator #1 – Write Articles

Writing articles can be a very effective lead generator. Not only do they provide visibility, but they also enhance your credibility.  Having written or co-written over 100 technical articles, I’ve found this method to be fast, effective, and even fun.  Besides, nothing quite like seeing your name in print to give you a little buzz while impressing potential clients with your expertise.

Incidentally, these ideas apply to both written and electronic magazines.  The actual media is secondary.  In fact, many magazines now publish in both modes.

Here are three good reasons for considering magazine articles:

(1) Enhances credibility and visibility. In the eyes of potential clients, being published makes you a subject expert.  The perception is that you know what you are talking about, and that you have been vetted by the publication. And in the consulting business, perception is reality.

(2) You can start doing this right away. You don’t need to wait until you hang out your shingle — you can even start today when employed. Furthermore, your employer may well be impressed with your initiative and your capabilities.

(3) Builds your collateral. Having even a small library of printed articles is useful when submitting proposals or responding to inquiries.  You can simply include a reprint of a relevant article.

As an alternate, make the articles available for download on your web site.  You should retain the copyright by giving the magazine publisher first publication rights only,  and retaining the rest for yourself.

Here are ten quick hints for writing magazine articles:

(1) Pick a focus topic. You are not writing the great American novel.  Since most magazine articles are between 2000 and 4000 words, you need to pick one topic and focus on it.

Lead off with a short introductory paragraph, and end with a short summary paragraph.  Use a conversational tone. If discussing problems, be sure to include some simple solutions.

(2) Start with the trade journals. You have identified a market niche or two, right?  So, what do your niche members read?  There are thousands of small niche magazines, and all are hungry for  well written articles.

Put together a short list of ideas, and call the editor.  No, you don’t need fancy query letters for these publications.  With luck, you can be in print in 90 days.

(3) Avoid the professional journals. Most of these are platforms for academics seeking tenure — the old “publish or perish” game.

That is not to say they don’t contain useful information, but unless they are being read by your potential clients, don’t waste your time.  Besides, it can take a year or more (often along with rewrites) to get published.

(4) Shoot for a series or even a column. Rather than one long article, thinks about three to six articles spread out over a year’s time. A regular column is even better. Both keep your name in front of your potential clients on a regular basis. You can even start to develop a following.

(5) If you make a commitment — KEEP IT! I can not overemphasize this point.  Magazine editors are  under the constant pressure of both deadline and space.  Being a day late with your material is a disaster, and will earn you the eternal disdain of the editor.

Once you commit, get it done and deliver it early!

(6) Keep it simple and tutorial. Remember, you are not writing to impress your peers, you are writing to attract clients. Keep your ego in check. Assume your reader knows little about your subject but would like to learn a bit more.

Doesn’t that sound like an ideal client?

(7) Report on research results. Done any research or conducted a survey?  As long as the material is not proprietary, this can be great fodder for a magazine article. If appropriate, you can spice this up by analyzing trends or making predictions.

(8) Be controversial or contrarian. As the journalists say, “Dog bite man, so what?  Man bites dog, put it on page 1.” Don’t be afraid to break with convention and offer an alternate view. This can be particularly good for business  consultants, where clients are often seeking original thinking and new ideas.

(9) Avoid advertising and self-aggrandizement. If your article sounds like an ad or ego trip, rewrite it. I’ve always applied this acid test — Even if you never do business, will the typical reader think the article was helpful and worthwhile?

(10) Finally, have some fun with it. Think of your readers not as clients, but as friends with whom you would like to share your ideas. I hope you’ve enjoyed my sharing – and it was truly fun to write this little piece.

Questions or comments?  Please send me an email.

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.