Archive for June, 2011

Three Criteria for Project Success…

Have some fun… do some good… make some money. The perfect consulting project meets all three criteria. Two out of three is still often OK, and on occasion, I’ve even stooped to one out of  three. But these are three criteria by which I judge potential consulting projects.

Have some fun… For me, this is probably the most important. Life is simply too short to spend time doing things you do not (or no longer) enjoy. This comes from someone who daily wonders, “Where did the time go, anyway???”  Or, as Bob Parsons of GoDaddy says in his Rule 16, “We’re here for good time — not for a long time.”

Having fun means different things to different people. For some, it is learning something new.  For others, it is creating something, or perhaps solving a complex problem. Or it may just be the simple satisfaction of doing your best.

Having fun also means liking the people you work with with. You don’t need to put up with clients that are overly abrasive.  Unlike a full time job, as a consultant you can actually “fire” an obnoxious client. I’ve done that a couple of times in the past 30 years.

Do some good… This is closely related to the first criteria. In fact, doing good can provide immense satisfaction, and can still be the basis for a successful consulting practice. Best of all, you don’t need to do your good for free (unless you want to.)

A good example of this is Lynn, the retired nutritionist mentioned in an earlier post. Lynn originally volunteered her valuable skills to a local Native American community in the Phoenix area.  Her sole goal was to do some good.

After several months, she was asked is she could help other communities throughout the state.  Only this time, she would be paid. Unknown to her, a grant had been secured to support her efforts. She said yes, and truly had some fun, did some good, and made some money. And she  nicely augmented her retirements savings, too.

Make some money… Although third on the list, this is the ultimate goal of any business. Even non-profits need money to fund their efforts and pay their expenses. Nothing wrong with not making money, but if you do that all the time, you probably have a hobby — not a business. Even the IRS looks at it this way.

Not every project needs to make money right away. For example, you may be testing a concept or idea, and find that you lost money on the initial try. If that happens, don’t despair — take the lessons learned and try again. After all, you paid for the lessons.

However, you eventually want to make money on your consulting projects. Don’t just focus alone on having fun and doing good. Without profits, you don’t get to stay in the game. See the advice from my friend Marv.

Finally, if you end up making a lot of money and still want to change the world, you can always give it away. Look at  Bill Gates — his foundation has done a lot of good, and I can’t help thinking he has had a lot of fun along the way.

Although you’re not Bill Gates, you can still have some fun, do some good, and make some money with your business.  Comments?

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

Age Matters When Marketing…

When dealing with prospects or clients, age is a very important parameter. One size (or approach) does not fit all.

According to many authors, there are four major age groups that coexist today, each with their own distinct culture and ways of doing things. All were influenced by the conditions when they were growing up.

This distinction is particularly important when marketing, as you need to tailor both your message and your methods to your target clients. If you serve multiple age groups, you may need to use multiple methods and approaches.

Here are the four age groups, along with some comments:

Traditionalists - Born between 1925 and 1945, they grew up with the Depression, World War II, Korea, and the Cold War. They are often frugal, and value dedication and discipline. Most are now retired, but many continue to work or are “emeritus” employees. Some are computer and technology literate, but many more are not.

A good way to market your services is in live groups, such as short presentations or seminars. This approach is popular with consultants serving senior citizens, such as financial or estate planners. Another way is written communications, such as magazine articles or even newsletters. Electronic methods such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web-sites, and e-mail are likely not very effective for this age group.

Boomers - Born between 1945 and 1964, they grew up with Vietnam, civil rights, and Watergate. They are generally optimistic, team oriented, and independent. Many boomers are also “workaholics.” Since many are approaching retirement, financial security is important. Most are computer literate, but may or may not not be involved with the latest in social media.

A good way to market your services is a hybrid of live/written communication, such as live seminars or webinars, and written magazine/newsletters combined with web sites. E-mail is less effective due to the high levels of spam. Blogs are probably a good method for the computer literate in this age group, but other social media may be less effective.

GenX - Born between 1965 and 1982, they grew up with layoffs, divorces, and daycare. As such, they often challenge authority and seek a work/life balance. The readily multitask, and value  independence, tolerance, and diversity. As the first generation to grow up with computers, most are highly computer literate.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, such as blogs,  Facebook, and Twitter. For most, print media such as magazines and newspapers are not as effective as on-line newsletters and e-zines.

GenY  - Born between 1983 and 2000, they grew up with the Internet, terrorism, and globalization, They tend to be creative, busy, and highly social. As the youngest, they also typically have the fewest family responsibilities. In fact, many are in an extended adolescence.  This age group is both highly computer and highly Internet literate, and generally very comfortable with the latest in technology.

A good way to market your services is through web sites and interactive social media, or more personal alternatives such as meet-ups. This is the Twitter and texting generation — if you can’t describe your offer in 140 characters or less, you’ll likely miss the target.

Finally, a personal anecdote. When we first used e-mail in the early 1990s, most of the younger engineers would contact us via e-mail, while the older engineers would call on the phone. Within a few short years that changed, as e-mail became the preferred medium. But even today, our newsletter list is still split about 50/50 between e-mail and snail mail.

If you are serving client across different age groups, you may need multiple methods to reach them. Finally, it is your client’s age that matters, not your own.

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

Lead Generator # 6 – Websites

Do you need a  website, particularly if you are just starting out in consulting?

YES! Just like you need business cards, letterhead, envelopes, and some sort of brochure. Not only does a web site (and other simple collateral) provide information, but it shows that you are serious about being in business.

Think of your web site as your on-line ambassador, spreading good will about your practice.  Although passive, web sites are often combined with a blog and newsletter to make them more active marketing tools. All three can increase your visibility/credibility.

One important caveat. Make sure your web site (and blog/newsletter) appear professional. A sloppy or poorly maintained site can do more harm than good.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, hire a web/blog designer. Thanks to advanced technology, web designers are relatively inexpensive. Your time is valuable, and you probably already use other professionals like a lawyer and accountant.

I hired a web designer for both this blog and our engineering consulting website (www.emiguru.com), and I’m glad I did. He saved me much time and frustration, and the final product was much better than I would have produced anyway. (Thanks, Sunil!)

Another caveat. Don’t count on your web site to get the phone ringing off the hook. A web site alone is passive. You still need to pursue active marketing, such as articles, networking, speaking, direct mail, and more.

As mentioned in an earlier post (20 Ways to Attract Clients), getting leads is like fishing — the more lines you have in the water, the more bites you will get.

Finally, don’t worry about the numbers. For many web sites (and blogs,) counts become a matter of pride. Am I getting more traffic than yesterday? More than my competition? But as a consultant, do you really care?

You are not an on-line marketer hawking the latest gimmick –  rather, you are a professional making your presence known to those who might benefit from your expertise. You are a niche player, not a jack-of-all trades.

Getting started. Here are some suggestions for your web site:

  • Register your own domain. Yes, it may cost a few dollars over using a free site, but your own domain makes you look serious and professional. While you are at it, register the same name with similar extensions (.net, .org,  .info, etc.) This prevents squatters from setting up a similar site. Had this happen some years ago,  and it was expensive to resolve (lawyers and all…)
  • Provide contact information. One of my pet peeves is having to hunt for address, phone, or e-mail information on a web site. On every page, you should have either a Contact button or your full contact information. You also need a Contact tab at the top of the page with full contact information (including an e-mail form). Make it easy for your visitors to contact you!
  • Make the site easy to navigate. I prefer tabs across the top of the page, with a few simple sidebars. A simple site map can be helpful. For an initial web site, you only need a few tabs, such as Home, About, Services, and Contact. I like to augment those with Welcome, FAQ, and Resource tabs. The latter provide both a personal touch and additional information. However, don’t get too carried away — keep it simple.
  • Consider a combined blog/website. With static pages and a blog platform, you can have both.  If you don’t want to blog right away, just make all the pages static. You can easily add a blog later, and all the tools will be there. This site uses WordPress (with a custom theme), and I am very pleased. WordPress is widely  popular, and has an almost endless variety of “plug-ins” for future expansion and features. (See my earlier post on Blogs.)
  • Consider adding a newsletter. Building a client list is crucial to building your business. We’ll cover this in more detail in a future post, but adding a newsletter to your web site is a quick way to start gathering names. You can purchase “plug-ins” or use external services (AWeber or Mail Chimp) to facilitate this. I must confess that I haven’t done much with a newsletter on this site (plans are brewing), but have found a list to be very effective on our engineering consulting website.  (See my earlier post on Newsletters.)

As your business grows, you’ll likely want to add other features to your web site. The possibilities are almost endless, but make sure anything you add is useful to your clients. Don’t do it just because it is the latest “cool” thing to do.

For example, here are some extra features we added to  www.emiguru.com when we updated last year. This represents the current status, but as a “work in progress”, more updates are coming.

Incidentally, the consulting web site runs on Joomla rather than WordPress, as it is a bit more complex.  (As an aside, I’ve found both Joomla and WordPress easy to maintain.)

  • On-line Store – Three books, and a software product we developed. One of the books was out of print, so we offer it as an E-Book. Linked to Paypal and e-junkie for payment and fulfillment.
  • On-Line Registration – Allows sign-up and payment (Paypal) for our public seminars and webinars. Works well, and has simplified business.
  • Blog - Short technical articles of interest to our readers.  The blog postings are now mirrored on an industry publication, giving us wider exposure.
  • Resources – Past newsletters (20 years worth) and a detailed technical bibliography of publications, web sites, and other resources unique to our niche. Considering more stuff in the future. The goals — help our clients, and keep them coming back.

So, make a web site a high priority if you are considering a JumpToConsulting. You can start out simple, and grow it as needed. Finally, get some professional help — don’t try to do it all yourself.  After all, as a  consultant, that is what you are advising your clients to do.

Comments or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

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