Archive for June, 2012

Why Would Anyone Hire A Management Consultant? – Part 2

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

In my last post I talked about how owners of companies can find themselves faced with situations they haven’t encountered before – and not realize what’s happening.

After all, that happens in our personal lives. Remember the first time you fell in love?

We’re caught up in the symptoms – the tune playing endlessly in our head, the face we can’t get out of our mind and the grin we can’t wipe off, no matter what else is going on. How many of us simply didn’t understand what was happening? I don’t know about the ladies but believe me, none of the men did!

Sometimes it takes someone who has already had the experience, to alert us to the situation.

Think for a moment about a company with between $3 and $5 million in annual revenues and which has been in business for anything from 5 to 20 years. The owner is successful by any measure. They’ve grown their businesses to a respectable size, provided employment for others and beaten the odds of failure.

But then things start happening that many of them have never encountered before.

I’m So Frustrated

For example, in companies of this size the owners are typically directly involved in everything that happens. That may work well for a time, but eventually either the volume or the complexity of the business reaches a point at which no human being can sustain the effort required.

That’s when we hear them say things like “I’m just so frustrated!” When we ask why, typical responses are “I’m working 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week – but sales aren’t going up.” Or he or she often feels that they’re not paid enough for hours they work. They only want to work 4 days a week in the summer and take more vacations with their families.

Because they’ve been successful up to this point, they believe they can figure it out for themselves – overlooking the fact that this is a situation they haven’t encountered before.

Some may try developing (or hiring) supervisors or managers to take work off their shoulders. But it isn’t successful and they feel it isn’t worth trying again.

But a consultant, who has had experience delegating and working with a management team, knows that it isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to most people. He or she can help the owner select competent team members and get them working together effectively.

A Victim of Their Own Success

Business owners can also be a victim of their own success. For example, adding a new distributor can result in sales growing so quickly the company can’t cope.

This leads to a dramatic increase in customer complaints – about customer service, quality, delivery or all three. And the owner is caught in an endless cycle of dealing with urgent, day-to-day issues and juggling operational balls.

An experienced consultant can see beyond the symptoms, help the business owner break out of the cycle and put processes in place to maintain control of key functions.

I don’t want to take the romantic analogy too far and suggest that a management consultant could be a business owner’s best man (or woman). Even I realize that may be stretching things a bit!

But there are times when getting an objective, third party opinion could be the best thing to do – no matter how difficult or unlikely a solution it seems.

 
If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 3 Reasons Why Consulting Assignments Fail Part 1 and Part 2
 

 

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Why Would Anyone Hire A Management Consultant?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

 I gave a presentation last week on the topic – “Why would anyone hire a management consultant?”

I think the topic the organizer actually had in mind was – why would anyone in their right mind hire a management consultant? But they were too polite to be that specific.

Many members of the group I talked to know business owners whose companies have between $3 and $5 million in annual revenues and who have been in business for anything from 5 to 20 years.

So, I customized the presentation to that situation, which wasn’t difficult, because owners of businesses like that often face an intriguing situation.

They’re successful by any measure. They’ve grown their businesses to a respectable size, provided employment for others and soundly beaten the odds of failure (80% of new businesses don’t make it beyond the second year).

But, at around $3 to $5 million, something changes and annual sales stop growing. The exact point at which it happens varies depending on a number of things e.g. the industry – but it does inevitably happen. It’s not that sales go into free fall, they just stay flat or go up one year and down the next.

The owners’ first reaction is to focus on their sales team. They may, for example, try to get their salespeople to make more calls or they even make personnel changes. They may also try some marketing – by which they generally mean promotional – programs.

Most of the business owners have never encountered this situation before. And because they’ve always been successful up to this point, they believe they can figure it out for themselves.

However, life is full of situations we’ve never experienced before. The analogy I used in my presentation was falling in love for the first time.

Lots of us (particularly males) don’t understand what’s happened. We focus on the symptoms – the churning stomach, the same tune playing endlessly in our head, the picture of the other person we can’t get out of our mind and the grin that’s fixed firmly to our face no matter what else is going on around us.

It may take a good friend, who is already in a long-term relationship, to alert us to the situation – we’ve finally met the “one”.

An experienced management consultant can play the same role for a business owner. An objective third party, they use the symptoms to find the root cause of the situation.

For example, we had a client in an industry in the early stages of consolidation. The bigger players were beginning to buy up the smaller ones, changing several aspects of how the game was being played. We spotted that because we’d seen it before – unlike our client.

I’ll tell you about a couple of other situations when hiring a management consultant will help in my next post…….
 

How Redesigning Your Website Can Challenge Your Business Model

Monday, June 11th, 2012

 Marie Wiese is founder of Marketing CoPilot and the author of the eBook, “Quality Visitors. Quality Leads.” Marketing CoPilot helps business owners turn their website into their best sales tool.

So you have decided to redo your website. Good idea. Today’s website is more than a corporate brochure; it’s your frontline sales team.

You have selected a marketing consultant to help you determine strategy and messaging.

You have hired a designer who starts to build your new site and suddenly you grind to a halt.

What happens when you go to add to content?

Suddenly you realize that the way you have been describing your product or service doesn’t work on the web. Suddenly you realize:

– There is no clarity around your offer
– You have no differentiation in what you are selling or describing to prospects
– You don’t have a compelling story to tell in social media

Why does developing a compelling web presence for your business suddenly challenge your business model?

Here is a real life story of one business owner and what changed when it came time to articulate their business on the web.

In December of 2011, Marketing CoPilot launched a new web presence for SPM Learning to help drive lead generation and establish a web presence to find customers and nurture existing relationships. The team at SPM Learning agreed early in the process that in the game of selling learning solutions to large corporate customers, a website and web presence needs to:

  1. Clearly state your value proposition in eight seconds or less on the home page.
  2. Be compelling enough for someone to take a next action on the site.
  3. Have content, messaging and compelling actions on the site that lead to more than a visitor passively perusing course listings.

In other words, the process of selling learning courses needed to change and so did the story.

SPM Learning was struggling with an issue that many business owners face when presenting their companies online. In an era of customers who want content that is “all about me”; are demanding relevant content online to make a buying decision; and, are well into the buying process long before you hear from them, just posting product information is no longer good enough.

Here’s a good test:

– Go online and search for “leadership training”
– Review the first five organic search results you get (skip the Adwords)
– Look at what people are actually selling in the top five results

In my top five search results, I get companies selling commoditized training courses. There is no differentiation amongst them and likely they are competing on price.

For SPM Learning, they realized quickly they did not want to be in this category, yet the content they were providing for the website, and the way they were articulating their business, was putting them there.

Upon launch of the new website (www.spmlearning.com), we were able to see in the first 30 days using Google Analytics, where people were landing, what they were reading and what they doing on the site.

And guess what?

They were not looking at course listings. We launched a blog strategy for SPM Learning to change the conversation and drive traffic to the site based on engagement around “learning solutions” and the complete process of leadership training for employees, not just buying courses. The click through rates that SPM Learning enjoys on their blog activity and email marketing has improved by more than 30% and they have built better engagement around the topics of learning solutions. This helped position their company as more than course listings.

Before you hire a consultant, talk to web developers or write a line of copy, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the most important action I want someone to take on my website?
  2. How will I help them take that action?
  3. How will I articulate the “offer” and what they can buy from me?
  4. How much information can I share to guide them in the process?
  5. Could my current business model and what I am selling translate on the web to let prospects “self-serve”?

Your website is one the most important business tools you have today. Use it wisely for your business and it will pay back in spades.

You can contact Marie Wiese at 416-436-7931 or marie@marketingcopilot.com

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