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find your niche

Is the (RFP) juice worth the squeeze?

by Peter Osborne on July 13, 2010 · 1 comment

Is the juice worth the squeeze=Is this worth the effort?

Sometimes the best deal is no deal.

Inevitably, new consultants are going to find there’s an RFP in the way of winning new business and see it as a great opportunity to add desperately needed revenues.  That’s not always true.  Ask yourself a few key questions before committing the resources (i.e., the time and distraction) to respond to an RFP.  Among those questions:
  • Is this opportunity a good fit for you from a strategic point of view (e.g.., does it support your personal brand, does it open a new market, would winning it provide credibility with other prospects, is it a good fit for your portfolio career)?
  • Is the client really looking for a new partner or is this a way for them to get some free consulting/fresh ideas that they will turn over to the “winner?”
  • Is this a proposal that can be won with a strong value proposition or is the decision going to be made on the basis of money?  And do you care?
  • Is the incumbent participating?  If not, why not?
  • What’s the client’s financial situation?  And the corollary to that one, is this a client you would be proud to be associated with?
  • Did you influence the RFP specifications in some way?  If you didn’t, who did?  And did that person or organization insert specifications that make it a bad deal for you?
  • What is their budget?  Why are they issuing an RFP?
  • Do you understand the decision process? If so, are you in a good position?

In many cases, the consultant driving the RFP or the company itself (if it is working without a consultant) may put something in the document that says you can’t ask questions or get additional information (or that you have to go through the consultant).  Your goal in those situations should be to change the ground rules and find out all you can about this opportunity.  In a future blog, I’ll talk about ways you can do that and still get the business.

If you want it.

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Leave your comfort zone and be exceptional

by Peter Osborne on July 2, 2010 · 0 comments

We all need to get out of our comfort zones.   People trying to make money consulting or doing project work for the first time after years in the corporate world often stumble when it comes to selling themselves, to defining and communicating their brands and then effectively positioning themselves as the solution to someone’s problem.

This is a great clip from Wednesday night’s So You Think You Can Dance.  Contestant Alex is an accomplished ballet dancer who was asked to do hip-hop with, for the first time in the show’s history, someone of the same gender.  Watch the entire seven-minute clip (the sync is a bit off) because it gives you some perspective on what it took for Alex to leave his comfort zone and do something completely different and in a way that not only exceeded everyone’s expectations but apparently set a new standard for the show.

If this doesn’t motivate you to use your core competencies to try something completely different, I don’t know what will.

Please share some examples of ways you’ve taken your strengths and applied them to something new or took the time to learn a new skill that really paid off.

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8 Strategies for Marketing Success

by Peter Osborne on June 22, 2010 · 1 comment

Someone recently asked me to explain what made me a “good marketer.”  I had never heard the question phrased quite that way before and stumbled through an answer.

Later on, I realized I built a class around that very question 11 years ago.  So I headed down to the basement and pulled out the class handout.  We had spent more than three months asking that very question of some of the best marketing minds in the bank and organizing their answers into what turned out to be eight categories.

Times change; economies ebb and flow.  Millions of trees have died in the search for answers to that question.  But the answer never really changes.  I won’t list all the tactics that made up the bulk of the class, but here are the principles, tweaked a bit to apply to new and experienced consultants:

  1. Always remember that we’re in business to (Fill in the Blank). In our case, it was Make Good Loans.  For others, it might be Streamline Processes, Implement Software Solutions, or Drive Traffic to Your Website.
  2. Be absolutely committed to knowing everything about your Target Audience. We were affinity marketers who worked with alumni associations, sports teams, professional groups, and a host of other partners.  The most successful marketers went beyond being credit-card experts to being experts on their groups and the group’s constituents.  That’s more difficult for marketers with a broader target audience, which makes No. 3 even more important.
  3. Everything begins with the “list” (or audience). Having a great product doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know where to find the buyer.  It’s OK to have multiple lists with different messages.
  4. Design compelling offers with a simple creative message. Two of the most important messages here were Offer is More Than Price and Your Great List Won’t Mean Much if the Offer Isn’t Clear and Valued by the Customer.
  5. Try lots of things.  Test in a disciplined manner… Basically, remember that if there’s no control there’s no test and behavior is more important than opinion.
  6. …And keep what works.  Measure your results. You need to share successes and failures.  I was reading a book the other night where the author was criticizing another author who had focused only on his big successes.  We often learn more from our big failures…and those lessons learned are even more important if we share them with others.
  7. Challenge everything. Never stop trying to make things better.  Pay attention to the details. Part of this is about a commitment to “publishing.”   I doubt there’s any such thing as the “perfect test.”   Get to market quickly.  Mail less more often.  Make sure the affinity is “in” the package.
  8. Spend wisely.  It’s real money. This may have been a bigger deal back in 1999 when marketing money flowed more freely, but this is really about putting some analysis behind your decision to test.  What do you hope to achieve and what’s the cost in your best-case and worst-case scenarios?

I have followed these principles over the years, and made sure that the people who worked for me did the same.  And that should have been my answer when I was asked what makes me a good marketer.  I’m disciplined and I make sure I know my audience.

Did we miss something that doesn’t fit into one of these categories?  Please let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on these strategies in future posts.

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30 Second Launch Pad: Find your niche

by Peter Osborne on June 21, 2010 · 0 comments

Mark Jankowski

Mark Jankowski co-founded Baltimore-based Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI) in 1995 to help individuals and organizations realize their fullest potential by building stronger relationships and improving their Negotiation and Influencing skills. Drawing on his experiences as an attorney, investment banker, sales manager, and entrepreneur, Mark empowers clients to connect SNI’s systematic approach to Negotiation and Influencing to their real life endeavors.  For more information on Mark, you can go to his bio on SNI’s website or his LinkedIn profile.

What do you know today that you wish you knew when you were starting out?   I was not fully aware how much time administrative tasks would take. Arranging travel, setting up phone calls, closing sales, marketing, making copies, billing, etc have to be accounted for when determining how much time your consulting career will take. Therefore, maximizing your hourly rate is vital because every hour of work probably requires another three hours of sales, marketing and administrative time. 

What was your most important early decision (e.g., financial, organizational, marketing)?    We decided to only pursue a niche and not be a Jack of all trades. Expertise is a valuable commodity, particularly when there is an overload of information and your clients need someone who focuses on parsing that info and just giving them the exact info they need when they need it.  Find your niche. 

Can you offer one piece of advice to help a new consultant get through the first six months?  Exercise :) . There is a great deal of pressure in the first six months as you see expenses mount with no revenue in the door or potentially on the horizon. You will need to blow off steam to make sure that you do not get an ulcer. Not only that, but people tend to think more highly of consultants who are in good shape.

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