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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #7: April, 2004

How to maximize referrals

How can veteran and successful consultants create a brand or brands to maximize word-of-mouth, referrals, and generally low cost of acquisition?

  • Base your brand on one of two things (or both): A strong value proposition you bring to market (e.g., "sales acceleration" or "the non-profit strategist") and/or your name (which worked quite well for McKinsey).
  • Attach the brand to virtually everything you do. "Sales Acceleration Techniques for Finding the Buyer"; "Joan Smith's Meeting Dynamics."
  • Employ the brand throughout your web site and with search engines. (An outfit called allows, for instance, anyone searching for "" to be immediately directed to my actual web site,
  • Protect the brand with appropriate copyright, trademark, service mark, and registration. My newsletter's title, Balancing Act: Blending Life, Work, and Relationships®, is registered, as is the joint marketing workshop venture I have with a partner, "The Odd Couple®."
  • Create products that emphasize the brand. I know that some consultants eschew products, but they reinforce brands as well as provide for passive income.
  • Consider writing a book, commercially published or self-published. The former will carry more credibility in the marketplace, but the even the latter will formalize and protect your intellectual property. "Million Dollar Consulting" was one of the most powerful brands I've ever developed.
  • Highly effective: Write a booklet or pamphlet of about 50 pages. Copyright the contents, use a four-color cover, and place your brand on the cover. You can sell this on for $10 or so (you simply need to obtain an ISBN number, which is simple), offer it on your web site, provide it en masse for clients, and even give it away with marketing materials. ("Ten Techniques to Build Dynamic Teams" by "The All-Star Coach")
  • Link the brand to need. "It's Miller time" was an attempt to link that beer brand with end-of-the-day unwinding. "The Pepsi Generation" tried to appeal to youth, as did "not your father's Oldsmobile." One of my favorite consulting brands is "The Telephone Doctor®" (belonging to Nancy Friedman).
  • Maintain brand integrity. If your sales development approach requires involvement by the vice president of sales, don't allow exceptions. Don't lend your name, if that's your brand, to poor partnerships or endorsement of mediocre books and products.
  • Finally, evolve new brands. Times change. Values change. Needs change. Your name endures, but other issues often do not. Always look for new opportunities to create brand advantages, even if they require abandonment of older, non-essential brands.

Suggested reading: The Liar's Tale: A history or falsehood by Jeremy Campbell. We face lies every day in the business world, so we might as well understand their origins relative to ethics and mores.

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