Via Management Consulting News, I found an article on the 7 Cs of Consulting (dead link), an interview with consultant Mick Cope. Cope emphasizes the importance of client relationships and the need to spend time exploring client needs. I liked this analogy:
In the UK at the moment there is a serious shortage of tradesmen, plumbers and good builders, for example. You get two types here, the cowboys and the real tradesmen, the experts. Now, let’s say I have a plumbing problem, and I tell the plumber, I want you to do this to fix it. The cowboy says, okay fine, he does it and takes my money and runs. The tradesman, because he is proud of his craft, will say, I value what you as a client believe, but I have to look into this plumbing system and understand it, otherwise whatever I fix is going to fail later.
This is a great point. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had clients approach me, asking for a brochure, direct mail campaign or other marketing tool — because they think it will fix their problems. In many cases, other issues are causing their marketing problems. For example, I had one client who was focused on growing revenues further by sending out even more direct mail — but my exploration revealed that they weren’t sending invoices to existing clients, meaning they were shipping all their products for free. Growing revenues for that business would have put them out of business, so I made sure to change their credit terms first.