Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Consultant’s Reputation Can Be an Asset or Achilles’ Heel

Reputation: it can be the boost a consultant needs to bring their business to the next level in terms of growth and profit or it can be the Achilles heel that puts them out of business for good.

As consultants, our personal knowledge and expertise on certain subject matter can be considered our greatest asset, but some would argue that our individual reputations are indeed our greatest asset. For the most part, our reputations (how clients perceive us) can be controlled but sometimes there are a select few in our profession that tarnish the good reputations of others and bring negativity to the work we do.

It doesn’t make sense to worry about the actions of other consultants. We can ridicule and renounce bad practice all we want, but at the end of the day all we can worry about is our own reputation.

This may seem elementary, but from time to time it’s good to brush-up and remind yourself about what’s needed to develop and maintain a good reputation for your consulting business.

  • Write and write some more – all you need is something meaningful to say about what you are most passionate about (most likely what you are consulting on) and present it to your target audience. Write articles. Post them to your website or contribute to other websites. Blogging is also another way get your thoughts and ideas out to the public. Your clients need to know what’s on your mind and how you intend to add value to their businesses.
  • Present your knowledge – seek out opportunities to present to business groups or organizations. Prepare brief presentations about subjects you are most passionate about and be prepared to give them at a moment’s notice. If you look, you’ll be surprised at the number of opportunities that exist.
  • Develop your communications skills – both your writing and your verbal presentation skills can be sharpened with practice. Always be ready to give your “who and do what” statement – who are you, what do you do and who do you serve. In some circles it is known as the “elevator speech” (but I don’t like to call it that).
  • Network, network, network – the more people that know who you are and what you do, the more you’ll increase your potential to connect with individuals you want to do business with and who need your services.
  • Leverage your presence on the web – participate in forums, newsgroups and blog discussions. Do it in an honest, meaningful manner. Exploit the opportunity to provide a URL back to your website or blog. There’s nothing wrong with it – just don’t make your contributions to the discussion a sales pitch for your services. Add value. Also, contribute to guide sites like About.com, Work.com or EvanCarmichael.com and become an expert. Share what you know with the rest of the world.
  • Give a little bit – if there is some way you can give a sample of your work so folks have an idea of who you are and how you can help them, do it! Volunteer your services to non-profits. It’s the best way to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise and show the business community how valuable you are.
  • Follow-up and keep your word – if you say you are going to do something for someone, do it. People remember these things. Not keeping your word is probably one of the biggest reputation killers that exist in consulting.
  • Finish what you started – yet another reputation killer. When you make a commitment, it is important to live up to the standards you set. Be realistic when setting goals and expectations. When it comes to this, the saying is true: “Under promise and over deliver.”
  • Credentials, certifications and associations – if you are in a consulting field where education, accolades and your business affiliations are looked at in high regard, flaunt it!
  • Show that you are serious about your business – present a professional image for your consulting business. If you take the time to create professional collateral, website, blog, etc., it will speak volumes to your clients. People really do judge a book by its cover.

Those are just some thoughts on how to build and maintain your reputation among clients and your peers.

How about you? Do you have any tips on building and maintaining a reputation to add to the list above? A good reputation is marketing money can’t buy. You’ll find that the more you foster your reputation, the easier it is to gain clients.

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