I’ve recently been tagged by the geniuses behind SocialFish to participate the Word of Mouth meme on the topic of consulting.
So here’s the meme: Please do a short blog post with an example of how you’ve seen WOM used in your work. Then tag a couple of [association/non-profit] people to do the same.
To quote one of my colleagues at Beaconfire: “If it’s memorable, people will pass it on.”
Consulting – or anything you want to market in the association space for that matter – is all about WOM.
This is coming at a particularly interesting time, because Beaconfire is in the midst of re-examining our strategy for engagement with associations. We’ve always been happy to work with associations, when they’ve come to us. But we recruit staff based on: “Work for a company that’s helping organizations that save the cute, furry animals!” No offense (I worked there for years and loved it), but saving the political scientists? Not as exciting.
But a funny thing happened on the way to saving the cute, furry animals. We realized that, in some ways, associations are much lower drama clients to work with. And while we still want – and need – to do a certain amount of cute, furry animal saving, we’d also like to work with more no drama clients to keep everyone out of the Betty Ford clinic.
So, how does a consulting firm increase the work it does with associations?
You already know the answer: word of mouth.
Getting association business is ALL about relationship and reputation. Those things are built by being in the community, being known to the community, and doing such a fantastic job for members of the community that, when their friends call them up to ask, “Hey, we’re trying to get more strategic about our website and how we use the Internet to reach our members and other constituents. You know anyone good who can help us?” your company’s name is the first thing that pops into their heads.
The tough thing about charitable organizations is that they’re all after the same audience – people who are willing and able to give money to causes – and the same dollars. Because of that, not a whole lot of working together and information sharing. But in the association world, the market for the Association of Accountants does not overlap with the market for the Association of Podiatrists. Hence, collaboration. Information sharing. Community. Word of mouth.
Edited Wednesday, Feb 18 to add: JNott reminds me that I’m also supposed to talk about how consulting is:
Easy: as Vinay reminded me at lunch today, consultants need a niche. Consultants who are successful do something that can be easily summed up in a few words. Consultants who try to be generalists? Generally not so successful.
Sharable: establishing the reputation I talked about above involves sharing your expertise with the association community so that people come to view you as a trusted adviser (thanks for the term, George) rather than “just another vendor trying to sell me something.”
Interesting: well, hell, if you’re not doing good work that produces good results, no one will think what you’re doing is interesting enough to pass your name along when one of their friends calls them up to ask, “Do you know anybody who can do…?”