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October 29, 2008

Seth Godin on Consulting

Seth Godin is the marketing equivalent of a nuclear bomb. His blog is the most popular marketing blog on the planet, and his books are continually in best seller lists all over the globe.

The buzz around his latest book, Tribes, is a resounding validation of his methods. I have never seen such a build up for a business book - ever. I had my copy of the audio book the day it hit!

Most of us aspire to lead a tribe - Seth leads an army.

He was gracious enough to offer some excellent advice for consultants in these trying times, and how the tribes concepts can apply to help us increase our leads, revenues and help others in the process.

Seth, thanks for agreeing to discuss some of the issues related to consulting and the current situation. Our people are facing increasingly tight times right now. The financial consulting sector is collapsing rapidly, and many others are starting to feel contractions in their markets. I am sure that advice from a thought leader like yourself will be invaluable to our readership.

CP. Most consultants work in the B2B sector. Do you see the tribes concepts being applicable as a marketing approach here, and if so are there any fundamental differences in approach?

What do consultants do, actually? Most don't have a 'right answer' in a magic box and then just hand it over. Consultants make change happen. Consultants are hired not just for an outsider's expertise but also to provide a lever for change.

The single best way to leverage that is to lead. To connect people to one another and cause change to happen by leading that change. Tribes don't just exist in consumer markets... they are very powerful within corporations, yet most corporations find their tribes slowing them down, not causing good change to occur.

For consultancies who are starting to see the impacts of the economic situation, will tribe building help them to whether the storm, or is it too little too late?

SG: I think that the current economic situation is going to cause a lot of pain for large companies. They've been too insulated for too long.

Consultants with a reputation, consultants who have cultivated relationships among and between key decision makers will be the secret weapon in helping these companies get back on track.

One way to jumpstart your situation is to start connecting your clients to each other. Invite them in for brainstorming sessions. Tighten your tribe, give them a place to go and a road map.

. Should the company themselves be the leader, or would it be more valuable for individual employees to develop their own mini tribes under the corporate brand?

SG: There's no doubt that every single employee has the opportunity to lead a tribe. It might be a tribe of a few people in their office, or it might involve thousands of customers. Taking the initiative and making change are key steps, but once it begins, the tribe itself will push you.

. Successful execution of consulting engagements, particularly the large ones, depends on momentum, support, and the work outliving the project. Are their any principles or strategies that consultants can use to rapidly build a tribe of highly charged supporters for a short time period?

People want to be recognized and encouraged and connected. Too often, consultants refuse to do any of these.

Many of our readers are in private practice, or are contemplating stepping out on their own. Their main fear is running out of cash before they run out of enthusiasm. So pipelines, prospects, and finding the time to execute as well are the key concerns. What would be the one overriding recommendation for people facing these situations?

Act small. You're not a Fortune 500 company, you're a guy with a briefcase. It's okay to act that way. To be genuine and quick, honest and insightful. That's why they're hiring you. So cut overhead to the bone, make it so you can live for a year on one month's work. Then you can spend the other 11 months building a foundation for a career, not just a string of gigs.

I think the most important thing to do is hurry. To not settle. To make the difference you can make, and to do it now.

Timely advice from one of the global thought leaders in marketing and leading change. His work has had an incredible impact on my thoughts and attitudes to consulting, particularly through his books Tribes, Permission Marketing, Purple Cow and Meatball Sundae.

If you are in consulting and you haven't read these yet then I recommend them to you as a priority for your career development.

Thanks Seth!!