Episode 63: 10 Tips for What to Do During the Pandemic to Strengthen Your Consulting Business—with Emma Weise

Deb Zahn: Hi. I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. If you're a consultant who's been struggling to figure out what you should be doing during COVID, my guest is going to help answer that question. She's got 10 tips for what you should be doing to strengthen your business now and as you head into the future. Her name is Emma Weise, and she's a brand strategist. Her company is called FreshSage, and it's based out of South Africa. She works specifically with consultants to help them figure out their brand and position it within their market to achieve their business goals. And her 10 tips are dead-on things that you should be doing right now. They're going to make your business stronger, and they're going to enable you to get more clients. So let's get started.

Hi. I want to welcome my guest today, Emma Weise. Emma, welcome to the show.

 

Emma Weise:  Thanks, Deb.

 

Deb Zahn: Let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

 

Emma Weise: In one word, or maybe it's two words. Brand strategy is the condensed version of what I do, but essentially what I do is I work with clients to distill who they are into the brand that they want to create. And that goes all the way from strategy through to design and execution.

Deb Zahn: And one of the reasons I wanted to have you on is you in particular work with consultants to help them develop their brand. How did you get into that specifically?

Emma Weise: That is a very interesting question. It would probably start all the way back in corporate. I worked my way up the corporate retail ladder into a management role. And obviously had experience with different consultants in that space. And then once I reached management level, I had this itch and this burning desire, and I knew that there was something more for me. I knew I needed to go and figure out what that thing was. I went and worked with some smaller businesses on their business strategy and strategic thinking.

 

And that evolved, as many entrepreneurial journeys do. It evolved into working with larger corporates on their internal branding, with their corporate culture, and then that evolved now to external branding. And because I really get what consultants are trying to do an online course creators as well and coaches. There's an inner coach in me that my clients often refer to. Because I really understand that side of things, it just makes branding them so much easier. And it's like I really get to the heart of who they are.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Yeah. Because a brand for a separate business and an independent consultant or a firm, those are all different things.

Emma Weise: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: That's great. One of the reasons I wanted to have you on is you produced, and I'll have a link to it in the show notes, but you did a video of 10 tips of what to do during COVID. It was one of the best things I had seen. And it was targeting specifically what consultants can be doing. So I wanted to have you on and I thought we could go through all 10 of those, plus there's a bonus, and we could go through those in…

Emma Weise: Got to love the bonus.

Deb Zahn: I love the bonus. The bonus is one of my favorite things. I thought we could go through those and talk about them, and then maybe a few of them we'll go a little bit deeper. How does that sound?

Emma Weise: Perfect. That sounds fun.

Deb Zahn: Great. Number one, you said, "Hey, consultants, do this."

Emma Weise: Do a SWOT.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Emma Weise: Basically, anytime we hit one of these uncertain moments, and especially now during COVID, it makes more sense for us to say...instead of panicking and saying, "Oh dear, I can't work. What do I do? Hide under the covers until this thing is over. And then we'll come out again and then we'll try again." Instead of doing that, there are other options and that's what prompted me to actually start writing this note which turned into the video, which turned into us chatting today.

                           

And when you're in that moment and you're like, "OK. Things need to change or something needs to be different" because circumstances have changed, then whether it's COVID or something else that's it, taking stock and taking a review of where you are currently is pretty critical. What has worked, what hasn't worked? So the SWOT, for those who haven't come across it, is your strengths, your weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And just taking a fresh look at how are things working for you, what needs to be different, and how can we position things a bit differently.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And just so you know, I'm proud to say I did that. I did that when this first started and it also gives you an opportunity to play with different scenarios. I did a financial projection, making assumptions about what if this, or what if this, or what if this. And because I didn't know if my finances fell into a weakness or strength. And it depended on the scenarios. I did that analysis so that I knew, am I OK? The answer was yes. For how long would I be OK and under what circumstances?

Emma Weise: Nice. And then it probably just helped you breathe a bit easier knowing what's coming and what's different. And, we're 60 days into lockdown now, and I think what we thought…I think many were thinking that the world was going to be ending in the 21 days of lockdown. And it hasn't probably been easy for many of us, but there have been shifts. And I'm not sure what's happening in your world there, but here in South Africa, the government has been rallying the different concessions and banks opposing certain things. So what people thought was going to be the end of the world has stretched a little bit longer. The runway and lead-way look a little bit different as well.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, the US is its own special thing. I will not say everywhere has been a great response, and I say that as a public health person.

Emma Weise: Yes, true. You really get to experience it, don't you?

Deb Zahn: That's right. 

 

Number Two. You're starting to actually get us into number two, which is the shifting and the adapting. Talk about that a little bit.

Emma Weise: I think that once we've taken a look at what we're faced with, and how things can be different, it's about shifting things. Changing what you can and...different businesses are shifting and adapting in different ways. There are some that have shifted what they offer and what they produce. Some have shifted through their targeting.

                                  

I know we're talking specifically about consultancy, but another brand strategist that I'm friends with, she used to work restaurants who all closed. She's now working with them to adapt in terms of what their business looks like.

 

Or, if you're in the consulting space, maybe you used to work with one type of corporate that hasn't been operational now. You could shift to a different type of business during this period.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because your skills are transferable or...I have a dear friend who mainly does, she's a consultant. And she mainly does in-person trainings. She's phenomenal at them. And she's had to completely adapt how she offers her services and to get her existing clients willing to accept that you're still going to get a lot of value out of this. But this is how we're going to do it differently.

Emma Weise: Exactly. And making that shift from in-person one-on-one, which we can't do right now, to having sessions like this through Zoom where you can connect with somebody on the other side of the world, in another corporate, or in another space. It depends on who you're working with that we all united in a different way. You can still unite with them but differently.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And I would guess also that we're going to have to shift and adapt multiple times. It's not just, “OK, now we're all Zooming,” but you continue to pay attention. And you probably revisit your SWOT a few times.

Emma Weise: Exactly. And also there's going to be a shift when we come out of lockdown in terms of when we do start interacting one-on-one. That's going to look very different. Say if you're a consultant that runs training workshops, you might not run workshops of 20 people around a boardroom table anymore. Or you might just do it a little bit differently or have a different set-up in a different space.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

                                   

Now your third one was also one of my favorites because I talk about this a lot, which is the stay connected with clients. And there's sort of that... You're looking for the sweet spot between being paralyzed and not doing it, and being sleazy and predatory. So talk about what you think the right way to do it is?

Emma Weise: I think that there is such a mixture of: do we connect with clients and don't we connect with clients. Because if we connect with clients now, they might end up feeling like, you're just pitching to me. Or that guy in the bar. That sleazy guy in the bar who tries to come on you and married straight away and you're like no, bad idea.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or something, yes.

 

Emma Weise: Yeah. This is more about really connecting with your clients. Staying connected with them. And not looking at it as an opportunity to sell to them necessarily. But just hearing how they're doing. How they're adjusting. And we were talking earlier about how our skills are transferrable, especially in the consulting space. We have an advisory mindset. And so, it's about taking that mindset and that thinking and that clever brain that we all have, and helping our clients where we can. Connecting with them. Seeing how they're doing. And just see if you can add a bit of value. More than, "Hey, want to buy my thing?"

 

Deb Zahn: Yeah or, "Hey, I took an income hit. Can you solve that for me?"

Emma Weise: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: Which, even if you don't say it, if that's what you go in with, they will be able to sense it. Even on Zoom they can smell it. It's what I told someone.

Emma Weise: I love that.

Deb Zahn: Get your head right before you try and connect with them.

 

Emma Weise: Absolutely. And I think if you're doing it from a really solid place and a really good heart your clients will definitely pick up on that. And then the bonus is, when we're out of this, they'll remember that you really care about them.

 

Deb Zahn: Yep.

 

Emma Weise: If you try and do the sleazy sales pitch, they'll also remember that.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. And consulting is a long game. And even though we're in the midst of this and things are difficult, you still have to treat it like a long game. That means treat all of your relationships as precious.

 

Emma Weise: Totally.

 

Deb Zahn: But not like Lord of the Rings precious. To be a nerd for a second.

 

Emma Weise: “My precious!”

 

Deb Zahn: Yeah, not the Gollum precious.

                                   

The next one I think is also really related to the stay connected because you want to stay connected but stay sharp and relevant as you say it. Say a little bit about that tip that you offer.

 

Emma Weise: I think that now is a really good opportunity, especially for those who aren't necessarily consulting in the same way that they did before, to say, "When I come out of this, how do I want my business to be different? And when we're there, in order to get there, to be that different, what are the things I need to do now to set myself up to be successful then?" Maybe staying sharp. Keeping up to date and relevant with different courses or skills that you perhaps need to learn now. So that when we do come out on the other side, you are still relevant, sharp, on-point, and up-to-date.

 

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I love that. And I was actually just doing a video yesterday where I talked about this. I said you also need to look at your industry or your market with fresh curious eyes. As if you don't have any assumptions and you don't know how things work and all of the givens because things are so disrupted that we have to be able to look at things and question all of our assumptions and ask really fundamental questions that we've never had to ask before.

 

Emma Weise: I love that.

Deb Zahn: And I just talked to a client yesterday whom I adore and I said, "You're not as stressed as I thought you would be?" She said, "Well, you know me. I think any crisis is an opportunity to get really big change to happen." And whom she wants around her are the people who are thinking that way. And thinking we have to be real about how devastating this is and difficult this is, but we also have to realize it's an opportunity to reimagine our future. And that's a way to stay sharp and relevant.

Emma Weise: Absolutely. I love that.

 

Deb Zahn: Your next two, I want to go a little deeper in because I know this is what you know extraordinarily well. The first is positioning. What have your consultants being doing right now?

 

Emma Weise: Coming back to the whole once we come out of COVID and we start interacting, or if you are starting to interact now and you're starting to connect with clients now, start thinking about how you want your brand to be positioned. This is an opportunity, as we're reviewing up in step one to say, "OK, what's working and what isn't? Am I being positioned in a way that I want? Do my ideal clients see me in the way that I want them to?" The current perception of the brand is who it's aligned with or what I know my business is about. If that makes sense?

 

Deb Zahn:  It makes perfect sense.

 

Emma Weise: OK, great.

 

Deb Zahn: And I love positioning because I always tell my clients to do that. But it's basically you saying, tell me if this is a good definition of it, is basically you saying, "Here's the market in which I operate. Am I placed in the way that I want to be so that my ideal clients can see me, experience me, want to work with me?" And all of that. Is that a good definition of positioning?

 

Emma Weise: Exactly. It's like...I mean if we just link it to food because that's always an easy safe bet right?

 

Deb Zahn: And a good time now, especially if it's sourdough.

 

Emma Weise: Oh. Are you the artisanal well-crafted sourdough maker or are you the fast and furious McDonald's brand? And what are you putting your brand out as? And when your client is experiencing your brand, and when they're tasting your brand, are they tasting the commercial bun out of the supermarket, like the basic hamburger bun, or are they tasting the sourdough, well baked, with a bit of potato, bread?

 

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I love that.

 

Emma Weise: Extra special.

 

Deb Zahn: And the answer is: take the bread with potato. Always.

Emma Weise: I say with potato because there's, sorry, funny side note, is that there is a lady in our town so makes sourdough bread and she puts potato in it and it just adds this extra spongy yumminess.

Deb Zahn: I have a friend who owns a local restaurant who made dinner rolls that just, on Instagram, made me salivate. And the key was potatoes in it. And I thought, “Well, I grow potatoes. I'm loving this more every day.”

                                   

But I think a lot of consultants don't think about this. They think I hang up my shingle. I go out into my market. I am who I am. And that's it. Whereas, what you're saying, and I know that what you help people with is you have to go deeper than that. And you have to be more specific. When you're working with a consultant on their positioning, what types of things are you asking them or telling them?

Emma Weise: Good question. So when we're thinking about positioning, for me, your brand positioning needs to align with where your business strategy is going. Because you could create a really pretty brand but it's not going to achieve the kinds of clients that you want to connect with because you're not positioning it in a way that would. Your brand might look great, but it might not be great for the kinds of clients you want to work with. It's about how you really understand who it is that you want to, your target audience that you really want to connect with. The direction that you want to take your business in. As well as how you show up and differentiate yourself as being unique. Because if you try and copy everybody else, you're just going to look like a cookie-cutter version of somebody else. I often say, "Fake vanilla is fine, but it still tastes fake."

 

Deb Zahn: That's right, that's right. And you'll just be another generic suit that somebody can insert in the consultant slot. I was thinking, so I work in healthcare, and if, I know this with positioning, if you're going to work with the hospital sector, and even then you have to differentiate. Is it small community hospitals? Is it the big-boy hospitals with tons of resources and money? Is it, in my case, I work with a lot of community health centers or behavioral health providers which is a whole different thing. How you talk about yourself and position yourself, you have to know, this is just one example, who you're going after. Because ow I talk about myself changes depending on if it's one of the big hospitals or if it's a community health center. Not because they don't ultimately all care about the patients and good things, and they all have heart. But they speak different languages.

Emma Weise: Exactly. And it's really getting clear on who that person is, so that what you do and what you present to them really resonates. And I think what a lot of consultants also do wrong, not wrong that seems a bit harsh, but where many fall short and where many trip up is in thinking that they need to position themselves as professional and misinterpreting that as “I need to be stiff.” And removing all of their, extracting all of their personality out of their brand. But what they're left with is something that is really cold and doesn't actually resonate with their ideal clients.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because again that's another slot that you stick another suit in. I think you're right. I have seen that mistake before because there is, at least in the States, this very narrowly defined notion of what professional is. And it has a long history, a long problematic history, and the reality is, is that people hire people, they don't hire robots. Some do. Some hire a whole cadre of folks who are just going to do a specific thing and not think creatively.

                                   

But as I was talking to a client recently and there was a different consultant firm, one of the big ones in the States, world-wide. And they just do whatever the client tells them to do. And she said, "And what I like about what you folks did is you told us when we were wrong." And I said, "Yeah, we do that. But that's because we are after what you're after, which is the best outcome.” I think that's the same thing, which is our personalities because I worked with a team, our personalities weren't just how we got the gig in the first place, but that's what showed up every day. So when she tells other people about us, she says, “They'll challenge us. And they're really fun to work with. And that person's hilarious. And dot dot dot. Oh, and she likes cats.” She does say that. And that would be me.

 

Emma Weise: And it's those elements that underlie what makes you different from somebody else. And when you start positioning, so yes OK the cat side, but more like the challenging side. And you do it in a fun way. You start bringing that into your brand positioning. Then the conversation with your clients is less around price and who can do it cheaper. When you start to position yourself as something that's different and unique, they'll need you more.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. And you'll find other ways that you can help. It'll be easier for them to tell other people about you.

 

Emma Weise: Yep.

 

Deb Zahn: And I love that.

 

Emma Weise: And it's less of a conversation around price and more of a conversation around how you will add value and shift business.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because if you're in, let's say a prospective client meeting, and it starts off with price, narrow scope and small price, you're already in trouble.

 

Emma Weise: Yes. Agreed.

Deb Zahn: But if you've positioned yourself as the consultant who makes wonderful things happen in this particular market, then that's what you start talking about. And price comes later, because you first established, "We're after high value, we're not after the McDonald's bun."

Emma Weise: Yes, exactly. And that's why I keep saying your positioning is key because unless you know what makes you different and unique, and why your different and unique is really great for client X. If you can't really communicate that effectively, then it becomes a conversation around price.

 

Deb Zahn: Right. Now do you also see that people think that they've done their positioning but then the experience they give clients is a totally different thing?

Emma Weise: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. I was also thinking about something else, but I'll come to that. Yes. That's not getting really clear on the differentiators. You think my skills or experience is what makes me different. I'm very knowledgeable in X and that's why you need to hire me. I mean, everybody's knowledgeable in X, do you know what I mean? That doesn't make you different. There's something in that. And I like drilling down into what that looks like and why you did that and how that was formed. And I love pulling all those, you can't see me because you're on a podcast but my fingers are going all over the room at the moment because I put all the ideas together. And I find that common thread and that common theme that runs through who you are. And then it's about putting that into the branding.

I don't know if I answered the question, did I answer the question?

 

Deb Zahn: I think you did. It's got to be real, and how you make it real is you drill down and you keep peeling the layers of the onion until you get a really thorough understanding. I love that.

Emma Weise: Exactly. So to elaborate on your original point then. If I'm saying, "I'm really good. I'm a great consultant at strategy, brand strategy." But then, I actually haven't figured out exactly what that looks like and what the nuance of that is. You were saying the experience could be different when that client interaction comes and that person is sitting in the room and you're having a strategic conversation but the person's not actually being strategic.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right, that's right. I think that's a great example. Because some brand strategists, who call themselves that, will say, "All right, let's talk about your logo and business card." And some brand strategists, the ones I like the best, will come in and say, "Let's talk about what you want your clients to think and feel and experience." And that stuff comes later.

 

Emma Weise: We'll get to the pretty. But let's get clear on the thinking first.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. And you have to be clear about who you are and what you do to be able to signal that in your market, and then give people the right experience that matches that signal.

 

Emma Weise: And that's where I thought you were going to go with the question where some people tend to think they've done the client avatar. Or they think they've worked out what makes them unique but when I probe into it, they realize they haven't quite gone to the level of depth that they could've.

                                   

I have a fun example where one of my previous clients, he actually teaches people how to do client avatars as part of his business.

Deb Zahn: Oh nice.

Emma Weise: And then he was like, "I had no idea the depth when you first told me you were going to decide our avatar, I actually rolled my eyes." And I said, "Because I've done it so many times before with all my clients." He said, "But then you just took it to a whole other level."

Deb Zahn: That's great.

Emma Weise: And that's exactly it. It's like really distilling who it is you want to work with because people are like, "Oh, why do you want to know if somebody is 25..." Let me give one example of that. I have a little practical analogy.

                                   

You say to me, Deb, I'm going to use you as an example, "My clients are between 25 and 55." OK, that's awesome. So it's a woman between 25 and 55. Let's say you've narrowed it down to women. Fantastic. And you've narrowed it down to the fact that she's an entrepreneur. Even more narrow, wonderful. But, a 25-year-old entrepreneur is very different from a 55-year-old entrepreneur. The 25-year-old is trying to make their way in the world. They're trying to establish their credibility. They're not worried about the longer-term legacy. They want to make their current six figures because they want to have a fun lifestyle now. They want the new car. Do you know what I mean, if I unpack differently.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Emma Weise: Whereas the 55-year-old is starting to think, "OK, what's my work next? I need to start banking for the foreseeable future." And I'm also thinking about the kind of legacy I want to leave. To leave a legacy and love their purpose. There we go.

Deb Zahn: Perfect.

Emma Weise: They're thinking about all those kinds of things. Now if you try to position your messaging to both those people, you're going to sound all over the place.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Emma Weise: It's about really getting specific in terms of where your client is, and the pain points they have. Because I've just spoken about one little drop in the ocean but each of them will have very different pain points.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And if you do have mixed signals, a scattershot approach, then you put the onus on your potential clients to try and figure out who you are and can you be helpful and guess what? That's not their job. And they're not going to do it. They're going to go to somebody who has clear signals.

Emma Weise: And I totally relate. Even the brand strategists get a bit muddled every once in a while. From my business perspective at one stage the practical example of that is that I wanted to work with corporates as well as entrepreneurs. And a solo entrepreneur and a corporate have very different needs.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

 

Emma Weise: It's about getting clear on which one I wanted to focus on. And I opted more for the entrepreneur route. But that was because I know that I add an amazing amount of value in that space.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. And then you can focus what you're doing and your time and energy and money, on that.

Emma Weise: Exactly. An example of this, the ten tips we were talking about. It wouldn't have been the same for corporate. And them looking at this, and if they had to read this example, they'd be like, "She doesn't understand me."

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Right now, I have somebody else breathing down my neck and there are all these other pressures that are completely different from this.

 

Emma Weise: Exactly.

 

Deb Zahn: That's great. Now this relates to the next one I also like, which is experience. Where you encourage reviewing every touchpoint. So talk about what that tip means?

 

Emma Weise: There's a misperception that your brand is your logo. And your logo is lovely but it's not the brand be-all and end-all. Just a bit of context, for me, would be that if you think about a coffee shop. When you're looking at a coffee shop. Say you're looking from the outside. You do not go to that coffee shop because of the logo on their door. You go there for the entire experience. It's about whether somebody smiles at you. The kind of coffee that's served. How comfortable the chairs are. The smell and the space. There are a whole lot of factors that make up that entire experience of one coffee shop and why you choose one coffee shop over another.

 

And so when I'm thinking about the brand experience, and specifically for consultants, I'm thinking about it through the entire customer journey. And every single touchpoint that the customer has with you and your business. You need to factor in, “Is the experience, and the thing I want them to feel about my brand and the brand essence, is that flowing right throughout the whole user journey?”

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Because every experience they have with you is signaling to them what it's like to work with you.

 

Emma Weise: Exactly. And so this is a really golden opportunity to sit down and process your current experience that your clients are interacting with your brand and flesh out that entire user journey. Even if you're not fleshing it out, if you're just reviewing the user journey and saying, "OK, so when a customer first becomes aware of me, are they getting the feeling and the essence that I want them to get? Or are there things that need to shift and change in that space so that they do get an essence of what it's like to work with me."

                                   

And I gave some examples in the past. One of the examples was your company profile. As a consultant, if you're working B2B generally, and even some B2C. Clients may say, "Can you send me some information or can you send me a proposal?" And whether it's your company profile or your proposal document, is that document something you just typed in Word, slapped together and emailed through? Which often it is, let's be real. And if you have done that, is that the kind of positioning, coming back to that original positioning we were talking about, is that how you want to be perceived? Because when I receive a company profile or proposal document, it sets the tone of the kind of experience we're going to have to work together.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. It's interesting. Myself and another consultant were just helping a client review two potential consultants for something else they're working on. One obviously slapped something together. And the other, it was so specific to what was being asked for. That's what we talked about is that signaling. But this is where you can also get into not just what you have on a piece of paper. I think of an example that when I took a look at my touchpoints and I had to do some resets. If they had a great meeting with you, and they're excited and it sounds great, but then it took you two weeks to send them something. But you told them you would get it to them within three or four days. That's just as important as what you put down on a piece of paper because that's also an experience. And you want to make sure that that experience is what you would want to experience. And I'm guilty of that by the way.

Emma Weise: Hey, listen. None of us are perfect. Let's be real, we get things wrong and we learn and evolve. It's about whether we learn and evolve, I think that's the key. If we learn and evolve through the process and we make changes, then it's a win.

                                   

But in terms of what you were saying, say, for example, your brand essence or one of the emotions that you want to evoke in your clients is that you want them to experience that you're efficient. And some people lead that to excellence. But say for example you want them to feel how efficient you are. Then getting it in two weeks is not that. That's why distilling your brand essence and being quite specific on how you want your clients to feel is critical. Because then you need to hold yourself accountable to those things. They almost become your KPIs.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I would agree. And I think the reason this made sense to me as a tip talking about COVID, is one, there's a lot of consultants who have some extra time right now. What a great use of your time. But the other thing is sad because of what's happening around the world with economies, there's likely going to be more competition. And because there's going to be other people who, either because they've always dreamed of it, or because they have to, are going to be entering the consulting world, you want to not just keep the wonderful clients that you have, but you also want to get new ones. And cultivating the right experience at every touchpoint is one of the ways you do that.

Emma Weise: Absolutely. And it links back to, coming back to the positioning again, as more people enter the market. And I agree with you. I think that the market is going to flood with people who, as you say, have not by choice but just by they have to now. Because the corporate couldn't sustain us. Or they've realized that I thought having a full-time job was secure and safe but it's actually not necessarily as secure and safe as I thought it was going to be. Because look, this can rock globally, this can rock everybody. It necessitates. It's going to spur a lot of people to start living out their calling.

And where in the past, where you could get away with mediocre home-cooked branding, because I think you can, or up until this point, I think there's a lot you can get away with. That window is narrowing. And my example of that would be if you remember back to the first websites back in the 90s, where you came across those sales pages and they had bright yellow flashing stars and 50 different colors on one page. Back in the 90s that was fine and you would have made it. Chunk load of sales through that website that was so gaudy, right? Try to fly that now. You won't get sales. That's why I'm saying home-brewed brands, if you don't know what you're doing, would be like the 90s website now.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right, that's right. And you will look like you are not current. You're not today's consultant. You're yesterday's consultant or a decade ago's consultant.

                                   

Let's go through the others because we have four and then we have a bonus. Stay visible is the next one, which is also I think so critical right now. Talk a little bit about what you think folks should do.

Emma Weise: As I said initially, there's a tendency for a lot of people out there who've been like, “I think I'm just going to pull the cover over and I'll resurface then.” And the reason why I don't feel like that's the right move right now, I mean, look, there may have been a time where you needed to recharge because you had a busy year and all those great things. There's no judgment whatsoever, but all I'm saying here is that your clients need to know you're around so that when things do lift, you are the person that is top of mind.

 

But it's how you show up visibly that's going to set you apart. You're not going to necessarily be putting yourself out there with, “Buy my stuff that is really inappropriate right now.” You won't necessarily be punting sales posts. But, I think that you do still want to let people know what you do and what you're about. And why what you're about has an impact to make on the world.

                                   

I'm going to give a completely unrelated example to the consultancy space, but it will help the analogy. I was saying the same thing to a hunting lodge that I was consulting with. And obviously travel and tourism is down right now. And she was like, "Maybe we need to wait till after this before we start doing sales posts." And I'm like, "No, everybody is stuck at home right now. Give them something to look at. Show them the picture of the zebra and what the giraffe and her babies are up to, and all the new services that are coming out. So that when they do travel again, yours is the place they want to come and see.”

                                   

And so, relate that back to the consulting world. Let them know. Share interesting articles. Give insights. Educate. Inspire. Share those kinds of valuable nuggets, so that when people are ready that you are the person that they connect with. And the other reason I say that, is because in doing that you staying visible post-COVID. Wonderful. But, there might be clients that are thinking, "I actually need help with X," and you could be meeting them right now in the middle of COVID.

                                   

And the example that I had shared on my site was that I had clients coming to me saying, "We need a website because we can't sell in the stores so we need to actually have an online store. So, fill that gap." "Sure. No problem." And your clients could be doing the same. Let me give a consulting analogy.

                                   

Say, for example, you're in leadership training and you’re thinking, "My client can't trade right now so they don't want to know about leadership training." Maybe they're thinking, "Whilst my leaders are quiet, how can I skill them up and make them sharp so that when we open our doors they're more effective."

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. The other related example's every single CEO I have talked to, among my clients, has said the same thing. "I have never been more challenged in my entire career. This is harder is anything I have ever done." That tells me they could sure use some support right about now.

 

Emma Weise: Absolutely. Absolutely. Who they're going to be bouncing their ideas off of should be you.

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. Going digital. What should they be doing?

 

Emma Weise: This is just about adjusting to the online space, and if you can't have in-person meetings, then set-up digital meetings. Whether it's Zoom, I think Zoom's become a doing word now, but whether it's Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts, one of those spaces, you can set up digital meetings instead of in-person meetings.

                                   

Another way, in terms of going digital, is getting comfortable in the online space. Maybe it's Facebook Live or running LinkedIn videos. Getting visible that way. Or instead of in-person workshops, how can you run online workshops?

 

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. Get creative because the technology today is so much better than it ever has been that you'd be surprised. A friend was telling me, she was working with a client, and she's used to you put a big whiteboard up, you have post-it notes, you move them all around. There are software systems that now do that virtually that you just have to get a little used to.

 

Emma Weise: Yeah. And it was so funny that you just said that because I was just about to say there's an online platform that has, everyone can have their own post-its... I used to run café conversations and strategy sessions. And you use a lot of Post-it notes in the real world on boards. But you can do that online. They've got apps that allow you to do that, which is fantastic.

Deb Zahn: That's right, that's right. And if you think of it, there's probably an app or a software system that actually does it. All right. The next one I love, which is about dieting, no, I'm kidding, is cutting the fat. Let's talk about that one.

 

Emma Weise: This is all about making sure that you don't eat too much during COVID. No, I'm kidding.

 

Deb Zahn: Not a bad tip.

 

Emma Weise: OK. Here I'm just talking about physical fat but not as in our physical fat. But more in our practical office space as an example, that we just ignore. Because we ran the business as usual so we're not really thinking about those things. An example that we experienced in our own personal lives was the other day, my husband was looking at his phone. He was like, "I'm getting a bunch of charges for a bunch of apps I don't even use." Decluttering some of those things in our lives. They could be apps that you've been paying for along the way that you hadn't noticed. Maybe you have an extra computer or a printer or, I don't know.

Deb Zahn: You probably even have software systems that you're paying double for two things because you didn't cancel one of them. I just discovered this, did the exact same thing you paid someone else to do. Or I was paying for project management software for a gazillion years only sporadically using and now I had to decide you're either going to stop paying for it, cutting the fat, or you're going to use it appropriately because it's going to help you streamline things. And I did the latter, and it's made a night-and-day difference. But I didn't think about it until I started thinking, "Are there expenses that are not serving me right now? Are there things that I'm doing, even processes that I'm doing, that there is no utility in, and do I want to stop doing that?"

Emma Weise: Yep. That was the second part of the fat is looking at our process in terms of how we interact with the clients and are there things in there that actually we did it because that's the way we've always done it. But does that really still work for our clients? Does it still really work for us? And are there things that we need to streamline just because they don't necessarily make an impact on our business? Or if we streamlined a process and, an example would be I have my month to two-month branding process that I'll run with a client, but I was able to streamline that for this client that had her online store. I was able to streamline it down to the bare essentials and we created her brand in one week. That was stripping quite a lot of fat but we got to the bare essentials. Now I have a process. I've got two levels in my business. I've got my standard premium package but I also have the basic essentials that I can offer for those who are wanting a quicker turnaround and just want to present something and get cracking and make money.

 

Deb Zahn: You are saying, "Do I really have to always do it this way," led to now another service line, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

 

Productizing, which is your last one, is also one of my favorites because I did do that at a previous place that I worked. We did their first-ever product. And it can be quite lucrative so talk about that.

Emma Weise: Here we want to really make sure that... Well, not make sure anything. It's more a case of saying, "OK, so there are things in our process that have worked for us. We've done it time and again," or, "We've had a client with the same problem time and again, and we figured out a process to help them." And it's taking those systems and processes that we have and turning it into a product that somebody would purchase from you.

                                   

One example would be I set up my proposal documents so I could use that for clients, my consultants, who want to create proposal documents for their clients. They could buy the template from me. Done and done. There are things like that in your business that you've created that would definitely help your clients or your peers.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, absolutely. Assessment tools are always good. One of my previous guests, Adam Falcone who's at a law firm. There were certain compliance documents that had to be updated because of new regulations every year and there was a swathe of clients within a particular market that couldn't afford lawyer's rates. They just couldn't. And yet they needed it so he set up a subscription service, which was basically taking these updates, turning that into a product for which they paid a subscription service which they could afford, and they got what they most immediately needed, which was everything in compliance or they were going to get in trouble. And I just thought what a great way to be of service to a broader group of folks. But at the same time, creating some passive income opportunities.

Emma Weise: Exactly. And I called it productizing because I specifically wanted you to think, or consultants, to think about how they could turn their service into a product. Passive income is something that is always helpful. Whether it's a service or product that you bundle into something that you sell, or whether it's getting a commission on a product you use. Maybe a book you've read and you're part of an Amazon affiliation, as an example. And you could earn a commission from people who buy that product.

                                   

There are different ways, so whether it's a commission or affiliate, but are the products that your clients need, use, and love. Or products that you use and love. That would be the one disclaimer which I haven't put in there is that, just a side note, when you are recommending something, make sure it is something that you actually believe in. Otherwise, your clients will see through that one.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or they'll have a bad experience and now you're part of that bad experience. I totally agree.

Emma Weise: Yeah, exactly.

Deb Zahn: We are running a bit out of time, but I have to do the bonuses because I just love the bonuses. It's really two things. Let's start with the “be a friend.” Talk about what that means.

Emma Weise: I think it's just about coming back to the fact that we're all humans. We're all going through this together and others may be in a position where they just need a bit more of a you, and the ways that you can help, being the way you are. Like I was saying, whether it's just going to the shop for a friend or sharing your veggies that you've grown with a friend, it's just being a human out there at the moment.

Deb Zahn: I love it. And then you snuck in there one of my other favorite things which is local first. Our local economies really need our help right now, so think about where you're sourcing things.

Emma Weise: Especially the little guys who have not got a massive fund or access to all the funding that's out there. I'm not sure about what's happening in the north but over here, there have been a lot of small businesses who are really struggling and not getting government support. So it's about how we can really help our local businesses. And one of the ways I do that, just in my general business, is I try and find local manufacturers to do local gifts for my clients. You might not be gifting, but maybe you could buy a voucher from a local person and pass that voucher on to somebody who would really appreciate it.

Deb Zahn: Nice. What a great example. Let me ask you the last question because I can't resist this. Obviously having balance in our lives is always important. But definitely important now. How do you bring balance to your life?

Emma Weise: For me, balance is more about integration instead of like...I'm always trying to balance work, running my own business, as well as my family, and as well as taking care of myself in the process. And it's trying to find the right time for all of them. For me, it would be about integrating them all together. I will be in the garden to make sure that I get up from my desk and I've discovered veggie gardening which is super fun.

Deb Zahn: And I've seen the picture, it's beautiful.

Emma Weise: And I might be listening to a podcast while I'm doing that so killing two birds with one stone right there.

 

Deb Zahn: That's great.

Emma Weise: That's probably how I find balance.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. Well Emma, thank you so much for joining and sharing your tips folks out in the consulting world and other worlds. It's really needed right now and I appreciate how utterly wonderful and thoughtful they are.

Emma Weise: It's only a pleasure. If you've used one of these tips and they've made a difference to your life, please let me know. It's awesome to hear.

Deb Zahn: Absolutely. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoy this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content, I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

                                   

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

                                   

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at craftofconsulting.com. Thanks so much, I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.