Attract client mindshare

Clients often embark on new consulting projects with the best of intentions. Over time, however, conflicting demands prevent clients from devoting to your project the time that’s desired or even required by the client/consultant agreement.

As a consultant, you must attract strong client mindshare for your project so that it remains at the top of your client’s to-do list. Gaining client mindshare will ensure that your projects stay on track and reach successful completion.

You’ll be sure to attract client mindshare by using these four practices:

Project sponsorship Every project, regardless of its size or reach, requires a sponsor dedicated to its success. The higher the profile of the project, the higher the level of sponsorship that’s required.
Project kickoff The initial kickoff meeting is a crucial opportunity to clearly define the project’s objectives to the client’s team members.
Follow-up After the project kickoff, it’s critical that the project sponsor immediately follow up with all team members to enforce the importance of making time for the project.
Ongoing project communication In addition to consulting projects, clients have multiple competing priorities. To grab clients’ attention, use appropriate and streamlined communication methods.
Project sponsorship

Many projects fail or flounder because no one on the management team took an active role in promoting the project. You’ll improve your chances of success if you make sure that your project has an executive sponsor.

Clearly identify the project sponsor and sponsor responsibilities in the signed client/consultant agreement. Typical wording might include: “Paula Nartker, Vice President of Operations, will be the project sponsor. As project sponsor, Paula is required to accept all project milestones before we proceed to the next phase of the project.” This wording is usually included in the section of the client/consultant agreement that spells out the client’s responsibilities during the course of the project.

Project kickoff

The project kickoff is critical for garnering strong client mindshare. At the time of the kickoff, excitement and curiosity about the project are at its peak, making it a prime opportunity to make a great impression and capture client mindshare. A poor kickoff gives clients the impression that they are about to embark on a poorly managed project.

Follow these tips to produce a successful project kickoff:

Understand your client’s business Clients want to work with people who understand their business and what makes it unique. Consultants ignore this principle at their own risk, because there is no surer way of losing client interest.
Plan a concise kickoff meeting An effective kickoff should have no more than 30 minutes of presentation and should provide an equal amount of time for client questions and feedback. The one-hour limit should be extended only in very rare circumstances.
Include all players Prepare for a kickoff by identifying all members of the organization who will play a role in your project. These members include primary members, who have major responsibilities, and secondary members, who may play only a tangential role in your project. Not including all contacts in the kickoff may have adverse consequences when you need to engage them later. Contacts who weren’t included may be confused about the project’s purpose, or they may even be disappointed that they weren’t initially identified as important to the project.
By learning your client’s business, initiating a brief project kickoff, and inviting key players to the kickoff, you’ll give yourself a great opportunity to capture mindshare at the project’s inception.

Maintain the momentum established during the project kickoff by having the project sponsor follow up with all project contacts within one business day of the kickoff meeting. The project sponsor should outline the objectives of the project and reinforce everyone’s responsibility for supporting the project.

During this follow-up communication (usually by either an e-mail message or a phone call), the project sponsor can answer questions that people may have been unwilling to ask during the open forum of the kickoff meeting. This follow-up can also help neutralize any skeptics by showing that the project has the full support of the management team.

Ongoing project communication

Excitement for a project is typically highest during the project’s beginning and end, and lowest during the lulls in the middle (or between key milestones). During these lulls, it’s important that your communication with your client be concise and meaningful in order to grab your client’s attention. Use these tips to ensure effective project communication:

Understand how your client prefers to interact Some clients prefer to receive e-mail; others dislike e-mail and prefer meetings. Some use blogs, whereas others demand one-page memos. Learn how your clients prefer to communicate at work, and then use the correct method to convey your message.
Get the right message across Make sure that every communication has a clear objective. Wherever possible, limit each communication to one objective. For example, an e-mail message sent to the project team detailing status would be a poor mechanism for inviting the team to a meeting. You’d be better served by sending a separate meeting invitation.
Streamline communications Excessive communications dilute the value of key messages. Limit the number of messages you send that are not directly tied to the value of the project. For example, sending a design template to the project team with instructions for completing it might be critical for ensuring that a deliverable is completed in a timely manner. Sending three e-mail messages announcing that the template will be sent in the future is a sure way to lose precious client mindshare.
By combining project sponsorship with strong communication techniques, you’ll reap the benefits of good client mindshare. Such mindshare gives you needed attention from your clients so that you can complete projects successfully.
About the author Larry Melillo is a manager of CFO Advisory Services at KPMG, a leading provider of audit, tax, and advisory services. CFO Advisory Services professionals help organizations implement strategies and process changes that drive a more value-added finance function.


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