Set Fees Based in Value, Not Time Spent

Consider establishing fees based on value of the services you will provide and not on the time you spend on the project. Clients will judge the wisdom of your services based on their own agenda. They want to know if your services will help solve a problem, or if using your services will benefit them equal to or more than the cost of your services. Your fees must reflect value to the client.

You must be willing to estimate the total time needed to get the job done when you are quoting fee on a time and materials basis. Just telling the client you charge $200 an hour plus expenses is not always sufficient. Howard Shenson recommends you let the client know the number of hours you will take to produce the desired results. To properly estimate requires careful analysis and attention to details, says the late Shenson, the consultant’s consultant.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Charge for Travel Using a Per-Diem Basis

You may want to consider charging a per diem for your travel expenses (hotels, meals and incidentals) rather than direct reibursement. Most clients prefer the simplicity of per-diem expenses and this arrangement avoids any criticism about how you spend expense dollars.

Think about having multiple per-diem rates, the late Howard Shenson, the consultant’s consultant suggests. You would have one per-diem for expensive cities and another for smaller markets. Set per-diem rates and define the quality of your life on the road in a way that is consistent with the style and expense that your client feels is appropriate. People are more comfortable when you do things the way they do them.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Get something back when you giveaway a “freebie”

So now you are a successful consultant!

As a professional in the field of consulting, you will be frequently asked to give your clients “little favors” and since you can rarely collect a fee for them, the best term we can use is that these are “freebies.”

These “freebies” can include everything from answering a quick question by telephone to sending them copies of articles and documents. The list can be quite endless.

 However, these free services can be turned into a profit center for you with the “one-minute commercial.”

Here’s the secret.

When asked for a “freebie” or a favor, quickly respond with one of these answers:

  • “I will be glad to take care of that for you … if you will make a deal.”
  • “I’ll help if you make an agreement with me.”
  • “It’s free, no problem … but there is a catch.”
  • “Sure, I can help … but you must make me a promise.”

So, what is the deal? What is the Catch? What is the promise?

Well, it’s simple really … They simply promise, agree or make a deal to call you first when they need the services you provide. Add some spice to your one-minute commercial by also getting them to promise or agree to recommend you to others or to provide you a testimonial (which you can offer to draft for them).

This one-minute commercial can be fun for you both, and is a powerful sales tool for your firm.

However, we recommend you use this technique only when you have done something for free or extra for a prospect or client.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Consider Charging Clients for their Initial Session

When dealing with small and sometimes more impoverished clients, it’s usually in your best interest to charge a fee (even if it is small) for that initial consultation.

This fee will rid your marketing hours from time wasters who are unable to afford your fee. For many clients, the advice they obtain during the first 30-minutes or hour meeting may be sufficient to meet their needs.

Such a strategy may not be a good idea when dealing with large, well-financed prospects, however. Most often, these clients are not in need or seeking free advice. Your larger clients will be interested in results over the long haul.

Don’t hesitate to charge for diagnostic and needs-analysis services. Determing  what the problem is may be the most valuable service you can provide. Giving the answers away for free in the hope of getting an opportunity to implement your solution is simply — poor marketing.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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“Local firm thinking outside the box”

Bobbie Foust and I worked together at the Tribune Courier and Leisure Scene in Benton in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have alway admired her as a journalist because she is consistently accurate in getting the information and the quotes correct any time she does an article. We were honored when she asked to do a feature on the recent awards we have won and our business. What follows was printed in the January 30, 2008 issue of the Lyon County Herald-Ledger. Our thanks to Bobbie for another job exceptionally well-done! Simper Fi Bobbie.

P.S. If you would like to see the tactics that won the awards go to our web site at http://www.armstrongandassociates.org and look to the right side column.

Local firm thinking outside the box

By Bobbie Foust/Herald Ledger Staff

A different approach to public relations recently garnered three awards for a national business based in Lyon County.

ARMSTRONG and Associates (www.armstrongandassociates.org) – a behavioral public relations firm – was cited for two brochures and a video the company produced.

Owners Darryl and Kay Armstrong won the MarCom Gold Award for an educational brochure produced for Lockheed Martin and a MarCom Honorable Mention for a brochure they produced for Ophthalmology Associates of Western Kentucky.

The international AVA (Audio/Visual Awards) recognized the company for outstanding work in producing a video for Taylor Hays, publisher of the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville. Hayes was looking for a way to reach future graduates of local colleges and universities and talented professionals, said Darryl Armstrong.

“We developed a recruitment video, which describes the professional needs of the Kentucky New Era along with the working environment of the organization,” he said.

Darryl Armstrong scripted, directed and produced the video in collaboration with videographer Jerry Vick, who is video editor at WKAG-TV 43 in Hopkinsville.

The Lockheed brochure, which won in the educational category, is being used in a community outreach project in the Middle River, Md. area.

“… We took highly technical government and corporate information and transferred it into an easily-understood and user-friendly format,” said Kay Armstrong who has worked with Lockheed on different projects for years.

Darryl Armstrong said the brochure, developed for Ophthalmology Associates, helped Dr. Paul Harrell increase his business exponentially.

Darryl Armstrong, Ph.D, said he started the business 14 years ago because he felt it was time to establish his own company, “and frankly I was bored.”

He had spent years working at high level positions with the Tennessee Valley Authority at Land Between the Lakes and in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and for the government at the Oak Ridge, Tenn. nuclear complex.

“My background is in behavioral psychology and journalism,” he said. “At the time I got a degree in behavioral psychology, I didn’t think about applying it to public relations.”

However, the discipline became popular in the 1970s especially in the federal government and law enforcement. He explained that behavioral public relations means helping the client outline his/her problem and the solution.

There’s a certain behavior the client wants the public to express whether its buying more of the client’s product or service or changing public opinion to influence a vote, Armstrong said.

“Whatever the response is that the client wants, you put it into measurable behavioral terms,” he said.

Kay Armstrong was still employed in another position when her husband left the corporate and government world. However, she too soon joined the business because it allowed them both to pursue their specific interests. She still enjoys flying around the country to help clients, while he prefers to work with clients in the southeast within driving distance.

She has a background in linguistics – bachelor’s and master’s degrees in German linguistics with a minor in English linguistics. And she has taken master’s level courses in management, communications and guidance counseling.

“Many of our clients have complex problems that we are helping them find their path through,” she said.

“A big piece of being able to be successful with a client is to first let the client just kind of dump and tell you what (he/she) thinks the problem is,” he said. “That really is a big piece of the therapy because in many cases they have defined a problem that is really not their problem at all.”

Kay added that with the discovery process, “we can usually define the problem, and what the avenues are toward a solution.”

Most of what the company does is consulting with a client to put together a strategic plan of action, implementing and executing the plan and then evaluating and adjusting it as needed. “Always with the goal of whatever behaviorally it is that you want to happen out there,” Darryl said.

Through the years, the Armstrongs have found their business associations have led to lasting friendships.

“One thing that amazed me is that there are nice people everywhere you go,” Kay said.

“If you treat people nicely, for the most part, they are going to treat you nicely, he said. “I do a lot of facilitation of meetings, which sometimes can become very contentious. In fact part of the leg we started our business on was to be able to help engineering firms and public agencies be able to deal with public meetings and get through them without being too bloodied in the process.”

He has found that treating people with respect, listening and setting parameters around which everybody can participate, accomplishes the goal.

ARMSTRONG and Associates is not a typical public relations business.

“We really struggled about what we should call our business,” he said. “… We put behavioral in it to get people to ask what we do because everybody thinks they know what public relations is all about.”

Kay Armstrong said people often associate a negative connotation with PR looking it as spin.

“I’m not into that, and we have not been into that,” Darryl said. “We do everything from strategic planning, marketing workshops for small businesses and chambers to customer service workshops.”

Another component of the business is education, Kay said, citing the educational events she has organized for Lockheed Martin.

“They have a branded educational program called Space Day, and I organize Space Day events for them for about 1,000 elementary kids at a time to promote science and math,” she said, noting that she has organized an annual Space Day in Riverside, Calif. for 10 years. “I’ve also started doing one in Sarasota, Fla.

“We go to a school and set up basically, an educational fair where we have about 40 activity stations and we rotate the kids around a precise schedule and they experience things they don’t get the rest of the year,” she said.

Darryl added that the neat thing about Space Day is “it’s a fusion of information, education and entertainment, and when those kids are having fun, they are open to being educated.”

The Armstrongs have carved a unique niche for their business.

“It’s our name that’s the basis of our business,” he said. “Someone asked me the other day what will happen to ARMSTRONG and Associates when we retire? It will go away because there is no way we can sell this … because we really built it on the unique personalities that we have.”

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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8 Steps to Finding and Hiring the Right Employees

Here is what you must do to find the right fit between you and the employee.

First, look and interview for “attitude,” which is reflected in personal attributes not innate personality traits such as being an extrovert.

Second, look for and interview for people who are passionate about their work and wanting to work with you. They should be passionate about wanting to work with their fellow employees as well to ensure that the entire team is providing memorable customer service.

Third, interview for employees that are versatile. I realize that some jobs require certifications or licenses yet you also can find employees who are accredited that are also able to adapt and work with job descriptions that go beyond the black and white words on the paper. In other words when interviewing pose problems, issues and questions that focus the interviewee and get the person being interviewed to explain what they would do above and beyond the call of duty, or above and beyond their written job description.

Fourth, please share your company’s vision at the outset of the interview. If you envision that your company will become the most desirable place for employees and clients to engage then make that very clear to your potential employee. If you don’t have a vision for your company’s future then it is time to sit down and develop one.

At ARMSTRONG and Associates our vision is to ensure that every client gets more than they expected from us and that they will be so pleased they will refer us to their associates. We will be seen as the resource for the best and most effective counsel at a fair and reasonable cost.

Your vision should project what you want your company to be within ten years and carefully articulate what you want to see your company to become known for.

Engage with the interviewees in a dialogue about your vision of the company and ask them how they will contribute to making this vision a reality.

Realistically candidates won’t tell you upfront if they don’t like your organization, however, when you engage in this discussion you will find out pretty quickly through nonverbals and verbals whether or not they want to join your company and make your vision a reality.

Fifth, listen to what they say and listen carefully to what your “gut” tells you about the person. When your gut tells you the person is not truly “buying into your vision” then move on to the next interviewee.

Just remember a candidate may have all sorts of degrees, training, experience and certifications or licenses but if they are resistant or hold back enthusiasm for the vision of your company move on to the next interviewee.

Sixth, it is wise to interview people in the real world. Although I have taken people into a quiet office to interview them, some of the best interviews took place when the business was going on all around us. This allows you to see how the candidate will react to being in the work environment. Take them to where they will do their work and immerse them and you in the interview process at that location and see and listen to how they handle the environment. Look carefully for nonverbal cues from the interviewee while under such stress.

Seventh, group interviews are also useful because if this person is going to work with other people they should be exposed to them right upfront. If the group as a whole has the chance to assess the person you will get even more valuable feedback to make your decision.

Bring different people from different parts of the organization into the group interview. When the interview is completed sit with these people and debrief about what they saw, heard or felt about the person and how they would feel about working with them daily.

Finally, exceptional companies these days revolve around the delivery of extraordinary and memorable customer or client service, simply if candidates aren’t relaxed and don’t smile during the interview process we would not hire them.

Following these few simple steps will help ensure that you are hiring the right people to fit into your culture. Take your time, don’t be rushed or pushed into hiring anyone, and if you are working with a staffing agency don’t turn over the entire process to them following the above guidelines even when working with staffing agencies is a wise and prudent business decision.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Exemplary Public Relations for Starbucks

In the January 15, 2008 issue of Bottom Line Personal, there is an article about a man who wrote a book entitled, “How Starbucks Saved My Life.” 

The book is about a man who was a former six-figure advertising executive, and by age 63 was divorced, unemployed, nearly broke, and diagnosed with a brain tumor. 

Because he was in desperate need of health insurance and a regular paycheck, he took a job serving coffee at Starbucks for $10.50 an hour.  He ended up loving the job.

Today he is healthy, has sold his life story to Hollywood ( and it appears that Tom Hanks will probably play him in the film) and yet still plans to work at Starbucks because he enjoys the job. 

This type of public relations for a company simply can not be bought at any price!

This type of public relations is simply priceless and it couldn’t come at a better time for Starbuck’s, who has raised its prices twice in the past year and is facing major competition from McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. 

It also showcases a company that has created an exemplary working environment.  Simply, great work environments attract great employees, who offer better customer service, which makes for better sales.

Now this my friends is the best of all worlds.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Don’t Jump at the Opportunity to Cut Your Fee

Don’t accept a request for a reduction in your fee unless the client is willing to reduce the scope work.Bargaining makes you less desirable and creates the wrong image. If you communicate w willingness to accept less, you are letting the client know that you are hungry and desperate or that your initial fee was inflated.

Some clients aren’t happy and may not do business unless they can bargain. In such cases, again, cut your fee only in exchange for a reduction in time and resources provided. This approach allows you to save face and permits the client to get the deal he seeks.

Be especially cautious and reject offers to cut your fee or to provide services because of “exposure” and “potentially beneficial contacts” you will receive from the project.

“Potentials” don’t pay the mortgage! Think: When is the last time doctors, dentists, or lawyers reduced their fees for you? Set a fair and justified professional fee and stay with it!

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Put a Client’s Fears to Rest Before Beginning Work on the Project

Be sure to identify the fears that prospective clients have about working with you. It takes some effort, but they will be reluctant to use your services until you have:

  1. Identified their fears
  2. Discussed their fears with them
  3. Laid their fears to rest

For example, one of the greatest fears that a client can have is do you have the ability to produce the desired results on a timely basis?

Always provide the client with a schedule that identifies with precision, when the various elements of your work will be completed. The schedule may change once work is underway, yet it serves as a reassurance to your client that you have concern for their most important priority — timely completion of the project.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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Help the Client See You as a Source of Value and Not a Threat

(My apologies to all – the post I sent out last night had some spelling errors that have now been corrected. This happens when I write it on the road and forget to spell check and reread it. Thanks to Susan Gaffney-Evans for pointing this out. D.) 

BNA — It’s sometimes hard to do yet I highly recommend you not accept a client who doesn’t value your services or with whom you have a personality conflict. Frankly, and I know this from experience, these clients will create more problems in the long run no matter how hard you try to be of service to them.

When working with the client’s staff, you will probably be perceived as a threat. You can reduce the degree of the threat feeling by ensuring that the client properly introduces you and explains your role. You can further reduce the threat by communicating the fact that you want to work with the staff to ease the tension and motivate them by showing how their role will benefit them as well as the company.

Your continued success will greatly depend on your ability to bury your own ego and let the key players in the client’s organization get recognition for your accomplishments. Those who are important for future business referrals will know that you are responsible for these achievements.

Don’t allow your relationship with a client to deteriorate into one which is adversarial. Your role is to serve the client first and only. Keep your lines of communication open and honest. If they do deteriorate, stop providing services until the communications are patched up.

Always be viewed by your clients as giving the most you can give. Always give them extra value – or what we call lagniappe. You will benefit by having others understand that you will always give more than is expected.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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