As a lifetime learner, I have never quite gotten around to ending my learning. Hopefully, I never will.

For the most part learning opportunities tend to find me. When there is something I need or want to learn, it’s seldom necessary to search for relevant learning opportunities…they just seem to appear.

The first three months of this year has offered an overabundance of rich learning opportunities. At one point, I was actively involved in four online training programs, which turned out to be too much even for an avid learner such as me…had to drop one program.

Even though the first quarter of 2013 generated tons of learning, what might be considered the most significant new insight came late last week.

In his book, Good to Great,  Jim Collins introduces the “Hedgehog” concept: doing one thing and doing it well.

The concept requires the intersection of three answers:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best at?
  3. What can actually make you a living?

In addition to having a great name, the Hedgehog concept makes a lot of sense to me.

At the beginning of the year I was juggling four related projects, none of which was generating the kinds of results that I wanted. By applying the Hedgehog concept, I have been able to identify the one activity that will best answer all of the above questions.

As a result, starting today, the first day of the second quarter, I will focus on doing one thing and doing it well…help motivated and experienced service professionals grow their businesses.

Of the other three projects, one will be discontinued, one will be put on hold and the other will be delegated to someone else.

Ah…that feels better already. And what a a great piece of Spring cleaning!

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Once upon a time, professional service marketing was unnecessary.

Clients and potential clients generally knew what kind of help they needed. They also knew the people in their local community who provided this help.

As long as service professionals continued to do what they had always done, they could remain reasonably confident that clients would find them when they needed them.

But that was then…only a few decades ago…and this is now.

In today’s global marketplace, consumers face a staggering array of professional services, from traditional accounting to newer areas such as website and mobile marketing. And within each service area, there is an equally staggering array of individuals seemingly qualified to deliver the professional services that they promote.

Putting aside the question of how individuals find and choose the right service professional to help them, how can we as service professionals distinguish ourselves from the competition and stand out from the crowd?

The best, in fact the only way to distinguish ourselves and stand out from the crowd is to continue to innovate in everything that we do.

Effective innovation starts with a clear understanding of what it is…and what it isn’t.

Innovation is something that is really new and different for you and/or your business.

Innovation is not unique in the world.

From this perspective, there are six main approaches to innovate:

  1. Combine existing things in a new way.
  2. Learn something new from a different business and apply it to yours.
  3. Challenge the usual assumption of continuing to do things they way they have always been done.
  4. Learning from the competition.
  5. Collaboration with customers.
  6. Experimentation, trial and error.

Choose and apply as many of these approaches as will work for you and your business.

If however, you ignore all of them, you will probably remain lost in the crowd.

Last week I wrote about dealing with a public relations disaster.

By way a real life example, the next day, the media started to report the fire on board Carnival’s cruise ship Triumph. What a clear and dramatic example of a public relations disaster!

Fortunately, no one one was injured…but thousands of people expecting a 5-star cruise holiday were seriously inconvenienced. Certainly if I were one of those thousands of people, you would be reading words significantly stronger than ‘seriously inconvenienced’. But I digress.

In addressing this issue, Carnival Cruise Lines offered an text book example of how to effectively manage a PR disaster.

Instead of denying or misrepresenting the seriousness of the issue, it accepted full responsibility and did whatever it could to look after its guests. Sure there were glitches and problems with the response. But given the circumstances, the company responded really well.

The chairman of the company was even dockside when the ship eventually arrived at Mobile, Alabama. He was there to apologize on behalf of the company. Good for him.

A year down the road, most of the passengers will claim bragging rights for having ‘Survived the Triumph‘. In photos of passengers being taken to hotels after the crippled ship docked, on young man was already wearing a t-short that proudly announced that he had ‘Survived the Triumph’

The emotion of the ‘disaster’ will have lost its edge and most will happily rebook with Carnival, largely because of the company’s response to the issue.

That’s the key to responding effectively to a public relations disaster: doing whatever it takes to look after affected clients so that when they consider a repeat purchase of what we offer, we remain viable options.

We can never go wrong as long we keep as our central focus continuing to look after our clients.

Realistically, few clients hire us because they enjoy our professional services.

Most clients hire us for help in resolving problems or realizing specifically desired outcomes.

Clients really want their problems resolved or outcomes achieved as easily and with as few hassles as humanly possible.

New clients will usually consider their own resources before selecting a service professional.

To avoid paying professional fees, many clients would prefer to resolve problems on their own or with the help of employees or staff.

Unless their initiatives produce immediate results, as a second choice, they will look to us as service professionals for help.

At this point, they will have recognized that they need us to help them find a solution for their problems.

Realistically, as qualified service professionals, we are well positioned to do more for our clients than they expect or could even imagine.

The broad range of resources that we can draw upon increases the likelihood of a successful satisfying clients.

That’s quality service at its best.

~~~~~

To learn more about quality service, see Chapter 3 of How To Market Professional Services.

That’s a new book, the first draft of which is currently available free … but only for a limited time.

For reasons that totally escape me, most human endeavors become more complicated than they really need to be.

This is true of attracting clients to our businesses, which is also known as marketing.

Attracting friends and being attractive to potential friends are both natural parts of life. Following conventional social norms, most of us connect with like-minded people whose company we enjoy. And whether we realize it or not, by leaving room for miracles to occur, many of us connect with truly amazing and wonderful people.

The same considerations apply to marketing, whether professional services of other ‘products’. However, sometimes we become so engaged in the task of marketing that our busy-ness leaves no room for miracles.

Here’s a very short course that will help position you to receive marketing miracles. It will only take about 10 minutes, but it must be completed without distraction or interruption. When you can arrange 15 minutes of undisturbed time…

Step 1: By way of preparation, read this short blog post about marketing clutter.

Step 2: Turn the marketing machine off completely and eliminate all sources of marketing messages.

Step 3: Take the following actions

  • take 3 deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • open your non-dominant hand, hold the palm up
  • with the first 2 fingers of your dominant hand tap gently on the fleshy part of your dominant hand midway between the wrist and the base of your small finger
  • continuing the tapping, repeat this statement at least 3 times out loud :

“Even though I might be confused about what I am doing, I remain open to new wisdom and insights that will help me with my marketing”

  • pause…and when you are ready, take 3 deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth

Step 4: When you are ready, turn the marketing machine back on, setting the level no higher than ¾ capacity.

Miracles need space and time to develop and appear. If we continue the practice of going full out on marketing, we seriously limit the ability of miracles to enter our lives.

Step 5: When you experience your marketing miracle, come back to this post and tell us about it.

This helps make it real.

For best results, repeat this course whenever you feel overwhelmed by your busy-ness in any aspect of your business and life.

Even if the miracle is a well-needed break, it’s well worth the time.