Late last week, I promised I would write stories that wove marketing into my daily post-rotator-cuff-surgery physical therapy sessions. I had to wait several days, suffering through excruciating arm stretching, in order for inspiration to hit. Today, I had three epiphanies:
- As I've encountered numerous physical therapists, I noticed that each had a different approach. One was sweet and apologetic, and brought me anatomy books to show me the various parts of my shoulder and rotator cuff. The second was vocally enthusiastic, often accompanying her manipulations with exclamations of "Look at you! Fifteen degrees further than yesterday!" But the third, whose shoulder stretches are delivered with a dry wit ("You're not doing too bad, for a girl!"), was the one that caused me to take note. He said, "Sure, we all have slightly different methods, but the end result is the same." AHA, I thought. This means that the approach each uses is what I'm really "buying," not the results. I could have the results from any one of them!
- Today (24 October) I received my subscription to the free newsletter from Tom Rodenhauser, editor of Inside Consulting. In his article, "Consultants Don't Think," Tom asserts that "Consultants know everything about anything." He goes on to say: "Scratch the patina of many consultant-authored books and white papers and you’ll find few “aha” moments. Most state the obvious or impractical. In reality, 99 percent of what consultants spew as “thought leadership” is pure, unadulterated drivel. The fact is, too many consultants think clients are paying them to think instead of act." I SEE, I thought. This means there is something more than a professional service practitioner's academic or professional credentials, or years of client experience.
- Today (24 October) I read one of David Maister's blog posts, "What Do Consultants Know?" Maister concludes, "What counts is not our knowledge, but our interactive, human skills in helping clients – as individuals and as organizations. Sometimes it’s gentle, sometimes you need to be challenging. But it’s all about helping the clients make decisions and act." RIGHT, I thought. It's less about the the intellectual capital than it is about the approach, and the steps the professional practitioner can encourage the client to take him on his or her own.
I mostly agree, but in some ways disagree, with Rodenhauser and Maister. As a consumer of professional services -- and yes, I put physical therapy into that category, albeit on an individual, not organizational scale -- I have to have some confidence in and trust about the credentials and expertise of those from whom I'm consuming services. (And it's no accident that marketing has something to do with my sense of trust and confidence.)
But what has all of this to do with expertise, you might wonder? Most of you know that my recent blog posts and newsletter topics have been about forward-thinking leadership in the field of professional services marketing. Certainly, we should thank Rodenhauser and Maister for reminding us about the importance of the "approach," and a professional's ability to help us "achieve results." But I would submit that the factors of thinking and acting like a LEADER have a lot to do with excelling in one's chosen craft. And for that notion, we need to go back to my first epiphany about the differences between the approaches of my physical therapists.
I couldn't help noticing that there is competition between the physical therapists. They challenge each other to help me improve from one session to the next. They smile at each other, joke with each other, call out comments to each other, stop into each other's offices to report on how marvelously far ahead I was able to get with their help today. Yes, yes, I thought. Leadership has to be pursued with a dash of competitive -- and yet collaborative -- spirit, with an eye toward the alternative choices that are available, while always focused on the ultimate goal: helping the client achieve his or her aims.
And so I'm left to reaffirm key ingredients that all professional service marketers know they require: professionals that apply distinct approaches one from the other; solid academic, professional, and experiential credentials; a healthy dose of competitive yet collaborative teamwork; and a desire to lead toward favorable outcomes for the client.