How to Prepare Your Consulting Business For What’s Coming with Gini Dietrich: Podcast #301

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Nothing beats the power of preparation when it comes to overcoming the impacts of the unknown challenges of the future. Today’s guest learned this lesson the hard way. Not expecting the recession to happen, Gini Dietrich, the creator of the PESO Model, had to face a number of hurdles that crushed her business. Today, she shares the mistakes you need to avoid and the lessons she learned along the way. Gini offers her insights to prepare your consulting business for what’s coming. She also explains how the PESO Model works to help you master the art of building a thriving blog. She provides tips on implementing a winning PR Strategy, effectively communicating your unique value to potential customers, harnessing the power of an underutilized marketing tool, and making your business recession-proof. Gini brings so much wisdom in this episode, so don’t miss this opportunity today to add more to your toolbelt to prepare for the future.

Joining Michael on the show is Gini Dietrich, who is the Founder and CEO of Spin Sucks, a PR and communications firm. She’s an accomplished author, and podcast host, and specializes in digital communications and social media. As you’ll read, Gini went through a challenging time when trying to add services to scale her company leading to 50% of her employees quitting on her.

Scaling a business can be challenging, and you don’t want to make the same mistakes that Gini did, and that’s where we can help. If you’d like to work directly with the Consulting Success team and receive personalized coaching and support to optimize and grow your consulting, business, marketing, and revenue, then visit www.ConsultingSuccess.com/Grow to learn more and apply. Let me tell you a little bit more about Gini and what you’ll learn from this episode.

Gini is the Creator of the PESO Model, a valuable framework that guides professionals in effectively integrating the four media types, which she’ll share with you in this episode. Along with that, you’re going to learn how to master the art of building a thriving blog, how to tackle challenging clients with finesse and professionalism, expand your service offerings without overwhelming your team, how to implement a winning PR strategy to boost your business’ growth, how to effectively communicate your unique value prop to potential customers, how to harness the power of an underutilized marketing tool to accelerate the growth of your practice, and how to make your business recession-proof. Here to share with you her knowledge and story is Gini Dietrich. Enjoy.

I’m excited to be joined by Gini Dietrich. Welcome.

Thank you so much for having me. I think I need to get my book for your background back there.

You are the Founder and CEO of Spin Sucks, a communication strategy firm where you also work with agencies, you have offerings for agency owners, and so forth. You’ve developed a very unique media model, which I want to talk about because there’s a lot of value in having a model or a framework. We’ve certainly seen this as well, but I’d love to start off with the name Spin Sucks. Where does that come from? The fact that we’re talking about that means that it’s working. Where does the name Spin Sucks come from?

As a communications professional, when you’re sitting next to someone on a plane, you’re in the elevator, or you meet someone at a cocktail reception and they ask you what you do, and you say PR, you get 1 of 2 responses. Usually, it’s, “You lie for a living.” You’re like, “No. Nice to meet you too, but I don’t,” or you get, “You’re one of those spin doctors.” That drives me crazy because what Hollywood and politicians have done for the industry is make it look like we are either party planners or we lie for a living and spin messages to make people look better.

We were sitting in our conference room 1,000 years ago and we were talking about this blogging thing that was coming to the forefront, “What is blogging? Is this something that we should offer to our clients? How should we figure it out?” We decided to test it on ourselves and launch a blog. One of our interns said, “You really hate it when people say that you spin for a living. What if we called it Spin Sucks?” We were all like, “Yes, let’s do it.” The URL was available, and that’s what we did.

It reminds me of marketers, and people always say marketers ruin everything. You think of one good idea or you find something. All of a sudden, it works for a while, but then stops working because so many people or salespeople are doing the same thing. The stereotypical salesperson is somebody that nobody likes because nobody likes being sold to and they’re just being sales and promotional. A true salesperson is the exact opposite. The true marketer is not somebody who’s trying to pound you with messages that are not relevant over and over. They actually care about you. They want to deliver value to you. I would say the same thing for somebody in PR or communications. It’s not about telling lies but telling the truth. That makes a lot of sense.

It sounds like the business was built on the back of a blog, which, to me, is interesting. I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but our business consulting success was a different name when we first started. We also built on a blog. We started sharing our ideas of what we had learned where, at that point, it was already a decade-plus of building consulting businesses. We wanted to share what was working and what wasn’t hopefully to help people avoid some mistakes and be successful sooner. Take me to your story. You had this blog. Give me a little more detail. What did you do and how did that lead to the business moving forward from there?

I have an agency. We were probably 3 or 4 years in at that point. It was focused on media relations, getting the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and all those, and reputation management. What we found is that it was great business when you got stories placed, but you only get the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal once. It’s not like they’re going to cover your client sixteen times a month. It’s not going to happen. You had these peaks and valleys. It was like, “We got some great coverage,” and then you have this valley of sparseness in the desert. Clients don’t like paying for the valley. They’re like, “What are we going to do next?” You’re like, “We’re preparing.” They don’t like to hear that.

One of the things we were always thinking about is how we stabilize and make things consistent so that we don’t have the peaks in the valleys, we can keep clients happy, and measure our results to things that they care about. This was at the same time that the Great Recession hit. We had a little bit of extra time to think through what was next. Social media and blogging were becoming a thing. All this stuff was happening at the same time. We discovered that we could add on to our services. We did. We launched the blog in 2009, and it was a disaster. It’s so bad.

Every year, I publish the first blog post on our anniversary just to show people that sometimes you just have to get out there and do it. It’s going to be cringe-worthy and terrible, but it may not be cringe-worthy at the time because it’s what you’re thinking and ten years later it’s going to be cringe-worthy because you’ve expanded, you’ve evolved, you have more wisdom, and all those kinds of things. It’s embarrassing how bad it was.

It looked bad or the writing was bad?

All of it. The content was bad. It wasn’t even good college writing. It was like an eighth-grader wrote it, it’s terrible.

Were you writing this or somebody else was writing this?

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No.

You were just putting out terrible blog posts.

There were 30 of us at the time, and everybody took a turn writing, the interns all the way up. I and the interns had a blog post once a month. No consistency, no messaging, no editorial oversight, no SEO, no images, nothing. It was so bad. Eventually, I took it over myself and started as the lead blogger. I would get on my soapbox about things like Spin Sucks, we don’t lie for a living, and we do have ethics. We started to attract like-minded people. It gained momentum, it started to evolve, and it became a book. I went on the book tour and did that whole kit and caboodle for a year. We started doing training and online courses. It just evolved into something. Probably about years ago, I split the two businesses. The agencies over here and Spins Sucks is over here doing its own thing.

What’s the agency called?

Arment Dietrich.

There are a couple of things that you talked about that I want to dig a little bit deeper into. You mentioned that clients who are on a retainer were paying on a monthly basis, not necessarily happy when they weren’t landing that big media feature. Therefore just focusing on like, “What are we doing this month?” They are not necessarily thinking about the ROI in total. It’s more like they’re looking for consistency.

A lot of people would resonate with that where signs are more in a building phase with a client. You have to do that for a period of time in order to hit the home run, create the real product, or make progress. Is there something specific that you did or found helped to overcome that to create more consistency? You mentioned also you added some additional services. What specific thing did you do to fill that void or deal with that situation?

What we did is we started to add services. We added social media and content marketing. We started to figure out search engine marketing so that we could do some boosted content and native advertising, Google ads, and social media advertising as well. As part of that, we didn’t have a name. It was the process of keeping things consistent and using the internet to be able to translate data into results. I was writing about the process in the book, Spin Sucks. My publisher came back to me after the first round of edits and said, “This process that you talk about in the book is interesting. Does it have a name?” I was like, “No.” She said, “Let’s name it.”

We went back and forth because it’s paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media. What we looked at was if you place that in importance, it would probably go owned, shared, earned, and then paid, or owned, earned shared, and then paid. When you’re branding something, you have to do something that people remember. We were like, “OESP, OSEP.” That doesn’t work. We went back and forth. Finally, she said, “What about PESO?” I was like, “Can we use that? It’s a Mexican currency.”

They went through the whole trademark piece and said, “Yes, we can use it because it’s a completely different thing.” When Spins Sucks, the book, was published, for all intents and purposes, we launched the PESO Model at the same time, which is the model that we were using internally to be able to help our clients with that consistency.

I want to come back to the actual model in a couple of minutes, but I’m guessing you probably couldn’t create the PESO NFT because then it might be a copyright trademark currency. No NFTs for you, which is great that you don’t have that now. You talked about launching these or adding these additional offers. I’m wondering how you do that without creating overwhelm or too much stress for your team. One of the ideas behind scaling a business is simplicity or subtraction is more powerful than addition. I understand the concept of you did this because you saw a bit of a gap.

You’re looking for ways to add more value for clients, maybe even to increase the average dollar value per client because you’re providing more services. More and more services mean you need more processes, more systems, and more people to learn different things. What was that conversation like, first of all, with your team? I’m wondering how you implemented that in a way that didn’t create all this overwhelming stress.

You’re bringing me back. We had a meeting, and I said, “We’re no longer going to call ourselves a PR firm. I’m investing in this model and I believe that this is the future. I would love for you to come along with me. If there are areas of the model that you would like to be proficient in, we’ll get you some professional development. If you decide that that’s not the case for you, then that’s fine.” Half of the team quit.

CSP Gini Dietrich | Prepare Your Consulting Business

On that day?

I would say within 10 days of that meeting, 15 people.

With that discussion or speech and the shift in the business, what do you think was the cause for half the team to leave when you delivered that?

My sense is that they didn’t believe that was the future. They thought I was wacky and out there. I was putting too much at risk, they thought, and that the business would go out of business, so they were going to get out before that happened. Some of them have come back to say, “I was wrong.”

I remember one of my English teachers back in high school but it happened again in college that they didn’t think I could write anything. I remember one thought I was cheating the whole thing and say, “Actually I wrote a few books.”

That’s ridiculous.

That’s what separates, in my mind, those who struggle from those who succeed. Those who succeed ultimately are going to do things that maybe other people won’t do. They’re going to have to go against the grain. You’re going to have to try things that other people aren’t too scared to try. Take me back to that time. With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything that you would do differently in terms of how you delivered that message or how you try to rally the team if you’re going to be making a big change? Anything you would do differently?

I don’t think so. I don’t regret that at all. Truth be told, some of the people that left probably needed to. It was, for lack of a better term, an easy way to let people go about their lives without having to fire people or do layoffs. The core people that were left, we focused on, “Tell me what’s of most interest to you and we’ll get that going for you.” We were able to create different career paths for them. What we did to supplement the fifteen people who had left was we hired contractors. I remember we hired somebody who was proficient in search engine marketing. His sole job was to get us going, but then teach my team how to do that. There were three people who were interested in that piece. That’s what his job was for about three years.

When he and I felt like they were proficient enough to let them go on their own, we moved him into a different role. Those were the kinds of things that we were doing because, for the most part, everybody on my team was media relations experts. They weren’t writers. They weren’t social media experts. There were social media experts back then, but you know what I mean. It was about how we move the team into areas where they have an interest and get them the training they need to be successful.

The other thing you talked about was having a very clear opinion, and that’s where things in the blog started to take off. It was like, “We don’t actually lie for a living. Here’s what we do,” and those kinds of messages. I continue to observe that the messages that take off, where you get virality, or where people start to build an audience and have a following are when you tend to have a stronger opinion. Maybe even to the degree of polarization where I see people these days who will say things that if you consume what they’ve put out, that’s not what they truly believe. They do believe it, but they’re exaggerating it because they want to polarize. They just know they’ll go a bit further than they believe just to make a point.

I’m wondering. What do you think about that? You have a lot of experience in PR and communications for consultants, experts, and advisors who clearly have knowledge and deep expertise. Oftentimes, I see people sitting right in the middle. They don’t want to go one way or the other. They don’t want to have an opinion that might polarize. They just want to say what they say, but it’s like they’re saying everything the same as everybody else. What advice would you offer to somebody who wants to poke more people in, build that audience, and stand out from the crowd, maybe there’s some hesitation around having too strong of an opinion and turning people off? What do you think about that?

That’s an interesting conundrum because it’s a conversation we have a lot with clients in particular. They don’t want to be polarizing because they’re afraid of making people mad, scaring customers away, or whatever happens to be. It is a struggle a little bit. What we do is we look for things that they say that you’re like, “That’s it right there.” It does take sitting in meetings, going to their staff meetings, going to their town halls, and listening to the way that they present things because there’s always something that they’re saying or doing that, I wouldn’t necessarily call it polarizing, but it’s different than what the industry is saying.

I’ll give you a good example. One of my brothers sells cars. He has done that since he was seventeen years old. He has decided that he’s done selling cars and he wants to be a consultant because he has figured out that the sales piece of it is a little bit different than some of the Grant Cardones of the world. He has something different. I’ve been trying to get him to do some content. He did a video, which I was so proud of him, that said the customer’s not always right. It’s a message you hear sometimes from other people, but for the most part, you always hear the customer’s always right. You’re always trying to appease them. He’s like, “The customer’s not always right. There are times that they’re not right.” He did this whole video on it, and I was like, “This is fantastic.”

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It is a little bit polarizing from the perspective of everybody saying that the customer’s always right, but it got him some attention for this new consulting business that he’s launching. People are like, “You’re right. The customer is not always right.” How do we approach that perspective in a way that doesn’t scare them away and make them mad and go write a bad review, but brings them into the fold while also realizing that they’re not going to get a $60,000 car for $25,000? This is not how it works. Those kinds of things are polarizing from the perspective that it’s different from what most people say. You’re right that when he brought it around, it wasn’t that different. We’re still trying to attract the customer and we’re not pushing them away, but they also have to be educated on how the process works.

That’s a great example. Thanks for sharing that. It is so important because, far too often, people don’t spend the time thinking about what is different like, “Where do I have a bit of a differing view? Where do I have an insider advantage?” I had this with a client who runs a good size seven-figure consulting business. They’re very general now. It’s why they reached out to get some help. I was like, “What do you want to be known for? You can’t just be another X type of consulting firm. It doesn’t work. That’s not going to help you to get to that next level regardless of what size you are.”

An important thing is to figure out what you want to be known for and what your unique perspective is different that will get your attention. I want to get into your model in a minute here. Before we do that, this caught my attention, so I’m going to be selfish and ask you about it. You run two companies. You have your agency. You also have Spins Sucks. How do you allocate your time to manage both companies so that they continue to do well to grow and not drive you crazy at the same time?

Because they’re so complimentary, that’s a hard question to answer. If I were to split up my time, it’s probably 50/50. Some of the team overlaps. It’s not like I have a whole team of direct reports on one side and another one on the other. They complement each other so well because what usually happens is a large company will call and say, “We need some of your PESO Model training internally for our internal team.” We either do that on demand with the videos or online courses we already have or depending on maybe we do workshops. After that, what typically happens is they say, “We could use help implementing this.” They hire the agency. It works together so well that it is a hard question to answer just because it’s not as black and white.

There are two different entities and companies, but for all intents and purposes, it’s almost like you could view it as one program, and they’re sectioned off. That makes sense. Let’s shift into talking about marketing for a moment. You said larger organizations are getting in touch with you. What are you doing now to generate those high-quality leads and conversations? What marketing or how are you creating that demand and inquiries?

I will tell you that the LinkedIn Newsletter is the most underused tool. I’m going to say this. Everybody’s going to do a LinkedIn Newsletter and the marketers will ruin it. We have gotten so many leads from that alone and we’re repurposing content there. It’s not like we’re creating new content. We’re repurposing our podcast and our blog posts to the LinkedIn Newsletter that we publish once a week. I’ll bet 90% of our new clients in the last couple of months have come from that.

Some may be familiar if you are creator status. I don’t know how LinkedIn uses it, but not everybody can do this, I believe. Many can. If you have the ability to write an article, you can select to create a newsletter around so forth and publish. In your case you’re publishing weekly, you said you’re not writing brand-new content. Just for that newsletter, you’re repurposing. Let’s take the example of a podcast. What do you do from a podcast to repurpose that and then send that out and it would be valuable for people?

We take the transcript and we write an article from it, which is pretty easy to do. I’ve been using Castmagic, which is a podcast AI. I throw the episode in there and it pumps out the transcript, but it also gives me newsletter copy, LinkedIn posts, and Twitter. You can tell whatever you want. It gives you headlines to choose from. We edit it into something readable because transcripts are not always readable. That’s what we do. The CTA is, “Download and listen to the podcast,” “Subscribe to the blog,”, “Join our community,” or whatever happens to be that coincides.

The interesting thing about it is the audience for the blog is different than on LinkedIn. The LinkedIn audience is more business leaders, CEOs, and decision-makers whereas the blog is more industry related. Even though the content’s the same, we’re finding the audience on LinkedIn is the audience we want to attract.

That makes a lot of sense. Anything outside of the LinkedIn newsletter that you’re doing that you would say might be a second in terms of value driving or results creating that you’re doing from a marketing perspective?

I would say the podcasts and the blog are probably neck and neck.

Is the vast majority of your marketing now inbound from the sense that people are coming to you, and you’re not doing any direct outreach to people, emails, or anything like that? Have you ever done that?

We have, pre-pandemic, and it worked okay. The advantage that we find with inbound marketing is we’ve already pre-sold them. There’s no competition. They’re not asking us to respond to RFPs. We don’t have to do presentations. They already know they want to work with us. We found that I had a great sales team, but I always had to close so the sales team could get it so far. I was the one who had to get on Zoom, on a plane, or on a phone call to close it and it got to be too much. It took too long. The sales cycle was much longer. The pandemic certainly forced it, but we decided to focus on inbound marketing because it’s more effective.

CSP Gini Dietrich | Prepare Your Consulting Business

People would be interested in that where those who are reading and who the key business development salesperson is, they’re still also the founder so they’re wearing many hats. Sales is a big one that most founders tend to hold onto for quite some time. It sounds like you’ve been able to shift away by focusing more on inbound. Do you have somebody else or maybe more than one person that handles sales? Talk about how you’re handling those inquiries that come in from a sales perspective if it’s not you doing it all now.

We have a team of three people who do the qualification. I’m still the one who closes, but do they have the budget? Do they have the need? Are they ready to make a decision now? What’s the timeline?

Is that through email, phone calls, or both?

It’s usually on Zoom 30 or 45-minute conversation. Once they decide that they’re qualified, they come back to me with all of the data and everything. I have a Zoom conversation usually with the salesperson and the prospect. By that time, they’re already pretty much sold. I can say, “Based on what you’ve told me, we think we can help you do this and this, and we just go to the scope of work and contract from there.”

Does the salesperson share pricing information with the buyer before you’ve had the call or do you save that for when you’ve had the call?

We typically save it because the salesperson doesn’t have communications experience, so they don’t really know. It varies so much depending on what they need. They will say we have a minimum engagement fee and this is what it is. That’s as far as it goes.

When the buyer says, “How much is it going to be?” they would respond, “We have a minimum engagement fee of X, but when Gini speaks to you, we’ll be able to go through that in more detail.” something along those lines. People will probably also be wondering this, “Why do it that way instead of having maybe somebody take over that final sales piece?” where, instead of you having to do it, get somebody else to do it? I’m sure you’ve considered that at one point or another. Maybe you’ve even tried it, but what’s your perspective or thoughts on that?

We’ve tried it, but it doesn’t work. I don’t know why. I have a great sales leader. He’s so good. He and I have gone round and round on it. For some reason, it doesn’t convert as much. It could be that I’m the face of the company, my name’s on the door, I’m the one that’s out there doing all of the marketing and they say, “I want to have a conversation with her before.” It could just be that. We have tried it and it doesn’t work.

That’s an interesting one. It has to work in some way. Companies scale without the founder doing the sales. It’s a challenge. We’ve seen this over the years where, back in the day, I used to do all the sales and then it shifted and been able to make a lot of progress in that area. It’s challenging. Not easy. I feel you on that. Let’s talk about the PESO Model. Since we’re talking about marketing, let’s bridge marketing to the PESO Model. Has having a model in your mind been a big factor in the success of the business, with your marketing, or with your sales? Tell me about that. For those that maybe don’t have a model now or maybe have one sitting under their nose but haven’t really developed it or branded it and named it and put it out there, how has having a model visual as well as a name helped you?

It has done a few things. One of the smartest things I did without realizing I was doing it was we got the book Spin Sucks into classrooms. Probably at the start, it was 5 or 10 colleges or universities that anybody who was going through a PR program would read the book and it was part of their curriculum. Eventually, we started to grow that. In 2020, right before everything went to hell in a handbasket, we launched the PESO Model certification and started to go into schools with that. Anybody who was graduating with a PR Advertising and Marketing or Journalism degree from about ten schools had a PESO Model certification when they left.

Were you charging the students to be certified?

The school will pay a fee and they can license it out to students like they would a textbook essentially is how it works.

I’m going to put a little bit into this because I want to come back to how you sell into schools. For a lot of people, that’s a big challenge. You did that and you had this certification. How’s that helped?

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In 2022, we started to see graduates coming out of universities with PESO Model certification. Now they’re going into the workforce and they’re saying, “This is how we have to do things.” Because of that, what we’ve seen is a big shift of large companies saying, “We have to figure this out and you are the creator.” Certainly, there are lots of people out there who say that they do the PESO Model, but we have the advantage of being the creator. We have the trademark and we invented it. That’s where we see the most play. As these new college graduates are going into the workforce, they’re saying, “This is backward. This isn’t how communications and marketing are done anymore. We have to start to look at this,” and then they will hire us to come in and help train their teams.

I love this. What’s so powerful is you would agree that if you did not have a model if it wasn’t branded, if it wasn’t productized, or if it was just an idea, these four things are important, it wouldn’t stick. It’s like that old AIDA in the advertising world, Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. The reason that sticks is because it’s been productized like that. You’ve turned it into a little mini-product. It’s branded. If it was like, “There are some important things when it comes to advertising,” it wouldn’t be memorable. I see the value in doing that.

I have to ask you to come back to this because you’re creating almost this network effect where you’re getting students to essentially adopt your model. It’s almost like somebody talking about tissue paper as Kleenex. Now you go to buy Kleenex. It’s not necessarily the Kleenex brand, but you’re asking for Kleenex. Everyone’s talking about the PESO Model. They’re going to organizations saying, “We have to do things the PESO way.” I don’t know if you’re using that. The PESO way sounds cool.

People inside the organization, I would imagine if they’ve been there a while, maybe they have never heard of the PESO Model. Now it’s like, “It’s this and you have to do this.” That probably leads also to inquiries. How did you sell into schools? So often, schools are like, “We don’t like to be sold to. We don’t want outside vendors. We are neutral. We’re Switzerland.” How did you make that happen?

The first way it happened was I found a publisher that did textbooks, so I worked with Pearson and that was number one. We were able to use some of their connections. Number two is I built relationships with PR professors on Twitter. That’s what I did. I built relationships. When I went on the book tour, I made sure that I stopped by schools and did some guest lecturing. I built relationships with the PR professors because, every year, what they do is they decide on books that they’re going to have the students read. Sometimes they are textbooks or industry business books. It started to create that effect where it started to roll all together because now they were saying, “Let’s recommend that they read this book this semester.” More professors started to hear about it and it exploded from there.

When you pitched the idea of not only coming and doing talks and not only using a textbook, “We have a certification if you want to have your students certified,” how was that received and how did you pitch that to where they would be not only comfortable with adding it as a resource link to their website but I imagine they would probably need to put it in front of students and maybe even “help to promote it?” What did that look like?

The first thing we did was we went to three universities and said, “We’re launching this certification and we need a university to rubber stamp it.” We need a university to actually be the one to present the certificate. We ended up building that relationship with Syracuse University. If you get a PESO Model certification, you also get the certificate from Syracuse. That was February 2020. We let 2020 just go by and we did that.

Starting in late 2021 and early 2022, I started going to the schools where I had relationships and saying, “We have this certification. This is what we do for students. This is what the typical cost is. Are you interested?” In some cases, they jumped on it immediately depending on how big the school is. In some cases, they had to go up the chain. We kept going at it. Finally, I hired somebody mid-year in 2022 and his sole job now is to go into universities and sell it in.

How’s that working having them doing that?

It’s awesome. We’re in a lot.

Do you see a lot of opportunities for growth in just selling to universities?

Not really because it’s not a profitable endeavor. It’s a long-tail thing that we’re doing because then we anticipate that as these kids graduate, they go into the workforce. That’s where we see the real value.

Helping everyone who’s joining us now with setting expectations, you talked about how you had these relationships with people on Twitter, professors, and so on. If somebody was thinking of this concept, maybe it’s not schools specifically, but just in terms of establishing relationships and selling into an organization that sometimes is known to be hard to sell into, how long would you say you were building those relationships before you made an offer?

CSP Gini Dietrich | Prepare Your Consulting Business

Two years, probably.

People often look at it, “That sounds like a great idea. Pitch my stuff next week.” You haven’t built a relationship and you’re probably not going to get a good response. What advice would you have for somebody with that? Maybe their struggle is they want to grow. They’re getting this great idea from you now, and they want to do something similar and see a result. If you say, “You just need to focus on giving value and building a relationship. It’s going to take you at least 18 to 24 months to do that,” for a lot of people, they go like, “I got to pay my mortgage or put my kids through school. I need more money. I need it faster. Give me the cashflow.” How would you counsel or advise somebody who’s thinking about that now?

One of the things that we talk about a lot with our clients is intellectual property. Your mortgage is still being paid and your kids are still being put through school because you have a business over here doing that. Everybody’s freaking out now about there’s a recession coming in the US and, “What are we going to do?” I keep saying, “It’s such a great opportunity because you will have time to think about your intellectual property and you’ll have time to start to build something.”

Just like you’ve built your company, it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to think about it from that perspective. You can start to take what you have in your brain, the model that you use, or the process that you use internally and start to productize it, but it takes time because you’re building something new. It’s not an overnight success thing. It’s a multiple-year thing. Start now. Plant your tree now. In five years, you’re going to be on this show having the same conversation.

That’s such a great point. It’s one that I remind myself of constantly that everything that we’re doing is always for the long term. If somebody is looking at their business or their path in front of them, thinking about, “I need to be ultra-successful in society,” or whatever that looks like in a very short period of time, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard, but good things take time. In some cases, there are a lot of things that are out of your control. It’s like not only being excited about the destination but making sure that you’re enjoying the journey toward the destination. That’s going to give you the power to outstay others.

You touched on the economic environment that we’re in now where some people are seeing this as you are, which is a massive opportunity. That’s how we view it. I spoke with Liz Wiseman who wrote Multipliers and other books like that. On the show, she told me that this was 2008 or so when she wrote Multipliers with Greg McKeown. She used that opportunity to do something wonderful that otherwise would’ve been more challenging to do.

There’s a lot of people out there that look at the economic environment that we’re in now and all the uncertainty as an opportunity. Others are seeing that it is having a pretty big impact on their business. You have these two companies. You work with a lot of different clients. You talk to lots of people. 1) What are you seeing right now in the environment in the business landscape? 2) If anything, what have you done differently that made changes to your business and with your team?

The first part of that question is we’re hearing a lot of mumbling. Somebody said to me, “This is the first time that I’ve been in business in the last eight years that I’ve had these few clients. Help me.” There’s a lot of that happening. At the same time that that’s happening, in the last weeks, we’ve helped 5 or 6 clients communicate layoffs. That’s happening, which means they still need marketing and communications support, and their teams have been let go. We’ll continue to fill that hole, but eventually, we will be the next. We’re preparing for that.

The Great Recession completely crushed us. I was not expecting that at all. Certainly, I was listening to economists that are saying it’s coming, and I was like, “I don’t understand. This is the best year we’ve had and we’re crushing it.” In the two weeks between Christmas and New Year from 2008 to 2009, I received letters from 90% of our clients canceling our contracts.

On January 2nd, I had to go back into the office and lay off my team, most of them. It was horrible. I was not expecting that at all. To this day, I have one in particular that I keep in touch with. She will say, “If you had told us that this was coming, we could have helped you figure out ways to avoid the layoffs.” I was like, “I didn’t know it was coming, which was so stupid of me.” Now, I’m prepared.

The biggest thing I learned from that is not to have all of your eggs in one basket. We spent the time. I wrote a book. I went on the book tour. I started to build online courses and do other things. When the pandemic hit, it didn’t affect us that much because while we lost some agency clients, we were still doing professional development for the industry. We were able to rely on that to get us through the pandemic.

One thing I will leave with everybody is if you do one thing, it’s to start to find ways to diversify your revenue sources. If you do consulting, do you have some intellectual property that you can create online courses or professional development around? Those are the kinds of things that you should be thinking about. It’s not going to save you now because it is a longer-term play. If you figure out how to diversify your revenue sources, you will make it through the next one and the one after that.

That’s good advice. We’re having these kinds of conversations with some clients. Some clients are reporting to me, “We’re having our best year ever,” which is fantastic. It’s like, “That’s great.” Others are fearful or they’re unsure of what’s going to happen. We’re having lots of conversations. Look at client concentration. You don’t have too much business with one client.

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Also, what are other ways that you can build an audience, strengthen relationships, or, as you talked about, create online programs or other things that you can do? It is because you’re having everything or too many eggs in one basket, as you said. Is there anything else that you’re doing? You mentioned preparing. You weren’t prepared because you didn’t know what was coming. This time, you are preparing. Is there anything beyond what you mentioned that you are doing from a preparation perspective that others could benefit from?

It’s not a fun conversation to have, but we have our scenarios. Scenario A is if we lose this client and this much revenue, then we have to do this and this. If we lose this much revenue, then we have to do this. We have the scenario planning we’ve started to tighten our belts in terms of expenses that we don’t need to spend money on, like subscriptions and things like that. For the most part, we know what the plan is so that if something triggers, we know what we have to do.

On the cost-cutting, one thing that I always share with people is don’t just blatantly cut everything. Be very clear about what creates value. If you have a subscription to some service that you never use and you don’t get value from, cut it. You don’t need that. If you’re working with somebody, paying for something, or investing in something, and you’re getting value from that, either it’s delivering actual business value, helping you to be a better person, it’s making you smarter, or it’s good for your health, or whatever, keep those things because you need those things not only to survive what might be coming but also to thrive.

Many people will fall down. They’re not going to make it, and you don’t want to be one of them, so you want to do the things to get to the other side. Gini, this is fantastic. I want to be respectful of the time that we have on the calendar, but I do want to wrap up with two final questions. The first is that you have a lot going on. I’m wondering. What are 1 or 2 habits for you on a daily basis that you feel contribute to your ability to perform at high levels?

I ride my bicycle and I race it.

You race your bicycle, like on the streets of Chicago?

Yes.

Do you have some big inflatable protection bubble around you?

No. I’ve had some accidents. I’ve broken a few bones.

You still do it. You get out there.

Nothing interrupts that. Every once in a while, I have a client who will text me or something and I’m like, “No, I’m not available between these hours. Don’t interrupt.” What I have found is that, first of all, I’m highly competitive, so it allows me to get that out of my system before I come to work and try to compete with my team.

Do you do this in the morning?

Yes. It also helps me prepare for the day because I’m on my bike for an hour and a half to two hours, so it gives me time to think. There are lots of things that we are struggling with clients that we don’t have an answer to. I can come up with solutions when I’m by myself thinking. My team’s favorite thing is when I say, “I was on my bike this morning,” and they all go, “Here we go again.” I would say that’s number one. I have to do that every day.

What time do you typically go for a bike ride?

CSP Gini Dietrich | Prepare Your Consulting Business

5:00 to 7:00.

Is that even in the Chicago winters?

Yes, I am downstairs on the Peloton during the winter.

Indoors, winter, summer, better weather, you’re outdoors. I love that. Any kind of exercise and things like that are fantastic. Final question. In the last six months or so, is there a book, fiction or non-fiction, that you enjoyed either reading or listening to that you’d recommend to others?

I just finished reading Bullseye Marketing, which is Louis Gudema’s second edition. The thing I like about it is it covers everything. If you want to do email marketing, I would keep it on your desk as a reference check. If you want to do email marketing, you open to that chapter and you refresh yourself on things. If you’re launching into influencer marketing and you’ve never done that before, you open to that chapter and refresh yourself on those kinds of things. I would say that’s a pretty good desk reference book that you can keep around.

Gini, finally, thank you so much for coming on. I enjoyed our conversation. I know that we’ve scratched the surface. There’s so much more that you have going on. For those who would like to learn more about you, about your company, about everything that you’re up to, where’s the one place that’s best for them to go?

SpinSucks.com.

Gini, thank you again so much for coming on.

Thank you. This has been fantastic. I can’t believe how fast it went by.

There you have it for this episode between Michael and Gini. Be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you read. If you want to help support the show, then we’d ask that you share this episode with a friend or colleague who you feel would benefit from this episode. Quick reminder, if you want to work directly with the Consulting Success team to receive personalized coaching and support to optimize and grow your consulting business, marketing, and revenue, visit www.ConsultingSuccess.com/Grow to learn more and apply. That’s the end of the line for us. Until next time.

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